Posts

Showing posts from November, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am grateful for the insights and peace gained from gratitude practice. I am also grateful for fond memories of family Thanksgiving celebrations growing up and for my mom's dressing.

The quote in my gratitude journal from November 24 seems particularly fitting today:

"Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse."  (Henry Van Dyke)

Follow the impulse. Give thanks. Inward and outward.

Then yesterday I received this in an e-card from A Network for Grateful Living (ANG*L) (www.gratefulness.org) and one of my favorite writers on the topic of gratitude:

"In the continuous flow of blessing, our hearts find meaning and rest."
(Brother David Steindl-Rast)

I would add that my soul and mind also find meaning and rest when I focus on blessings. Brother David also talks about gratefulness as the great fullness of life.

All I know is that when I give f…

Lesson #3: Nature and Humanity are Spectacular

Today I am grateful for recovery wisdom shared by others and I am grateful I am learning to "accept more, expect less."

Lesson #3 from marathon training leads nicely into the official marathon experience itself. That lesson is: Nature and humanity are spectacular.

Running outdoors is a great way to see nature, a city, the changing seasons. I love to run outside and will do that as much of the year as I can. I love being a participant in the ongoing evolution of season to season.I appreciate having running attire for all seasons, and I appreciate the mobility I spoke of yesterday. I love the crisp fall air. I love the first warm, sweaty spring run. I love everything in between, with the exception of the extremes. I will put up with heat and humidity and bitter cold, only because I have to where I live. I guess they do provide the benefit of bringing even fuller appreciation to the beautiful days with perfect running conditions.

I enjoy running solo and being alone with natur…

Lesson #2: Mobility Matters

Today I am grateful for friendly and practical doctors and for the wind at my back for part of my walk with Oliver this morning.

Lesson #2 from marathon training is: mobility matters. It matters a ton. It matters so much, but if you are like me, it is one of those things that I regularly take for granted. I am not just talking about my own body's mobility either. We have two working cars in the garage and money to pay for the gas they need. How many people in this country would consider that a luxury? How many people in this world will never have such mobility?

I live in an urban area that offers buses, taxies, and light rail trains as modes of transportation locally and airplanes as an option for wider travels. If I could only rely on my two feet, my world would shrink. That wouldn't be all bad, but my first thought is how often would I get to see my family-most of whom live 150 miles away and some who live further away? What about Darcy's family? They are 250 miles away…

Lessons of Marathon Training: #1 One Step at a Time

Today I am grateful for a nice weekend, a chance to write more gratitude letters, and a good Thanksgiving meal yesterday. I am also grateful that my husband Darcy is getting over his cold and that we got a training run in over the weekend.

Marathon week is here! We run the Seattle Marathon on December 1. I love the anticipation that builds as the marathon gets closer, and I love the week before the event. It is the best kind of anticipation. I appreciate that we are at this point and able to make this trip. After a very busy year and a couple of setbacks, we are feeling ready to run.

This will be our latest marathon, in terms of the time of year. We usually run our marathons in September or October. But we moved it to later after those setbacks and the the full year we have had. The few exta weeks of training have us feeling more prepared and I am thankful for that.

There are many lessons learned in the months that it takes to train for a marathon. There are many miles and hours of r…

Four Lanes

Image
Today I am grateful for our Christmas decorations, their variety, the enjoyment we can now get from them, and for the family time yesterday spent putting things up. I am also grateful for bridges, both literal and figurative ones.

I am especially grateful for our new bridge, which now has four lanes open. It's expansive and it's been enjoyable for me to watch the construction progress over the last three years. Like any big project, it took time, patience, and planning. I was just an observer, but after a couple setbacks in the first year of the project-including flooding and a state government shutdown-the contractors actually finished a month ahead of schedule. For that, and the safety of workers and travelers during construction, I am truly grateful.

When it comes to bridges, more lanes seem like a blessing. Compared to the most heavily traveled two-lane bridge in Minnesota we used to have, we now have smooth sailing. But what about in my own life? Too many lanes can be ov…

A Writing 3 x 3

Today I am grateful for quality headphones and YouTube music videos. From Carly Simon to Roberta Flack, I enjoyed the listening last evening as I wound down from the day and the week.

