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Showing posts from June, 2014

Now and Here

Today I am grateful for the never-ending supply of words in our vocabulary and the fun it is trying to put different ones to use. I am also grateful for conversations that help bring clarity.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal yesterday:

"No longer forward nor behind 
I look in hope or fear; 
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here."  
(John Greenleaf Whittier)

Whittier was a poet and abolitionist who lived from 1807-1892. His words above fit nicely with Fear's Antidote here, a post I just wrote a few days ago. Hope and fear live in the past and future. Gratitude lives in the now and here.

Now and here. Today we tend to use here and now. I like now and here. Just changing the order up makes me pause and pay attention. That is precisely the point. Now and here I am grateful for awakening to a new day and appreciating the opportunity to look for the good.

10,000 Steps

Today I am grateful for a clean house, food in the refrigerator, and a roof over our heads. I am also grateful for the 10,000 steps I took yesterday.

Some days I wear a pedometer to track my steps. I will put it on the morning and wear it throughout the day. I might wear it on a day I am taking a run, but I typically wear it on a day I am not running and give myself a goal of 10,000 steps.

Here are some of the ways I reached that goal of 10,000 steps yesterday:

*I walked Oliver (our dog) several times
*I made many trips up and down the stairs while cleaning and vacuuming
*I made several more trips on those same stairs while doing laundry
*when I ran errands, I parked farther from my destinations
*I did some shopping and walked the aisles of the store
*my husband, son, and I took a short walk to a local restaurant for dinner

I am a little obsessive about my step count when I wear my pedometer, but I call it a healthy obsession. I will gladly take some extra steps to add to my count. It…

So Simple, So Profound

Today I am grateful for the many blessings I have already noticed since awakening. I am grateful for my friends Dorothy, Jill, and Betsy and how they help keep me grounded.

Blessings. They abound in our days. I woke up, opened my eyes, got out of bed, started a new day. All blessings. All simple, daily things I take for granted. All profound. Take any one of those off the previous list and things are very different.

When I notice my blessings I am more poised and calm. When I am poised and calm, I am of better service to those around me and a better contributor to the world in general. I am blessed to be a wife, mother, stepmother, friend, recovering alcoholic, cancer survivor, writer, runner, counselor. Recognizing each as a significant blessing helps me be more humble and I believe more effective at each. That's my goal anyway.

Feeling blessed allows us to pass along blessings. To those we live with, but also to fellow humans we don't know but we encounter at the store or on…

Fear's Antidote

Today I am grateful for tower fans and electricity to operate them. I also appreciate gratitude as antidote-not only to self-pity, but also to fear.

One of the greatest rewards of gratitude practice for me is that it keeps my old pal self-pity at bay. I used to find it comfortable in that morass, mired in the muck of negative, defeating thoughts. Gratitude practice has been my way out. It has brought me light and open windows and hope.

I realized more recently, with the help of recovery friends, how effective gratitude is as an antidote to fear as well. My fears, big and small, all stem from two areas: fear of losing someone or something I already have in my life or fear of not getting something I want. A loved one leaving, having health issues, or dying. Cancer returning and my health and fitness being lost. Never getting a book published. How to pay for Sam's college education. Having sobriety and recovery slip away. Those are some of my fears. Some are rational and normal. Othe…

Where Is The Poet?

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver's playfulness and the joy he brings us. I am also grateful for a morning bike ride with Darcy.

I churned out two poems yesterday and it felt good. I have spoken before about why I believe I write less poetry these days. My writing gets honest energy almost daily through this blog and also monthly through a column I write for our local newspaper, also on the topic of gratitude. I have found a new voice, thanks to many factors, and that voice speaks more in essays now than poems. I am grateful for this new, more confident and wordier voice. But I still love a poem and how it is birthed, usually after a fairly brief gestation.

Here is one of the poems I wrote yesterday:

Where Is The Poet?
She is in The opening lines And closing words Of blog posts She is in the flow Of a local Newspaper column She is still here
Where is the poet? She is in the first steps And final footfalls Of a long run She is in the moment Of morning coffee On the front patio And a hug wit…

These Hands

Today I am grateful for my hands, my fingers, my opposable thumbs. I am grateful for all the many tasks made easy by my working hands.

