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Showing posts from December, 2013

Fossils

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Today I am grateful to wake up to a new day. I am also grateful for my fossil collection and the hours I spent in my youth searching for them. That makes today's word fossils. Below is a picture of two of the fossils in my small collection. (I am grateful I was able to locate this collection. I hadn't looked at it in years. I knew I had it here but I wasn't sure where. It was in the first place I looked.) They were all found on one particular hillside on the farm in northeast Iowa that I grew up on. It was a hill above the creek in the area where the pigs got to roam. That was when farms had a lot of fence lines, unlike now. So the pigs had their pasture area and the cows had areas of their own. I climbed and crossed many fences and gates in my day. Back to the fossils. If my brief research is accurate, the fossils below are Brachiopods. They are common in Iowa and belong to some sort of sea critter that lived inside this two-hinged protective shell attached to the floor…

Faith

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my sister Ann and for spiritual growth that happens when I put daily work into recovery from my daily disease of alcoholism.

That brings me to today's word: faith. There are many definitions for faith. Two that I like are:
-strong belief or trust in someone or something
-belief that is not based on proof

To me, faith is about not feeling alone in facing what can sometimes be a harsh reality. It is about spirituality, not religion. But religious practice can help deepen faith and I know that it does for many people. Faith and spirituality are about relating to a source of power beyond myself. That someone or something some call God or Higher Power, but can go by any name you like. It's about a personal relationship, not an institutional one. When I trust that source of power to help guide my thoughts and actions, that is faith.

These are only my thoughts and opinions, but I can tell you that over 24 years of recovery I have lea…

Expectations

Today I am grateful for a parking spot when we needed one and I am grateful for the warmer weather and sunshine we enjoyed yesterday.

Today's word is expectations. My expectations of myself have gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years. I am the toughest on myself and can push myself relentlessly at times. But I am making progress. I am learning to be kinder and gentler with myself. I am learning to keep my expectations more reasonable and sane.

It starts with me, but I can also be tough on others with my expectations. I wouldn't verbalize the expectations. They were mostly hopes. But when someone didn't come through like I had hoped, or expected, I was disappointed. I am making progress here too, being kinder and gentler with others as well. 

One of my mantras is "expect less, accept more." It bears repeating. And repeating. And repeating.

Healthy expectations keep me motivated. Unhealthy ones exhaust and frustrate me. Yesterday I had an expectation tha…

Endure

Today I am grateful for warmer weather to enjoy for a couple days before it gets really cold again, and for my friends in recovery and the laughter and genuine emotions we share.

Today's word is endure: to last, to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding, to deal with or accept.

I am thinking about my brother-in-law Randy, my sister Zita, their children, and Randy's family as they mourn the loss of Randy's mom Irene, who passed away yesterday. She endured ALS for the last couple of years. Her family endured watching her weaken and worsen. There must be some solace in knowing her suffering is over.

I am thinking about so many others who are enduring current and ongoing pain, suffering, hardship.I feel care and compassion for them and send them positive thoughts and energy. In the process, I send myself reminders of how fortunate I am. I have endured the recovery of bruised ribs and torn muscles for almost a month now, but I am making good progress, and …

Extemporaneous

Today I am grateful for the wisdom others in recovery share with me. I am also grateful for a more relaxed pace during the holiday break.

Today's word is a mouthful: extemporaneous. It is most often defined as a speech (or other action) delivered with little preparation; impromptu. One part of the definition better fits me and what I aspire to-a speech prepared in advance but delivered without notes or text. I don't consider myself a good speaker, but I will concede to improving over the years.

I appreciate the speech class I took in college. I think it was my sophomore year. It was a great class to push me to be more comfortable speaking in front of others. I grew up shy and introverted. Teaching for ten years required public speaking, so I got plenty of practice. I lacked confidence, however, and would sometimes shut my classroom door so those passing by wouldn't hear my attempts to interest my students in the subject of the day.

