"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shorts and a T-Shirt

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and the enjoyable family time. I am also grateful for the beautiful weather we had the last couple of days.

I have been waiting for months for the opportunity to run outside in shorts and a t-shirt. I have been dreaming about such a day. Craving such a day. I got close one day a couple weeks ago. Capris and  one long-sleeved shirt. But yesterday was the real deal. Shorts and a t-shirt, a short-sleeved one. Layers be gone! I felt lighter, faster. And not just from those few pounds I have taken off. Though necessary, the layers added weight and bulk. It is freeing to shed them in these early days of spring.

The forecast promises chillier temperatures again soon, but I got a taste of what I have to look forward to. The layers may be needed again, but I know it will be only temporary. April is almost here. Rain showers today. Budding flowers in a matter of weeks.

It is worth mentioning too that this slow snow melt, though maddening for those of us with serious spring fever, has been beneficial in terms of avoiding flooding concerns, or at least lessening them. That is something we can all be grateful for, whether impacted directly or indirectly by the havoc flooding can cause.

I am grateful to be mobile, able-bodied and alive. I am grateful to have my husband Darcy running by my side. I am grateful for the job I return to today after a week off for spring break.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Blog On! Two Years of Blogging

Today I am grateful for rain to wash away some of the winter dirt. (And I am grateful it wasn't the snow some parts of Minnesota were getting, though we did see a dusting of that too.) I am also grateful for this blog and the many lessons it has taught me and continues to teach me on a regular basis.

A comment from my friend Sheila in an email yesterday reminded me that I have been blogging for two years already. In fact, my blog was born on March 27, 2012. You can read that first post titled "Welcome to Habitual Gratitude" here. In that post I said "In this blog, I plan to share thoughts, feelings, and actions surrounding gratitude." I wanted to help others see the effective and healthy benefits of gratitude practice. I hope I have done that. It continues to be a strong part of my motivation and inspiration.

What I didn't anticipate is how much more I would learn about gratitude and about myself. What an odyssey it has been. Part of my destination is right here, right now. But other parts of my destination remain unknown. I will blog on and see what else I find. And I will keep reporting back.

On March 27, 2013 I reflected on my first blog anniversary in a post titled "The Leap I Took One Year Ago Today." You can read it here. In that post, I commented "I have not run out of ideas to write about."  That was in post #330. Now I am on post #650 and that still holds true. In fact, I have a backlog of ideas in my little notebook and I have some drafts I started months ago that are still hanging out because I haven't made my way back to them.

What do I know today? Gratitude is always possible and there is always value in reflecting on sources of gratitude in our lives on a regular basis. I choose to do it daily, but even weekly or a couple times a week is helpful. Any focus on gratitude is a step in the right direction, a step to change one's perception of self and surrounding world.

Are you finding ways to reflect on gratitude? If my blog helps you in any way, I am grateful for the opportunity.

Have a good day! I will be taking a blog break for a couple days. See you next week.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Scavenger Hunt

Today I am grateful for the wisdom of pausing, just pausing. I am learning to keep practicing this pause. I am also grateful for good fun in the form of a scavenger hunt.

I can't remember the last time I took part in a scavenger hunt. Until last Saturday that is. My friend Faith had a great idea and got it ready for the rest of us.Thanks Faith! We were randomly divided into two teams. It required driving from Lake City to Wabasha, about 15 miles down the road, so we took two vehicles. There was music from the eighties on the radio and strategizing going on as we made the short trip. The next couple hours were teamwork and friendly competition at their best.

There were about 20 different things on the list, ranging from a receipt for 50 cents in gas, to a picture of our team all on a slide, to a certain "Welcome to Wabasha" sign. We also needed a 1983 coin (for our graduation year) and a picture of an eagle in flight as well as an ice fishing shack (both also appropriate considering where we were). We had a great time being creative and observant and a little bit silly.

A number of the clues required a picture of the team taken with the required item or landmark. That meant several selfies, which can be a challenge when there are five of you to fit into one picture. It's a good thing we like each other. We came across the other team several times and did some good-natured ribbing. Though the outcome remains disputed, I stand by my team in victory.

Some of the clues on this scavenger hunt were tougher than others. Some took a little longer. But we also literally drove right by one clue while looking for another. Bonus! Finding gratitude is easier than your typical scavenger hunt, but starts with the same thing: paying attention. How many times in a day do I walk by or drive by a reason to be grateful? In my house, I may walk right past my working refrigerator on my way to get a drink of fresh water. Pausing in gratitude allows me to be appreciative of the house, the refrigerator, and the safe drinking water.

Why not go on a gratitude scavenger hunt today? See what you find. Write it down. Share it. Or simply enjoy it yourself and feel the positive power of gratitude in your day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Role Models

Today I am grateful for a nap yesterday, even if it was a short one. I am also grateful for our house and the new arrangements and colors in certain rooms that bring a freshness to everything.