Consciously focusing on gratitude helps me take less for granted, take more of life as the gift, as the grace it is. I was reading someone else's words of gratitude about their own hands and it quickly got me thinking. I am trying to type this now without using my thumbs and it is obvious how much slower, more deliberate, it makes me. I tried to cut up an apple without using either thumb, then just using one. Wow! A short exercise like this sure helps me see the challenges that people with disabilities or missing body parts must face. I only touched the surface of that realization and I did it by choice.

There is tremendous value in complaining less and appreciating more. Complaining about all the work I need to do quickly becomes an exercise in gratitude when I realize how fortunate I am to have things to do, and hands to do them with.

And having …

Filed Away

Today I am grateful for the cool morning air that awaits Darcy and I as we head out for a run. I am also grateful for time to clean and clear away the clutter in my office at work.

Just like at home, I tend to  be a saver at work too. I will file papers away for future reference or use. And many times, those files will get pulled out, used, and be helpful. If for no other reason than to remind me what was done last time, or what wording we used in a letter or other correspondence. Of course now our files are less paper and more online, but I think I will always be one who prefers to keep hard copies of what I deem important. I can't quite put all my faith, and all my documents, entirely on a computer or in "the cloud."

We have been in transition at my job over the last several years for a variety of reasons. It has been a different kind of busy and has even felt chaotic at times. I didn't have time to keep things as organized or tidy as I would like. Slowly, the clut…

Feelin' Stronger Every Day

Today I am grateful for Darcy's safe travels over recent days and for the simplicity of exercises like push-ups and sit-ups that require little space and no equipment.

One of the songs I heard while on my run Saturday was one of my all-time favorites-Chicago's Feelin' Stronger Every Day. Listen to it here on YouTube. It was the first single released on the Chicago VI album in June of 1973. I like many Chicago songs, but this one, written by Peter Cetera and James Pankow, tops the list.

It struck a chord with me, even as that self-conscious and inhibited preteen I mentioned yesterday. The words, the music, the lively punch behind both, have always been able to get me fired up. But the song really became meaningful for me when I was just turning 20 and giving my first good effort to quitting drinking. It was like my own little pep talk, but a lot peppier than I could muster on my own.

The opening lines were words I said to myself, from myself: "I do believe in you and I…

A Solo Run

Today I am grateful for time with my son Sam, the wisdom other people in recovery share with me, and a couple of rain-free days.

Many Saturday mornings find my husband Darcy and I out on a training run together. I love that we share this commitment to running, staying active, and eating healthy. Those Saturday morning runs are a good time for us to talk, catch up on the week, discuss what lies ahead--literally on our route and figuratively in our lives. Sharing the hobby/lifestyle of running with Darcy is a deep and consistent source of gratitude for me.

But I have also always enjoyed solo runs, and I had the opportunity for one yesterday morning. I am an introspective sort, and solo runs give me time to clear my head, let my thoughts go where they will, listen to music, notice my surroundings differently than when I am running in stride and conversation with Darcy. Time to myself is always appreciated.

Yesterday's run got me thinking about the saving grace that running has always…

A Persistent Peony

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Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the difference he makes in my life in so many ways. I am also grateful for family history. It can be painful, but it also brings simple joys. 
This is a picture of a peony blooming. We have it planted in our backyard. It didn't bloom at all last year, and this year we were concerned because of the extreme winter we had. But this one in the picture was just one of several blooming flowers we were treated to.


Here is the story of this peony plant, as my husband recalls it. His paternal grandmother, Alta, wasn't a big flower person, but she planted three peonies under the picture window of the house she and Darcy's Grandpa Matt lived in when Darcy was a teenager in the early 1980's.  Alta died in 1995. The peonies kept coming up, but Matt didn't take care of them. They were persistent all on their own. When Darcy's grandpa moved to assisted living in the mid-2000's, the house was sold and actually moved to Nebraska…

Offline

Today I am grateful for a visit from my sister Zita and our mom. Thanks for making the trip up and I enjoyed our time together!

I continue to keep in my thoughts and prayers those who are suffering Mother Nature's dark side this week with flooding, tornadoes, and the other problems that come with heavy rain and strong winds.

