Posts

Showing posts from January, 2014

Sweeping

Today I am grateful for the simplicity of leftovers to make a nice meal and for my physical capabilities.

Those physical capabilities allow me to partake in the second "s" word I would like to blog about: sweeping. I am one of those people who enjoys cleaning activities if I can see my progress. I like to notice my efforts paying off.

That is why I have always liked sweeping. I grew up in a large farmhouse with one carpeted room. Lots of wood and linoleum to keep clean, and lots of us in the family to carry in dirt and such. My memory tells me we swept some floors daily or more; like the kitchen. Bedrooms didn't get swept as often. When I swept, I always picked up something. If it was the basement I was sweeping, you could really see how much it helped. It was a satisfying chore. (I'm sure there were times I argued and tried to get out of it, but it certainly ranked above other chores I had to do.)

So I have never balked too much at having to sweep. Now, I live in a…

Register

Today I am grateful for my marriage to my husband Darcy and for a computer that works.

There are many meanings for today's word: register. But the former Civics and Government teacher in me is thinking about registering to vote. I am grateful to live in a democracy where I have the right to vote. I thank those who fought first for our freedom and then for the right to vote for more and more people.

There are still many around the world who aren't given the opportunity to have a say by voting. Sadly, many in this country don't take advantage of the opportunity. I have been a registered voter in three states and I vote even in the off-year elections, the ones that get the lowest turnout. I vote in local elections. I think it is important to participate and I also think it is my duty. There is much to be critical of in our current political system, but the "if you didn't vote, don't complain" saying still rings true. It has to start with action on the part …

Recycle

Today I am grateful for my sense of touch and the nice feel of my favorite sweatshirt or blanket against my skin. I am also grateful for my job.

Recycle is my first "r" word. I think of many aspects of the word; reusing, extracting useful material, adapting. I appreciate the recycling programs that are now prevalent and do make some strides in helping our environment and making better use of the resources we have. But I am also concerned about all the packaging-and the energy, resources, and chemicals required to create it all-that we are surrounded by these days. I try to be a good consumer when it comes to purchases I make and recycling I can do. There's plenty more I could be doing though, so I will keep working on it.

I appreciate my metal water bottle that I fill several times a day. The water tastes good in it and I save some plastic in the process.

I appreciate our local waste management agency and the weekly recycling service they conveniently provide. We have a…

Quaff

Today I am grateful for a good matinee to enjoy yesterday afternoon in "August: Osage County." I am also grateful for daily recovery from alcoholism and the people who support me in it.

The second "q" word I chose was quaff. I found it as I leafed through the "Q" in my trusty hard-cover dictionary. I was not familiar with quaff at all. It means to drink deeply, such as quaffing a beverage. But I like the broader consideration I can give to quaff, to drinking deeply of gratitude, of life.

This morning, I wouldn't want to quaff the air as I step outside with our dog Oliver. It is too cold to quaff air. It would be painful.

But on a hot August day after mowing the lawn, you might find me quaffing some ice cold water. I yearn for a warm August day after so many days this month in the deep freeze. I know, I know. Come August, I will complain because it is too hot. Oh well, I am still grateful to live in a locale with the beauty and perplexity of the chang…

Quiet

Today I am grateful for the story my husband Darcy shared last night in a talk he gave at church. I learned more about him and his childhood as I listened.

I was listening to him at "Light the Way," an event our church puts on two Sunday evenings a month. It includes Christian rock music (thanks to the musicians too!) and someone sharing a little about their own faith journey. I got to be quiet and listen, quiet in my head and also in my heart.

So let's make quiet  today's word. It is a word I am enjoying learning about and practicing more. It used to be fairly elusive to me. I couldn't enjoy the quiet because my mind continued to race. I couldn't quiet my mind because fears, worries, and self-pity kept it spinning.

I am learning to quiet my mind through prayer and meditation. I am learning to let go of fears and worries by staying present and mindful. Gratitude practice helps me quiet my mind. I will never do it perfectly, but I am making progress and enjoy…

Personality

Today I am grateful for the gift of being a parent, and the lessons I am learning as I do my best to be a good parent. I am grateful for the love, joy, and pride I feel for my son Sam.