Yesterday I wrote about joy and pain, laughter and tears. Tuning into the news can be more painful than joyful most of the time. That is why I don't delve too deeply past the headlines on most days. With tragedies like the mudslide in Washington and the terrible mystery of Flight 370, it's tough to wrap my head around such news. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.

Life is precious. Treat it as such. Just for today.

Let me turn my focus now to more news of the good kind: my weekend with my friends and one of the lingering inspirations I am feeling from our time together. It all started with a t-shirt and this picture:


Brenda, on the left, is wearing a shirt that says "Drinks well with others." Rita's shirt is easier to read.We had a few laughs about this combination. Let me first say I appreciate the understanding my friends have regarding my choice to avoid alcohol. Rita was considerate enough to bring along a bottle of sparkling juice so we could share in a toast Friday night after we all arrived. (Thanks Rita!) I can be around social drinking, but it isn't something I do real often. This weekend I was at ease and accepted. (And armed with chocolate!)

What has stuck with me is the idea of role models. People who make an effort to contribute positively to the world around them are my role models. That makes the other eight members of "The Lake City Nine" my role models. We each brought our humanness and our individual gifts together this weekend. None of us is famous, perfect, or rich. None of us has been left unscathed by life, but none of us has been left bitter and hardened either. We are just genuinely good people trying to do our best as wives, mothers, sisters, caretakers, co-workers, friends. Some days are better than others, but onward we trudge. With nearly five decades of life experience, there has been much wisdom gained.
We accept ourselves and our circumstances better than we did when we graduated from high school over 30 years ago.

I am blessed to have so many role models in my life, these women and many more people, who help me find my way by showing their way. Thank you!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joy and Pain, Laughter and Tears

Today I am grateful for underbed storage totes and time to go through some of our "stuff." I am also grateful for time spent with my friend Dorothy yesterday.

Joy and pain. Laughter and tears. There was plenty of laughter among the "Lake City Nine" this weekend, but also some tears. Between us, we have known much joy and suffered through our share of pain. From the death of loved ones, to challenges for our relationships and for our children, to cancer diagnoses and other health concerns. The details don't matter. We have all weathered difficult times and we have all basked in the joy of celebrating life's wonders.

Life doesn't guarantee us constant joy and laughter. But it also isn't meant to be all tears and pain either. I believe life gives us both ends of the spectrum so we appreciate it all more. If things were always going well, we would lose perspective and start to feel entitled. Appreciation for all of our gifts would erode as we came to expect them always being there. Only through times of loss, pain, and struggles do we learn certain lessons. Lesson like the precious and fragile nature of life and each day.

My friends and I shared more joy than pain this weekend. More laughter than tears. But I so appreciate that our comfort level with one another allows us to share both. The sharing matters. One person's joy shared is joy multiplied. One person's pain shared is pain reduced. Not reduced in that it goes away, but reduced in terms of carrying the burden alone.

Gratitude practice helps me find the little joys in each day. It also helps strengthen me for when the pain and challenges come along.

I am blessed to have friends I can share a comfortable weekend with as well as some of my own emotions, both the tough ones and the easy ones. Thanks for being there!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Lake City Nine

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Lake City, MN for nine of us who had a girls' weekend this weekend. I am grateful for old friends, shared history, and fresh memories to add to that history.

The picture below captures us at a local establishment on Saturday evening. It also captures a lot of smiles. That fit our time together this weekend. A lot of smiles. A lot of fun. A lot of laughter. A lot of food. A lot of beverage. A lot of talking. A lot of gratitude for the opportunity to get together and a great rental home to share for the weekend.

We are Rita, Beth, Sheila, Brenda, Tracy, Faith, Melissa, me, and Lori. We are classmates, some since kindergarten, all since our freshman year of high school. We are now nearing the milestone of 50 years on the planet. (Which reminds me, today is my sister Ruth's 50th birthday. Happy Birthday!) This was our second annual gathering. Last year it was "March Madison." This year we were the "Wild Women of Wabasha."  We spent most of our time in Lake City, just up the road. But we were wild in Wabasha as we competed in a scavenger hunt. More on that in an upcoming post.

 
When I left for home Sunday morning, just a couple miles down the road I saw a large billboard that said "In all things, give thanks." It is a bible verse from I Thessalonians. How very appropriate for the weekend we had, and for every day. I am grateful for each and every one of my eight friends I got to spend time with this weekend. We even did our own A-Z gratitude list. It will stay between us because you had to be there to fully appreciate it (or understand it for that matter). But I can tell you that my A-Z list ranges from accepting each other just as we are to more than one zany conversation that transpired.
 
