Posts

Showing posts from September, 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…

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 assi…

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 playe…

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…

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…

"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…

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…

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.…

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 facto…

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…

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. An…

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…

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 …

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 forg…

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 t…

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 asi…

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 fo…

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…

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 i…

The Barbed Wire of Life

Image
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 …

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. Yester…

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 …

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 wh…

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 pa…

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 oth…

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 mis…

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, pe…

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 man…

Trout Run Trail: Hilly But Worth It

Image
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 app…

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 fight…