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Showing posts from February, 2014

Taking the Edge Off

Today I am grateful for my five senses and that they are in good working order. I am grateful for the longer daylight too, making it a little more bearable to get through this bitter cold stretch.

Today's topic is taking the edge off. How do I take the edge off frustration, exhaustion, a craving? How do I take the edge off anger, impatience, or disappointment? I guess when I think of "taking the edge off," I tend to think of it as a sharp edge that could cause pain or problems if not blunted a little, or a lot.

One most effective way for me to blunt a sharp edge is through exercise. It always helps and it always works. Another way is through writing. Spilling out emotions that would continue to roil and boil if left inside my head and heart. The good news is I don't have as many of those type of emotions as I used to.

Speaking of used to, I used to consider alcohol a favorite and effective way to take the edge off. Sure, it worked temporarily. But as time went on, I…

Four-Legged Stool

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet and for laughter among colleagues. Laughter can be a good diffuser of stress. I am also grateful for my co-worker Judy and the gift of five puppies she brought to school to share yesterday. The kids and adults alike loved them!

At my school this week we are celebrating Wellness Week. Planning and carrying out the week's activities are the jobs of a group I co-advise. Our theme this year is "Aloha Wellness!" With the harsh winter we have been having, it's been nice to be reminded of the warmth and color (other than white) that will one day return to Minnesota.

I think recognizing overall wellness is very important. It is like a four-legged stool, with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects serving as the legs. Health in all of those areas makes for a strong and sturdy stool that can stand in a balanced fashion, even in rough times.

Most of us do well in some of these four areas, and even if one leg is weaker, a…

Pizza-of the Mindful Kind

Today I am grateful for safe travels for my husband Darcy and that he is back home. I am also grateful for pizza.

I have been working hard and avoiding temptations regarding my eating. But you have to splurge from time to time. It is actually a good idea, otherwise it might become difficult to stay on the good eating path and get easier to throw in the towel and slide back into old ways. The trick is to not let one splurge lead to another, and to space the splurges out. So my son and I splurged on some pizza last night. It didn't disappoint. I didn't eat as much of it as I would have a couple weeks ago. I was satisfied and also proud of myself.

I love pizza. I always have. I don't think we had it very often in my younger days, but I recall making homemade pizza and thinking it was a real treat. Since my teen years, pizza has been one of my favorites. I like lots of different kinds, and I like the ones loaded with ingredients. I will eat most any kind and fondly (sadly?) …

Finding the Joylets

Today I am grateful for people's hearty good humor to get us through a harsh winter. I am also grateful for my sisters and brothers, all seven and five of them respectively. I appreciate that we all keep in touch, although to varying degrees.

Nothing against my brothers, but I tend to stay in better touch with my sisters. My sister Aileen is a writer too. We share our work and words. (She's not the only writing sister either. You guys know who you are.) Check out Aileen's blog "Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events" here. She is masterful at using words and also sometimes creating new ones. In a recent email exchange, the word "joylet" came to be. She defines it as little bits of joy, baby joys; generally unexpected. Examples-finding a forgotten yummy hard candy in my purse, a baby smiling at me in the grocery store. I love the word and the definition. It is the essence of what gratitude practice is about. Finding the joylets. Thanks…

Communities and More Communities

Today I am grateful for my son Sam's involvement in our church youth group and for the experience he and the others in the group gained from creating and delivering their own sermon three times in the last two weeks. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy.

The theme of the sermons the youth did was "community." They spoke about a wide variety of communities and the impact that being a part of these different communities has had on their own lives. They also had multiple definitions, but I like the idea of shared attitudes and goals, of fellowship, or sharing space of one kind or another.

It got me thinking about the many communities I am a part of. Some I chose to be part of. Some were not in my plan, but they came to be anyway. (That reminds me of a joke: Want to hear God laugh? Tell Him/Her your plans.) Others are by virtue of where I live and work. Here are a few communities I am a part of:

*family (immediate and extended)
*people in recovery from alcoholism and add…

Only The Disciplined Are Free

Today I am grateful for the success of the 5-day cleanse Darcy and I just completed. I am grateful we jumped right in and did it after talking about it with family last weekend. Thanks again to my niece Katie for the plan and the other wisdom and support she shared.