I chose personality today because I want to talk about Sam's personality. Today is his 12th birthday.

This definition of personality seems most fitting: the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; the totality of an individual's behavioral and emotional characteristics.

Last night, we were watching video of the day Sam was born and footage from the first months of his life. He was absolutely adorable. If I called him that now, he would not find it amusing. He was a happy and curious baby and his smile touched me deeply. It still does. He remains happy and curious. It just looks a lot different at 12 years than it did at 12 days or 12 months.

I am proud of Sam and the unique individual he is becoming. He has his own quirks, his own sense of humor, his …

Pilgrimage

Today I am grateful for normal blood work and my co-worker Judy who did a great job with a parent presentation last night. Thanks Judy!

Let's start the "p" words off with a little journey into the meaning of pilgrimage. The dictionary defines it as a journey to a sacred place for a religious purpose; any long journey.

The poet in me defined it this way on New Year's Day 2014:

Pilgrimage
It has been said
That each day is
A new beginning
But it is also
The next step
On this pilgrimage
Known as life

This journey to
The sacred places
Within each of us-
Hearts
Souls
Minds

Each day
Each moment
Allows us
Opportunities
To travel within
And find
Ourselves

Not a single
Destination
Rather an
Ongoing excursion
To find more . . .

More hope
Humility
Acceptance
Faith
Gratitude
Growth

More of our
True selves

My pilgrimages aren't of the religious variety. They are more of the spiritual variety. And gratitude practice helps me find the way to the sacred places within and all around.

Where are you headed…

Oncologist

Today I am grateful for my job and for the good roads on which I can drive to and from work.

My second "o" word is oncologist, and I am very appreciative of mine. An oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. People don't want an oncologist like we might want a hair stylist or a personal trainer. But if we need to have an oncologist, we sure want a good one, just like we want a good dentist or surgeon. I have a good one, and for that I am truly grateful.

I just saw my oncologist yesterday for my latest 6-month check. I have felt comfortable with her since the first time I met her, in early June of 2008, just days after my breast cancer diagnosis. A bulk of her patients are BC patients, so that keeps her in tune with the latest developments. She is recognized in our large metro area as one of the best of the best. I didn't pick her for those reasons, I picked her because she was recommended to me by my surgeon. Obviously,…

Optic

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and the time we got to spend with Arthur and Alyssa and then Emily.

We (Darcy, Sam, and I) are also very grateful for the kind person or persons who cleared our driveway and sidewalk of several inches of snow we got while we were gone. We were pleasantly surprised and most appreciative when we arrived home yesterday. We already had a game plan to get to the shoveling right away, but how nice that we didn't have to. Thank you very much whoever you are!

Today's word is optic: of or relating to the eye or vision. Having working vision is one of those things that I too often take for granted. The way our vision works is really amazing. I try to protect my vision with eye exams, wearing my glasses regularly, wearing sunglasses when I should, keeping a balanced diet, and having eye protection when needed.

My working optic system allowed me to appreciate many things over the weekend:

-seeing family face-to-face (We hadn't see…

Notice

Today I am grateful for soft kleenex and soothing cough drops. (You may have guessed-I have a cold. I will be grateful when it has run its course.)

Notice is today's word and it fits with a couple other recent posts-minute and mindfulness. They are each about staying in the present moment. About taking time to pay attention to current blessings. "Take notice" is really just another way of saying "pay attention", which is just another way of saying "be mindful".  But if you are like me, you need many reminders. It doesn't hurt to have a repertoire of phrases to pull out. That increases the likelihood that I will at least think of one.

Recently I:

*appreciated the flavor and the smoothness of a spoonful of pistachio pudding I ate.
*noticed the crisp morning air as I breathed it in.
*shared a hearty laugh with a colleague and it felt good.
*took a minute to reach out to someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer.
*was thankful for a cozy and warm bed…

Nap

Today I am grateful for the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group meeting I was able to attend last evening and I am also grateful for the nap I got in yesterday afternoon.

That helps make my first "n" word selection nap. I am coming down with a cold, and I also started my work week with a long day at work on Monday that included an evening event. By the time I got home yesterday afternoon, I was exhausted. Sometimes a nap just sounds good, yesterday it seemed downright necessary. I was able to get that nap in and it sure felt good. When I woke up I had some energy to continue with the rest of my day. And maybe I can keep on top of this cold.

