"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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Right Fit

Today I am grateful for improved ability to recognize and acknowledge my various feelings. I am also grateful for early morning quiet.

When we set out on our run Saturday morning, I also set out to "test drive" my new outfit, the one I plan to wear for our upcoming marathon. I never leave details like that to chance. I want to make sure the fit is good, that there won't be any chafing issues, and just that the general feel is good. This outfit included a new shorts and shirt ensemble, new socks and shoes. The run and the outfit felt great!

And I will let you in on a little secret. I am not a petite runner and I am not a "girlie-girl" who feels comfortable in tank tops. Finding shirts to wear has sometimes landed me in the men's section because the women's sizes run small, or the cut wouldn't feel right. Since my bilateral mastectomies, I have been more self-conscious about my attire, and the cut of the women's running shirts has been even harder to make work. But my new shirt fits the bill in more ways than one. I am grateful for that.

The right fit is important when choosing gear for running 26.2 miles, but also when choosing a spouse and when looking for support in recovery. I feel blessed in those areas as well. My husband Darcy and I have a strong and loving marriage that keeps getting stronger as we experience life and the rewards and challenges that come with it. The support I have in recovery, both human and divine, keep me on track or pull me back on track when I divert myself with fear and ego.

Recognizing the right fit also helps me recognize the wrong fit and motivates me to make necessary changes.I don't like the emotional roller coaster I used to ride all the time. A more balanced and even-keeled ride is the right fit for me today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Proud of You!

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our marriage, and our shared history since we met nearly 17 years ago.

I am also proud of Darcy today. He has been involved in our church's shared ministry team since 2005. Shared ministry is an effort by churches that are smaller and less financially strong to remain viable through the efforts of volunteers. Darcy has helped with the children's and youth programs and is currently in training to become a deacon.

I am proud of his efforts and commitments over these years. He wanted to get involved and be of service and he has done both well. I am especially proud of him today because he gave his first sermon yesterday to our congregation and it went well. He stretched himself beyond his comfort zone. He doesn't plan to be a preaching deacon, but he was willing to give it a shot like others in his cohort did.

He worked hard on this sermon, took it through many revisions, and practiced it many times. I am grateful I could be of assistance and support to him through the process.

Many people praised his effort and complimented his words. It was all deserved. Good job Darcy!

And I will steal a line from his sermon, a line we have all heard many times, but that we need to continually put into practice-"Actions speak louder than words."  Words are easy to speak. Actions take more effort and say more about us. I would like to think, as a writer, that the action of writing words allows me to combine the two and make a difference. Gratitude practice makes a tremendous difference in my life. I hope my writing on this blog also makes a difference. Onward!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Week of Highs and Lows

Today I am grateful for the beautiful weather, a good training run yesterday, and ice cream.

The last week for many people I know seems to have been one of highs and lows. It ranged from the first grandchild arriving in my sister and her husband's family (Congratulations Dalton and Megan and welcome Rowan!), to a friend's father passing away, to a couple serious surgeries for one of my aunts, to a distant cousin's suicide, to an earthquake, to a breast cancer patient's difficult surgery recovery. My son Sam also suffered a wrist sprain that will keep him out of football for a few days. (We are so grateful that the x-ry showed no fracture.)

There's good news and bad news each week, but some weeks seem to tilt one way or the other, and this week tilted to the bad news. For the most part, I was not directly impacted by these situations, but people I care about were.  And then I listen to some news and add to the list: ebola continuing to spread, college softball players dying in a bus/semi crash, a college student murdered and no suspects in custody.

My heart goes out to those most affected by these tragedies. My heart also goes inward to count my blessings, as tragedies and losses tend to remind me of my most precious gifts-family, friends, health.

My highs and lows were work-related this week. After a rough day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were much better. Raging hormones and my ego were definitely a factor in my less-than-ideal Wednesday. Suiting up and showing back up on Thursday and Friday with some energy and some hope helped.

The week ended on a high note though yesterday, as Darcy and I had another successful 20-mile training run. Our marathon is only 3 weeks away now, and the excitement and anticipation build for us as it gets closer. That's the beauty of setting a goal and working hard for it. That's the beauty of being grateful for our running capabilities, our time together, our health.

Gratitude practice helps me take the highs and lows of life more in stride.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

In the Same Boat

Today I am grateful for the varied ways I have to connect and communicate with family and friends. I am also grateful for the nice stretch of weather we have been having.

"In the same boat" is a phrase used to commiserate and relate with others. It brings a sense of unity, of pulling together to get wherever this particular boat is headed, or get it headed in the right direction.

I am in the same boat with other alcoholics working on recovery, with other cancer patients hoping to rack up more years of survivorship, with co-workers dealing with the same challenges and rewards. I learn from others in my boat, and I feel more secure. There is a strength in numbers, especially if the numbered ones are all rowing or paddling together to get somewhere.