Here's an example of a gratitude practice I would encourage you to try. I call it a 3 x 3. I put three things I am grateful for and three reasons why I am grateful for each. Today I am focusing my 3 x 3 on my writing and what it has brought to my life.

1. I am grateful for this blog.
    a. It has helped deepen and broaden my own level of gratitude.
    b. It gives me a regular channel for my writing energy.
    c. It has made me a better writer.

2. I am grateful for the poetry I have written.
    a. It gave me a healthy outlet in the depths of alcoholic despair.
    b. It was the first type of writing I did consistently.
    c. It lends itself to being shared with others.

3. I am grateful for my first diary at age 11 and every journal since.
    a. They have helped me capture memories that would hav…

Speaking of Five Years . . . Here's to my Friend Sara

Today I am grateful for the lamps in our house. I like the warm light they give off in these longer days of darkness. I am also grateful for my friend Sara and the news she recently shared with me.

I remember the exact date that I met Sara: Saturday, September 27, 2008. I remember it because it was the day I got my head shaved. I was two weeks out from my first chemotherapy treatment, and it was starting to come out plenty steadily. I certainly had mixed feelings about getting my head shaved, but I was trying to keep it in perspective. There are far worse things to lose than hair.

I was feeling pretty vulnerable that day, but it was a nice day and I donned my new pink hat and we went to a fall celebration in our downtown area. They were giving wagon rides to families and so we took one. Darcy, Sam and I were joined on this ride by a woman clearly in a chemo cap, an older woman, and two small children. I noticed the woman in the chemo cap, but didn't say anything to her until the r…

Five Years of BC Support Group

Today I am grateful for the clothes in my closet. My wardrobe isn't extensive, but it is certainly adequate. I am also grateful for the breast cancer support group I attend.

I realized yesterday, as I thought about going to breast cancer support group last night, that it was November of 2008 when I attended my first support group meeting. I was diagnosed in May but didn't decide to try a meeting out until after I had already had two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy. I still see some of the same wonderful women at support group, but one woman who really helped me at that first meeting five years ago is someone I haven't seen since. I don't even recall her name.

This woman was just a couple weeks post-surgery after bilateral mastectomies. I was about a month away from having my own double amputation. To see her out and about was heartening. But she also showed us her surgical camisole and the drain pockets. It was good for me to have that visual as I headed int…

Prepared for Friction

Today I am grateful for my job, my co-workers, and the students and parents I work with. I am also grateful for homemade ice cream, courtesy of one of those co-workers. Thanks George!

I am also grateful we were prepared for our 20-mile training run on Saturday. I ran into a friction issue. Friction and running 20 miles are not compatible. Blisters, chafing, and other painful situations can arise. Darcy and I have learned some tricks to reduce the potential for such issues. One of those tricks is a product called "Body Glide." It is an anti-chafing balm. It looks like roll-on deodorant and you can apply it anywhere you tend to have friction.

For some runners, that's their feet. For many men, it's their nipples. Before my bilateral mastectomies, it was my bra lines. I wore two running bras for added support. The straps and under-breast areas were prone to chafing, especially in warmer conditions. Generous application of "glide" was an effective preventive. I…

Home Away From Home

Today I am grateful for the late afternoon run Oliver and I took yesterday in the sun and shadows.I am also grateful for recovery wisdom shared by fellow alcoholics.

Home away from home. I feel like I have two such places. One is my mom's. The other is my mother-in-law's. I appreciate that we are able to visit with each a handful of times each year. And I appreciate that they each have space for us, like to have us there, spoil us a bit, and that I feel comfortable when I am there.

We can spread ourselves and our stuff out. We each have a place to sleep. We know where things are when we need them. That makes for a more relaxing visit. We get spoiled with things like good meals, fresh cinnamon rolls, garden produce, and someone to watch Sam while we run. It's a win-win there because Sam gets to spend time with his grandmothers and they get to spend time with him.

One of the best parts about our homes away from home is that I can truly relax in each. I love our house and I a…

Scenic Sioux Falls

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and time spent with Darcy's family.