I am also grateful for lessons and reminders that life sends our way whether we are seeking them or not. I took an unexpected blog break for a couple of days because our Internet was down. Someone accidentally cut a fiber optic cable to create the initial issue. I was busy with other things too, like having visitors. When things weren't back up yesterday, I made a phone call to our provider. It was a good lesson in humility. I feel pretty tech un-savvy and it showed. I don't understand all of the factors involved here, or all the various wires and cords that plug in to various places. Couple that with a fear of really screwing something up and I get fl…

Not Junk

Today I am grateful for understanding and laughter among friends. I am also grateful for time to clean files and make more room for new materials in my office at work.

One of my favorite ways to describe ongoing recovery from alcoholism is "my journey of self-acceptance." I don't know another alcoholic or addict who wasn't their own worst enemy, who didn't beat themselves up on a regular basis. But I can only speak for myself. I hated myself. I always felt "less than" and never good enough in my own eyes. I figured that was the way the rest of world saw me too, so self-pity was a natural by-product. Self-pity clouded my perception of self and surrounding world and kept me stuck for a long time. Alcohol offered a respite from my private hell, even if only temporary. But alcohol added to the self-hatred in many more ways.

Stopping drinking is only the start of recovery. The rest is learning to live life and love self. I had to change my way of thinking an…

The Meaning of Educated

Today I am grateful for my formal education, but also the ongoing informal education I get each day as I try to live life fully.

As I remembered my dad on Father's Day, I thought about how he was formally and informally educated. He only went to school through the 8th grade and then went to work on the family farm. That was not an unusual scenario at the time. But I always consider my father to have been an educated man. Informal education is just as important as formal. Experience is one of the best teachers. Dad knew a lot about farming, animals, crops, machinery, the weather and much more. He learned it all through on-the-job training.

Dad also kept up on current events. He read newspapers and magazines regularly. He watched and listened to the news. He showed interest in the broader world and passed along that interest to me, the one who taught social studies classes for 10 years. I think most of my siblings followed his example and try to keep up on the news at least some.

Hi…

Reflecting on Another Father's Day

Today I am grateful for the memories I have of my own father and the 33 years he was in my life. I am also grateful that I have a spouse who makes parenting as much a priority as I do.

My father died suddenly at age 74 in 1998. I never had a chance to say goodbye like someone who sees an ill parent through their final days, but part of me appreciates that I didn't have to see him decline and suffer. In the nearly 16 years since he died, I have thought often of his sense of humor, his work ethic, the way he joked with my mom as only he could. I have thought about the kind of man and father he was. 
Many things were left unsaid and things that should have been discussed weren't when I was growing up, but that was typical of my parents' generation. My dad worked very hard, but he also knew how to have fun and relax. He loved playing cards. He liked watching pro wrestling. He always read the newspaper. He loved ice cream. He loved visiting. He went to countless ball games and …

A Calmness

Today I am grateful for good books to read, time with recovery friends, and the wisdom they share.

Yesterday's quote in my gratitude journal was "There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy."  Thank you Ralph H. Blum for that quote.

Calmness and joy are terms probably defined a little differently by each one of us. I would define calmness as a quiet mind and a sane pace to both my thoughts and actions. Joy is tougher to define because it is ever-evolving. I guess I would define it as being content in the present moment. And since the present moment is never repeated, there are endless sources of joy. Yesterday it may have been the way Oliver (our dog) stretches himself before we go out for our morning walk. The day before it may have been sitting in the warm morning sun on the patio with my husband enjoying a cup of coffee, or hearing my son's laughter.

Calmness and joy are also relative terms. If calmness and chaos are different ends of a continuum…

Mowing the Lawn, Preparing the Meals

Today I am grateful for life's simple duties and pleasures. I am grateful to see that a duty can be a pleasure if I apply some gratitude.

Yesterday morning I mowed our lawn. I have always enjoyed mowing lawn, but our son Sam has taken over some of those duties so I hadn't mowed yet this season. I enjoy mowing more than he does, so when the urge struck me to do the mowing this week, we were both happy. It was a cool and breezy day so the conditions were comfortable. I seem to like tasks where I can clearly see my progress, and mowing grass certainly fits.