I barely made it into the boat of recovery before drowning myself in alcohol. Now recovery is a sturdy lifeboat, not a flimsy raft. To be in the same boat with others in recovery has allowed me to travel through the world and see it with a healthy perspective instead of a dead end view. I am deeply grateful to my fellow travelers in this particular boat.

My husband Darcy and I are in the same boat this morning as we anticipate, prepare for, and will soon head out on one of our longest training runs this season. I am also deeply grateful for this shared commitment and time together.

There are times, however, when I don't want to be "in the same boat" with others. Thankfully, I have learned to swim and paddle enough, and have faith in my Higher Power, that I can row and steer my solitary boat when I need time to myself.

Have a good day, a moment at a time.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Gift of a Loving Thought

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage. I am also grateful for new hope that comes with new days.

Gratitude is a worthy source of hope. When I can see some good, even at difficult times, that gives me the energy to move through the challenge and return to a better place. Gratitude practice also helps me keep perspective and think of others. That keeps me out of my own head, which can become a clutter and get me stuck in a rut if I am not careful.

This is the quote in my gratitude journal today:

"If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give."  (George McDonald)

When I actively practice gratitude, it often includes the appreciation I have for the many people in my life who make a difference in big and small ways. Some days I am the one who needs their support. On other days, I am the one who can offer the strength and hope to help them. We help each other in sorrow and we share with each other in joy.

Gratitude practice gives me regular opportunities to send loving thoughts and prayers to others in my life. That in turn increases my own appreciation for them and for this day. It really can be that simple.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Things I Rarely Say"

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and what he reminds me to do each morning when he stretches before our walk. I am grateful for the reminder to look for life's little joys today.

I am also grateful for my sister Aileen's blog and the inspiration it provides. Thanks Aileen! Her blog, which she shares with a fellow writer, is called "Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events" and it can be found here. Her most recent post is titled "Things I Rarely Say."   It reads:

Things I Rarely Say
1) This coffee is too strong.
2) This dessert is too rich.
3) Wish I hadn't taken that nap.
4) That vacation was too long.
5) This brownie is too chocolate-y.
6) There's too much sunshine. (Thanks to Kelly for this one.)
7) I'm entirely too thin.
8) My car is too fast.
9) Wish I hadn't stopped at that bakery.
10) I laughed too much.

This brings me a smile for a number of reasons. There are things I say too much that can cause me harm, at least mental and spiritual harm. This list of Aileen's helps me remember that I deserve and am worthy of some of life's little indulgences. No guilt and no strings attached.

It also brings me a dose of gratitude. Sunshine is certainly not my creation, and usually the laughter I experience starts with someone else. I am grateful for nature and for the wonderful people I have in my life.

I pondered what my own list of "Things I Rarely Say" would have on it. So far I have come up with these:

1) That run didn't help me feel better.
2) A drink sounds like a good idea.
3) I can't think of anything to be grateful for.

What would be on your list?


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Simplicity of Keeping it Simple

Today I am grateful for air to breathe, sunshine to take in, and my five working senses to enjoy all that surrounds me.

Sometimes it really is just about keeping it simple. Simplicity is a word I need to get more familiar with. I need to practice using it. Here is some practice right now. I woke up early and several things started spinning in my brain. That happens to many of us in the middle of the night doesn't it? Sometimes I get up to write myself a couple notes so I can hopefully fall back to sleep. Other times I just get up and start doing what needs to be done and I find some comfort in that. At other times I can actually fall back to sleep. Sometimes it is a mixture of all of these.

This morning is one of those mornings. So I am keeping it simple, keeping my post short. I make time to say some prayers and write in my gratitude journal each morning. Those are my key actions when it comes to starting my day right and giving things a gratitude focus. On most days, a blog post gets written too.

But there is nothing wrong with keeping it simple, keeping it shorter. I need to remind myself of that when I am in this mindset. And there will be many other times today I can remind myself to keep it simple, I can ask myself how to weave in more simplicity and save my energy for what really matters.

Let's help one another keep it simple today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hearing Body, Hearing Soul

Today I am grateful for the friends and support I have in recovery, and the wisdom shared. We help each other a day at a time.

A line from Melodie Beattie in one of my daily readings struck me today:

"The better you can hear your body, the more clearly you will hear your soul."

Exercise has never really been a struggle for me and I am so grateful for that. I know not everyone feels that way about getting up and out moving our bodies, but it has never let me down as an effective part of my overall health efforts. If you struggle with exercising consistently, consider that the benefits it brings go well beyond the physical. That has certainly been my experience anyway.

I was a little stiff and sore yesterday from my weekend runs and a bike ride. I also tend to have stiffness when I sit for a while. It is rarely painful, more of a nuisance. But it is a reminder to appreciate and take care of this body, this earthly vehicle I reside in. It is a reminder to slow down and rest too. I have to be careful that the "all or nothing" approach I can fall into doesn't happen with exercise. A day or two off a week is needed and as beneficial as the days on.