I am also grateful for a good 20-mile training run in Sioux Falls Saturday morning, our last 20-miler before the Seattle Marathon on December 1. We enjoyed the opportunity to run somewhere else besides the streets and trails of our own community. We love our hometown, but appreciate the change of scenery when we can get it. And Sioux Falls is near and dear to us, as we were married there and spent the first two years of our married life there.

I am thankful that Darcy's family lives there, so we get back there a few times a year. The city is booming and ever-changing. The trail system is also a good one, so we knew we could hit the trail for a tour. The running conditions were near-perfect with no wind, overcast skies, and temperatures in the forties as we set out Saturday morning.

We hadn't run this entire stretch of trail that goes around the city for over two years. We got to see t…

Swirl Head

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet and for an opportunity to talk about my spiritual journey with others.

The morning quiet is when I pray for others and reflect on my own life. It's when I write in my gratitude journal and on this blog. It's a time when I can avoid "swirl head." My sister used that term the other day and it brought a smile to my face because I knew EXACTLY what she was talking about. Overthinking. Overanalyzing. Worrying. Fear. Too much to do. Not enough time to do it. Notes all over because I am afraid I will forget something if I don't write it down. Swirl head.

It's been a busy and full week, but a good week. I got to prepare and then give a presentation about resilience and gratitude. I got to ponder my own spiritual journey and then share some of that as part of a panel talking to teenage girls. I got to experience Sam's first two wrestling meets and the organized chaos they appear to be. I got to learn many new things at …

Small Gesture, Big Difference

Today I am grateful for our washing machine and dryer and for the smell of fresh, clean laundry.

I am also grateful for small gestures of human compassion directed my way. Maybe it is just a friendly smile and a hello when I need one. Maybe it is someone letting me go in front of them in line, just when I am in a hurry. Strangers making a difference with a little show of kindness.

Maybe it is my loved ones doing the same sort of things. Taking care of a chore that is usually mine. Going to run an errand so I don't have to. Gently suggesting to me that something can wait until tomorrow. Small gestures that make a big difference in my days. And give me hope.

I was thinking about this because of something I was reading in Archbishop Desmond Tutu's biography. When he was a young boy, living in the separated world of apartheid in South Africa, a simple gesture by a white man made a profound difference in his life. Tutu and his mother were out walking when a white man tipped his ha…

Wrestlemania

Today I am grateful for a car with working heat and for my warm weather gear like coats, hats, and gloves. We have needed them this week.

I am also grateful for the experience that my son Sam is having with wrestling this year. It is the first time he is trying the sport. They had their first meet yesterday and it was away. When I arrived at the school and located the right place, it felt like "wrestlemania" to me after a full day of work. At times, there were three matches going on at once, in a fairly limited space, with lots of wrestlers and coaches moving about and making noise, and a small seating area for spectators. Add to that the fact that this is a sport I don't entirely understand, and my head was spinning.

I observed. I learned. I had brief conversations with people as clueless as I was. And then some conversations with people who gave me a clue. It all helped. I will continue to learn. And I appreciate that one of the people teaching me is Sam himself. He te…

Topic of Discussion

Today I am grateful for my job and the variety of experiences that come with each day I am there.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to speak with parents last evening, with gratitude being a key topic of discussion. I appreciated the opportunity to plan for this presentation, because I learned more myself and further consolidated some of my own thoughts and beliefs on the practice of gratitude.

It was a small group of parents and I am thankful for their willingness to hear me out, try a few things on paper, and to share their own wisdom and insights. I found it all heartening and energizing. I was able to include in my discussion some of the growing reasearch base about the benefits of gratitude practice for adults and young people alike.

The evidence is clear. Regular gratitude practice improves our overall well-being. Physically, our immune systems are strengthened, our blood pressure is lower, and we sleep better, exercise more. Psychologically, we have more positive emotions…

The Words of Desmond Tutu

Today I am grateful for time and conversation with my friend Jenny this weekend, phone calls with sisters, and ongoing writing inspiration.

One of the priests at our church, Frank,  borrowed to me a book by Desmond Tutu. It was written in 2004 and is titled God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time. He thought I might appreciate the book and he was right. Thanks Frank!