I enjoyed my trip through the alphabet, and now I have several ideas I have been jotting down these last weeks that I can turn to. Today's topic idea stems from more recent developments, but is one that I have been trying to wrap my head around for years. "Only the disciplined are free."

My friend Dorothy has helped me understand these words. She said them to me in an email several years ago . . . just when I needed to hear it, just when I was ready to grab onto it. I guess that is one of those zingers I referred to a couple days ago. Thanks Dorothy!

"Only the disciplined are free." It sounds contradictory. Discipline sounds regimented, strict. How can that be freeing? Because if I don't have…

Zany

Today I am grateful for words; their variety, their many meanings, their knack to fit just right at just the right time, their ability to inspire the writer in me. I am also grateful for humor among recovery friends.

To wrap-up my weeks-long journey through the alphabet, I am picking zany. I have always considered zany to be just an adjective: amusingly unconventional, fantastically or absurdly ludicrous, showing or marked by a lack of good sense or judgment. But it can also be a noun: the clown or the buffoon, the one who plays the fool to amuse others. I had never considered the word zany much before the last couple of days. It always amazes me how so many words have so much more to them than meets the eye, so much more than our limited experience and use of them.

In my mind, zany described a person who was a little crazy, but almost in a good way. Someone who was willing to take risks and look a bit foolish, but someone who was free and comfortable in their own skin. That was never…

Zinger

Today I am grateful for the beauty of snow on the trees and eyes to see it with. I am also grateful for time spent with my step-daughter Emily.

Zinger is a good word to focus on today. It means sudden shock, revelation, or turn of events; something causing or meant to cause interest, surprise or shock. I prefer the revelation and interest sort of zingers. Life doesn't often bring sudden and shocking zingers. That's okay with me.

I am experiencing some cleanse zingers this week. They include how I am better recognizing my own energy level through the type and amount of nourishment I am providing my physical body. Another one is the ongoing revelation of the necessity and purity of water, just plain water, and plenty of it!

Recovery from alcoholism provides a regular feed of zingers when I am doing daily work for my daily disease. Zingers like "I am my biggest problem," "accept more, expect less," and "worry and fear are wasted energy."

Gratitude z…

Zenith

Today I am grateful for the breast cancer support group I attend and the friends I have made there. I am also grateful for my neighbor Amy-a fellow BC patient. We sometimes cross paths on our morning walks and I am struck by both of us being healthy and able-bodied over five years post-diagnosis. I saw Amy on my walk this morning. I don't ever want to take my health for granted and in order to not do that I need to appreciate it daily.

I am starting the "z" words with zenith-a highest point or state, culmination, the strongest or most successful period of time. My thoughts are pretty random this morning, so here goes.

I am ready for the zenith of this five-day cleanse Darcy and I are doing. It is going well and I am learning more about my body and the way I nourish it. But I am ready for the culmination, the final meal on the plan. From that zenith however, I hope to continue on a healthier regimen.

Marathons and zeniths go hand in hand. Two of the highest points in my …

Yolk

Today I am grateful for water to drink. How many people in this world lack safe drinking water? I am also grateful for eggs to eat.

Yolk is the last of the "y" words I am choosing to blog about. I would like to focus on the yolk of the egg. I am a big fan of eggs. I always have been. I would like to eat an egg or two for breakfast this morning, but I can't. Darcy and I are doing a 5-day cleanse to detoxify, jumpstart our metabolism, and perhaps take off a few pounds. Eggs are not on the menu for a few days, or dairy, or sugar, or lots of other things. But we are doing okay as we start day 2. My body is wondering what is going on, but it is also thanking me for caring enough to give this a try. Thanks to my niece Katie for the information and the support. It is all appreciated!

I grew up gathering and enjoying farm-fresh eggs, though I didn't know the difference until I had eggs that weren't farm-fresh. (Not a big difference in my opinion, but still noticeable.) …

Yearn

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Iowa to spend some time with my mom for her upcoming 83rd birthday. I am also grateful for all of the family members we got to visit with and the time we got to spend out on the farm.

We did come home a day early because of a predicted several inches of snow. It was disappointing, but a good call because the several inches came, both here and there. I had to chuckle about this though: My nieces and nephew were supposed to have a make-up day of school yesterday, but then they got a snow day. I guess you know it's a bad winter when you have to make-up the make-up days.