Even when my heart and soul were more closed off to me, largely due to my cluttered, confused, and active alcoholic mind, I was moving my body. It made all the difference in keeping me somewhat sane at that time.

Today, the physical movement blends with the emotional balance as stress and frustration I am feeling literally work themselves out. Mental balance comes and my thoughts are cleared as I focus on the steps I am taking and the path ahead on my runs. A sense of spiritual strength comes as I feel the significant gratitude for being able-bodied and alive, for being out enjoying nature and some fresh air.

Moving my body helps me hear my soul. For that, I am so grateful.

If getting out and exercising is a challenge for you, consider that you aren't just helping your physical health. Just for today, move in the ways you can.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Broken Wings

Today I am grateful for opportunities to give and serve. I am also grateful for the beginnings of fall color.

Yesterday as I was walking along the Mississippi River in our downtown, I spotted a bird soaring high above. I quickly noticed that this bird, probably some type of a hawk, was missing part of one of its wings. Some feathers or structure were definitely lacking. Nonetheless, the bird was flying, soaring seemingly effortlessly.

I don't know that bird's broken wing story, but I know mine. I didn't get the attention and emotional support I needed growing up. I started drinking at 14, and was abusing alcohol well before I graduated from high school. I didn't learn to fly until I was well into my twenties, and soaring was still out of the question. That took until well into my thirties. (I don't blame my parents or my upbringing for my inability to fly early, but I do acknowledge that some things in my upbringing held me back in my journey.There were other factors from early in my life that contributed to my flying success when I was able to summon the courage to actually try it.)

Fortunately I had learned to fly fairly well, with the help of a loving Higher Power and many supportive people in my life, before my breast cancer diagnosis at age 42. The broken wings were no longer figurative, taking on a literal turn with bilateral mastectomies. For weeks and months I regained full use and range of motion in my arms and shoulders. Although down a couple of body parts, I am a more complete person than I have ever been.

From "flying high" in a drunken state, to soaring in recovery from alcoholism, to learning to fly differently after a cancer diagnosis, I appreciate my broken wings and what they have taught me. I also appreciate the daily work required to keep in flying shape.

I know the stories of many others with broken wings. We all have them don't we? I hope I help others with wing repair by being a good listener and a supportive, positive person. Grateful to everyone who has helped me with wing repair over the years, I feel deeply blessed to wake up to try out new flight patterns each day.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fortune Cookies

Today I am grateful for rain and for finding just the right outfit . . . for our upcoming marathon.

My husband, son, and I enjoyed a local Chinese buffet last evening and shared our fortune cookie quotes with one another. I was looking for an idea for a blog post, the three quotes provided it.

"You will soon discover how truly fortunate you are."  This was my son Sam's fortune. He asked me if I had written it. I smiled. He said it sounded like something I would say. I wonder what he thinks of his gratitude-loving mother. Apparently, he at least notices. I'll take that.  And I will add that because of gratitude practice I believe I am a better mother than I might otherwise have been.

"As a cure for worry, work is better than whiskey." This was my husband Darcy's fortune. He and I are alike in many ways. One way is that we are both worriers. We just tend to worry about things in different ways.

We differ in that he is a normal, temperate drinker and I am an alcoholic in recovery. I used to use alcohol to placate the worries temporarily. Then I quit drinking and began using work to fill the hole I had filled with alcohol. That was using work to deny the worries, to deny my feelings. It was better than whiskey, but still far from contentment. Today, being grateful for who and what I have in my life and seeking balance leads to peace.

"You will take a chance in the near future." This was my fortune. I didn't read too much in to this one, and I don't anticipate a big chance opportunity soon. I look at it as the more mundane chances. Getting up and starting my day. Crossing the street with our dog. Hitting publish on a blog post.

Life is full of opportunities and chances to make a difference. I can't pursue every one, but I can pursue a few with heart and soul and it does matter. Fortune cookies or not, I am a very fortunate person today.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reading Back in Time

Today I am grateful for time with my friend Jill and other friends yesterday. I am also grateful for the many journals and writings I have kept over my lifetime.

There are literally dozens of journals and books filled with poetry in various storage areas around our house. When it comes to poetry books, gratitude journals, and my personal diary/journals, they all number into the double digits. I wouldn't think of getting rid of any of them at this point. They are truly my life's story and they chronicle a wonderful journey from pain and self-pity to growth and self-acceptance. And so much more.

I was looking for a journal from a particular year last evening. I didn't find the exact one I was looking for, but I found plenty of others to take a look at. I spent a few minutes reading what I had to say over 20 years ago. What a gift to read those words, have memories sparked and details brought back to life.

What a gift to read the words from where I am at today. Older, yes. And wiser too. Wiser because all of the words I have written and books I have filled over these years have taught me so much about myself and about life.