I really didn't know a lot about Archbishop Tutu other than he was a key figure in South Africa's peaceful move from apartheid to democracy. His book was a quick read and full of wit and wisdom. God is a key figure in the book of course, but so are we. All of us human beings trying to make our way in the world. The Archbishop's words could be boiled down to "We would all make our way better in the world if we spent our time getting along and supporting one another rather than fighting and being at odds.We are all one family." That can be applied to countries, factions, parishes, families. Any…

Partnership

Today I am grateful for interesting conversation with fellow wedding-goers and for a visit from my stepdaughter Emily.

We attended the wedding of Dena and Paul yesterday. Dena is the daughter of good friends of ours.It was a nice wedding in a nice setting. We enjoyed the church ceremony and felt the happy energy and fellowship next door in the reception hall. It was a pleasant evening and I was glad to be there. Congratulations and best wishes Dena and Paul!

The pastor who performed the service used the word partnership in her sermon. Marriage really is a partnership, a two-way street, a work in progress. That is how I view it anyway. I appreciate the partnership I have with my husband Darcy. I appreciate that we both went into our marriage with enough prior life experience to know that it would take work, compromise, time, and forgiveness to grow in our partnership. We knew it wouldn't always be "a bed of roses." I think that realistic approach is helpful because then y…

A Pair of Scars

Today I am grateful for laughter and pleasant conversations I had with friends yesterday. I am also grateful for a warm blanket, a comfortable couch, and a head massage from my husband Darcy.

Back to those painful reminders. They can be physical, like my fingertip cracks mentioned in my post a couple days ago. They can be emotional ones too. My mastectomy scars were both physically and emotionally painful early on, but I am grateful to say today that on most days I barely think of them. The physical pain healed. The emotional pain was processed. Acceptance arrived.

The two most physically painful aspects of my cancer surgeries were parentheses of pain that happened at the beginning of my first surgery and the end of my third surgery. Prior to my lumpectomy, I had a shot in my right nipple to help prepare for the sentinel node biopsy. A few seconds of intense pain I will never forget. Five months later I had my third surgery, bilateral mastectomies. Twelve days after that surgery, my d…

The Next Generation

Today I am grateful for a phone call from my stepson Arthur and a visit with my niece Katie.

These two fine young people are members of the next generation and they give me hope. Of course I am biased, but the way they live their lives and the ways they are helping others are encouraging to me. Arthur shares a message of the importance of good nutrition in an overall healthy lifestyle. Katie supports and coaches other women in their pursuit to feel and be healthier. Thanks for your work you two. Keep it up!

Arthur called me after receiving a gratitude letter from me. I am touched by the impact one of my actions had on him at a difficult time in both of our lives. He said it continues to inspire him and that touches me deeply.

Katie is visiting before I take her to the airport this morning. I have 25 nieces and nephews on my side of the family. A sadness for me is that I don't know any of them as well as I would like to. But Katie and I have a good connection and I really apprecia…

Painful Reminders

Today I am grateful for a healthier perspective on life and on myself. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and the joy he brings to all of us.

The other day I blogged about joy and pain both being necessary in our lives. They are both unavoidable really. I get why people want to avoid pain, but why would someone want to avoid joy? Good question. I don't think it's that people try to avoid joy as much as they simply miss it because they aren't paying attention, or they are focused on the wrong things and those things swallow up the joy. Gratitude practice helps me uncover and notice the joy.

One of my unavoidable pains this time of the year would be splits and cracks on my fingertips. The dry air and cold weather lead to these nuisances that can also be very painful at times. I have tried various lotions and night treatments, but since I use and wash my hands so much, I haven't found an effective way to totally avoid these cracks and splits. They have, however, beco…

First and Last

Today I am grateful for our local writing group and the chance to share and stretch with others interested in the craft of writing. I am also grateful for my marriage to Darcy.

We had our first snowfall overnight. It wasn't much. The grass is white but the roads and sidewalks stayed clear. Yesterday afternoon, I went for my last run before our first snowfall. I run outside through the winter as much as possible, but I still wanted to appreciate clear roads and trails because for the next few months there are no guarantees what the conditions will be. As I ran, I saw a golfer getting in what was probably his last round of the season on the course we live near.