Naps differ over our lifetimes. In our infancy and toddlerhood, naps are part of a healthy routine.By the time we get to be school-aged, naps are harder to come by, but that's okay because we don't want them anymore anyway. Then in our teens, we may seek them out more again, especially after late nights.

There have been times i…

Mindfulness

Today I am grateful for healing and that I can return to some of my core strengthening exercises. I am also grateful for the wisdom and humanness of the people I share the planet with.

Today's word is mindfulness: staying present, being aware of the current moment. It is something I work at and I can honestly say I am making progress. (I also know and accept that it will always be about ongoing progress and practice. I will never get a degree in mindfulness.) My thought processes used to be one of two places-thinking about/regretting/critiquing what had already happened or pondering/worrying/building fear about what could happen. Not much mindfulness there.

I also used to set my goals too high when it comes to mindfulness. I still can't sit for 20 minutes and do nothing but let my thoughts clear and bounce around aimlessly. I am not good at meditation in that respect. But I can pause for moments and pay attention better to the present than I used to. Pay attention to my breat…

Minute

Today I am grateful for my job and the ways it stretches me. I am also grateful for the opportunity to put smiles on the faces of a couple of co-workers.

Minute is the word of the day, and it is fitting because I only have a few minutes to blog this morning. I am referring to the time reference, but when it comes to gratitude practice, I can also consider the minute, the smallest things. Like the oddly-comforting sound the keys on the computer keyboard make as I type, or the soft light thrown by the lamp nearest to me at this moment.

Back to the minutes of time. Things have been pretty jam-packed at work, and I never run out of things I could be doing at home. Thankfully, I have learned to pause, to take a minute here and there during my day to breathe, to regroup, to consciously note something or someone I am grateful for.Just a minute can do the trick. Just a minute can slow the speeding train and the racing mind.

Just a minute for gratitude. If that is all you have today, it is sti…

Lists

Today I am grateful for a couple of good phone conversations yesterday and for being able to cut myself some slack on the expectations I have for myself.

Lists and I have a close relationship. I have been a list-maker as long as I can remember. I don't trust my memory, so when I think of something that needs to be done, I write it down, or give myself some kind of tangible reminder. Then I can put it out of my mind for the time being. I am afraid I will forget something, but if I put it on paper, I know I will get back to it.

I tend to make different lists for home and work, and I will often end up with multiple lists in both places. That can get a little confusing and overwhelming, but I also find it a pleasant experience to look at a list and tick off one thing after another that is now done, or to be able to throw away a list.A bit sad, I know.

Do lists help or hinder me? It's hard to tell. It's some of both. But it's a habit I don't see changing any time soon.

Large

Today I am grateful for sunshine and an outdoor run with Darcy. I am also grateful for the positive experience our son Sam had with wrestling this year, thanks to his coaches and teammates.

Yesterday's post got me thinking about the word large: as in large-framed person. I am one. Petite would not describe me. I have a newspaper clipping from 31 years ago where a sports reporter refers to me as a large-framed gal. I am not taking issue with the accuracy of the description. I probably came in around 160 pounds at that time in my life, so I wasn't your typical looking distance runner.

The mention paid me a nice compliment, but also bothered me at age 17. Who isn't self-conscious and feeling less than confident about their bodies at 17? Here are the reporter's words:

"My favorite Monday was South Winn's Lisa Holthaus. The SW track team is only about seven in number, but Holthaus was a diamond in the rough. She won the discus and one look at her, a coach or fan mi…

Knees

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Jenny and a chance to catch up. I am also grateful for my knees and what they have done for me over the years.

I don't ever want to take my knees and their health and strength for granted. They have carried me well for 48 years and I want them to last for many more years. I am fortunate that I haven't had any serious knee issues. I try to do strength training and mix up my exercise regimen to keep them strong.My husband and I also utilize the run-walk method on our long training runs and in our marathons. (We walk for 45 seconds to a minute each mile.) That helps our knees and the rest of our bodies as well.