I appreciate the opportunities I have had…

Death

Today I am grateful for nice enough weather to enjoy our front patio with my husband Darcy yesterday. (That means the temperature was in the 20's. It's all relative) I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and the way he stretches before our morning walks.

Like cancer last week, I am picking a tough word for my last of the "D" words: death.

I am thinking about it after hearing about a man who was a year behind us in high school dying suddenly on Christmas Eve. And thinking about my friend Sheila's brother Chris who died one year ago on New Year's Eve. The two were classmates. Too young. So sudden. So very sad.

I am thinking about my sister's mother-in-law who has ALS. I am thinking of my brother-in-law who has Lewy Body Dementia. I am thinking of Lisa Bonchek Adams and others with late stage cancer.

The reality is we are each a day closer to our own deaths. That may be a scary thought, but it is also an inspiring one in my opinion. Life is precious. This …

Deal

Today I am grateful for family traditions and time together on Christmas Eve with Darcy, Sam, Emily, Oliver and I. I am also grateful for the simple pleasure of playing cards.

That leads to my word of the day: deal. As in deal those cards up! Let's play some 500 or euchre!Those are my favorite games to play at family gatherings. I grew up watching my parents play cards whenever "company" came over or when we went visiting. I learned to play at a young age. Invariably when my family gathers, there will be some card playing.

I appreciate that all you need are people and a deck of cards. Cheap fun! And we often spend plenty of time laughing as we play, though some are more serious than others. Darcy has learned to play over the years and enjoys joining in. Sam is even learning to play now, courtesy of his youth group involvement.

Then there's that other kind of deal. As in "let's make a deal!"  At our church services last night, the sermon was about shari…

Drift

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Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and for the chance to meet two new additions to my growing extended family. I am grateful for the time with my mom, siblings, and their families.

Today's word is drift. It came to me the other morning as I took a walk. Here is what I was treated to, just a few minutes from my mom's house:

Stunning beauty, courtesy of Mother Nature. Pristine snow, artfully decorating trees, against a backdrop of beautiful blue sky. The light snow drifted and landed naturally to create this winter wonderland. I felt deep gratitude for my eyesight and my mobility in that moment. I was reminded of my younger days, when we would get enough snow that we could make tunnels in the drifts. Or when the wind-driven drifts were sturdy enough to bear my weight as I would go exploring across our farm fields. I was also reminded of the other kind of drift; to wander from a set course, move away from. Are there healthy things I am drifting away from and ne…

Coincidence

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and his high cuteness factor after a visit to the groomer. I am also grateful for my family, near and far.

Coincidence is today's word. I was subbing at school the other day and saw this at a teacher's desk:

"Listen & Silent have the same letters. Coincidence?"

I had never seen that before. It really struck me. You can't be a good listener if you can't be silent. That applies to conversations with other people. But for me, it also applies to my conversations with my Higher Power. As I meditate, I try to remain silent so I can hear what comes through. It is a skill I struggle with, but I am making progress. Just slowing down and trying to be quiet is a good start.

I am grateful to be someone others feel they can talk to. I like listening. I have learned to be patient in the listening. So many times, we want to jump in and suggest something or offer advice. Often, the other person simply wants a caring ear. They will re…

Cancer

Today I am grateful for my job and for the drug Tamoxifen. I have taken it for nearly five years. It is a proven medication for people with my kind of breast cancer and can help prevent recurrence.

Speaking of cancer, that is the word I have chosenfor today. It isn't an upbeat word, but it does get people's attention, especially after they or someone they care about has been diagnosed with it. There are no gaurantees for any of us who have already had it and fear it returning, or those who are fearful of getting it in the first place. Cancer is wily and remains a mystery. There is no cure. It may seem like progress is being made, and in terms of treatment, it is. More is being learned, but a cure remains elusive. Cancer remains deadly to hundreds of thousands each year.

If you want to read an excellent blog by someone currently looking advanced stage cancer in the eye, read Lisa Bonchek Adam's blog. I have referenced it here before. Here is her latest post. In it, Lisa tal…

Cookies

Today I am grateful to be able to run a little again as I recover from my bruised ribs. I am also grateful to have some patience and acceptance.

