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Showing posts from August, 2014

Begin Anew Every Day

Today I am grateful for some new clothes in my work wardrobe and for their variety and comfort. I am also grateful for rain.

Yesterday I wrote about the fresh approach that can be taken with gratitude practice on a daily basis. The quote below follows nicely:

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them-every day  begin the task anew. (St. Francis de Sales)
I spent years being too tough on myself. I still can be, but it's far better than it used to be. I spent years in the default mode of self-pity. I can still fall into that pit, but it's far less often and for shorter stays. I owe much of this progress on "my journey of self-acceptance" to the daily work I do to apply recovery from alcoholism and gratitude/mindfulness. Some days are better than others. That will always be the case. This is life and we are fallible humans. Today it is a good life…

Gratitude Capacity

Today I am grateful for lessons in ego and humility. I am also grateful for a bike ride on a nice evening.

This was a recent quote in my gratitude journal:

"Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again."  
(Abraham Maslow)

I think with practice I have learned that I can appreciate the same things again and again, and therefore not take them for granted. The key is starting over each day, viewing it as the gift and opportunity that it is.

That first cup of coffee, the cool morning air, a good song on the radio-they can each bring a fresh dose of gratitude if I am tuned in. A good morning kiss from my husband, the way our dog Oliver makes me smile, and my favorite fruit-bananas-are each worth a pause and a thanks.

Otherwise, they just become an expected part of the day and they get passed by instead of paused upon.

Gratitude practice is not trite fluff. It is genuine when it comes from mindfulness and appreciation of life's little things. It remains a …

When To Say When

Today I am grateful for the words that form in my mind and heart. I am also grateful for family time.

I try to live life one day at a time, not lamenting the mistakes and disappointments of yesterday, not dreading the fears and concerns of tomorrow. I believe I have made progress in this area, though I am a slow learner. I do spend more time present and mindful than I used to. Gratitude practice helps. Pausing helps, even if for a few seconds.

Progress in being present. I can feel good about that. But . . . staying in today can backfire when I try to pack too much into one day. I need to know when to say when. Pause. Replenish. Stop. Listen.

In my own words: "If your to-do list is longer than your gratitude list, consider a rewrite." 

I am a hard worker, task-oriented, always with more to do than the time in a day allows. One of my most important lessons has become knowing "when to say when."  When it is time to take a break. When it is time to cut myself some slac…

Year #27 Gets Underway

Today I am grateful for the friends I have in recovery and how they help me and teach me. I am also grateful for my career and the jobs I have held.

This week officially begins my 27th school year as an educator. The first nine years I was a high school social studies teacher and did some coaching. For one year, I was both teaching and counseling. For the next two, I was an elementary counselor in two K-6 buildings. I am beginning my 15th year at my current employer, primarily as middle school counselor. In all the schools I have worked in, I have also helped deliver prevention and intervention programs for students and have had titles such as Drug-Free Schools Coordinator, At-Risk Coordinator, and Student Assistance Coordinator.

Although my duties are mostly as a counselor, I still consider myself an educator. It is part of what I do no matter what role I am specifically in at a given time. Whether teaching a certain subject or helping others learn about themselves, how to relate to …

The Ease of Running

Today I am grateful for ceiling and tower fans. I am also grateful for the role of running in my life.

Saturday morning my husband Darcy and I did a training run of 16-17 miles as we prepare for our fall marathon, our 12th marathon overall. It was very humid with the dew point right up there in the low 70's with the temperature. But it was a good run nonetheless. I have had more good runs than tough runs over my years of running. I would have to say some of my toughest runs were when I was trying to run off a hangover. The miles were fewer but the mental torture was greater.

I have been running for most of my life . . . starting my own sort of training when I was about 12. It has been a lifesaver, an endorphin booster, a head clearer, a confidence booster, a nature enhancer and much more over the years. Darcy and I ran together in our early marriage, but have really been serious about it over the last 10 years, since our first marathon, the Chicago Marathon, in 2004.

I look forwar…

People Watching

Today I am grateful for a cooling breeze amid a very humid few days. I am also grateful for the chance to get out for some people watching and enjoying the downtowns of our Twin Cities.

We took a new stretch of our light rail train. We saw the new Vikings football stadium under construction. We walked around downtown Minneapolis. We enjoyed the pregame and early innings of a Twins game at Target Field. I hadn't been downtown in months. I am still a small town farm girl at heart. Seeing the city and skyscrapers still impresses me and gives me a sense of the wider world. My son Sam has gotten to experience these views in more than one city in his young life. I hope it widens his view and promotes an open mind.

And we saw lots of people. More variety than I usually see in my own community, at my job, and other places I typically spend time. Variety takes many forms. For me, it is an exercise not in judgment but in gratitude. To be able put all my senses to use in a crowd of people in…

Around the Kitchen

Today I am grateful for our kitchen. It may not be exactly the kitchen I want, but it is more than sufficient. I am also grateful for what I was taught and learned from experience growing up about how to cook ,bake, and do other tasks around the kitchen.