I came across my first gratitude journal, a gift from my friend Terrie. I started using it in 1995. Of all of the writing and self-examination I have done, I would have to say that the gratitude journals have been the best springboards to personal growth, deepening faith, and a more positive perception of self and surrounding world.

Reading back in time last evening reminded me of the huge significance writing has had in my life. This blog is simply a continuation of my writing life. I am grateful for all of it.

How has writing helped you in your life?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Most and Best, Least and Worst

Today I am grateful for the little things like a kind woman sharing a coupon at the pizza place, seeing a recovery friend on my run, hearing some good songs, and enjoying some of that pizza deal.

The little things really do matter. Gratitude practice has taught me that. If I am only focused on acquiring the biggies of life-family, home, job, material goods and such-I will miss all the little gifts-a cool breeze, a sip of coffee, working ears to hear a favorite song. In the process of noticing the little gifts, it becomes clear that they are really the biggies because they enrich life day in and day out.

This was a recent quote in my gratitude journal:

"This is contentment: to have the most and best in life by making the most and best of what we have." (Maltbie  Davenport Babcock) 

Contentment used to be elusive to me. That had as much to do with my alcoholic thinking as anything, but it impacted all areas of my life. Instead of looking for the most and best, I often dwelled on how I felt the least and worst. Thoughts are powerful. Mine pulled me down.

Applying a grateful frame of mind builds me up. It builds up my perception of self and surrounding world to allow contentment in the present moment. Could things be better? Sure. Could I have more? Sure. But I have what I need and much more than I deserve. Seeing the most and best in others, myself, and the world all create that expansive sense of gratitude I mentioned yesterday. Seeing the least and worst only served to constrict my already dark view.

There is gratitude on the horizon today. I will look for the most and best as the day unfolds.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Post #800: Expansive Gratitude

Today I am grateful for those who are faithful readers of my blog. I am also grateful to the women in my local breast cancer support group and their kind and supportive ways.

Today marks a blogging milestone for me. This is post #800. One word at a time. One post at a time. One day at a time.

This was a recent quote from my gratitude journal and it fits nicely in this post:

"There's a self-expansive aspect of gratitude. Very possibly it's a little known law of Nature the more gratitude you have, the more you have to be grateful for." (Elaine St. James)

Beautiful and true words. This little known law of nature has been playing out in my life for nearly two decades, and playing out in this blog for 2 1/2 years. Gratitude practice is about far more than saying thank you. It is about seeing with a new pair of glasses, about changing a "less-than" perspective to a "more-than-enough" one.

I looked back at the post titles for my other century markers and they create a good summary. Here they are:

"100 Posts . . . One Post at a Time" Read it here.
"200 and Counting" Read it here.
"Post #300: The Great Fullness of Life" Read it here.
"Post #400: Inspiration, Not Drudgery" Read it here.
"Post #500: Antidote Multiplication" Read it here.
"Post #600: Onward!" Read it here.
"Post #700: Still Writing" Read it here.

As my profile states, gratitude practice is some of the best work that I do. It truly is expansive, and giving it thought and energy on a regular basis via this blog has only been more expansive.

It's not a fancy or flashy blog. It's "meat and potatoes" gratitude practice. It has made all the difference in my life. I hope some posts have made a difference to you too. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Freedom in Forgiving

Today I am grateful for a gorgeous evening for a solitary bike ride last evening. I am also grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Jill.

I went to church services on Sunday and have had the sermon message flitting in and out of my mind since. The message was one of forgiveness, unconditional forgiveness. Forgiveness is more for the person doing the forgiving than the person being forgiven. If someone is unable to forgive, at the least it can take the joy out of today and at the worst it can destroy them.

In my life, the person I have had the toughest time forgiving is myself. Thankfully, I have made progress in being kinder and gentler with myself. It takes intentional actions and efforts though. Gratitude practice is one of those key actions and efforts. When we recognize and sense more good in the world around us, we tend to recognize and sense more good in ourselves as well.

Forgiveness also reminds me of the line "Bless them, change me." If I am needing to forgive someone else, needing to squelch a growing resentment, it is more about me letting go of what they did or didn't do and instead focusing on what I need to do. That frees my energy up for the right efforts, the right actions. That is better than wasting energy in my head regarding the perceived wrong I think was done to me.

Forgiveness truly does bring freedom. Today I will look for when and where I need to apply some forgiveness, of self and others.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Go.

Today I am grateful for my job and the opportunity to meet the parents of students I work with. I am also grateful for what work experience has taught me professionally and personally.

Go! Ready. Set. Go. The preparing and waiting are over. It is time to proceed. We can go fast, slow, reverently, or haphazardly. In any given circumstance, one of these approaches may be absolutely the right way. The trick is knowing which approach is best when. The better I know myself, the better I am at knowing when and how to move forward. Denial, fear, and ego all have a way of clouding my judgment and misdirecting. The more willingness and humility I have, the more effectively I go.