Thank you Beth, Brenda, Faith, Lori, Melissa, Rita, Sheila, and Tracy. Thanks for everything! 
 


Friday, March 21, 2014

Sentimental Clothes

Today I am grateful for the sound of birds singing. I am also grateful for sore muscles that feel better when I get moving, all reminding me of the gift of mobility.

Sentimental clothes? I guess it is more sentimental Lisa regarding her clothes. I am a keeper of many things, and I am sentimental on many levels. As we have gone through closets and totes in recent days, I have come across items in what I call my "clothing archives."  There are certain things I won't part with . . . the sweatshirts from my college softball playing days, a t-shirt signed by a team I coached, the little Valentine outfit we got for Sam that he wore his first day in the world beyond the womb.

I even recall the first Colorado t-shirt I got on my first trip there to visit my sisters. I was 16 and thought I was pretty clever to have a shirt that said "Get High on the Rockies."  Sad, but true.

Many of these artifacts are safely packed away, to be saved and not worn. But some of my sentimental favorites still hang in the closet or sit in a drawer, still get worn: marathon finisher shirts, a favorite pair of jeans, an outfit Darcy picked out for me. Many things can spark memories. Clothes are one thing that do it for me. It may be connected to a certain event, or person, or time in my life. The things I have kept tend to lead to fond and wistful memories.

A comment about those marathon shirts. Some may construe wearing the shirts as a way of boasting about being a marathon finisher. Yeah, maybe for one of those fast finishers. Not me.When I wear one of my finisher shirts, I feel gratitude. Gratitude for being able to run, staying healthy through training for and completing 26. 2 miles, for sharing in the experience and passion with my husband especially, but also other family and friends. I'm not boasting. I'm literally wearing my gratitude. They are a source of strength and empowerment to me too. That's how I felt when I would wear one to a chemo treatment anyway.

Maybe I got more attached to things because I didn't have a lot of extra clothes growing up, and some were hand-me-downs. Regardless, as long as I have storage space I am keeping my sentimental clothes and the treasured memories that go with them.

I will be taking a blog break for a couple days. Have a nice weekend!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Try Easier

Today I am grateful for easily available clean water to drink.(Talk about something I take for granted.) I am also grateful for these fingers that work as I type this post.

We tend to hear people talking more about try harder than try easier. Sometimes try harder is okay. Like when I am running up a hill, or covering the last miles of a marathon, or pursuing getting my writing published, or keeping my mouth shut when to open it would mean harsh words coming out.

But trying harder can also backfire. I may end up pushing my own agenda without even realizing I am ignoring the input of others. Instead of letting things unfold as they are meant to, trying too hard can cause things to unravel and fray.

Trying too hard creates physical and mental tension which then also impacts my emotional and spiritual well-being. The physical tension alone builds stress and then manifests itself in ways that are less than pleasant.

Try easier. Go with the flow. Accept. Keep it simple. Do the next right thing. Just the sound of "try easier" is soothing. It seems counterintuitive, but trying harder actually decreases momentum, slows us down. On the other hand, trying easier generates energy and builds momentum.

Consider when trying harder is the approach to use and when trying easier would be the better avenue. Such consideration requires attention. Attention starts with mindfulness. Pausing in gratitude puts me in a more mindful state. Gratitude comes full circle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mindful Gray

Today I am grateful for the feel of smooth-writing pens on paper. I am also grateful for eyes that work and see color.

The painting is winding down at our house. Rooms have been rearranged. Old has been upgraded to new. There is still plenty to do, but I think about all we have gotten done in the last week or so and it is a satisfying feeling.

We went with some new color schemes in a couple of our rooms. We have some soothing gray tones now that we are glad we selected. Maybe I shouldn't pick paint colors based on the name given to a particular color, but on the other hand a name like "mindful gray" has to be a good choice doesn't it? It already is or soon will be in all or part of three different rooms/areas of our house. Besides the gray being calming, I hope I remember the mindful part too.

Mindful. Present. Stay in today. Take one thing at a time. And try to appreciate that the white outside, in the form of fresh snow, is all part of the plan too.

Have a mindful day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Around the House

Today I am grateful for this house we live in and the many things we love about it. I am also grateful for my recovery friends and the hope and experience we share with one another.

We have been quite busy around our house as we have moved ahead with some projects like painting and switching our son Sam from one bedroom to another. We have cleaned areas that haven't been cleaned in a long, long time. There have been several purchases with much packaging. We have created more garbage and recyclables in a few days than we would typically create in a few weeks. I have literally been around the house many times in recent days. Room to room. Level to level. I have put miles on I am sure.