Yesterday, after a very busy and exhausting week at work, I was grateful to be home on a Friday afternoon making our typical pasta meal we like to have before a long training run. Making the meal was a nice change of pace and a chance for me to focus on home and family after giving plenty of energy to others. I enjoy my job and working with others often gives me more energy than it takes, but being home with family is what replenishes me best.

I was doing my usual approach of preparation which includes several things going on at once-water for pasta, sauce warming, chicken pan-frying, vegetables steaming. I had the realization that I am actually pretty adept at timing it all so that it is done at the same time. None of these are compl…

Great! Full

Today I am grateful for my hair stylist Lori and the good job she does with my haircuts as well as the pleasant conversations we have. I am also grateful for the humor and wisdom of Mark Scharenbroich.

Mark was a speaker at my school's workshops yesterday and Lori cut my hair last evening. I got good doses of gratitude from both of them. Lori shared some recent gratitude clarity she had. I heard Mark many years ago when I was teaching in Iowa, but it was a treat to hear him again. I look forward to reading his book Nice Bike. Learn more about Mark at www.NiceBike.com

One of Mark's stories was particularly resonant with me. It is Mark's story and he tells it much better than I ever could, but I can give you the punch line so to speak.

As he addressed a room full of educators, Mark talked about the teachers who had left significant impacts on him. One teacher would always say "Great!" when someone asked how he was doing or how his day was going. Mark wasn't sol…

Building Homes

Today I am grateful for the home we currently live in and how comfortable we feel here. I am also grateful for all the various roofs I have had over my head throughout my life: homes, dorm rooms, apartments.

We are experiencing a housing boom in our community. It seems like a good indication that the economy continues to strengthen. My husband and I enjoy riding our bikes or running through some of the new developments. It is fun to see the progress, the color schemes, the curb appeal. Sure, part of me wishes I could have more house than I have, that our house could have features I would appreciate-like a bigger kitchen and a master bath. But more house also means more to clean and care for, and I don't necessarily want that. I am most appreciative of the rooms our home has. I have never been homeless and our modest home still puts up in the top tier of living arrangements worldwide.

People want bigger houses, more garage stalls, impeccably landscaped yards. But the space a house …

Inner Jogging

Today I am grateful for regular opportunities to practice self-care and actually doing it. I am also grateful for laughter and the many ways it can brighten a day, a mood, a soul.

I came across this quote recently:

"Laughter is inner jogging." (Norman Cousins)

Heartfelt laughter, with people we know and are comfortable with, can be some of the best kind of laughter. It comes from a joyful place and spreads more joy.

Laughter is also a universal language, like smiles. Laughter can bring a diverse group to common ground or diffuse tension among others.

It is also healthy for us to laugh. Laughter increases oxygen flow and releases endorphins. It helps improve our mood and immune system and relieves stress. It has benefits across all areas of wellness-physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

I like to do plenty of outer jogging (a.k.a. running), but inner jogging is a good exercise to pursue too.

Around the Fire

Today I am grateful for my job and the ways it stretches me. I am also grateful for carry-out pizza after a full day.

I want to say thanks to my sister Zita and her husband Randy for hosting a family gathering at their place last week. It worked out nicely and many siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and their families were able to attend. I am also grateful that my family gets along. We are a varied bunch on varied paths in life. We don't always see eye to eye, but we do respect one another and seem to always be able to enjoy one another's company when we get together. That is a gift not every family is blessed with.

As it grew later and darker in the evening, some headed home. But some of us headed to the nice chairs around the fire pit in their yard. They have a welcoming area by a small pond. I found the fire very relaxing. Watching a fire mesmerizes me and naturally soothes my senses.

The conversation and laughter were also pleasant and welcome. Nothing too serious, just …

Farm Smells

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Today I am grateful for safe travels for family members as we traveled back to our hometown and farm(s). I am especially grateful to my brother Artie for the patience he shows and the opportunities he gives to my son Sam to truly experience farm life.

I am also grateful for farm smells. Yes, all of them.

Farm smells. My husband Darcy and I enjoy going to the county and/or state fair just so we can walk through the livestock barns and smell that combination of smells that can take us right back to our childhoods. Darcy grew up on a crop and livestock farm in South Dakota and I grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. We moved to a different farm when I was 15, but both farms are still in the family.

One of my favorite smells on the farm came a handful of times each summer-freshly cut hay. Sam and I got to enjoy that aroma on this most recent visit. Here is a picture that may spark memories for some of you and heighten your sense of smell if you have been blessed with farm days similar to mine.