This quote from www.gratefulness.org's "Word for the Day" a couple days ago was:

"And suddenly you know: It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings." (Meister Eckhart)

Ready. Set. Go. The magic of beginnings can be as simple as starting my day with a little gratitude to help keep my perspective healthy and positive. Or as significant as being at the starting line with hundreds or thousands of other runners to begin a 26.2 mile journey. Or as life-changing as choosing to stay sober today.

Trusting myself, the direction and flow of life, and trusting a power beyond myself are all good things to pack before I "go."

I will take a grateful attitude with me as I go ahead into this day.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Set.

Today I am grateful for a game of catch with my son Sam yesterday. I am also grateful for conversations that help me grow in understanding.

Set is today's word. Ready. Set. This may be the toughest of the three words I am posting about. Set. Wait. Patience. That's what comes to my mind. I may want to go, I may feel the need to proceed, but something says "set" and that I need to give it a little more time.

Having been a track runner, I am comfortable in the "set" that is heard at the starting line. It is only a moment, and then we are off to the races, literally. The tougher "set" is the stuff of waiting and being patient when I want answers now, when I want a resolution as soon as possible, when I want to move beyond these unpleasant feelings.

I only set myself up for more frustration and unpleasantness if I proceed too quickly in certain situations, or if I enter a situation that really isn't my business. Sometimes set means set yourself aside. Get out of the way.

"Set" can be a challenge, but it's necessary. Whether in that brief moment at the start of a real race; coiled, tightly wound, waiting for the go-ahead to unwind, to spring forward. Or in those longer time periods that life requires; when we simply need to wait for things to play out as they are meant to, when we need to resist the urge to try to force an outcome, when we need to trust others and our Higher Power.

Set. Set yourself up for a good day by letting life unfold rather than causing it to unravel.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ready.

Today I am grateful for connecting with my siblings via email and phone calls. I am also grateful for a good training run yesterday on a beautiful morning. The early morning sun coming through the trees was a treat to witness.

Ready. Set. Go. Familiar words in life. They each have their own importance, and unlike the start of a race or run, don't always follow in quick succession. Nor should they. It's worth giving each word their own post. Today's word is ready.

Ready can be about facing something we have put off. Maybe it was fear holding us back, or we needed to have money saved up, or we wanted to stay in that buffer of denial. Ready means moving forward with faith and courage. Ready means being okay with not knowing the exact outcome, the reaction others may have, but knowing we will be able to handle whatever comes our way.

Ready can be an open-minded approach to a new day. I am best ready for a fresh 24 hours when I start with some time to myself and to gather my focus in the present moment. Doing some prayer and meditation helps me gather my focus. Writing some thoughts in my gratitude journal helps bring mindfulness to my approach.

And sometimes "ready" is the ready we hear at the starting line of a race. The training is over, the day has arrived. My husband Darcy and I work for months to be ready at the start line of each of our marathons. There is joy in that work, and there is exhaustion, but there is always motivation. For that, I am very grateful.

Ready. The day is ahead. Onward.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Opportunity, Not Drudgery

Today I am grateful for a nice morning for a run, for my job rewards and challenges, for the new people I am getting to know.

The last line in my post yesterday gave me the idea for today's post: "I am glad to be here and I look at today as an opportunity, not drudgery."

Do some things get a little old? Sure. But without gratitude practice, I think they would feel older and so would I.

Take doing the laundry for example. It can get old, it can feel like drudgery at times. But then I start considering things like a working washer and dryer, family to do laundry for, money for fresh-smelling detergent, being able-bodied enough to make trips up and down the stairs, having clothes to wash, the satisfaction of putting clean clothes back in drawers and closets. It doesn't mean I am whistling and skipping by the time I am done, but it's more of an energy builder than energy drainer when I frame it in gratitude.

Doing this blog has yet to feel like drudgery. There may be times when I am tired and lacking inspiration, or when I feel short on time. But not drudgery. Each post is an opportunity to honor the writer in me, to continue the practice of gratitude, to reach out to others.

Attitude IS everything. I need help maintaining a positive attitude and gratitude practice is one of my best helpers.

Today is an opportunity. I will treat it as such.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Memory Sparked

Today I am grateful for old songs and how they can bring back old memories. I am also grateful for new memories that keep being added to my life's story.

Yesterday on my way to work I heard one of those old songs-"Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco from 1985. It brought back memories of my softball teammates and listening to that song when we traveled. Hearing it yesterday got me wondering what my teammates have been up to all these years. That is thirty years. Wow!

After college, I only kept in touch with a handful of my teammates. But it would sure be a kick to have a reunion and see everyone. That's how I see it anyway. Others may not care or wish to reminisce about those younger days. For months out of those years we were teammates. We spent many hours together practicing, playing games, traveling, eating meals, and sharing hotel rooms. We got to know each other, laughed a lot, and covered many miles.

