"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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Disillusioned by . . . Dedicated to . . .

Today I am grateful for my son Sam's levelheaded perspective, and for my husband Darcy's sense of humor in dealing with his uptight wife at times.

Year's end is often a time many of us look back on the last year. Reflecting on 2015 leaves me feeling disillusioned by many things:

*people I know dying (I think especially of my brother-in-law Roger who died young-at age 64-after a horrible illness diminished him over years.  My Aunt Marie died in her nineties, a full life behind her.)
*mixed emotions, and a wide range of them, about a job I have been at for over 15 years
*health issues for many I care about, of the physical and mental varieties
*my mom's failing health
*how cunning addiction is and how it tries to pull people I know and care about back in to the disease
*the speed at which days, weeks, months, and now an entire year have gone by
*the letting go of goals/dreams because there simply wasn't time or energy to pursue them

Yes, there are things about 2015 that leave me feeling disillusioned, disenchanted, discouraged, and disappointed. Add to that a knee injury this week for my son Sam. It could be a meniscus tear and it could require surgery. We'll take it a step at a time. I appreciate the perspective he is able to keep, at 13, about it all. He sets a good example for me.

Don't worry about me. A little disillusionment will come and go. What matters more is what I am consistently dedicated to. These are the things that nourish my soul, heart, mind, and body.  Things like:

*regular exercise
*my marriage
*being a parent, stepparent and now grandma
*daily work in recovery from alcoholism
*daily gratitude practice
*regular writing
*improving my practice of mindfulness and presence
*grabbing back my goals and dreams and giving them time when I can (These are mostly surrounding writing pursuits and I will definitely write on!)

The year just passed brought much joy and many challenges. It takes both to make a life of growth and satisfaction.  Onward!

I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Happy New Year! Be safe and be grateful.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Strong Words from Albert Einstein

Today I am grateful for my free Nordic Track machine and the workout it provides. I am also grateful for time with my friends from breast cancer support group last evening as part of a focus group.

As I further consider how the age of information and our ever-advancing technology are both helping and hindering us, I can't help but wonder if the hindering will lead to some real issues. This quote from Albert Einstein contains strong language, but considering that he said it decades ago, and considering what we are seeing in human interactions today, the physicist may have been on to something:
"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. 
The world will have a generation of idiots."

If you research this quote, you will find numerous references indicating that there is no evidence that Einstein ever said this. This is an example of one of my concerns. How much time and energy go into making information easily accessible and then others refuting it, debating it, or going off on a tirade in the comment section?  Even when they are positive and agreeable, do we really need to know what everyone thinks about everything, every news story, every trend, every latest this or that?

Could that time and energy be going to more important pursuits? A clean house? World hunger? 

Who knew there would come a time when organizations would have contests for students to create public service announcements for, of all things, distracted walking?  Who knew that communication would change so much so quickly? "Idiots" may be a bit harsh, but poor communicators for sure. We are already seeing much evidence of this. Listening, really listening, and looking someone in the eye, are both keys to communication. Observe this in others today and see what you see, or don't see. 

Today, I will do my part to help keep us more empathetic humans and less technology-obsessed. Looking others in the eye and really listening to them is a gift that shouldn't be taken lightly. It is true human connection and it can't be matched in the digital world.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Speaking of TMI

Today I am grateful for the physical ability to shovel snow and for the mental ability to practice gratitude.

Speaking of TMI, I had my first colonoscopy yesterday. I turned 50 in July and it has been on my to-do list since. It's a recommended screening procedure I wasn't necessarily looking forward to, but was certainly willing to follow-through on because it is effective and telling.  I am happy to report the prep was manageable and the test results were normal. I appreciate all those who helped with this less-than-glamorous procedure. I very much appreciate the good results. It's a relief and an empowering bit of self-care.

As I sat in the waiting area, my procedure behind schedule, I did some reading. A couple patients came and went. One was clearly a pregnant woman and the man with her, probably going for an ultrasound. Exciting territory. There was a woman sitting there when I first arrived. She had on a chemo cap and was drinking contrast-a clear indication she was going in for a scan. Scary territory for people with cancer.

It was just the two of us in the waiting area after awhile, and I debated whether or not to strike up a conversation. I often keep to myself, or at least don't initiate conversations, in clinic and hospital waiting rooms. I felt compelled to talk to this woman though. I am grateful I did, as she seemed to appreciate our exchange as much as I did. Sadly, she has Stage IV cancer and has had some tough times in recent years.