It got me thinking about first and last. And gratitude. As long as one of my first actions of the day is to give focus to gratitude, and I do that by journaling and blogging, my day gets off to a solid start. My perspective starts out positive and clear, and that helps carry me through to my last task before bed. There may b…

Pain + Joy = Life's Beauty

Today I am grateful for the energy created from taking right actions. I am also grateful for our home and the comforts it offers to us.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal a couple of days ago:

"Taken separately, the experiences of life can work harm and not good. Taken together, they make a pattern of blessing and strength the like of which the world does not know."
(V. Raymond Brown)

Gratitude helps us integrate the painful with the joyful so both become part of what makes us who we are. If I only focused on the painful, gratitude would be a tall order. If I only focused on the joyful and denied the pain, I would never gain full perspective. Life needs both the highs and lows.

I don't go looking for pain. I guess I used to when I was drinking. Actually, I drank to kill the pain I felt. But no one is immune to pain, life challenges, difficult situations. If something difficult happens, I can still apply gratitude however, and that helps me not keep spinning it n…

Pause. Repeat. Back to Basics.

Today I am grateful for the wisdom shared by others in recovery. I am also grateful for a fall breeze and the sound of leaves rustling and skirting across the trail or road.

One of the many benefits of gratitude practice for me is that it reminds me to slow down. Pause. Literally to take a moment. Notice. Be still. Savor. I remain prone and susceptible to overdoing life.I start doing, I find more to do, I add to my to-do list. I get to a certain tipping point and I can't seem to stop myself.

On a good day, I become absorbed in what I am doing and it is a time of mindfulness and presence. On a rough day, I get swallowed up by my own best intentions. I go from mindfulness to mind fullness. I get scattered and frazzled and worry about running out of time. I stop noticing. I stop enjoying. I wear myself out.

Yesterday I was headed for frazzled and frustrated, but I am learning to take the right actions. Pausing is an action. I made a decision to go see some friends and leave my to-d…

Keep Those Letters Coming

Today I am grateful for the chance to talk with others about gratitude and the realization of all that I have learned and continue to learn from practicing it.

I am also grateful to be preparing a presentation for parents that has gratitude and resilience as the key focus areas. There is a growing body of research to back up the effectiveness and healthy rewards of gratitude practice. I know them from experience, but the validation is nice.

For me, practicing gratitude is about taking action. I can't just sit and think about being more grateful. I need to make conscious choices and take true action in order for the real gifts of gratitude practice to come to fruition in my life. Yes, it takes work. But I don't mind it because the dividends paid are endless.

One of the actions I take is to write gratitude letters to people I want to personally thank for the difference they have made in my life. Handwritten and mailed the old-fashioned way. I hadn't written any gratitude le…

Going Bananas

Today I am grateful for grocery stores and their convenience. I am also grateful for access to fresh fruits and produce, especially bananas.

I have been remiss in giving a gratitude shout-out to my favorite fruit-the basic banana. I have always liked bananas and they are part of my daily diet. Rare is the day that goes by without a banana or two for me.

Sure, bananas might have more calories and sugar than some other fruit, but they have many benefits.They are good for my running muscles before, during, and after a run. There is a reason why bananas, along with orange slices, are the most common fruits found available during and after marathons. They are a good source of potassium and fiber. They are easy to digest and they have some substance so you feel like you are getting some ready energy. And I love the convenience. You don't need to wash them or cut them up. Peel and eat. Throw peel in garbage. Done.

I appreciate that bananas are affordable too. Some fresh produce is expens…

Thumbs Up

Today I am grateful for a safe Halloween in our neighborhood and for regular emails to others in recovery. They help me focus on the right thinking as I begin my day.

I am also grateful for my thumbs. My friend and co-worker Liz and I were talking about her recovery from hand surgery yesterday. We got on the topic of our amazing, opposable thumbs and how much we take them for granted. I paid some attention to that point as the day went on . . . putting on gloves, zipping a zipper, washing and drying dishes, tying shoes, opening doors, driving, writing. Okay, pretty much everything I do with my hands utilizes those crucial thumbs.

When is the last time I was grateful for my thumbs? I don't think that one has crossed my mind for a long time. Those poor digits sure get taken for granted don't they? Liz has been especially noticing their importance as she deals with surgery recovery that gives her limited use of one thumb. Thanks for the inspiration and the reminder Liz!

If I ta…