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Showing posts from October, 2014

Things I Take For Granted: #4 Limbs

Today I am grateful for my sister Danita on her birthday today. I am also grateful for my arms and legs.

My arms and legs, all four of my limbs, are in good working order. They are another gift I tend to take for granted on most days. When I pause to think about how much I use them, however, I really become mindful of how important they are. From the moment I get myself out of bed in the morning, to the moment I get myself back into bed that night, they are being utilized.

A recent quote in my gratitude journal was this Irish proverb: "Get down on your knees and thank God you're still on your feet." 

Amen to that. I think of those who have lost limbs or were born without them. I think about tragic accidents, war wounds, life-changing injuries. And I wrap my arms around myself in thanksgiving. I walk forward into the day with a fuller realization of what it simply means to walk forward.

I have never lost a limb, but I have had body parts removed. I had bilateral mastectom…

Things I Take For Granted: #3 Food to Eat

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage. I am also grateful for the variety of food I get to eat.

Air to breathe life. Water to sustain life. Food to nurture life. Day in and day out, I have these available to me. How blessed I am. How blessed most of us reading this are.

I love to eat. I love food. I especially like bananas, peanut butter, pizza and ice cream, but I get plenty of variety. I have never gone hungry in my life. I eat so I can run. I run so I can eat.

There is so much focus on material things in our culture today. More stuff. Bigger stuff. Expensive stuff. But it is still just stuff. Sometimes I feel we are trying to feed our psyches and our souls with the wrong stuff. Feeding our bodies healthy food is a good start in feeding the rest of our selves.

I have made efforts the last couple of years to be a more mindful eater. To slow down and take my time. To consider in gratitude the efforts of others who helped make the food in front of me possible. To c…

Things I Take For Granted: #2 Clean Water

Today I am grateful for a good run on a windy fall day. I am also grateful for my job and the students and adults I have the privilege of working with and getting to know.

Yesterday's air to breathe is followed closely by another necessity we can't go without for long: clean water to drink.

How easy and convenient it is for me to get some water when I am thirsty. I can have it cold or hot. I rarely worry about the safety of the water I drink, or wonder if it will make me sick. I can go to any number of faucets in my home, or drinking fountains at work, and quench my thirst. I can go to the refrigerator for cold water or use my stove or microwave to prepare some hot water.

I don't have to put much thought into where my water supply is, and the most energy I use getting my water is going down the hall at work to refill my water bottle 3-4 times a day. If you have similar ease in accessing water, we are the lucky ones. Statistics I found said that 1 in 9 people in the world d…

Things I Take For Granted: #1 Oxygen

Today I am grateful for a return to a healthier perspective and some balance. I am also grateful for air to breathe.

There are many things I take for granted each day. Keeping a gratitude journal, writing these blog posts, and trying to actively practice gratitude and be mindful all help me see more of these things for what they are-true gifts of life.

When talking about gifts of life, the obvious one to start with is oxygen; air to breathe to sustain our lives. Today I am grateful for the oxygen and clean air that surround me. It makes me think of many things, such as:

*I am grateful I quit smoking.
*I try to do my part to protect our clean air supply by being a responsible
consumer and recycler.
*Prayers go out to those with health problems that necessitate an extra oxygen supply.
*I appreciate the fresh air of the various seasons; from winter's nostril-stinging cold to
summer's balmy humidity. I prefer spring's smell of new life and fall's crispness.
*It reminds me …

Painfully Aware

Today I am grateful for several phone conversations with friends and sisters over the weekend. I am also grateful for the simple wisdom of starting the day with the question "Am I present?"

Lisa reporting for duty for the day ahead. Suit up and show up. Even when staying buried under the covers seems like a better option. My sister Danita suits up and shows up. I can too. She is painfully aware of a disease called Lewy body dementia.

Her husband Roger has this form of dementia. He continues to decline and lose ground against a horrible disease. It is not rare, but many people haven't heard of it. I hadn't until Roger's diagnosis a couple of years ago, but over 1.3 million people in the U.S. have the diagnosis. Symptoms can closely resemble Alzheimer's and Parkinson's so LBD is probably underdiagnosed. Like the general population, many doctors and other medical personnel are not familiar with it.

Check out a post I wrote last October here.  Or read more ab…

A Beautiful Fall

Today I am grateful for the beautiful fall day yesterday and for the physical capabilities to do yard work.

Actually, we have been having a very nice fall. It has been pleasant and sunny on many days. The drawback is that we are behind on moisture, but the plus is that it's been easy to get out and about. The temperatures have been mild, the fall colors striking and lasting. Not like some years when there's barely any color and then some brisk windy days to carry the leaves away.