She didn't share too much information, and some of what she did I won't share here, but it was heartening to hear about her supportive family, her realistic approach to a dire diagnosis, and her love of the Minnesota Vikings. She was called in for her procedure and we wished each other a good day and a "Go Vikings!"

A good day. Just for today. An hour at a time. A moment at a time. That is the best we can hope for.

Monday, December 28, 2015

TMI

Today I am grateful for another enjoyable movie in "Joy" and also for clean drinking water. It is one of those things I most often take for granted.

TMI. Too much information. It usually refers to personal or private information that someone shares too often or with too many people. It is easy to do with the technology we have.  A quick post on Facebook or other social media and we can have TMI.  I appreciate social media in ways, but I also wonder what it has done to boundaries. And I wonder how much time it sucks away from more important pursuits.

TMI. Too much information in the age of information. We have so much data so easily accessible to us via the technology that has become commonplace.  In many ways, this information drives our wider world, including the economy. And to the varying degrees we allow it, it drives our own individual lives as well.

I could find many statistics for you, but they are almost beyond my comprehension. I came across a term new to me as I did a little reading about all this information at our disposal: exabyte. An exabyte is one quintillion bytes, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. A byte is commonly the smallest unit of measurement used when referring to digital data. Mind-boggling.

So here's just one statistic to consider: In 1986, the world's technological capacity to store information was 2.6 exabytes. By 2000, it was 54.5 exabytes. And by 2007, it was 295 exabytes.
That kind of growth almost scares me.

I certainly have benefitted from the age of information. I will turn to Google for quick answers to many mundane questions; ranging from what are that store's holiday hours to what year did that song get released?  I have watched and listened to many of my favorite songs on YouTube. I can easily post a new blog entry. I appreciate and utilize the technology in numerous ways.

But I can't help being concerned about where we are headed. It is one of the reasons practicing gratitude is valuable to me. It grounds me in the present as well as my present surroundings. The virtual world is not a place for true presence. Right here, right now is.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Afflicted and Addicted

Today I am grateful for time with other recovering alcoholics and the wisdom they share. I am also grateful for more time with our grandson Leo.

We watched him for several hours yesterday and enjoyed his cheerful nature. I especially enjoyed when he sat quietly on my lap as we read a couple of farm sound books together.

I heard more words at the church service I attended last Sunday that really stuck with me. The words were spoken by my sister-in-law Elaine as she read the prayers of petition. Those words were "afflicted and addicted." The afflicted and addicted certainly need prayers.

We all experience affliction; defined as something that causes pain and suffering. Ailment. Illness. Disorder. Handicap. Trouble. Misery. Hardship. Misfortune. Adversity. Sorrow. To name our afflictions, to step out of denial and address them, that is where hope and healing are. But it takes time and effort. And deep honesty.

Addiction is an affliction, a serious and sometimes deadly one. Merriam-Webster does a decent job of defining this scourge: "a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) 
or do something (such as gamble)"

It is tough to find an all-encompassing definition though, or one that can be agreed on by all. Just like the debate about whether or not alcoholism and other addictions are a disease. Major medical associations like the American Medical Association have long identified addiction as a disease. It is brain-based, has progressive symptoms, and is chronic in nature. I consider my alcoholism a disease. That is no excuse, that is me trying to understand what I am dealing with and why I need help beyond myself.

The argument often heard from those who say it isn't a disease stems from the idea that the person has to pick up the drink or substance or engage in the activity. Therefore their actions create the problem. Brain-based factors and genetic predispositions combine to lead the user to continue using despite horrible outcomes and significant consequences. Choice and control are lost. Disease. Affliction. Addiction.

There is help. There is hope. The addict has to do the work. But they need the support and intervention of others. I am forever grateful to those who intervened to help me see I needed help, and for the many who have shown me the way of recovery ever since. I try to give back, to help others in recovery. It is a deep source of appreciation and motivation to make good choices each day.

Who in your life is afflicted and/or addicted? How can you help? Maybe it is you. Who can you reach out to?  Prayers are just the start. From minor afflictions to full-blown addictions, treating others and ourselves kindly and gently is a place to start. 


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Traditions New and Old

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet, more family time, and some entertaining movies viewed at the theater in recent days.

Our first Christmas as grandparents included some time with Leo and his parents. As usual, he stole the show. Not surprising with a grin like this:


Between his various families. Leo could be buried in toys and clothes. But I like to think of it as having lots of people who love him. The stuff doesn't matter as much as time together and witnessing his healthy growth and development. And being reminded of how incredible life looks through the eyes of a child, living only in the present moment.

Being grandparents on the holidays is a new tradition for us. One that we look forward to continuing.