Yesterday I also did some grocery shopping, made Sam's breakfast and made the three of us dinner. These are more enjoyable tasks when I am not feeling hurried or harried, or exhausted from a day of being at work. I appreciate the different pace my days can have over the summer.

Mowing the lawn and preparing some meals helped me create this gratitude list:

-having a lawn to mow and a mower that works
-being physically able…

Temptation's Lessons

Today I am grateful for a nap and an understanding that temptations will pass.

Temptation is defined as a strong urge or desire to have or do something. Many temptations, if we succumb, are considered detrimental to us. An alcoholic trying to quit drinking who gives in to an urge. A smoker trying to quit who smells someone else's cigarette and says "to heck with it" and lights up too. Or maybe it is the temptation of spending time with someone that for whatever reason we are better off not spending time with.

Temptations can be especially strong when we are at our weakest. An alcoholic in his or her first days or weeks of sobriety may get fixated on a drink, develop a one track mind, and get drunk again. In my drinking days it really wasn't the drink I was fixated on as much as the feeling that came with intoxication. The escape from my self-hatred.

A person trying to lose weight and in the early days and weeks of healthier eating may be sorely tempted by some of his…

Open the Windows

Today I am grateful for fresh air and the smell of mowed grass. I am also grateful for a working nose to enjoy both.

We upper Midwesterners like to complain about the weather . . . a lot. It's too cold in the winter. It's too hot and humid in the summer. The moderate seasons with the most pleasant days-spring and fall-are too short or nonexistent. Blahblahblah! It's always something. Today I would like to say thanks to Mother Nature and the other powers that be. We have had some downright pleasant days lately.

The kind of days that you can leave windows open all day and sleep well at night because it cools off nicely.The kind of days where you can drive with the car windows down and be comfortable. All those open windows allow me to smell the freshly cut hay or grass, the flowers that are taking their turn to bloom, and much more.

Open the windows and enjoy today.

I also had a brief interaction at the grocery store yesterday that brought a dose of gratitude my way. I stopp…

Simple Grace

Today I am grateful for a good meal shared with others and for a nice evening to enjoy a baseball game.

I am thinking about the family, about a mile down the road from us, whose garage and home were heavily damaged by fire yesterday afternoon. I don't know them, but my prayers go out to them. How quickly things can change the course of one's day or life.

The quote in my gratitude journal yesterday was:

"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live."          (Jackie Windspear)
Grace. I have had a hard time understanding what grace really is, but when I stopped trying so hard to figure it out, I realized I already knew. Grace has been defined for me in many ways, but two of my favorites are: 1) a gift unearned and 2) realizing God's (Higher Power's, the Universe's) presence in my life.

Certainly, it's good to say grace before meals, but if that is the only time we say thanks, we are missing the boat. Not just…

Flexible or Rigid?

Today I am grateful for the simple pleasures of reading a book in a comfortable recliner and a solitary bike ride.

After writing about flexibility in yesterday's post, it remained on my mind and I had the opportunity to talk to some recovery friends about it too. That is always insightful. I appreciate hearing from others who work to recover from alcoholism or other addictions. They teach me so much when they share what works for them.

Flexibility allows me to accept my imperfections. Rigidity continues to expect the elusive perfection.Flexibility creates a calmness and some peace. There is nothing too serene or peaceful about rigidity.The former makes way for an open mind. The latter slams the door closed and creates a narrower view.

Rigidity happens when I buy into my own unreasonable expectations of myself and others, when I try too hard to control what is beyond my control. Rigidity happens when I am trying to force outcomes instead of allowing life to unfold as it should. Rig…

Rain Out, Flexibility In

Today I am grateful for laughter and the sunrise and clear skies that greeted us this morning after a rainy day yesterday.

We woke up to the threat of rain yesterday. The threat materialized and our day's schedule changed. We had to put off our run and Sam's baseball tournament got delayed. Good lessons in patience and acceptance. Those two aren't always my favorite things to practice, or the easiest, but they are vitally important to my sanity.

That is where flexibility comes in. Time that would have been spent running early yesterday morning was instead spent on other things that needed to get done. A little project for a friend. Some cleaning around the house. Some stock-up shopping.