Today's word is cookies. I have been doing some holiday baking, specifically two recipes from my Grandma Shindelar. She was my mom's mom and I have very little memory of her. She died when I was 5 years old. I don't have memories to connect me with Grandma, so the recipes are the next best thing. I try to make two of her recipes each year; chocolate star cookies and Christmas cut-outs. My son Sam helps me each year too, though I know that may not always be the case. He helps in shorter spurts these days, but he still anticipates batches of both each year, and I am happy to oblige.

I do enjoy indulging in the cookies myself. Amazing how good flour, butter, sugar, and eggs can taste. Of course, things like peanut butter, chocolate stars, and frosting are nice accents.

But I also enjoy sharing the cookies with others. My co-worker…

Bosom

Today I am grateful for my job and for help from a friend last evening after I forgot my purse and it ended up behind locked doors I had no keys for. Thanks Greg!

Bosom is today's word. I was more intentional about the choice for today because it is the 5th anniversary of my bilateral mastectomies. It sometimes boggles my mind that it has been five years already. It sometimes is hard to remember what it was like to have breasts. But I can beckon memories of my breasts if given time, and such memories are bittersweet.

Check out my blog post from this day one year ago here.

I was not that bosomy. I wore a size 38C bra. And I was never one to flaunt my bosom. If you saw my cleavage, it was either an accident or I was in a swimsuit. I am more at ease, though ease is a relative term, showing someone my mastectomy scars than I would have been showing someone my breasts. I was neither proud of nor ashamed of them. I just wasn't all that confident in my physical features.

Five years …

Brevity

Today I am grateful for phone conversations and text messages to keep me connected with friends and family. I am also grateful for my grandma's chocolate star cookie recipe.

Today's word is brevity. Shortness of duration. Conciseness of expression.

I could use more brevity at times. In my blog posts. In my other writings. Regarding my to-do list.I strive for brevity in my forays into stinking thinking, self-pity, and lack of faith. I can't seem to avoid such forays entirely, but I don't have to wallow in them anymore.

It doesn't take but a few seconds to consider a couple of things to be grateful for each day. That is really all it takes to start changing one's perspective. Daily gratitude practice and daily brevity can be compatible. On some days, there is more to say and that's okay. On other days, short is fine.

If you are feeling at all like I am today, short is good. Both time and energy are limited because of the many directions I am feeling pulled …

Assuage

Today I am grateful for the food, clothing, and shelter that my family and I have. I too often take such things for granted.

Today's word is assuage. It is a word that has always intrigued me, but I don't use it often. That may explain why I have been pronouncing it wrong. To hear the correct pronunciation, click here.

Assuage has these main definitions:
-to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses): ease
-pacify, quiet
-to put an end to by satisfying: appease, quench

The first definition is the one I am most familiar with. I wish I could assuage my sister's pain and grief as her husband slips away with Lewy Body Dementia. I can only be a source of support via phone calls and emails, and I will continue to do so.

That is just one example of how I can try to be a good family member, friend, listener, and in the process possibly help assuage another's pain. (And in my own home, remembering to keep my mouth shut when opening may amplify hurt, not assua…

Amplify

Today I am grateful for extra energy yesterday afternoon and evening to give to holiday preparations like shopping, getting cards and letters out, and making treats. I am also grateful to help at our church today for a special holiday outreach project.

Today's word is amplify: to increase, strengthen, add to. My first recollection of that word growing up is when people would talk about good amplifiers for their stereo systems. I do like my music loud at times, especially when I am alone in my car, or if a certain song hits me at the same time as a certain emotion. The volume amplifies the listening experience for me. I appreciate the technology that now creates great sound in small packages. No more big speakers needed, though they used to double as little table tops.

A funny college memory I recall: During our sophomore year, my roommate Deb had a couple such speakers in our dorm room. I don't remember what she had put on top of one of them, but one evening we were playing Tw…

More Gifts of Words from A-Z: Alone

Today I am grateful for my reading and writing abilities and that I have opportunities to use them daily.