An older tradition we have is to hit some movies over the holidays. Actually go to the theater and watch on the big screen. We don't get to many movies during the year, but I've been to three this week.  They were all entertaining and enjoyable in their own ways. Darcy and I went to "Sisters," then Darcy, Sam, and I went to "In the Heart of the Sea," and last evening it was Sam and I taking in "Star Wars."

Traditions, new and old, are cause to pause in gratitude today.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Meaningful Pace

Today I am grateful for a peaceful Christmas morning and time with family.

I have a long tradition of doing a holiday letter, starting during my mid-twenties and well before meeting and marrying Darcy. I never run out of things to say and like to try creative approaches like themes and acrostics. This year's letter seemed a little flat, but it has been a challenging year for me emotionally for a variety of reasons.  Tradition is important and I enjoy composing the letter and sharing it with family and friends.

Sadly, Christmas letters from others seem to be fewer each year. Everyone feels the time constraints and something has to give. I get it. But I would still love to hear from others about what the last year has brought to and taken from their lives. A picture only says so much.

I digress though. The point I wanted to make is that when I address envelopes to mail holiday greetings, I still write each address on each envelope by hand with my pen. I know I could save time by using our computer and address labels. 

Yet, when I take the time to write the dozens of names and addresses, it becomes an exercise in gratitude. As I write each of the names and addresses, I think about that person or that family. And I think how blessed I am to have these friends and family in my life.

It isn't always about speed and convenience. The pace of life can carry us along too fast and we miss things. Or, we can choose a meaningful pace.  Today, I will choose a meaningful pace and notice more along the way. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Adventurous or Slippery?

Today I am grateful for time with Darcy, sitting in our recliners, enjoying a cup of coffee. I am also grateful to be able to afford gifts and groceries at this holiday time.

The other morning we had a little dusting of snow on the ground. I went for a run early, in the dark, cautious with my steps. I quickly noticed that someone on a bicycle had been out earlier than I was. The single bike trail left behind by this mystery biker zig-zagged across the paved path in our neighborhood. Sometimes it veered off the path to the adjacent grass. At other times, I could see skid marks.

I wondered if this cyclist was out enjoying the fresh snow and an adventurous ride just for the fun of it or if it was a necessary trip in slippery conditions. Adventurous or slippery?

I wondered about my own life. Am I adventurous enough in the opportunities I pursue and the healthy risks I take?  Do I avoid slippery slopes like worry, fear, and overdoing?

The holidays can provide opportunities for some adventure, but they can also create some of those slippery slopes. Staying mindfully present helps keep me on the right path. Yet, I consider that I don't always need to be between the lines, or on the straight and narrow. At times, like that cyclist on a snowy morning, it is good to stretch beyond and find a little more joy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Less Wrapped, More Rapt (a.k.a. Joyfully Inquisitive)

Today I am grateful for my working sense of hearing and the many songs I love. I am also grateful for time shared with my friend Liz and her 17-month old granddaughter Victoria-who I would describe as joyfully inquisitive.

Let us all strive to be a little more joyfully inquisitive. I appreciate our grandson Leo showing me how to do this as well.

"Less wrapped, more rapt" is an original line I am pretty proud of.  It first came out of this writing self in 2010 for the essay referenced in yesterday's post. I thought it was a pretty clever use of words. But more importantly, I need to apply it in my daily life. It can be a more sane approach to the holidays too.

It seems that most people I know get caught up in the flurry of holiday activities at least to some degree. Some enjoy it and revel in it. Others get exhausted and depressed, but put on a happy face because they feel like they need to. Some enjoy finding gifts for others and giving them. Others feel that finding and giving gifts are a huge source of stress.

It is nice to give gifts, but we forget that gifts don't have to come in wrapped packages. I watched little Victoria interact with her surroundings yesterday. She expressed delight and curiosity at the simplest of things.

Expressing delight and curiosity at the simplest of things. A smile. A light. A change in scenery. What if I did that more?  What if we all did?

And it leads back to rapt attention. Pausing mindfully. Giving full attention to the moment. I am not always very good at this, but gratitude practice sure helps me do it more than I otherwise would.

In ways, technology is an attention-sucker and fragments our focus in many varied directions. More on that soon. Just for today, let's go with rapt and inquisitive. Delight in and be totally fascinated by this thing called life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Presence as Present: Revised

Today I am grateful for time with my friend Dorothy yesterday and for a walk through a labyrinth looking for and finding some faith.