I not only enjoy the colors of the leaves on trees, but the various colors that come out on all plants and vegetation. I like the changing light as the days get shorter and the sun plays differently into the windows of our house as the trees become more bare.

I so appreciate the cooler and drier air, the crispness of the early morning as I head out to walk Oliver or go for a run. The sound of leaves rustling as I walk or run through them, or as a breeze gently pulls them along, are also welcome sounds…

Be Still. Be Quiet.

Today I am grateful for a solitary run in the coming daylight. I am also grateful for what silence and stillness teach me when I give them a chance.

Life has been busy. Work has been especially so. Family activities keep us on the move. It is dangerous territory for me. I end up overly tired, over thinking everything that needs to get done, and losing any sense of calm and serenity I may have had. Not surprisingly, I also become an unpleasant person to be around at times. My poor family feels the brunt of that when it happens. So the first lesson of stillness and quiet for me is to keep my mouth shut when what may come out is not kind or necessary.

Yesterday morning I took five minutes to sit out on our front porch and enjoy some coffee. I had the time. I made the time. I needed that time. I lose focus when I get spun up in the busy times. I forget to pause and be grateful. I forget that what really matters is here and now. I forget that my job is just that-a job. My job is not at the…

I Couldn't Do It

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Today I am grateful for the therapeutic value of ice cream and for our dog Oliver. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage.

Remember those worn out gloves I blogged about last week? (Read the post here.) Remember my plan to give them a proper send-off in St. Louis? I couldn't do it. They went to St. Louis with us, they covered the 26.2 miles with me, and they made it back home. The picture below shows them with my newest marathon medal:


It was a chilly marathon morning. The gloves helped pre-race and also through the first couple of miles. By Mile 3 my hands were getting warm. I decided to toss them at Mile 4 (4 being significant as my sobriety date-September 4). But as I thought about it, and as Mile 4 came and went, I decided that I needed to keep the gloves. They carried too much sentimental value to me. They hold too much good energy.

So for the next 20-plus miles I alternated between carrying them and keeping them in a pocket in my shorts. I thought about fam…

A Foundation in Faith

Today I am grateful for our church community and the nice service last evening for confirmation and baptism. I am also grateful for the demeanor and sense of humor of the presiding bishop.

Our son Sam got confirmed last night. He has been attending classes over the last couple of years and was one of five confirmands. Sam is also in his second year of active involvement in the youth group our church has in partnership with a neighboring church. (It's a pretty cool thing . . . two different denominations sharing a youth group.) Prior to youth group, Sam went to Sunday school as well.

He has had good teachers; people who care about young people and their faith development. He has a good foundation in a religion and from there the starter kit for what I hope is a faith of his own. I am grateful for those who have taught and supported Sam's faith formation over the last years.

I am thinking of the foundation in faith that my parents helped set for me and my siblings. I didn't …

Fellow Runners

Today I am grateful for the safety of my nephew Scott who was uninjured in a tractor rollover. And I am grateful for my fellow runners who supported me in various ways on Sunday.

How quickly things can change in our lives. Scott could have been seriously injured or worse. Life is precious. Life is fragile.

My favorite and most supportive fellow runner is my husband Darcy. But in an event like a marathon, strangers offer support in a variety of ways. I want to thank the thousands of half-marathoners who joined us for the first 10 miles or so of Sunday's marathon. They helped carry me along and they hid the hills from view.

I also want to thank the two women who were the 4:45 pacers. (Pacers hold signs with a finish time on it. If you want to run that time, stick with those pacers.) I typically don't run with a pace group, though I do like to keep certain ones in my view if I have a goal. On Sunday, I caught up with the 4:45 pacers at Mile 19 and chatted and ran with them the n…

Fueled by Gratitude

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Today I am grateful for another pleasant marathon experience and for time with my stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa. I am also grateful for safe travels as we covered 1200 miles over 4 days. 
I was fueled by gratitude in many different ways as I covered 26.2 miles of roadway for the St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Just getting to the starting line, physically able to pursue this ongoing goal is what starts the gratitude flowing. To be joined at the starting line, and at the start of many training runs over many months, by my husband Darcy provides plenty more gratitude. Here is a picture of us before the run Sunday, and a chance to see the new running attire I mentioned in a previous blog post:

We didn't look as fresh a few hours later, but we were both happy with our runs and our times. We ran together for the first 16 miles or so, enjoying the atmosphere and the ideal weather and running conditions. The last ten miles, I found other sources of support from fellow runn…

Deeply.