Last year at about this time, I did a series of blog posts on different words from each letter of the alphabet. I called it "The Gift of Words From A-Z." Here is the description I have in my post from November 26, 2012, the day I started my word journey through the alphabet:

I have mentioned a number of times that an A-Z gratitude list is an easy way to think about gratitude when you are on the go. You can do such a list on your commute, a walk, sitting with a cup of morning coffee. You can write it, say it outloud, say it to yourself, say it to someone else. If you haven't tried an A-Z gratitude list, I would encourage you to do so.

I have done this A-Z list enough times that I sometimes get in a rut, saying the same things for certain letters. That's not all bad, because the things I repeat are worth repeating. But in an effort to mix it up a bit, I am ta…

A Lot of Work, A Lot of Joy

Today I am grateful for warm boots and hooded sweatshirts. I am also grateful for laughter, even if it still hurts a little when I laugh.

The phrase that is my post title today was something I heard in the context of a person talking about a new puppy his family had gotten.  "A lot of work, but a lot of joy."  It struck me immediately when he said that . . . isn't that really all of life?  It takes work, but there is plenty of joy?  And I believe the joy is in the work; the day to day strivings to live life, love others, pursue goals, remain healthy, and follow our hearts.

I think first about the work I do in recovery from alcoholism. Sometimes it does seem like work, drudgery, same old, same old. But more often, the work I do opens doors, gives me hope. To be comfortable in my own skin and to wake up with a purpose are joys that recovery brings.

As I thought further, I realized that all the things that matter most to me fit this description of "a lot of work, a lo…

Incremental Improvement

Today I am grateful for my glasses; the old pairs that I can run in but have to take off to read and my newest pair of progressive lenses. I am also grateful for my sight. It needs some assistance, but still works very well.

As my bruised ribs and torn muscles slowly heal and feel better, I am thinking about incremental improvement. Most things that need improving don't happen overnight. But if I can notice and appreciate the improvment by increments, I am given hope. I am given enough to keep me plugging along.

Recovery from alcoholism is about incremental improvement for me. It's about changing my stinking thinking to more sane and positive thinking. I couldn't have imagined 24 years ago that I could feel like I do today-about myself and my life. Patience. Acceptance. Daily work. The improvement continues, sometimes slowly, sometimes in flashes of insight.

Recovery from bilateral mastectomies offered more incremental improvement. I was motivated to keep doing my physica…

Roses and Thorns

Today I am grateful for the exercise bike we have in our basement and that I could use it comfortably this morning. I am also grateful for sensible drivers who share the road with me.

The following was a recent quote in my gratitude journal:
"Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns; I am thankful that
thorns have roses."  (Alphonse Karr)

Karr was a French writer and journalist who lived in the 1800's, but this quote seems timeless.It's all in how a person looks at things. Perspective. Perception.

If I look for negative, I will find it. But the converse is true as well. If I look for the positive, I will find it too. Where do I prefer to go looking? For the thorns or the roses?

Gratitude practice helps me keep the focus on looking for roses, looking for what is going well, what I can be thankful for in this moment, this day, my present life circumstances. It doesn't mean I naively choose to only look for the positive and deny that things can be to…

Somebody to Love

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the 16 years over which our relationship has grown and evolved.

Sometimes a wave of gratitude hits me when I wasn't even looking for it. The more I practice gratitude and the more I am aware of the gifts surrounding me, the more this seems to happen out of the blue. Yesterday it happened when I heard a song on the radio in my car. That song was Queen's "Somebody to Love."  Listen to it on YouTube here.

Not only do I appreciate plenty of Queen's music, I appreciated the gratitude this particular song sparked yesterday. I thought of my husband Darcy, how solid our marriage is, how much I love him, how much my life has changed and grown since we met in November of 1997. A wave of gratitude hit.

I met Darcy when I was 32. I hadn't given up on finding the love of my life, but I wasn't holding my breath either. In the weeks or months prior to meeting Darcy, I remember being out for breakfast with my friend Ellie. S…

All Walls Have Doors

Today I am grateful for the community we live in and the many services it has to offer. I am also grateful for the ease of using pictures stored on CDs.