On to my second "y" word: yearn. I was drawn to this part of the definition: an earnest or strong desire. In light of the brutal cold and substantial amount of snow we have had, I truly am yearning for spring. It will be here sooner or later, and I will fully appreciate it. In fact, I plan to fully appreciate temperatures above freezing this week.

I also yearn…

Yield

Today I am grateful for a nice Valentine's Day and a head massage from Darcy. (They always put me to sleep.) I am also grateful for chocolate.

The "y" word I want to focus on today is yield. As a farmer's daughter, I often first think of yield as in crop yields; how much is produced. A good yield takes a good effort and also a big investment. My father and some of my brothers have devoted much time and work over the years to producing good yields.

But I also think of yield as in give way, give up, surrender, accept. I was just thinking about this yesterday. In my single days, I planned to keep my maiden name if I ever found a man to marry. But when I met Mr. Valentine, I yielded that plan in favor of a great name like Mrs. Valentine. I haven't regretted it at all.

Throughout my day, I work on yielding to life on life's terms. I try to accept others and myself. I try to just do the next right thing and wait for things to unfold. It is always a work in progres…

Xenial

Today I am grateful for the love I have in my life on this Valentine's Day, from the love I share with others to love of self. I am also grateful for acceptance.

Xenial is a word I don't think I have heard of before. It means hospitable, especially to visiting strangers or foreigners; or the relation between a host and guest; friendly. It seems like a nice word. Maybe we should use it more often. Or at least be xenial more often.

I would like to think that I am kind to strangers out in the general public. I greet people, hold doors, wait my turn, that sort of thing. But sometimes I can be deep in thought, or tired, or feeling rather crabby. It may have nothing to do with the other person, but I might appear less than xenial. I guess it is about being aware and noticing. That sounds just like gratitude practice.

I would also like to think I am friendly to everyone I encounter. I greet students in the halls at school. I smile often. I muster a "good morning" or "ha…

Xerox

Today I am grateful for bananas and other fruit that nourish me. I am also grateful for Oliver and our quiet morning time together.

It has been a fun journey through the alphabet, but I confess that I am ready to move on from the constraints of A-Z, self-imposed as they might be. I am getting closer. Xerox starts off the "x" words. It is both a verb and a noun. As a verb it means to copy something with a special machine. As a noun, it refers to a company that makes copy machines.

It got me thinking about the changes I have seen in the area of copy machines since I started in the field of education over 26 years ago. We still had ditto machines at my first teaching job. Those were fun, but messy. With a distinct odor. I remember creating masters for the ditto machine on typewriters. Copy machines of the Xerox nature starting becoming more prevalent, but were still expensive. Schools my size tended to only have one. At one of my jobs, we couldn't all access the copier. W…

Weakness

Today I am grateful for prayer, in solitude and in group settings. I am also grateful for warmer air today, relatively speaking.

I am winding up my "w" words with weakness. We often think of weaknessas a negative, our faults and defects as something we don't want to look at. But it is good to recognize our weaknesses and do what we can to not succumb to them so often. It is also good to forgive others when their faults interfere with our day. And to remember we are all flawed and that is what makes us human.

But there is another type of weakness that is more fun to talk about--those weaknesses that are about an object of special desire or fondness. A real weakness of mine is ice cream.

I have always liked ice cream. I'm from a family of ice cream fans. We didn't get spoiled growing up in our large family, but ice cream was a fairly regular treat. (Maybe because we always had cake and ice cream on birthdays and we had a lot of birthdays.) I recall when Mom would …

Whistle-stop

Today I am grateful for the people I work with; from colleagues, to students, to parents. I am also grateful for peanut butter and jelly on toast.

Whistle-stop is a unique "w" word. Technically, it is more like two words, but let's consider it one hyphenated word to keep it in line with my one-word trips through the alphabet. It most often refers to brief appearances in many communities by campaigning politicians or to the small communities themselves.