I am grateful for our house and for the anticipation and excitement that come with changes and updates. I am grateful also for the memory that was sparked by mention of "around the house." That was the name of a game we played when I was growing up. It could be described as hide-and-seek in the dark, outside, with people hiding "around the house." We had a big farm house and plenty of places to hide. Darkness created many more places. I'm sure it also created some hazards, but we knew our way around and I don't recall any serious injuries.

It calls to mind warm summer nights, the sounds of evening time, and a number of children enjoying a simple game. I'm sure we fought. I'm sure there were sore losers. But I'm also sure we had plenty of fun playing "around the house" and other games. I am grateful for those memories and grateful for my siblings who share in them with me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tabletop Reflections

Today I am grateful for fresh air, lamplight, and the promise of this new day.

Last evening I was sitting at one end of our dining room table enjoying a glass of milk and a delectable bar. (It included chocolate chips and peanut butter, but was still a healthier version of dessert.) Dusk was arriving and the shade wasn't yet drawn. As I looked out the window, our granite tabletop reflected the bare trees in our backyard.

Those bare trees and that table brought me right back to another memory. It was September of 2008, two weeks after I had my first round of chemotherapy. On a Saturday afternoon, sitting at the opposite end of that same table, I had my head shaved. My head was pretty much bare, like the ash trees in winter.

My hair grew back. The leaves will return to the trees. I will continue to practice gratitude.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smooth Sailing or Rough Waters

Today I am grateful for my friend Betsy and the ways that we support one another. I am also grateful for life lessons that teach me more about myself.

Some days life feels like smooth sailing on calm waters. On other days, it feels like a rough ride on a choppy sea. Either can last for days, weeks, or longer, depending on our circumstances and what life is throwing at us. When my life is smooth sailing for a time, I sometimes get fearful that my luck is running out, that the tide will turn, that something bad is going to happen. That used to be my usual thought process actually, fed by feelings of unworthiness and self-pity.

It's normal to fear bad things happening. It means we have things to lose. It means we have love in our lives. But if it is overpowering my thoughts and darkening my days, I need to "start swimming" to calmer waters. Gratitude practice is my swimming. Staying in today is my life jacket. I don't regret yesterday as much or fear tomorrow as much when I am paying attention to today.

It should also be considered normal that we deserve the good things that come our way. But so often that "less than" mindset is what many of us default to. Let's help each other out. Share what you are grateful for in another person. Big or small ways they make your life better, smoother. Spread the gratitude. Calm the seas.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Scale and Some Totes

Today I am grateful for sore muscles reminding me of my physical capabilities. I am also grateful for my son Sam's healthy growth and development.

Sam has outgrown his twin bed so we are in the process of switching bedrooms and beds for him. We are getting some painting done, spring cleaning, going through totes we haven't gone through in years, downsizing and updating.  A lot of work has been done. Hence, the sore muscles. A lot more remains to be done. But I appreciate that we are able to do this, financially and otherwise.

Those totes hold the stuff of our lives. Each time I take a look at some of the things I have kept, I am amazed at how quickly the years have gone. And I am grateful for the full life I am living. Things could have been so different if I had continued drinking, or not made a move when I did. Life is like that.

Each time I go through some of these totes, I also seem readier to get rid of things that I was hanging on to. Certain things are permanent keepers, without a doubt. As I get older though, some things I kept feel less like keepers and more like clutter. Yesterday, I went through what remained of my ten years of teaching materials. I didn't part with it all, but I certainly took some weight off of it. As I looked through the materials, two things struck me: how hard I worked to prepare lessons and how much I had forgotten.

Speaking of taking off some weight, here is where the scale comes in. Darcy and I have remained diligent in our efforts to eat healthier and slim down. This morning, the scale told me some good news. There was a number after the first number (1) which I haven't seen in probably 25 years. I feel good, I like how my clothes feel, I look forward to what my running pace will feel like when we can get out there regularly. We have to continue our diligence, but we are enjoying trying new recipes, sticking to more whole foods, and our increased energy level. I am so grateful Darcy and I support one another in this as well. That is a big help.

Onward! Have a nice day.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sincerity

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the ways we complement and challenge one another.I am also grateful for the early morning energy I typically possess.

I came across the word sincere in one of my recovery readings yesterday, and it has been nibbling at my brain since then. Am I a sincere person? Do I practice sincerity? I hope so. I try to.

Sincerity is defined as honesty of mind, having or showing true feelings that are expressed in an honest way; genuine, real. Showing true feelings means that they will sometimes be painful or ugly. I can be sincerely frustrated or sincerely angry. But at those times, I sincerely hope I handle myself in a way that is honest but not hurtful. That is my goal. I don't always reach it. Better to release those feelings though, than to let them ferment, grow, and cause more harm.