Continual Motivation and Gratitude Catalysts

Today I  am grateful for a primary care physician I trust and feel comfortable with. I am also grateful for time with my sister and that she arrived safely after rental car issues.

I am also grateful for the continual motivation my two diseases give me. Yesterday I wrote about my last drunk. Recovery from alcoholism, in daily chunks, has given me gifts beyond measure. I do the work, but honestly on many days it doesn't feel like work. It is my nourishment in so many ways. It is my direction and guidance. I also have deep appreciation for what some call God, others call Higher Power. (I use either term.) And for the people who support and encourage me in so many ways.

I was practicing gratitude long before my breast cancer diagnosis in May of 2008. That ongoing practice helped me better face and work through the months of fear, unknowns, treatments, and surgeries. I may not mention my BC experience frequently in this blog, but without a doubt it is a source of continual motivation.…

Don't Ever Forget

Today I am grateful for the friends who have and continue to bless my life's journey. I am also grateful for the awakenings I get to witness in others.

I was so saddened to hear about the death of Robin Williams. Depression and addiction were part of his struggles. He left a legacy with his work in comedy and acting. What will my legacy be? What am I doing today to keep leaving a positive mark on this world?

Today marks the anniversary of my last drunk: August 12, 1989. Alcoholics in recovery are advised "Don't forget your last drunk." I haven't. I won't.

I won't forget it, but I also don't remember a sizable chunk of that day. Blackouts were a very regular occurrence in my drinking by then. At a wedding, surrounded by many family and friends, I played the drunken cousin/sister/friend part quite well. Only I wasn't acting. I was spiraling downward. I had been for years.

I woke up the next morning, hungover, and took off on a trip to California wit…

Outdoor Church Services

Today I am grateful for the simplicity of tasks like doing the laundry. I am also grateful for laughter, especially when it helps defuse a situation and remind us of our humanness.

Solemn but celebratory. All church services, in my experience, are typically some of both. Outdoor services take on a different tone all their own, however. Our church now has one summer outdoor service each year. It was yesterday. Other than one previous outdoor service for our church and a couple weddings, my exposure to outdoor services has been minimal.

Yesterday's service was at a farm; surrounded by corn, birds, fresh flowers, sitting in the shade of a tree. Not to mention the fresh air. Solemn but celebratory.

The setting and the service helped me slow down. There was a lot on my mind with work and family stuff. Some peace and calm returned as I listened, sang, participated. As our preacher mentioned, we were out in the most spectacular cathedral of all.

And then we enjoyed a potluck lunch togeth…

An Older Couple Walking

Today I am grateful for a good combination of time to myself and time with others yesterday. I am also grateful for running and walking and other forms of physical mobility.

Yesterday when Darcy and I were on our run together, I commented to him that we hadn't seen this older couple walking lately. We see them from time to time and they just make us smile. They always hold hands when we see them walking and they just seem to be enjoying being out and about. I would guess them to be well into their seventies. We wondered if something had happened to them or if one of them had gotten sick or passed away.

Not five minutes later, guess who we saw along the trail? This couple was out for their walk.

We don't know them. We couldn't tell you what their names are. We greet them each time we see them. They send many reminders. Time together and getting exercise are a good combination. Enjoy each walk or run you have together. No one knows how many more we get.

Darcy and I both oft…

Decadence

Today I am grateful for time with friends at the local county fair and for opportunities to be of service to others.

Yesterday it was reverence, today it is decadence. The word came to my mind quite innocently. Darcy and I just completed a 5-day cleanse. We did this cleanse a few months ago to lose weight, detoxify our bodies, and jumpstart our metabolism. We were happy with the results then and are happy with them now. We decided to do the cleanse this week post-vacation and it fit into our marathon training schedule.

The cleanse lays out what you should eat and drink over the 5 days. Refined sugar, bread, and dairy are among the many things not on the menu. I love my sugar and carbs. I try to get them in their healthier versions, but I like my sweet treats too. I have many ways to justify and rationalize my sweets, and I usually just enjoy them. I don't beat myself up about eating them. It is better than getting my sugar from alcohol and I do keep active to burn off some of the …

Reverence

Today I am grateful for time with my stepson Arthur and for the variety of sounds in human laughter.

I was enjoying some tea the other day, and as some brands have, there was a quote on each tea bag.One said "Live with reverence for yourself and others." 

Reverence is a word I don't use or hear often, but I like it's use in the quote above. It can be defined simply as deep respect for someone or something; to regard or treat with deep respect. That may seem like a simple definition, but it seems pretty elusive for we human beings to have reverence for all things and all others. What a place the world would be if that were the case though. So many conflicts, problems, injustices, wars, and inequalities would have never happened.

Human nature and free will get in the way. So let's bring it back to a manageable size. Instead of talking about the lack of reverence among the human race, I can look at the role of reverence in my life. I can, in this day ahead, show dee…

"Let's Stop Talking"

Today I am grateful for grapefruit and a bike ride. I am also grateful for my colleagues and the ways we know and support one another.