It also happens to be the name of the second marathon I ran-the WhistleStop Marathon in Ashland, WI in 2005. I have fond memories of that marathon, largely because my sisters Zita and Ruth and my friends Beth and Melissa all ran the marathon too. My sister Aileen ran the half-marathon, and my sister Leonice and sister-in-law Annie came along to cheer us on. It meant a lot to have Zita running. She had planned to run the Chicago Marathon the previous year but ended up being diagnosed with breast cancer and being in the midst…

Wonder

Today I am grateful for a nice conversation with my sister Danita and for the custard at Culver's.

Rather than wonder what "w" word I should start with, I am starting with wonder. Wonder really runs the gamut. I stand in wonder and watch the sun rise from my living room window. I stood on the deck of a boat and watched the wonder of blue glaciers in Alaska. I stood in wonder at the end of my first marathon. (I was also standing because I was too exhausted to move, but that was all part of the wonder.)

And then there are the "wonder cookies" I made this weekend. Darcy came across the recipe on Facebook and asked me to make them. The recipe he was reading had a drab name like chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies, but I grew up knowing them as wonder cookies. I am sure mom appreciated the no-bake aspect, and I know her children appreciated the taste. They never lasted long, no wonder there.

There is the exciting, anticipatory wonder of questions like I wonder where …

Vital

Today I am grateful for the weekend and family time. I am also grateful for my sister Zita and the good relationship that we have. Happy Bithday today Zita! This year, Zita will be ten years out from her breast cancer diagnosis. I am so grateful she is doing well. I am grateful for all seven of my sisters.

Those "v" words just kept grabbing me, so I will finish with one more: vital. One of the definitions of vital makes it a synonym for yesterday's vivacious. I want to focus on one of the other definitions though. Necessary. Essential. Extremely important. Life-sustaining. Indispensable. You get the idea.

What is vital to my overall health? Exercise. Proper energy via nutritious food. Enough sleep. My cancer medication (tamoxifen) and Vitamin D supplement (the medication and vitamins are debatable, but for me they are important), my daily recovery from alcoholism, my writing, gratitude practice, the love of family and friends.

We often start with aspects of physical hea…

Vivacious

Today I am grateful for a run outdoors yesterday afternoon, first alone, then with Oliver, our dog. We were both happy to be taking in the fresh air and sunshine. I am also grateful for the recovery friends I have and the conversation and laughter we share.

Vivacious is another "v" word that grabbed me. It is briefly defined as lively in temper, conduct, or spirit. It is a word I have never used to describe myself-until now. I saw vivacious people as outgoing and confident. I was neither, though I would use alcohol, a well-known social lubricant, to try to feel more confident and act more outgoing. I was shy, inhibited, closed off. That's how I felt anyway. I really don't know how others perceived me, and it really doesn't matter anymore.

Today I say, with confidence, that I have a vivacious spirit. I remain reserved in my temperament and conduct more often than not, but my spirit is usually pretty lively. I owe that to recovery from alcoholism, love from others, …

Vista

Today I am grateful for cozy blankets, a comfortable bed, and my husband next to me in that bed. But I am also grateful for the motivation to get up and head into this day.

Vista caught my eye as I perused the "v" section of the dictionary. It is defined as 1) a distant view and 2) an extensive mental view.

1) Some of my favorite vistas include: the view of my community from the hill I come down each day from the north as I drive home from work, the hilly countryside of the farm I return to when visiting my family, and the sight of a marathon's finish line when it finally comes into view. Other amazing vistas that I have only been treated to once or a handful of times include places like: Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Denali National Park and the glaciers of Prince William Sound in Alaska, and the Oregon Coast.

I am grateful to be able to travel to these places near and far, and I am grateful for my eyesight with which to enjoy these views.

2) Gratitude prac…

Unfold

Today I am grateful for a reliable vehicle and I am grateful for my son Sam and the opportunity to learn and grow as he learns and grows.

Unfold is the second "u" word I am choosing to blog about. Unravel and unfold are different. When things around me unravel, I probably have done something to cause the fraying and separating. When things unfold around me, it is more about accepting life on life's terms, about life unfolding as life is meant to, not how Lisa would have it unfold. Unfolding is gentle, unraveling is tense and messy. That's how my little brain ponders it anyway.

To allow things to unfold also requires patience. Patience is not one of my strong suits. I want to push the envelope, predict outcomes, keep things moving. The fact of the matter is that sometimes the best action is no action. Sometimes the best pace is slow. And trying to determine outcomes is usually pretty futile because I am pretty powerless in the whole scheme of things.