My approach to this blog, to the regular practice of gratitude, is sincere. And this sincere effort continues to deepen and broaden my spirituality, my overall wellness, my view of the world and my place in it, my daily approach to living life.

I can say with full sincerity that a grateful approach to life has made all the difference in my life.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Patience, Sun Power, and a Haiku

Today I am grateful for a strong back to lift and carry. I am also grateful for our kitchen table and all the things it holds and does for us.

Patience. A little bit goes a long way. Spring fever has hit. I have a full-blown case, as do most of the people I know who live in my part of the country. An unkind, unrelenting winter set us up for some serious cases of this fever known to cause joy and a mess at the same time. There will be mud. There will be muck. There will be a messy dog. There will be smiles for no reason other than the morning air doesn't shock a person's system. There will be levity at the brevity now required to get out the door. Boots, hat, and mittens along with several layers, are no longer required for every trip outdoors.

There will also be the requisite patience. All that snow piled up outside didn't get there in a week. It's not going away in a week. From several layers to shorts and a t-shirt may be what we feel like wearing, but our patience will remind us it is best to remove covering incrementally. And after that glorious 50 degrees on Monday, yesterday the high temperature didn't get out of the twenties. Spring fever will take some time to run its course.

But hope is not hard to find. The sun is so much more powerful now than it was a few weeks ago. Even the cold days don't feel as cold. Besides being more powerful, the sun is also out longer. We are literally coming out of the darkness.

Fittingly, my sister Aileen posted this haiku on her blog Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events

Haiku
That sound, soft and moist
far below the melting snow,
is it spring breathing? 

Thanks Aileen! Indeed, I think it is spring breathing. And for that I am so grateful.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Snap Out Of It!

Today I am grateful for a convenient hook on a door just when I needed one. I am also grateful for a willingness to keep learning and growing, even when it is hard work.

Sometimes I tell myself to "shut up!" When my train of thoughts starts going down the wrong track-fear, worry, perfectionism, impatience and such-that simple refrain can be enough to stop me from getting totally derailed. It can help me get back on the right track. My brain is not always my best friend. Today I more quickly realize when it is out to get me and I rein it in.

Sometimes I need to tell myself to "snap out of it!" Those words come in handy when one of my other old friends-self-pity-tries to win a way back into my heart and soul. I so appreciate that my gratitude practice catches the sneaky self-pity sooner rather than later, before it gets a foot in the door. Gratefulness is a most effective gatekeeper.

Snap out of it Lisa! What about the people on the missing Malaysian airliner and their loved ones? What about your friends' friend who just died of advanced stage cancer? What about the house down the road destroyed by fire? What about the fact that I have two diseases that kill people every day and here I am healthy and living life fully?

Snap out of it Lisa! Stop dwelling on what isn't going your way and start dwelling on the abundant gifts you woke up to this morning. There, I feel better already.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Glorious Fifty Degrees!

Today I am grateful for simplicity and a taste of spring in the air to start the week off. I am also grateful for my friend Jill and our conversation yesterday.

Mother Nature served us up an absolutely glorious day yesterday. The kind of day that if you didn't already have spring fever, you do now. The thermometer topped fifty degrees. I drove my car with the windows down. There was some serious melting going on. I walked out in short sleeves in the middle of the afternoon. We opened some windows in the house to let in some fresh air. I heard a motorcycle when I was out running. That same cycle then passed me on my run and the guy gave me a little wave and I returned it. He wasn't anyone I know, but I guess we were acknowledging the great weather we were both out enjoying. Nice days are like some universal language we all share and understand.

Glorious is just the perfect word for the kind of day it was. If you live in a place where the climate isn't as extreme as it can be in the Upper Midwest, you may not fully appreciate what a day like this does for our individual and collective psyches. Especially after the winter we just had. (And I know it is likely not over yet. Winter usually gets the last laugh or two. In fact, we could see a little snow today.) 

But we will take the day we got yesterday. I fully appreciated it in many ways. I hope you did the same if you are in my neck of the woods. Spring may be here sooner than we would have thought even just a couple weeks ago when the wind chill was still well below zero. Thank you Mother Nature!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sure-Footed

Today I am grateful for the sounds of melting and the sights of road and trail surfaces we haven't seen in months. I am also grateful for a wonderful meal of teriyaki salmon and vegetables prepared by my husband Darcy.

Sure-footed came to my mind as I was out walking the other day. It is a nice word, meaning not liable to stumble, fall or err. It goes right along with balance. We have been enjoying warmer temperatures the last few days and snow has given way to ice to slush to even clear roads and trails in some spots. It has been a welcome mess, believe me. But it also requires caution. There is refreezing at night, making early mornings treacherous if you aren't careful.