At my great-nephew Arthur's baptism on Sunday, the priest gave a sermon I really appreciated. It could be summed up as "make your presence a present."  Don't get too caught up in what should be done and forget what really matters. Pay attention to who and what are right in front of you, right at this moment.

It reminds me of a quote by Sue Atchley Ebaugh:

"The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another's existence."

I also write about this quote in this post from August of 2012.

Rapt attention. It doesn't cost a dime, but it pays handsomely in strengthened connections and healthier relationships.

Rapt attention. A true gift. Less wrapped, more rapt.

Monday, December 21, 2015

12 Things 1200 Posts Have Taught Me

Today I am grateful for safe travels and time with my family to celebrate a baptism and Christmas. 

Today is post #1200 on "Habitual Gratitude." I pondered what that means to me and came up with these 12 things learned from 1200 posts:

1. Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied.

2. If life is what you make it, mindful gratefulness helps make it more and better in
the ways that truly matter-more peaceful and better perceptions. 

3. Gratitude and self-pity cannot coexist. I firmly believe that, but I can't 
convince you of it. Only you can do that, with your own actions and effort. 
That is the only way it works.

4. Write with readers in mind but try to keep ego out of it.

5. Gratitude is always possible, which means writing about gratitude is always possible.

6. Habitual is a word that often gets a bad rap (i.e. habitual offender, habitual user), 
but healthy habits are worth repeating habitually. (Besides, I like the fact that 
my sister Danita gave me the idea for my blog title.)

7. My blog has helped me connect and reconnect with many people.

8. Expectations of self and others can get me in trouble. Best to keep it simple. 
It doesn't get any simpler than right here, right now.

9. Speaking of simple, the most profound gratitude can flow from the simplest 
of things or moments.

10. I'm a better writer than I was 1200 posts ago.

11.Writing is a craft best honed with regular practice.

12. Life isn't always fair. True. Let us remember that also means 
we get far more gifts than we deserve.

Thank you to my faithful readers and to any and all who take time to read
any of my words. Have a good day!  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Guest Post: A Flood of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for a good report from my dermatologist and for almond bark. How is that for random?

I am also very grateful that my sister Zita has written a guest blog post for "Habitual Gratitude." I am the youngest of 8 girls in my family, so all my sisters led the way for me. (My three older brothers helped pave the way too.) Zita is just 3 years older than me so she was someone I was definitely keeping my eye on as I moved through my teen years. Thankfully, she's always been pretty even-keeled. 

She did lead the way in a way I wish she never had to though. She was the first sister diagnosed with breast cancer. She handled it with strength and grace. Little did we know then that my sister Mary Jo and I would also face that diagnosis.

Thanks Zita for your wonderful message below and for taking the leap into the blogosphere. Writing runs in our family and that is a good thing. I will be back next week as I am taking a blog break over the weekend. 

Flood of Gratitude
Here is a picture from a couple of days ago from our place in Iowa.  If you look to the back of the picture you will notice there is flooding happening with water going across our driveway.  



This is a very unusual occurrence for Iowa for the middle of December.  With gratitude, I thought of how lucky we are that we haven’t had to experience major flooding and also of how lucky we are that all the rain we received wasn’t snow.  If that was the case, we would probably be still digging out!
Then my mind went in another direction, while still in the flood theme.  With less than two weeks until Christmas, I have my moments of feeling flooded (so to speak) with things I would like to do before the 25th.  I think the majority of us have these moments at times.  It’s easy to get swept away with shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, cleaning, etc., all while keeping up with our regular daily business.
This is where practicing gratitude can help us to have our feet planted firmly in the true spirit of the season.  I am thankful that I have my health and the capability to be able to do the things I mentioned above.  I used to wish I could have gotten a lot more accomplished (flash flood).  In more recent years, I try to keep what I want to get accomplished more in the range of some areal flooding.  I want more of my time to be filled spending it with family and friends and am very grateful for any chance to do that. 
So, in these last days before Christmas, make sure you don’t try to cross where water is covering your path.  You never know what is below the surface and when you might get swept away.  Keep your feet planted firmly and remember the true reason for the season. Have a smooth flow of positive thinking. I think I heard the forecast . . . a flood of gratitude.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not Less of a Woman, Just a Woman Less Her Breasts

Today I am grateful for the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group, my friends there, and the newcomer we supported last evening.

I hadn't been able to make it to support group for months. I am glad I went last evening. Like any support group, we are more there for the new person than we are for ourselves. To see someone newly diagnosed, awaiting chemotherapy and many unknowns, helps me keep things in perspective.
I hope we helped her.