The tournament got cancelled. We ran in the rain. The pace of our day was actually pretty reasonable. Things have been so busy at work. I had been out of town two weekends in a row and feeling behind with some things at home. It was nice to lay on the couch last evening and watch some telev…

Ebbing and Flowing for 26 Years

Today I am grateful for the early morning quiet and the beauty of a sunrise. I am also grateful for good food and group prayer.

This week I wrapped up the 26th year I've worked in education. I have gotten used to the ebb and flow of school years just like I roll with the changing seasons. I spent the first 10 of these 26 years as a high school social studies teacher in three different schools in Iowa, my home state.

In my 10th year of teaching, I was into my Master's program for Guidance and Counseling and the serious health issues of a colleague led to that year including both teaching and counseling for me. That was also the year I met Darcy. When we married and I moved to Sioux Falls, I found a job in the Catholic schools system there. I served two K-6 elementary buildings for two years. I knew I had made the right decision to go into school counseling. I was never a confident teacher really, though it got better over the 10 years I taught. I am more comfortable and confide…

"Oh the Places You'll Go"

Today I am grateful for sleep when tired, air to breathe, and a roof over my head. I am grateful for another school year filled with working with many wonderful and interesting people, from students and parents, to co-workers.

Yesterday I talked about the first 8th grade graduation I went to for my nephew. The second one I went to was Wednesday night and it was for the 8th graders at the school I work at. I always go to their graduation and have some roles in helping out with the service. It is a nice evening and a nice wrap up to their middle school days.

The group picked the theme "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" for their program and evening, from the Dr. Seuss book. It's a great book for many age levels at many different milestones in life. What I liked the other evening was the sermon given by the priest referring back to this theme. The key point he made is that the "you'll" is both singular and plural. That we can forge ahead independently in some way…

Skills and Tools

Today I am grateful for my morning cup of coffee. I am also grateful for the skills and tools I have been blessed with and taught by others.

In the last few days I have attended two 8th grade graduation ceremonies at two different schools. The first was my nephew Brennan's last Friday evening. He and his 15 classmates graduated from the small Catholic grade school most of them attended for 8 years. They will be off to the local public high school in the fall, a similar route to that taken by most of my siblings and many other nieces and nephews.

I took my mom to the ceremony for Brennan, the second child of my youngest brother Lee and a pal of my son Sam. The church we were in is the same church where my parents exchanged their wedding vows in August of 1950. Sixty-four years later, what began that day is now an extended family that numbers close to 100. Wow! I am grateful I got to step into that church again. The last time was my nephew's wedding a couple of years ago. It is …

Tractors and Aging

Today I am grateful for my job and the rewards and challenges of it. I am also grateful for the smiles our dog Oliver brings to my face.

The new road of marriage is one of many new roads full of promise. My son Sam headed down a new road this weekend when he drove a tractor for the first time. My brother, his Uncle Artie, first gave him a lesson while sitting next to him on the tractor. He was patient and calm while I nervously observed. I trust my brother's judgment and I know that Sam understands that real farm machinery needs to be taken seriously. But I'm a mom, and until that tractor was back in park, I was on edge. But I was also excited for Sam because I know how much this means to him. I caught some of the lesson on video on my phone.

I went back in the house and a short time later I looked out the window and saw Sam driving the tractor solo. I headed back out to capture the moment in my mind's eye and on video. He drove it a short way and did a nice job. He was pr…

New Roads

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Today I am grateful for time with my family and the laughter, conversations, walks, and food shared that went with our time together.     I am also grateful for the new roads that come along in life. Some we choose, some we don't. Some we build ourselves, some are already there for us. And sometimes new roads disguise themselves as something else until we realize we are where we are supposed to be.
My niece Morgan and her new husband Trevor chose the road of marriage and started down it on Saturday. They had a beautiful outdoor ceremony with a stunning backdrop. Take a look:

Their vows were sincere, the music touching, the whole ceremony heartfelt. It was an all-around pleasant celebration and evening. I am grateful I was able to be there and that I saw many of my family members I don't get to see often. Congratulations and best wishes Morgan and Trevor!
Other new roads I encountered over the weekend were ones I ran on that I hadn't set foot on before and a road around the po…