Watch your step, figuratively and literally. It's always a good idea, but especially in slippery places. This winter has required months of careful treading as I have walked Oliver, gone to and from my car in various parking lots, tried to run outside on nicer days, and shoveled our driveway after the latest precipitation offering.

But figuratively watching my step in recovery from alcoholism is a year-round, daily job. If I want to stay sure-footed in my sobriety, I don't go to slippery places like oversized ego, irrational fears, lack of acceptance, impatience, self-pity, resentment. I stick with the winners--acceptance, patience, humility, gratitude-- and make sure I ask others for help.

Gratitude practice helps keep me sure-footed. Mindfulness and presence help me stay in today and help me take the next step sure-footedly.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Problem or Solution: Where is your focus?

Today I am grateful for taste buds to savor the foods I am choosing to eat mindfully. I am also grateful for some quality family conversation together yesterday between Sam, Darcy, and I.

A common theme you will hear among people recovering from alcoholism and other addictions is "focus on the solution, not the problem." It's a good thought for anyone to consider and then actively apply. Continuing to give energy to a problem tends to only exacerbate it. But putting that energy toward a solution tends to help a person feel better and get better results. It has even been proven in my life and recovery as well that this holds true -- "focus on the solution and the problem goes away."

For example: Maybe the way my husband did a household chore has me a little rankled, being the controlling sort I am. Not a serious problem, for sure, but it becomes a bigger problem if I keep thinking about it and get more frustrated. Then I become ungrateful to my husband and I start critiquing all the household chores he is doing. What happens next usually involves my mouth and poor choices in what I verbalize. It may not be a hostile environment I create, but it is sure not a friendly one either.

If I give my focus to the solution instead, I accept that my husband's way of doing things may not be my way but that doesn't make it wrong. (Oversized ego anyone?) And I remain grateful that he is doing the chore, saving me time for other things, or allowing us more time together to relax. There is no problem, just acceptance and gratitude.

Here is another example of a more serious nature. Fear of cancer returning in me or someone I care about could become a paralyzing fear if I fed it. My magnifying mind would amplify the fear and every thought would become one of "who will it happen to, when, and will it kill them?" I would become hypervigilant, fearful of everything I do and ingest, and the joy would be squeezed right out of life. The solution to such fear is to have faith, and to stay present in this day and enjoy it. Cancer or no cancer, none of us is guaranteed our health or even tomorrow. Make the most of today, be grateful for the gift it is. Make healthy choices and take care of myself. That is the solution and the fear shrinks to a manageable size.

Solution or problem? Where will you focus your energy today?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Gratitude

Today I am grateful for feeling more energetic as I take a few pounds off and eat more mindfully. I am also grateful for a growing patience with the process of living life each day.

Yesterday it was ingratitude. Today, it is in gratitude. I find myself back in a better frame of mind, back in a more mindful perspective. Gratitude and mindfulness go hand-in-hand. Some things fell in to place at work yesterday. A student I needed to see walked by our offices. A family I was waiting to see came in earlier rather than later. I was able to leave work when I wanted to, and my desk was even fairly clean.

Last evening I was in gratitude for the enjoyment of making dinner with my son Sam. He helped cut up some vegetables while I was getting other things ready. We all agreed it was a satisfying and tasty meal. In gratitude that we take the time to eat as many meals together each week as we can.

In gratitude for the chance to run outside and take to the trails and roads again. They are still messy and sloppy and I have to be careful, but more and more safe surfaces are being revealed as melting takes place. Part of my run yesterday afternoon was in a church parking lot, but it worked. In gratitude to be healthy and able to run.

In gratitude for the support and encouragement Darcy and I are giving one another as we work hard to eat better, lose weight, get fitter and faster. In gratitude for enough energy to run a couple errands with Darcy last evening. And to appreciate the natural foods store/coop just down the road from us.

Living in gratitude has become my preferred status. Getting my daily recommended dose of gratitude is as important as getting nutritious food. I appreciate that the brief periods of ingratitude only serve to further strengthen my resolve to keep my gratitude practice going. It works. It really does.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ingratitude

Today I am grateful for the recovery wisdom I have been taught by others that I can draw from regularly. I am also grateful for the ease of electricity and simply flipping switches to light up the early morning hours.

I used the word ingratitude the other day, and it came to my mind again last evening as I pondered today's post. It came to my mind because I was feeling it. It's been that kind of a week . . . nothing in particular, but I have slipped too quickly into old thought patterns of the "poor Lisa" variety. The ingratitude tends to hit when I am tired. I know this about myself and cut myself some slack.

Ingratitude. Lacking appreciation. Ungrateful. Yep. That's how I felt. It didn't last though. The downward spiral never got going. The pity party had no guests. It was temporary and short-lived.

Temporary and short-lived because years of gratitude practice have changed my default mode from self-pity to appreciating the life I get each day, from focusing on what I don't have but wish I did, to seeing the gifts I have already been blessed with.