Today I am grateful for phone conversations yesterday with my friends Jill and Jenny. They each went with me to chemotherapy treatment six years ago. That's a good friend. I appreciate the deep and meaningful conversations we can have.

Both Jill and Jenny are true friends. Kindred spirits of mine. Add to that list my friend Sheila who happens to be celebrating a birthday today. Happy  ___th Sheila!  I am deeply blessed to have all three of these women in my life. They have helped bring out the best in me, and for that I am so grateful.

I am feeling deeply blessed today as we prepare for marathon weekend. Feeling anything deeply is a gift. Yes, sometimes that means feeling pain. But without the pain, how would we ever fully appreciate the joy?

The many miles in my previous 11 marathons have brought deep feelings . . . some physical, others mental, emotional, and spiritual. Especially in the later miles when a person needs to dig deep to keep going. Those same miles have brought som…

Celebrating Life

Today I am grateful for time away from work and my friends at our local breast cancer support group.

I wore my Seattle Marathon shirt yesterday. That was marathon #11 last December. I like wearing my marathon shirts because they are reminders to celebrate life and gratitude. It's not about ego for me, and if someone else perceives it that way, I hope they read this. I am deeply blessed to be alive, to be able to run, to be able-bodied and alive. I don't run fast and I don't win age groups, but I live my dream and share it with my husband Darcy.

I could have died drunk in my late teens. I could have had a different cancer diagnosis six years ago. I am here, alive, and happy to be! I am mindful of this day as a gift.

What do you think of when you hear "celebration of life?"  If you are like me, one of the first things that comes to mind is a funeral being called "a celebration of life." That's a comforting and appropriate thing to call it, but let'…

Gloves of Gratitude

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Today I am grateful for the fresh fall air and breeze as we enjoyed Sam's last football game of the season yesterday afternoon. I am also grateful for my favorite cereal/banana combination.

The gloves in the picture below will serve an important purpose on Sunday when we head to the starting line for the St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. (Thanks to Sam for taking the picture for me.) We anticipate a little chill in the air and will be outside for an hour or more before we start the run. The gloves, though a little worse for wear, will help me stay warmer. I don't like cold hands. Once I start running, my hands will end up too warm with gloves on, and I will discard them.


It is fitting that these gloves will make this trip with us and be with me at the starting line. They are the same gloves I wore at the start of my second marathon-The WhistleStop in Ashland, WI on October 15, 2005, nine years ago today. (I didn't recall the date right away, but I went to look at m…

Awareness? I'll Take Advocacy and Action.

Today I am grateful for the people I work with, both adults and young people. I am also grateful for what others have taught me about advocacy when it comes to breast cancer and taking actions to help end it.

Besides Lisa Bonchek Adams and Dr. Gayle Sulik, bloggers like Nancy Stordahl at "Nancy's Point" and AnneMarie Ciccarella at "Chemobrain . . . In the Fog" have taught me a lot about the right kinds of awareness, what true advocacy in the breast cancer arena means, and they do it with humor and grace. I also highly respect the work done by the organization Breast Cancer Action http://www.bcaction.org/

We have been lulled into some false sense of progress regarding breast cancer. Certainly, there have been advances in treatment. But when it comes to the ultimate goals of curing the cancer people already have and preventing others from getting it, we have been seriously sidetracked by pink stuff to buy, misleading pictures of triumphant warriors in pink, and e…

For All Those With MBC

Today I am grateful for today, just today.

That is not oversimplified, it is the best way to live life. It is what I strive for. Staying in today, in the moment. I learned this in recovery from alcoholism and had it driven back home quite emphatically when I faced my own cancer diagnosis.

I am deeply grateful to be over six years out from my breast cancer diagnosis and have NED (no evidence of disease). I don't live in fear, but I also try not to live in denial. Cancer is wily and mysterious. It can come back in anyone at anytime. Today I am thinking of those who are living with what remains my biggest fear: late-stage metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Cancer that remains in the breast is not deadly. Breast cancer that spreads, or metastasizes, to other parts of the body is incurable and is what takes nearly 40,000 lives a year in this country.

Some are diagnosed with MBC at the time of their initial diagnosis. Others have NED for years after their initial diagnosis when MBC comes r…

By The Fire

Today I am grateful for a beautiful fall day and a nice variety of colors to enjoy on our early morning run yesterday. I am also grateful for time to sit by a fire in our fire pit last evening.