It is hard for me to grasp that it has already been seven years since I had bilateral mastectomies. Seven years ago today. I woke up with breasts that morning and went to sleep without them that night. It is hard to describe what that felt like both physically and emotionally.

When I woke up from surgery that day I did something that was very important to my healing, grieving, and accepting. I took a look at my chest, my new flat terrain. I didn't avoid it, I faced it. That has made a big difference as I moved forward from December 17, 2008.

I had months to decide what I would ultimately do about my breasts, one which had cancer in it and one which didn't.  It wasn't an easy decision, but I know I made the right one for me.

Seven years later, days go by that I don't even think about being breast-less. It remains a part of my healing and recovery though to continue to process the changing emotions that come. The intense ones don't visit much anymore, but I still remember the fear, the loss, the self-consciousness, the strange vacancy that I felt in those first days, weeks, and months.

Here is a link to a blog post from three years ago that shares some more of my emotional reflecting.

And I close with one of my own favorite original lines on the topic of being without breasts:

"I am not less of a woman, just a woman less her breasts." 

Life goes on and goes on with gratitude beyond measure. Grateful to be alive and living life fully. Grateful to be able-bodied and physically capable to do the activities I enjoy. Onward!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Big A

Today I am grateful for working heat and our dog Oliver. I am also grateful for a variety of "a" words that give me direction in life.

The landmark in the picture below is visible near my sister Danita's home. She has lived near this "Big A" for over 30 years. 



It is near Hughes Stadium, the football stadium for Colorado State University, home of the Rams. Before 1957, CSU was known as Colorado Agriculture and Mechanical College, or Colorado A & M for short. Teams were referred to as the Aggies. According to historical accounts, this "Big A" was first whitewashed onto this hillside in 1924.

It serves as a good reminder to me every time I see it. The first "Big A" that comes to my mind is ALCOHOLISM. Alcoholism and other addictions impact my life and the lives of many people I care about. One of my deepest gratitudes is to be on the recovery side of my disease of alcoholism. Just for today. I can take actions and focus my attitude on the right kind of thinking and I can stay on track. Daily work on a daily disease leads to daily recovery.

The next "Big A" that comes to mind is ACCEPTANCE. Acceptance goes hand in hand with my recovery from alcoholism. Trying to control an addiction is futile. So is trying to control other people, places, or things. That leaves me to center my efforts on the two things I can control: my own ATTITUDE and ACTIONS. That's it.

The good news is that with right actions I have a healthy attitude and I can accept life on life's terms.
One of my right actions is practicing gratitude on a daily basis.  Another is exercising regularly. Another is staying connected to others in recovery.

What are some of your right actions? Keep taking them!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wind-driven rain

Today I am grateful for our home, with all the quirks and flaws that come with it. I am also grateful to not only be alive, but to feel alive.

Yesterday there was plenty of wind-driven rain to greet me on my various outings. It could have easily been wind-driven snow this time of the year, but it's been a mild late fall. Either form of precipitation, when combined with a brisk wind, tends to be less than pleasant. 

I first stepped into the elements when I took Oliver for his first walk of the day. We kept it short but both of us still returned wet and cold. 

Then there was the trip across the parking lot and into school when I arrived at work. My hands were full, and the rain and stiff breeze continued. Thankfully, I had a hood and a brisk pace.

And that was after driving in the wind-driven rain from start to finish on my commute. Driving in the dark and rain has become more difficult for my aging eyes. It was two hands on the wheel and total concentration.

I could complain about it or accept it. I chose acceptance. Throw in some gratitude and there I was being thankful I could feel the cold and wet, thankful I could walk faster, thankful for my coat hood and a car that runs well and doesn't have leaky windows. Sure, I was gripping the steering wheel tensely, but at least I had a grip that works and a steering wheel to apply it to.

Something about that cold rain in my face and that wind buffeting my body made me feel more alive.
And that is where it all starts. To be alive. To feel alive.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Signs

Today I am grateful for holiday traditions and old family recipes. I am also grateful for my friends, old and new.

As my sisters and I navigated through two major airports and the surrounding areas last week on our travels, I was most appreciative of good signage. These places are huge and present many options as far as which direction to go. Without signs, it would be confusing and stressful. Thanks to the multitude of signs, we made our way from gates, to baggage claim, to ground transportation all pretty easily.

On my way to work after these travels and with signs on my mind, I realized that there was a new sign at the exit I take off the interstate to get to my job. Apparently the road at that exit got a name and number change. It was a bit disconcerting at first. Then I relaxed. It's not the name or number that matters, it's the road itself. That still takes me where I need to go. Things change, including road names and numbers. Go with the flow.