There have been a couple of times when I was slowed by a knee concern. They were minor issues and rest, ice, compression, and elevation did the trick. But those times served as clear reminders of how important it is to take care of my knees. I am also a "large-framed gal" so my knees pull their weight an…

Knowledge

Today I am grateful for my son Sam's experience with the National Geography Bee and for the knowledge I have gained over nearly five decades of living.

Remember the old saying "Knowledge is power"? It is attributed to English philosopher Francis Bacon. He lived in the late 1500's. Knowledge can be loosely defined as familiarity, awareness, and understanding of something or someone. In my opinion, it can be both an empowering asset and a slippery slope.

Yesterday morning Sam competed in the school level of the National Geography Bee along with nine other students from his school. They were on stage in front of hundreds of other middle school students. Sam was nervous, but my husband and I just emphasized that we were proud he made it to this round, and that he should look at it as a good opportunity to gain experience being in front of others.

What struck me as I observed the participants and listened to the questions was how we aquire knowledge in so many different…

Junk

Today I am grateful for the working parts that comprise my body. I am also grateful for the treasures of life that I have been able to keep over the years.

Junk is today's word. It came to mind as I went through a decade's worth of Christmas cards, and then some. Not because I thought any of the cards were junk, because when I unearthed the decade's worth of correspondence, I also unearthed what I would consider junk.

I am a keeper. Very sentimental. I have A LOT of stuff I have kept over the years. Much of it I am grateful I took the time to preserve. Much of it brings positive emotions, but some bring painful or unpleasant emotions. But both emotions, a whole range of them, are part of my life story and I am grateful for the tangible reminders of lessons learned, love loved.

Treasures at one time can turn to junk later. Time passes, making what may have been junk, now treasure. It goes both ways.

And then there's the junk in my head. Negative thoughts, self-pity, fea…

Joy

Today I am grateful for time with my family yesterday and the joyful sound of laughter.

Speaking of joyful, today I pick the word joy. We each can give examples of it, but would probably define it a little bit differently from one another. My unofficial definition of joy is feeling connected and content in my present circumstances.

Joy used to be elusive. It seemed too big and unattainable for a deep thinking pessimist like me. (I may have appeared to some to be positive on the outside, but my brain operated in the default mode of self-pity.) I think my definition was off though too. I thought joy had to be big and obvious. That it was all about the emotion. My newer definition keeps the joy in the here and now, and it is often subtle. I just need to be paying attention.

Gratitude practice helps me find the joy regularly. I had to smile recently when my co-worker Sue passed along a version of the quote below to me, having thought of me as she read it. And then just a couple days late…

Illuminate

Today I am grateful for laughter in our house and for a family trip to our local "Y" yesterday.

The "I" word of the day is illuminate: to supply or brighten with light; to enlighten spiritually or intellectually. There are areas of my life that growth and recovery have helped me bring out in the light and heal. As well as areas of potential that are now being realized.

I appreciate the illumination of my writing in recent years. From poet to essayist. From private journaler to public blogger. From unpublished to published. I am amazed at what I am learning because of this illumination.

But I also am thinking about something people in my part of the world take very much for granted:how electricity illuminates our world. Arguably, there is too much light, even a growing discussion of light pollution. Think about various electronics and the light they can emit. Too much light can disrupt sleep, so we try to keep it dark in our house when it needs to be dark.

But I s…

Intense

Today I am grateful for good soup on a cold day (thanks Zita!) and for sweat and endorphins.

I am also grateful for those who help the homeless and others in danger in these cold temperatures. I am grateful for emergency personnel available to help those stranded or struggling.

Today's word is intense. Here are several definitions of the word and examples:

1.existingoroccurringinahighorextremedegree:intenseheat.
2.acute,strong,orvehement,assensations,feelings,oremotions:intenseanger. 3.ofanextremekind;verygreat,asinstrength,keenness,severity,orthelike:anintensegale. 4.havingacharacteristicqualityinahighdegree:Theintensesunlightwasblinding. 5.strenuousorearnest,asactivity,exertion,diligence,orthought:anintenselife.
The first thing I think of today is the intense cold. We are at about 50 below zero with the wind chill.I am grateful to have a heated house, an attached garage, and enough winter attire to keep me warm and protected when I need to go out.