To borrow from my blog profile:

A recovering alcoholic since 1989 and a breast cancer survivor since 2008, I work daily at my recovery from both of these life challenges. But I also work daily at living life to the fullest. Gratitude is a significant part of that work. It is the best work I do, because the dividends are consistently positive. I am prone to self-pity and fear, so faith and gratitude are good antidotes. I firmly believe in the active practice of gratitude. It has worked for me for over 18 years.

Sometimes I am the one who needs the reminder. Each day is a gift. Treat it as one.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finding Enjoyment

Today I am grateful for the few pounds I have taken off and how that translates into better runs and feeling better in my clothes. I am also grateful for the little things in life that remind me of the many blessings we each get each day.

I ended up with a growing list of things I enjoyed yesterday. I happened to not be at work, which allowed for some opportunities I would have otherwise missed. I do enjoy many aspects of my job, but it does tend to be more stress-inducing than a day at home.

Here are some of the things I made note of yesterday as pleasurable, satisfying, gratifying, delightful:

-the taste of butter on warm toast, topped off with fried eggs
-sitting in our recliners conversing with my husband Darcy
-sweat running down my face during a good workout
-refreshing cold water to drink after that workout
-the satisfying feeling of pushing myself to run 5 miles at just over a 9-minute mile pace
-Oliver, our dog, always being excited to see us when we arrive home
-the gift of mobility
-the power of the sun-not only to warm the outdoors, but our souls after a long winter
-physical labor in that warmer March sun (getting snow off our roof and ice off our driveway)
-a delightful salad for lunch after building a voracious appetite through the morning
-enjoying that lunch with Darcy, just the two of us
-an afternoon nap
-the soothing aroma of my cup of vanilla spice tea
-a thought-provoking book to continue reading (more on that tomorrow)
-time to organize some of my writing materials

Seeking enjoyment isn't hard work. It's really just paying attention. Savoring the moments presented throughout the day. Finding enjoyment helps me find peace.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Looking for Enjoyment

Today I am grateful for moderating morning temperatures (a.k.a. above zero) and for working eyes and ears to keep our dog Oliver and I safe on our morning walks.

I am also grateful for our local writing group that met last night, our facilitator, and the new people I got to meet last evening. Sharing the time and discussion was nice.

The gratitude journal I currently use was a gift from my friend Dorothy. It is big enough to allow two years of use and I am in the second year. It is also full of daily quotes. One might strike me this time around that I missed last time. Or my current state of mind might help a certain line or phrase to ring truer in my heart. This gratitude journal gives me a place to leave my thoughts on gratitude, but it also gives me back in terms of the quotes in it.

One recent quote was:

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness."
(Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

So far today:
*I enjoyed the walk with Oliver this morning and the fact that we didn't have to rush back in to get warm. We walked further than usual and it was a good way to welcome the new day.
*I enjoyed the first sip of my morning coffee, with a little bit of milk in it, just the way I like it.
*I enjoyed the words flowing off my pen on to today's page in my gratitude journal, creating a link from thought to action.
*I enjoyed the quiet house and the anticipation of my husband and son waking up and joining me.

I will be on the lookout today for more enjoyments. I will report back tomorrow. I would encourage you to start a list and carry it with you today. By this evening, you will have a nice gratitude list and likely have had a nice day to go with it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scoffers Beware

Today I am grateful for my job and how it pushes and stretches me. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and the friendship we have within our marriage.

Yesterday I posted about the effectiveness of gratitude practice, even in the face of my own ingratitude. I can't always explain how it works, I just know that it does. I believe that the thoughts we give energy to are the ones that gain a foothold in our minds, and from there our hearts and souls.I suspect gratitude practice works so well because it makes me pause in appreciation, it helps me realize the world isn't out to get me, it keeps the quagmire of self-pity at a safe distance.

But I have never said and I never will say that gratitude prevents me from having difficulties or the tough emotions that flare up from time to time in even the healthiest of people. Gratitude practice doesn't make me immune to struggles or challenges, and I have had a few along the way. It sure helps me weather those challenges and struggles better though. It is protective in that it strengthens me for the times that will test me.

I have also never believed, nor will I, that gratitude practice is a phony, pie-in-the-sky attempt to form a pollyannish view of the world. My world, our world, all of it, good and bad, is more real and alive to me because of my gratitude practice. I have a fuller appreciation and awareness of what is a gift and what is a lesson waiting to be learned, a wider understanding of how I can be of service to others and our world. Gratitude doesn't gloss over the less comfortable aspects of life, it makes it more possible for me to embrace all of life.