And then there are more profound signs. From nature. From deceased loved ones. From a Higher Power. Open minds and open hearts allow the signs to be seen.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Inviting and Letting

Today I am grateful for my son Sam's help yesterday with some grocery shopping and cookie baking, and the conversations we shared as we helped one another. I am also grateful I got to see our grandson Leo crawling. The curious little one is on the move!

I am also grateful for a phone conversation with my sister Aileen and that my husband Darcy is feeling better as he recovers from being sick.

This Pema Chodron quote was the "Word for the Day" on www.gratefulness.org yesterday:

"Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. Why? Because it is all we ever have." 

Then, when I got yesterday's mail, Aileen had sent me a card with this quote on it:

"Life is kind of beautiful if you just let it come to you."  (from the play "You Can't Take It With You")

This after my closing words in yesterday's post were "It all starts with an open mind and heart."

Is someone trying to tell me something? Apparently.

Go with it Lisa. Too often I don't go with the flow, I try to change the flow, I try to control what I have no business controlling. It is exhausting and futile.

In ways, 2015 has had many challenges and concerns, both in my own family and my extended family. Add my job to the mix, and I am definitely guilty of trying too hard. An open mind and heart allowed the messages above to get through. They allowed me to enjoy my time with Sam and Darcy yesterday because I wasn't as wrapped up in getting everything done. I was more interested in enjoying what I was doing at that particular moment.

Inviting the day ahead. Letting it unfold rather than causing it to unravel. Sounds like a good plan!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sharing the Simple and the Profound

Today I am grateful for the many steps I am able to take each day-walking, running, stairs. I am also grateful for the time I spent with my sisters earlier this week, and the conversations shared.

My sister Danita shared some of the moments from Roger's last days and his final breaths. Profound sharing. And we walked in the park below, which is near their home. She later told us that this was the last place Roger ever biked. He fell, was helped by others and able to get home, but he never got on his bike again. Damn dementia!


In the sharing, Danita is doing the grieving that is so very important. In the sharing, we get to literally and figuratively walk with her through some of it. Some of it is hers and hers alone. It has to be.

From profound sharing to simple sharing. More of those connections with fellow humans. I had to make a stop at the post office after work yesterday to mail a package. I was well-prepared with what I needed, including bringing along a "Sharpie" pen to put the address on the box. While I was finishing up, a couple came in to send some packages and they were getting them ready. I was paying when the woman came up and asked the clerk if he had a marker she could borrow. I said I happened to have one and I gave it to her to use. She gratefully borrowed it and returned it saying "I don't know what I would have done."  Sharing a Sharpie. Simple. Helpful.

What kind of sharing will I do today? What kind of sharing will I receive today?  It all starts with an open mind and heart. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Connections

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Colorado and for my travel companions-my sisters Zita and Ruth.

We went to Colorado to spend time with our sister Danita, whose husband Roger died on November 1. We also got to connect with our sisters Ann and Mary Jo, our brother-in-law Clay, as well as our nephew, nieces, and their families. It was important to connect in person. It was important to be with Danita and be able to talk about Roger's last days, but also his earlier days and his lasting imprint on those closest to him.

Below is a picture of the six sisters who were together earlier this week:



Connections come in so many ways. Danita connects with Roger by taking banjo lessons. We connected with Roger by walking in one of their favorite parks. We honored Roger's memory with a game of "zilch."

And then there are the broader connections. My sisters and I were browsing in one of the many fun shops in Old Town Fort Collins on Tuesday. A young woman, clearly mentally challenged, liked the bright color of my shirt (see photo above) as I walked by her. She reached out and rubbed my sleeve, a smile on her face. I smiled back and said "how are you today?" The adult with her gently admonished her, but I felt no discomfort. I said "have a nice day." Her smile was so sincere and sweet. It was a quick connection with a fellow human.

Today I will connect with my fellow humans and with a higher source of energy.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Taking a Break

Today I am grateful for running coach Jeff Galloway and his run-walk-run method.

Taking a break. That is what I will do on my run this morning. Every mile or so I will walk for 45 seconds. Giving my muscles a short break and a lower risk of injury. It is called "the Galloway method" and it works. The Galloway in "Galloway method" refers to Jeff Galloway.

The 1972 Olympian has gone on to become an author and coach, reaching many runners like Darcy and I. His book, Galloway's Book on Running, is a bestseller and sets out the run-walk-run method that has enabled many people to not only start running, but to go on to train for and complete distance events they never thought possible. And many do this without injury, without even much pain and stiffness.