The intense feelings I have today t…

Hometown

Image
Today I am grateful for some family time to celebrate my step-daughter Emily's birthday yesterday and for warm clothes and working heat as we brace for some very cold weather. The last "H" word is hometown.When I was visiting over the holidays, I took this picture of the current water tower in my hometown of Ossian, Iowa. I grew up on a farm a couple miles out of town. The 2010 census says that Ossian has 845 residents. That number hasn't changed drastically in decades.  This water tower has already been around for years. The water tower I grew up with was silver with a red top if my memory serves me. It has since been dismantled. For the heck of it, I googled Ossian and found a couple surprises. Below are two YouTube videos with pictures of Ossian. They share some of the same photos, but both also are unique. This one I will call Ossian 1 was set to Pat Metheny music and includes parade photos and homes around town. This one I will call Ossian 2  had aerial vie…

H.O.R.S.E.

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate recovery and sobriety with others. I am also grateful for the simple fun of games like H.O.R.S.E.

I know it's a little stretch, but my "H" word today is H.O.R.S.E. Not the animal. The basketball game.If you are unfamiliar with it, you take turns shooting baskets. If someone makes a basket, the next person has to make it. If that person misses it, they get a letter for each miss. The first person to spell out H.O.R.S.E. is the loser. If they make the shot, the next person has to make it and so on. We sometimes played a shorter version-P.I.G.  Or in tight games we may have decided to add an "S" to extend the game to H.O.R.S.E.S.

I recall playing this game often with siblings. There may have just been a couple of us, or four or five of us. We had indoor and outdoor versions. The indoor version was played in our barn in the winters. There was enough space for a hoop and shooting area so we could keep playing yea…

Habit

Today I am grateful for the chair in my "meditation corner" and for the healing of my ribs and muscles. I am almost pain-free.

Habit is today's word. Recently, at the school I work at, I saw this quote twice in one day:

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." (Aristotle)

I saw it first in a bathroom stall (always a good spot for an inspirational sign) and I saw it a second time on the white board of a teacher's room where we were giving a presentation.

We are what we repeatedly do. Agreed. Positive, healthy choices lead to a more positive and healthy person. A simple idea to understand, but not always an easy one to implement. Why? Why do we sabotage ourselves? Why do we get complacent and stop doing the things that were helping? Those are good questions. I don't know the answers, other than I can best help myself by sticking with healthy habits, recognizing how they make me feel better, and continuing to do them. Da…

Grandeur

Today I am grateful for my job and the people I work with. I am also grateful for the beauty of life that surrounds me when I pay attention.

Speaking of beauty, the "G" word of the day is grandeur. As one definition suggested: use the noun grandeur to describe something that is splendid or magnificent. I chose that definition to focus on, because so many others talked about grand, awesome, great, impressive. Such words can scare us away from the little things. And truly the little things and the brief moments are most often the examples of grandeur in my life.

Beauty and grandeur go hand in hand. Not the beauty plastered on magazine covers and peddled in all sorts of advertising. Deep, genuine beauty.

Moments of grandeur in my life:

-the few seconds when the sun comes over the horizon
-the way Oliver (our dog) stretches himself from head to toe when he gets up
-the sound of my son's laughter
-the wisdom shared by others in recovery
-taking a walk in the brisk cold with …

Go

Today I am grateful for the blessings and lessons of 2013 and the hopes and energy I have to head into 2014. I am grateful for this blog and what it is teaching me. Happy New Year to all!

Today's word is a short two letters: GO. It seems fitting. Go into the new year, into the new day, into the new hour with mindfulness and more will be revealed.

I got the idea for today's word from Brother David Steindl-Rast's suggestion for approaching 2014. He sums it up in three words: Stop. Look. Go. As he says:

Stop! -- so that you will not hurry past the gift this moment offers you.
Look! -- so you will recognize this gift: the opportunity available now.
Go! -- that means: Do something with this precious opportunity!

If you want to read the full post (it's brief) or anything else at the website gratefulness.org go here.

This moment, this day is indeed a precious opportunity. Ask those who have lost a loved one this past year. Ask those whose own health or the health of a loved on…