These years have passed quickly for me. I am happy with where my life is at and how I am feeling about it. I didn't always feel or act that way back in college though, that's for sure. The memories that the old song on the radio sparked were pleasant ones. Softball was a positive experience in my life. Drinking and my own mental, emotional, and spiritual health at that time were not such pleasant ones.

Time gives us perspective. It also gives me a large amount of gratitude. I am here to head into this new day. I am glad to be here and I look at today as an opportunity, not drudgery.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Barbed Wire of Life

Today I am grateful for warm blankets on cool evenings and for our home. As temperatures go down this time of the year, I think about those who will struggle to stay warm, who lack homes and blankets.

Here is another photo from a recent visit to my family's farm. If you look closely, you can see a barbed wire fence in the foreground. My brothers have fencing because they have beef cattle and sheep. I grew up with barbed wire fences. I knew how to carefully cross them or duck under the electric ones. I knew their purpose and I respected it.


When I think about barbed wire today, I think about many lessons it can offer. Being careful around sharp objects always seems wise. What about people who like to throw harsh barbs? Maybe I can steer clear of them and take the long way around. Maybe I can make sure I am not being harsh.

No matter how careful we are though, some barbs will get us. Whether thrown by others, by circumstances, by chance. Life isn't always smooth sailing. (If it was, we likely wouldn't appreciate it.)

It is what I do at those times, how I handle myself and the situation, that truly determine how well I am doing. Or not.

Barbed wire reminds me there are places I can roam free and other places I need to proceed with caution. Sometimes those places are in my mind and heart.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Green Lights of Life

Today I am grateful for the ease of getting safe water to drink. I am also grateful for the peaceful sound of a gentle morning rain.

Yesterday on my way to work, my first three stoplights were all green. That doesn't happen very often. I usually have to wait for at least one. Then the next two were green as well. Five for five. Another rarity. I split evenly on the next four lights, finishing my morning commute 7 for 9 in favor of green.

I appreciated the minutes I saved because I was heading to a meeting before school and I had a couple things to get done before the meeting. But what I really appreciated is that I noticed the green lights, that I offered up a thanks for a power beyond myself, that I could laugh at my seriousness and slow down a bit in my thoughts and emotions, even though I didn't need to slow my vehicle for a red light.

I can get caught up in thinking too much, in getting ahead of myself and creating a longer and longer list of what needs to get done. Yesterday morning's green lights were a message to me: give yourself the green light to ease up on your day's accelerator.

There's another reminder in all of those green lights too. Do I need to give myself the green light of courage and healthy risks more often in all areas of my life? Are there times when I need to wait for someone else to give me the green light because it is more their call than mine?

What green light will you give yourself today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Possibilities Abound

Today I am grateful for our son Sam's school and the energy and caring of his teachers. I am also grateful for my job and the opportunity to show some caring and energy myself.

I am thinking of my sister Aileen and her husband John on the sad news of the death of their cat Baxter. A gift in their lives, his loss is a painful one. Baxter began as a possibility and became a treasure.

Active alcoholism and self-pity were pretty effective at closing my mind to possibilities, unless the possibility was the relief alcohol provided and I convinced myself I deserved or needed. When you don't like yourself and your life's path, opportunity can be a painful and frustrating word. Today, I am saddened by some of the opportunities I missed, the ways I limited myself in my younger years.

That sadness, however, is now small in comparison to the gratitude that I feel for having survived those years. Slowly I came out of the fog of self-hatred and self-pity and started seeing my life with more hope.

On a daily basis, I have opportunities and choices. Gratitude practice helps me first see the opportunities and choices I used to miss. Then, the gratitude helps me pursue more positive opportunities and make healthier choices.

Onward, into the day and the possibilities it will present!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Wander With Intent

Today I am grateful for phone conversations with my sisters and for a weekend that played out at a nice pace.

It seems I have referenced several quotes in recent blog posts. I guess that is what is coming my way of late. As I near 800 posts on this blog, I can tell you that I never run out of ideas to write about, to be grateful. Sometimes it is the little things, the seemingly insignificant things, that lend themselves to the best posts, the best generation of ideas in this writer's little mind. 

Gratitude self-perpetuates. The more grateful my attitude and approach to my day, the more present and mindful I am, and the more I see and notice. Saturday morning my husband Darcy and I were enjoying a "shorter" training run of a couple hours. The weather was ideal and a significant relief from the warm and very humid conditions we had been having. On our community's Mississippi River bridge, a truck in the passing traffic had this sign in the back window:

"Not all who wander are lost." 

Wander is a word that probably conjures up five different ideas in five different people. Some positive, some not. We hear "wander" used in negative contexts like "wandering eyes" or "a wandering mind."  Seeing that truck brought to mind more positive connotations. Merriam-Webster's definitions of wander include: to move around or go to different places usually without having a particular purpose or direction and to follow a path with many turns. 

I can be too purposeful and driven to the point that I get tunnel vision. I may be so determined that the direction I am heading in is the right one that I miss what is not directly in front of me. To wander in my thoughts leads to creativity. To wander on a walk allows me views I would miss otherwise. 