I do have power ov…

Unravel

Today I am grateful for sleep and a good night of it. I am also grateful for being able to write and type without pain. There are many who can't.

Today's word is unravel. To undo. To separate. I usually think of it as something good coming apart, so I tend to see it as a negative unraveling, an unwanted undoing. But the truth is that there are times when unraveling and doing over are the best routes to take. We all need and deserve do-overs in life.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal one day last week:

"Hem your blessings with thankfuless so they don't unravel." (Author Unknown)

Blessings would be something I wouldn't want to unravel. I have found that they can quickly do so, however, if I forget to be thankful, forget to appreciate each day's gifts, big and small. If I start taking those gifts for granted, the unraveling begins, the ungrateful attitude slips in. I get frustrated more easily. Other people frustrate me more quickly and I start judgi…

Tenacious

Today I am grateful for my job and the variety of experiences it offers. I am also grateful for my reading ability.

The second "t" word I have chosen is tenacious. Cohesive. Tough. Strong. And my favorite definition among the several in the Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary was this one:persistent in maintaining or adhering to something valued or habitual. I am tenacious in my gratitude practice. I am tenacious in my recovery. I am tenacious in my running.

Tenacious in my relationships with family and friends too. That is what it takes to maintain healthy relationships-hanging in there through thick and thin, persevering and forgiving. That is what makes it possible to savor the joy those relationships bring. Relationships can't always be easy and times always happy. If they are too hard or too sad, the writing is on the wall. But even healthy relationships have tough stretches and hurt feelings. Riding those times out is what brings the cohesion, and a deeper…

Tenuous

Today I am grateful for a nice phone conversation with my Aunt Helen. I am also grateful for sweat and endorphins to get me going this morning.

Tenuous is today's word. Some of the other words you will find in the definition for tenuous are slender, flimsy, weak, shaky. I like to use the word fragile. As in handle with care. Life is tenuous. If we don't treat it as such, we might lose it. If we treat it as such, we will still lose it, but hopefully we will have appreciated more along the way.

If I consider life to be tenuous, I give it more respect and care. My own and yours too. It doesn't mean I live cautiously all the time and barely leave my house. It means I try not to be foolish or reckless in my behaviors and choices. Life is fragile enough. Why add to it by drinking and driving, texting and driving, smoking, yelling at someone, not exercising, forgetting to be grateful, not taking the time to say "I love you," eating too many unhealthy foods, and so on?

Sobriety

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Today I am grateful for a nice walk, first with my husband and then my son on a sunny, warmer day here. (Warmer means it made it over 20 degrees.) I am also grateful for peanut butter. It goes so well with so many things.

I return to the trip through the alphabet with a second "s" word: sobriety. Sobriety is defined by Merriam-Webster as the state of not being drunk, the quality of being serious. I prefer to refine that definition. For a recovering alcoholic like me, it is more than not being drunk, it is not consuming any alcohol at all. (Honestly, if I couldn't drink to get drunk, I didn't even want to start.) And though I strongly agree that sobriety is serious business, it doesn't mean it can't be fun and enjoyable. It is fun and enjoyable, and has the added benefit of no hangover.

Do I always feel like it is fun and enjoyable? No. But I do most of the time, and when I need a fix I can turn to the endorphins that exercise and chocolate can provide. Sobr…

Post #600: Onward!

Today I am grateful for this blog and the outlet it provides for my writing energy and gratitude practice. I am grateful to anyone who has read any of my first 599 posts.

Today marks post #600! I am proud of that, but also humbled by what I have learned about myself and about gratitude over the last 22 months. Wow!

Writers write. Writers write to be read by others. Writers write to answer a call from within. Writers write because we have something to say. But also because we have something to learn. I have learned a lot about humility and ego since I wrote my first dozens of posts.They have been valuable lessons.I have also been shown clearly something I already knew: actions matter most. Thoughts are but a start. Action is needed. In life. In goals. In gratitude practice.

I have spent many hours over many months creating many blog posts. It starts with a thought and ends with hitting "publish." I am a better writer than I was 600 posts ago. I have a better understanding …