I have been a little resentful of factors pulling on my time and on our family time. Work has been very busy for me, as I knew it would be this year. We added a new grade level and made several other changes. I am developing and helping deliver character curriculum for three grade levels. They aren't daily lessons, or long lessons, and I have supporting materials, but anything new like this takes time. It also stretches my comfort level. It seems that things are going okay and I feel pretty good about it so far, but I have also second-guessed and been overly critical of myself. (That used to be par for the course. Now it isn't. Progress I guess.)

Family circumstances have also kept us busier and more challenged in ways over the last few months. A lot of acceptance and patience has been …

The Stillness

Today I am grateful for rest, ice cream, a nice morning for a run, and pre-marathon excitement and anticipation.

A couple days ago this was the Word for the Day from Gratefulness.org:

"Let us accept the invitation, ever-open, from the Stillness, taste its exquisite sweetness, and heed its silent instruction."  (Paul Brunton) 

These words were just what I needed the other morning. Just the reminder that would help me face that busy and full day ahead. But the words resonated with me beyond that initial reminder.

"Let us accept the invitation . . . " What a beautiful and calm opening to a new day, a new activity, a chance to meet someone new. Not pushing our own agenda too heavily. Not missing the joy in the work because we are rushing too much. Not getting caught up in our own heads and missing the many messages that we get when simply paying attention.

" . . . from the Stillness . . ." Whether or not you believe in a God, a Higher Power, nothing or everythin…

Recovery Wisdom

Today I am grateful for time with other recovering people last night and for reminders and validation that I am on the right track.

I appreciated the time with two good friends of mine as we attended an event celebrating women and recovery, from addictions and from mental illness. We heard from two women who shared their own stories and who have written books about their journey and about how to heal and recover. I appreciated the open sharing and the efforts to reduce stigma.

What I appreciated as I listened were the many reminders and the wisdom shared that told me what I am doing to work on my own recovery, and to support others in their recovery, is working and makes good sense. It works when I choose to work it, which I try to do daily.

Those efforts include aspects of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I run and get other forms of regular exercise. I work to keep my thoughts positive. I talk with others close to me when I am struggling. I try to be of service to …

An Eclipse and a Neighbor

Today I am grateful for the food we have in our refrigerator and cupboards. I am also grateful for the crisp fall air.

I appreciated my run yesterday after work. It cleared my head and gave me some free endorphins to boost my energy and attitude for the rest of the day. It was just what I needed after another full and hectic day at work. In fact, on my run, I started thinking about this blog post, then I tried to recall what I had blogged about just yesterday morning. It took me a couple minutes to rewind and work through the clutter before it came to me. A good indication a run was a good choice. I always feel better, clearer, after a run.

Back to today's post. Something else I enjoyed yesterday, earlier in the day, was the chance to see the lunar eclipse unfold. Darcy and I took our dog for a walk around 5:30 a.m. and got to see the "blood moon" we had been hearing about on the news. It was beautiful and bit eerie all at the same time. On my way to work an hour or so l…

Having Something To Do

Today I am grateful for the right words when I need them. I am also grateful for this blog and the focus it gives to my gratitude practice.

The quote for today in my gratitude journal was a well-timed one, sending me the right words:

"Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not."  (Charles Kingsley)

I was having a bit of a bumpy start to my morning, and already ahead of myself with thoughts of the day ahead. When I read this quote, it reined those thoughts in. Even the tasks I would rather not do are proof that I have a life and that my life matters. Some tasks are enjoyable on certain days, not so much on other days. Some tasks are ones I almost always look forward to, others I just look forward to getting done. But there is satisfaction, and gratitude, in all of them when completed.

Mindfulness teaches me to enjoy the task as I am doing it, not just when it is done. When I am mindfully present, it make…

Fainting Robins

Today I am grateful for faith to help me through each day. I am grateful for those who have helped pick me up when I was struggling, years ago and yesterday.

As I wrote about Emily Dickinson the other day, I thought of one of my favorite poems written by her. It reads:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain; 
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain. 

This has always reminded me in a kind and gentle way to think of others, to do what I can to be helpful, to ease suffering when I see it. Just being a kind person as I move through my day is a good start. A friendly smile and hello may be just what someone else needed. If I am deep in thought and walk right past them, I haven't shown much compassion for my fellow humans. One of the best ways to get out of my head is to reach out to others, to just be aware of them and how they are doing.

Fainting robins take many forms. We know one …

Patience in Training

Today I am grateful for the wisdom in simply pausing in quiet. I am also grateful for the lessons life presents when we are paying attention.