While on our recent trip, Darcy and I ran a 10K. We live at an elevation of just over 700 feet. We ran this 10K at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet. We knew the altitude would impact our run, but we were pleasantly surprised at the pace we were able to maintain. I am grateful we have continued to keep some extra weight off and that sure helps our pace.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the tidbit of wisdom that we overheard in the first mile. Two younger girls were running with an adult just behind us. They were conversing and the adult asked how the other two were doing and if they wanted to slow down. One girl responded "No, but let's stop talking." Darcy and I smiled when we heard that. We are typically conversation-pace runners, but we were exerting more effort to get enough air to breathe that morning ourselves.

"Let's sto…

Daily Life Illuminated

Today I am grateful for time together with family and for clarifying conversations. I am also grateful for the soothing sound of water.

The word illumination deserves another mention after yesterday's post about the lighting ceremony held at Mount Rushmore in the summer months.

Illuminate: to supply or brighten with light, to make clear, to enlighten spiritually or intellectually.

Light and the sources of light are vital to our very life on this planet. Each day gets a new start when the sun comes up, illuminating the world around us. Some days are brighter and clearer than others, but even cloudy days provide enough light for us to proceed, to move forward.

Living where I do, I take artificial sources of light for granted too. We live in great convenience and simply need to switch lights on and off when we need them. How easy and how taken for granted.

As I live each day, as I try to learn and grow as a human being "work in progress," as I continue in my recovery from a…

Mount Rushmore Illuminated

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Today I am grateful for pen, paper, and a dictionary. I am also grateful to learn how to breathe easier, more calmly.

This next picture from our recent trip doesn't have the clarity and sharpness of the previous two I shared.The photo quality is questionable, and I knew it would be when I took the picture. It was one of those times when I knew my camera couldn't do justice to the scene. And shouldn't try to. We live in a digital age, surrounded by images that can be delivered instantly. But some images can only be fully appreciated in the live version. You had to be there.

This picture is of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, illuminated for half an hour each night.


The massive sculpture created by Gutzon Borglum and hundreds of workers is impressive in any light, but seeing it illuminated was a treat. It had been years since my husband and I had seen Mount Rushmore, and it was our son Sam's first visit. A huge outdoor amphitheater now hosts a 9:00 p.m.…

A Useful Participant and a Happy 16th!

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage. I am also grateful for continuing motivation to maintain a healthy weight.

Darcy and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary last week while we were traveling. Sixteen years! The years have piled up quickly. I am so grateful for our marriage and so grateful to Darcy for what he contributes to it and what he brings out in me. For years, I wondered if I would meet my match. It took until I was 32, but we met and our lives converged on a shared path that has made us both more fulfilled, more than what we were before.

I heard the phrase "useful participant" the other day and it struck me as significant. I want to be a useful participant in my marriage, and in this wider experience of life. Useful as a mother and stepmother, as a co-worker, as a fellow recovering person, as a friend, as a family member. Useful. Participant. What more could there be?

When I am grateful and recognize the grace that surrounds us all, I wa…

Reflecting Back

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Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday morning and for my physical capabilities. I am also grateful for our son Sam's involvement in 4-H.

Yesterday I shared a sunrise picture from our recent family trip. That same morning, I took this picture in the same area:


The clear and quiet Marys' Lake reflecting the nearby mountain makes for a stunning picture and just as it gave me pause that morning, it gives me reason to pause and reflect now. Reflect on things like:

*Seeing my brother-in-law Roger, Lewy Body Dementia progressing in his mind and body. Reflecting on the precious and fragile nature of life, of each day.
*Watching my sister Danita proceed with dignity and strength as she cares for Roger and the future that now looks so different.
*Considering the many visits I have made to Colorado over the years and how I have grown and changed, like the area where my sisters live has grown and changed.
*Marveling at nature's beauty and grandeur, wherever I am and wh…

On Sunrises and Daily Choices

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Today I am grateful for safe travels over the last week, for time with family, and for the beautiful scenery we were treated to on our road trip.

Covering over 2,000 miles with no vehicle problems, no major detours, and no real travel headaches is something I truly appreciate. Seeing my sisters, brothers-in-law, nephew, nieces and their families is something I also truly appreciate. Our family that began with Mom and Dad sixty-four years ago now numbers close to 100. Opportunities to spend time with family I don't see often, while also traveling with my own immediate family, are welcome and cherished.

I enjoyed the break from our usual routine and time away from stressors that pull at me when I am in closer proximity to them. The break from blogging was also appreciated. I journaled many pages full of thoughts and trip details and my daily gratitude journaling, but I also appreciated the blog break. I jotted down numerous ideas for posts while we traveled. I'll see how many ge…