Check out his website at http://www.jeffgalloway.com/about/

I didn't need to be convinced to start running. I needed to be convinced to stop. Competitive with myself and setting high expectations too, I had a hard time walking during a run. Until we tried it when we got to longer marathon training runs. I have learned it is more about the best way to cover the distance, and for me on runs over an hour that includes walk breaks. The run-walk-run method has allowed me to finish all 13 of my marathons better than if I had pushed myself to run every step. I am less sore and recover more quickly as well. Neither Darcy nor I has had an injury from our many miles of running.

There's a lot to learn from the run-walk-run method, applied to overall life. Taking regular breaks for our muscles, but also our brains and hearts, actually sustains us. It allows repair and perspective.

Taking a break. That is what I will be doing over the next few days. A break from this blog. But not from practicing gratitude. That is ingrained in my daily routine. Some days the gratefulness is more sharp, other days it is more stark, but it is always evident when I look for it. In the right mindset, gratitude is one of the easiest things to find. In the wrong mindset, it is elusive. I pick easy over elusive.

See you later next week. Have a good day!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Mysteries of Life

Today I am grateful for the mysteries of life-both those I can wrap my head around and those that seem unanswerable.

After reading the quote I used in yesterday's post, I pondered the mysteries of life a few times during the day. I started with ones that my non-scientific brain is awed and confused by:
-How does electricity really work?
-How do cellular phones work?
-How do all of these wireless connections actually operate?
-How can a computer that is barely a pound or two be capable of so much?

Those aren't mysteries to everyone, but they are to me. I do appreciate all of the above and the conveniences they provide. But it all scares me a little bit too. Computers are smarter/faster than people. Is this a good thing?

Which brings me to another mystery of life I was considering.  Our brains. Computers may be smarter and faster in ways, but they typically can't move themselves. We can. An instant message from my brain to my arms and legs and I am off and running. Literally.

Then there's the variety of voices and laughter. There are billions of people on the planet, and some may sound similar, but we all get our own distinct voice and laughter.  I think about the people I know and care about and how much their unique tones of voice can tell me about how they are doing. Amazing.

That's enough for now. That's plenty to be grateful for and further intrigued by. It motivates me to keep paying attention, and that is what gratefulness is all about.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rushing Headlong?

Today I am grateful for good music and for my husband Darcy.

This was today's "Word for the Day" at www.gratefulness.org:

"Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing 
for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day."
(Kent Nerburn)

Okay, let's be honest here. I rush headlong too often. If not physically, then mentally for sure. It doesn't sound like much fun to rush headlong, so why am I and so many others prone to it? Because of expectations of ourselves, because of expectations others have of us, because we want to get things right, because our world has become a very busy place.

Pausing to pay homage takes just a moment. I try to do that when I write in my gratitude journal each morning and when I start my day with a few set prayers. The challenge comes as the rest of the day unfolds. The pauses, the gratefulness, the prayers need to continue throughout. They are self-righting mechanisms to this over-achieving, excessively-driven person I can sometimes become. 

Those pauses remind me that I am right where I am supposed to be, that I am enough. They remind me that I am perfectly imperfect and so is every one else, just like it was meant to be. Lighten up!

The mystery of life. The gift of another day. How very humbling it is to just consider either one of those. And if I take it a step further and honor both the mystery and the gift by paying attention, instead of rushing headlong I am moving with grace. Not physical grace, spiritual grace.

Rush headlong or pause to pay homage?  We each have a choice to make today and every day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Randomly Random

Today I am grateful for being able-bodied and alive and I am grateful for warm milk on cereal.

Today's post consists of random thoughts flowing from a random brain...

*It's easy to forget how nice a smooth commute to work is, until you have one that is anything but smooth. I will spend the winter months appreciating every decent commute I get.

*There is always more to learn, no matter what the topic or context. Most of the time I find that encouraging, not discouraging.

*I don't miss hangovers. But I try not to forget how they felt.

*Ever since I lost my hair during chemo, in the winter months I find simple comfort in wearing my favorite hooded sweatshirt, with the hood up, around the house.

*December 1, 2015: Our brother-in-law Roger died one month ago.  Our nephew Brennan turned
16. Life is full of such dichotomies.

The best I can strive for is to live fully and thankfully today. That is enough.



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sparkling Sunshine

Today I am grateful for Leo's smiles and giggles and for a safe morning commute yesterday in treacherous driving conditions.

I also appreciate safe travels to visit Arthur and Alyssa over the weekend and the time we got to spend with them as well as Alyssa's parents. 