I have one more Seattle Marathon tidbit to blog about. I enjoy reading the signs that people will hold along a marathon route. Seattle didn't have a ton of spectators or signs, but of those I saw, my favorite was a sign around mile 18. It was posted several feet up on a tree trunk and written plainly on a piece of cardboard. No one was near the sign when I saw it. It said "All walls have doors." It really resonated with me at that point in the race. My legs were tired and I knew there were hills ahead.

Running a marathon is as much a psychological undertaking as it is a physical one. Many are familiar with the phrase "hitting the wall" being used to refer to the point in a marathon or other race where the runner encounters serious fatigue. I have hit that wall on long runs, but for me it has been a wall I coul…

Savor

Today I am grateful for a conversation with my friend Jill yesterday and for our dog Oliver and his personality. He makes me smile daily.

I was reminded yesterday, from some of my recovery friends, how simple and yet how important it is to savor the little things as much as the big. Maybe even moreso. The big things to savor don't come along every day. The little things are in ample abundance at all times. Laughter among friends. The beauty of ice crystals on tree branches. Being able to painlessly put one foot in front of the other.

Revel. Relish. Savor. The marathon experience is behind us now for another year. The reveling is winding down. I will continue to relish and savor the big picture: Darcy and I have been able to run and complete 11 full marathons. But I will do more relishing and savoring of the little things: being able to get back to running when my ribs and muscles feel better, being able to get in and out of my own bed without pain, sitting in the recliner enjoyin…

Relish

Today I am grateful for warm blankets on a cold night. I am also grateful for the life of Nelson Mandela and the difference he made, not only in South Africa, but around the world.

It hasn't exactly been a week of relishing our marathon experience and finish, what with exhaustion, busy days at work, a sneeze that was more than a sneeze. But relish can be more than an action. It also happened to be the name of the restaurant in our hotel last weekend: the Relish Burger Bistro in the Westin Seattle.

We enjoyed two meals there, the first on Thanksgiving evening and the second was our post-race meal on Sunday. I relished both meals for different reasons. On Thanksgiving, I was relishing our safe arrival, time with family, and the beginning of our time in downtown Seattle. On Sunday, I was relishing the fact that we had finished marathon #11.

A strong hunger hits me a few hours after completing a marathon. I satisfied that hunger with the same menu item from Thursday. It was a burger…

Lessons in Humility

Today I am grateful for perspective and for my husband Darcy's help.

I was planning to write a post today called "Relish" because it followed nicely after "Revel" from yesterday. Things change. Instead, let's talk about the lessons in humility that I am getting.

After successfully completing the marathon on Sunday and getting some water therapy in the hotel pool and hot tub, I slipped in the shower and hit my left mid-back on the tub. Lesson in humility #1. To do it after running 26.2 miles? Really? I wanted to revel, not be humbled.

I didn't feel intense pain and I could breathe okay, so we proceeded with our day. I could feel some muscle pain in my back and certainly some movements were challenging, but I made it through the flight home the next day, and through two days of work. In fact, it felt pretty good during the day when I was up and moving. It was tougher to get comfortable at night.

All that took a turn for the worse with-of all things-a snee…

Revel

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Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Seattle and for a pleasant time taking in that city's downtown. I am also grateful for my sister Leonice and sister-in-law Annie, the time we got to spend together, and the kind gestures they extended; like picking us up and taking us back to the airport to name just a couple. Thanks you two!

It was another memorable marathon experience. Marathon #11 successfully completed. The rain held off, the wind was bearable when present, the route was scenic, the hills challenging. We got a street-level view of an impressive city and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. The 26.2 miles were varied; along water, across an interstate bridge, through scenic trees and vegetation. One step at a time. One mile at a time. Darcy and I spent the first 16 miles together, and then had our individual journeys the last ten miles. It was great to see family out on the course, and the orange slices really hit the spot.
Thanks again!

Approaching the finish,…