Following a path with many turns may sound difficult and time-consuming. On the other hand, it can also lead to just the change of perspective we needed. Coming to a crossroads or a curve in the road of life is often a time of tremendous growth and learning.

We can wander with intent. I think I will try some of that today. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hangovers and Blackouts

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our marriage, and our healthy communication. I am also grateful for the sunrise this morning.

Celebrating an anniversary of another year in recovery this past week, I reflected back on the days when I was drinking. I wasn't a daily drinker. Being an alcoholic isn't as much about how often you drink as it is what happens to you when you drink. What happened to me often were two unpleasant experiences: hangovers and blackouts. Hangovers were about physical discomfort, blackouts were more of the mental torture variety.

Neither kept me from continuing to drink. But both scared me as they worsened and became more frequent. It took concern from others and what I consider some divine intervention to start me on the path of recovery. I am forever grateful for the people and circumstances that combined to get me started in sobriety. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was shown a way out. It remains my path today. It is a daily path because alcoholism and all addictions are daily diseases. There is no cure, only recovery.

I used to run off hangovers and drink cold Mountain Dews to help me feel better. I would improve physically over the course of that next day. There was no real relief from the blackouts, however, and the paranoia that would sometimes follow in the aftermath. Wondering what I did was hell. Beating myself up for my stupidity, my continuing inability to control my drinking, was also inevitable.

Hangovers and blackouts weren't enough to get me to quit drinking, but they sure helped me get to a place where I realized how sick I was and that I needed help. They served their purpose in that respect. Sobriety and recovery have brought me gifts beyond measure. No longer experiencing hangovers or blackouts are a couple of those gifts.

Gratitude practice and recovery work go hand in hand for me. They keep me on the right path, just for today.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gently Shake

Today I am grateful for cooler weather and a hint of fall, my favorite season. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his personality.

The quote from www://gratefulness.org yesterday was:
"In a gentle way you can shake the world."

Described as one of Cesar Chavez's favorite quotes from Gandhi, it is a quote befitting two leaders who sought reform and progress through nonviolent means.

My first thoughts brought it back to a smaller scale. What does it mean to me? I can gently shake up my own routine when I get complacent. I can make a difference with small efforts over time rather than one big splash for attention.

Where my thoughts landed to stay were on the idea of doing something to get unstuck. I'll throw another line at you to summarize it: If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always got."

Sound familiar? It does to me. An example is when I believe I am right about something. My mind closes and I wait for the other person to come around or for the situation to be viewed as I see it. As I wait, my ego inflates and I get a little, just a little, self-righteous. I am now part of the problem, not the solution.

Another example comes in the messages I used to play over and over in my head. You're stupid. Why did you do that? Will you ever learn? I thought you were stronger than that. You're not lovable.

I was definitely in need of a gentle shake then. And that started it. A change in the messages. I am lovable and capable. I am worthy. When I started practicing gratitude, the gentle shaking continued and slowly my view of myself and the world around me transformed.

Wow! It all started with a gentle shake. Do you need a gentle shake today?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Abundance

Today I am grateful for a good start to our son Sam's 7th grade year. I am also grateful for the rewards and challenges of my job.

The quote in my gratitude journal today is from William R. Miller. It ends with these words:

"If you wish abundance, appreciate life."

There are many ways to say what I believe is at the heart of the practice of gratitude. Miller's brief and beautiful words are another example. What we give our energy to, in both thoughts and actions, is what we will get.

Having plenty, having enough, has far less to do with the amount of "stuff" we have as it has to do with how we perceive it all. It really isn't about the "stuff" anyway. The things that hold the deepest meaning for me and produce the most gratitude aren't usually things. They are people, relationships, nature, expressions of love and caring, actions I can take like running and writing. Intangibles like faith, hope, the promise of a new day.

If I wish to be miserable, I can make that happen. I used to often. Poor Lisa.

My friend Terrie was one of the first to put me on the path of gratitude practice. It has made all the difference. I appreciate life today and it is an abundant life.

Try it. Appreciate the little things as you move through your day and see what happens, feel what happens.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

From Quarters to a Quarter of a Century

Today I am grateful for my recovery from alcoholism and all the people who have been my supporters and teachers on this journey. A special thank you to my Higher Power, who has a knack for putting these people in my life just when I need them.

From quarters to a quarter of a century. Today marks my 25th year of continuous sobriety. I am grateful beyond words and humbled beyond measure.

If you aren't familiar with "quarters" you aren't missing much. It was a drinking game where the goal was to bounce a quarter into a glass or pitcher of beer. My goal when I was drinking was to get drunk, to escape. A drinking game like quarters helped me achieve that goal. But I paid a heavy price for that escape.