Yesterday my husband and I went grocery shopping, then had to make a second stop at a different store for a few more items. These were just a couple of things we needed to get done on a busy day over a busy weekend. I think my Higher Power was trying to send me a message about the importance of patience. I got it. Believe me, I got it. And I am most thankful for that.

Starting at the grocery store, we filled our cart along with many other shoppers. We headed to what looked like the shortest checkout line. I was doing okay with my level of patience, but ready to get going so I could get home to other stuff on my priority list.

We started unloading the cart and I noticed the checker was moving fairly slowly and deliberately. I mentioned to my husband that we had chosen the wrong line. He pointed to a sign just in front of us that I had clearly mis…

Soul Ajar

Today I am grateful for a scenic morning run yesterday and for the challenges and rewards of parenting.

One of the gratefulness.org quotes earlier this week was from Emily Dickinson. It said:

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." 

I have always liked and respected the poetry of Emily Dickinson. I am no expert on her or her work, but I know that she lived a pretty isolated existence and that her poetry is often stark and grabs the emotions of the reader. That is my kind of poetry. Her work was not publicly recognized during her lifetime, only posthumously. But what an impact her poetry has had since her death in 1886 and the first publishing of her work in 1890.

I would like to think that I have a couple things in common with Dickinson. She wrote prolifically, writing over 1,800 poems. My pace has slowed in recent years as I have ventured more into essays and blogging, but I have over 1,500 poems I have penned. There was a long time I w…

Layers

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in service work with my colleagues yesterday, and for an entertaining movie in "This Is Where I Leave You."

I am also grateful for layers of warm clothes. They were needed yesterday as I helped remove invasive buckthorn from a nature preserve and when I attended my son's football game later in the day. I appreciated the hours of fresh air and being outside, but it was a brisk fall day that required protection against wind, rain, and cold. Layers are the best way to go when you will be both inside and outside and when you aren't sure if it will rain. They are easy to add and subtract as needed.

What about the other layers in our lives? The layers of comfort we feel with the various people we know. Some are mere acquaintances, others we allow to see us and know us on a deeper level. That requires layer removal, which requires time, faith, and a caring heart. I am blessed with people who have helped me peel away lay…

Leaves Taking Their Leave

Today I am grateful for the different pace today at work will offer. I am also grateful for leaves rustling in the breeze and ears to hear them.

Leaves are taking their leave from trees lately as we head further into fall. Fall is my favorite season. I love getting my jeans and sweatshirts back out and needing to sleep with covers on again. I love the crispness in the air and the colorful beauty of trees and plants as they transition to the next stage in the cycle of life.

I observe how a breeze will pick up leaves, sometimes gently, sometimes harshly, and move them about. Our human lives are similar. Sometimes a gentle breeze carries us along calmly. At other times, strong winds intrude on our peace and we have to buffer ourselves. I shore myself up with gratitude practice.

There are countless leaves, all with their own uniqueness. They each took part in a life cycle that is amazing when you stop to think about it. Considering this helps me appreciate and respect the fellow humans I …

Look!

Today I am grateful for the fall colors we are enjoying and for warmer clothes in my closet.

As I read Melody Beattie's words today in Journey to the Heart, these struck me:

"Look! See how much you've changed. See the difference in your perspective." 

I may not be feeling that exclamation point this morning, but the rest definitely applies and I owe it to gratitude practice. From self-hatred to self-acceptance. From self-pity to gratitude. From fear and ego to faith. From the downward spiral of despair to the upward spiral of hope and energy.

It didn't and doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and effort. But it does work. Focusing on my blessings somehow brings more blessings. I "look" and "see" what has maybe always been there, but with fresh eyes and an open heart.

Whether or not my "look" has an exclamation point today doesn't matter. Not every day will have that added oomph! The key is that I look for the blessings and …

Cream Cheese Frosting

Today I am grateful for the experience I had as a teacher and elementary counselor and how I can draw on that in my current job. I am also grateful for cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting and the pumpkin bar it was on were a treat for me last evening. I do like my sweet treats and I often succumb to their enticement. I justify it because I run, I don't drink or smoke, I work hard.I deserve it.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty or I overindulge and wish I hadn't. But I try to be kind and gentle with myself, and for me that includes enjoying a sweet treat when I feel like it.

It gets me thinking this morning about how "lightening up" and not being too hard on ourselves is really so important to how we feel and how we live life. I have made progress in this area, and gratitude practice is one key reason why. When I focus on what I do have, on the daily gifts, on the people who care about me, it becomes harder to beat myself up. And that is a good thing.

Cream ch…