So scoffers beware! Like many other healthy practices and tools, often the biggest scoffers are the ones who have tried to use the practice or tool the least. It takes time, for sure, but the results start showing themselves pretty quickly. I am one of those people who needs to be habitual about it. It is a healthy habit well worth my commitment.

Are you a scoffer? Will you consider giving gratitude practice a try?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Even if I don't feel grateful . . .

Today I am grateful for our new quesadilla maker and for phone conversations with my sister Aileen and my friend Sheila yesterday.

Random thoughts about gratitude have been bouncing around in my head since a conversation I had with some other folks in recovery yesterday morning on this very topic. Let me just start by saying I wasn't feeling very grateful (or very friendly even) at the time. For no particular reason, though I suspect hormones were a factor, I was not a happy camper. As my friend Jill calls it, I was feeling "itchy-scratchy." Perpetual dissatisfaction also rang true.

But I didn't skip writing in my gratitude journal. I didn't skip pausing to acknowledge that, even in spite of a nasty attitude, I could think of several reasons to be grateful. My friends and our conversation were a good start to returning me to a more peaceful state of mind. A nice 4-mile run, even if it had to be indoors, also helped a lot.

The power of gratitude. Even when I don't feel grateful, I can take actions to practice gratitude. Invariably, sooner or later but usually sooner, I am beginning to feel grateful. And from there my perception improves, the pity party tends to look less inviting, and I return to giving my time and energy to productive and positive thoughts and action.

The habitual practice of gratitude works. It really does. Even if I don't feel grateful when I start, the actions lead me there.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Buffet of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the brave bird I heard chirping out in the bitter cold this morning. A joylet for sure. I am also grateful for the way I am feeling after losing a few pounds.

My husband Darcy and I are both doing well with our healthier eating and weight loss pursuits. The cleanse not only jump-started our metabolism, it jump-started our motivation. Being more aware of what we eat and how much we eat isn't only more mindful, it means we are being kind and gentle with ourselves. Our bodies and minds are feeling sharper, energized, more efficient. And our souls are being fed a buffet of gratitude.

Gratitude for having each other for support. Gratitude for the local grocery and natural foods stores and the options they offer. Gratitude for money to buy healthier foods. Gratitude for time to prepare meals and dishes and enjoy them as a family. Gratitude for the ways this is rubbing off on our son Sam. Gratitude for the simple pleasure of the varied tastes and smells of food. This buffet doesn't lead to overeating, guilt, or indigestion. It leads to nutrition not only for our bodies but also our souls.

Like taking time to pray and meditate, to slow down and pay attention; many people are under the false impression that they are too busy to take time to prepare meals. Too busy for one of our most basic needs? Then we succumb to convenience and processed food. We think we are saving time, but we are losing nutrition that can keep us healthier and more energetic. If we aren't careful, we end up on the merry-go-round of sugar-caffeine-sugar-caffeine to keep us going.

My family has our busy times too, but we have always taken the time to plan and prepare good meals, especially on weekends. We are just redefining "good meal" lately. We can make more than enough so we have leftovers to quickly prepare. We can clean up some celery or other vegetables and fruits to grab as a quick snack. Taking time to appreciate the importance of nourishing our bodies is always time spent well.

We look forward to continuing to feed at this buffet of gratitude.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March On

Today I am grateful for quality headphones and quality old rock music. I can go into my own little world for a little while. I am also grateful for clementines, a.k.a. cuties, and their sweetness and easy peeling.

March has arrived. There is hope that this winter may start winding down and spring may start winding up. Next weekend we spring ahead for daylight savings time. The "official" start of spring is just weeks away. Even us hearty Upper Midwest folks are ready to be done with this winter. At least everybody I know and talk to. We had snow in to May last spring which was an oddity. Now, we have had three very cold months, plenty of snow, and records being broken left and right. Not fun records in my opinion. Bone-chilling records about the length and depth of cold that can happen in one winter season. Some records aren't meant to be broken. Doesn't Mother Nature know that? Apparently not.

And I am choosing to ignore the reality that statistically speaking March is often a snowy month. Not to mention it is the start of tornado season. Gosh. In light of the type of weather we have had recently, I am almost a little nervous about these next 31 days. There is more than one type of vortex to fear.

It makes me feel fortunate to have a safe and warm house, and modern technology to forewarn us about concerning weather. I still appreciate the beauty and variety of the changing seasons we get to experience in this part of the world. This year, however, my patience and tolerance have worn thin. Even I, a person who generally likes shoveling snow, am ready to hang up the shovels for now.

So we march on into the month of March. March on. What else can we do but keep our sense of humor and our awe of nature? What else can we do but keep the coats and boots handy and catalog the feeling of a brisk -30 wind chill to call to mind in August when it is 85 degrees with a dew point of 65.

March on into the day. Regardless of the weather, it is a gift.