When I was 16, after starting to drink at age 14, I wrote these words: "I found alcohol before I found me." Sad, but true. The next years I got further away from who I wanted to be, further out of touch with my own sense of self. Years of self-pity, self-hatred, perfectionism, and what I saw as failure after failure, took a significant toll on my heart and soul. Alcohol was also starting to take a toll on me physically.

When I quit drinking I had a job, an apartment, a car, clothes to wear, and food to eat. But I was empty, unsuccessfully trying to fill this void with alcohol. Recovery has been about finding myself, getting to know that person I was at 14 and the one I am today. It has been a good mission, a successful one. Instead of being at dis-ease with life and myself, today I actually recognize and seek peace and serenity. Recovery is one of the most amazing gifts and experiences of my life. Daily work for a daily disease.

I am forever grateful to the many people who helped me in so many different ways, beginning with my life savers during my drinking days-high school friend Sheila and college friend Deb. Read about them here and here. In early recovery, Sonny, Phyl, and Terrie were my first teachers and spiritual advisers. Today, the list is long and the heartfelt love and appreciation I send out is real.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Straight from the Garden

Today I am grateful for a healthier, more balanced perspective on day-to-day living. I am also grateful for fresh garden produce from my mom's garden.

When we travel to my mom's this time of the year, we get treated to garden delights that remind me of what "fresh" really means. You can indeed taste the freshness. It makes me wonder about the journey the produce I buy at the store goes on before it gets to our table. There are probably aspects of that journey and process that I wouldn't care to know.

Getting vegetables straight from Mom's garden, I know just where they came from. On this recent trip, we returned home with eggplant, beets, melon, and tomatoes. I made the eggplant the other day, using the method my mom used when I was growing up, and we all enjoyed it. Beets aren't something I would eat every day, but I am appreciating the ones we have now. We are working our way through the melon and tomatoes too.

My mom has kept a garden each year for many decades. I appreciate that it gives her a mission and some ongoing physical activity during the summer months. She has taught her children and grandchildren much about the dignity and simplicity in a garden. Much about the persistence, patience, and prayers wrapped up in those rows and hills of Mother Nature's creations.

Fresh garden produce truly is one of life's simple pleasures. Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trout Run Trail: Hilly But Worth It

Today I am grateful for the scenic views along the Trout Run Trail we ran on this weekend, and for all who made the trail possible and maintain it for users like my husband and I.

The Trout Run Trail is an 11-mile loop in and around the city of Decorah, Iowa. If you think Iowa is flat, you haven't been to northeast Iowa, also known as "God's country" to me. I grew up in the rolling hills similar to this view from the trail:


But this trail took us higher than the hills on our farm did. I paused to take this picture when we were at mile 19, well into our second lap around the city. You can see some of the switchbacks the trail has to offer in the midsection of the picture.

The hills were challenging, but when rewarded with views like this, it makes it worth it. My husband Darcy and I had to wait out some early morning rain before we got started on this run. It was more humid than I would have preferred, but we had bathrooms and hydration when we needed them. I also appreciated the mile and half-mile markers that let us know exactly where we were on our tour.

I am an avowed endorphin junkie. Putting one foot in front of the other for four hours pays me back in many ways. I can revel in that run afterglow for days. We may be a little crazy, but Darcy and I love this challenge and we love the time together and shared experience.

The Decorah community has a trail system to be proud of. I am grateful I have been able to put it to use. I am grateful to be a runner, able-bodied and alive to enjoy another day, another challenging hill.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Dignity of Work

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and a really solid long training run on Saturday. I am also grateful for a home to come home to.

Today is Labor Day. A nice day off for many of us. A symbolic end to summer for most of us. A national holiday. The former social studies teacher in me always also thinks of the real meaning behind the day. What led to this national holiday and when? Why is it important? Have we forgotten the significance amid the backyard barbecues and retail sales?

Some quick answers follow. The roots of Labor Day date back to 1882, when a parade to celebrate workers/labor was held in New York City on Sept. 5th. It became a national holiday in 1896. The labor movement and labor organizations elicit a variety of opinions among the public still today, but their impact cannot be downplayed. Reasonable wages, better working conditions, an end to child labor, and the 8-hour work day came about because of the labor movement. Some even gave their lives fighting for these causes, such as those who died in the tragic Haymarket Affair in Chicago in May of 1886.

Many things we take for granted today came from the hard work and sacrifice of many people in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Many things we take for granted today come from the hard work of many others last week or last month. I like how the Department of Labor website describes Labor Day:

Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Labor Day celebrates the dignity of work.

The dignity of work. Honest work for honest pay. Work that benefits society and provides goods and services to others. Work that builds communities and connections. From those who helped build the car I drive and those who help maintain it and provide fuel for it; to those who stock the shelves at the local grocery store and work the checkout lines. And every other kind of work, simple to complex, basic to highly skilled, that allows Americans to enjoy a tremendous quality of life.

Today I will appreciate that quality of life and the dignity of the workers who have helped create it and continue to make it possible.