Add to that the nice meal Sam prepared for us and cleaned up after on Sunday evening as part of a school assignment. Good job Sam and the lemon chicken breasts and steamed asparagus were tasty!

I am not the sort of gal who likes sparkly things in my wardrobe and accessories. The exception would be the diamond rings my husband Darcy has given me. Otherwise I keep it mostly basic and rarely flashy. 

But sparkling sunshine, that I do go out of my way for. Sparkles like these:


It was a cold Saturday morning run, but the beautiful snow, frost, and sunshine combination made it worth bundling up and putting one foot in front of the other. It made it worth the pause to get my phone out, take a glove off, and take a couple pictures. Then we were off and running again.

Sparkling life. Blessed life. Close calls. 

Reading about those who die from metastatic breast cancer. Catching a news story about yet another drunk driver dying or killing. And I get to partake of sparkling sunshine.

Pay attention to the sparkles in your life today. The obvious and less obvious.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Moment in Time

Today I am grateful for rest, writing inspiration, and enjoying watching the Iowa Hawkeye football team win their 12th straight game. Go Hawks!

Since Arthur's close call the other night, I have pondered how many close calls we all have. A matter of seconds or minutes, inches or feet, can make all the difference in situations that can either turn out really good or really bad.

Yesterday I was on the way into our local health care clinic with my son Sam. He had a really sore throat and slight temperature, so we thought it best to get a strep test (thankfully negative). As we walked toward the entrance, I noticed a man on the sidewalk to my left. He slowed, appeared unsteady and put his arms out to his sides.

I was already moving toward him, asking him if he needed help, and was able to help break his fall and steady him against a tree. Sam and I held him up as a couple just arriving got out of their van. The man came to help us and the woman went inside the clinic to get help and a wheelchair. The man was by himself and told us he was just leaving the clinic after having his chemo port removed. We helped him into the clinic and staff took him from there. We went about the business of our day. 

I hope the man is okay. I am grateful things were timed as such that we could be at the right place at the right time. If no one had been there, he may have fallen down hard and hurt himself, or hit the tree that we used to help hold him stable. Moments in time. Seconds and inches. Minutes and feet.

I am but a small part in this amazing stream of life, but my part matters. So does your's. So does everyone's. Let us honor and respect our own place in the universe and everyone else's too.

I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Have a good day!  


Friday, November 27, 2015

Gobble, Gobble

Today I am grateful for an opportunity to both get a run in and help out a worthy community organization yesterday morning. I am also grateful for a friendly little game of Yahtzee with Darcy and Sam.

I always think of my dad when we play Yahtzee. It was a game he really enjoyed and we played it often when I went home to visit.

I was also, not surprisingly, thinking about turkeys and "gobble, gobble."

The run we did is called "Gobble Gait" and conditions were balmy compared to last year. It was well below-zero with a brisk wind last year. Yesterday it was still warm enough to rain. The organizers were able to announce before the run that they had surpassed the $1,000,000 fundraising mark this year, after starting small about 18 years ago. The event benefits our local family service. Great job to all who help carry out this wonderful Thanksgiving morning tradition!

The rain turned to snow and the snow gobbled up the grass in our yard as Darcy and I enjoyed a little time on our front porch watching the first snowfall of the season.

Then there was the turkey and other traditional foods that we sat down to enjoy later in the afternoon as well. I gobbled up what Darcy, with a little help from me, had worked to prepare. Then Sam and I tackled the clean up job.  And there are plenty of leftovers to gobble up as well.

Which leads me to a final thought for today's post. The leftovers will soon be gone and the snow will eventually melt, but gratitude is never all gobbled up. There is always more. Just breathe, pause, pay attention and you will find it.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Greatest Surprise

Today I am grateful for so many family members and friends who have nurtured little old me in so many ways over the years.

A recent "Word for the Day" at www.gratefulness.org was from one of my favorite writers on the topic of gratitude-Brother David Steindl-Rast. Here it is:

"The greatest surprise is that there is anything at all--that we are here." 

It seemed like a fitting quote to use on a day like Thanksgiving. Or on any day really. Being present in a body that we didn't create ourselves, though we have something to do with the maintenance of our earthly vehicle. An amazing body that has hundreds and thousands of working parts we were given just because we were born human.

To awaken, open my eyes and see. To command my legs to move over to the side of the bed and help get me up and they do. These are incredible feats of engineering and design. Shouldn't that surprise me at least some of the time?

And then there is the greatest surprise of life itself. Of all the close calls we all have had, some of which we didn't even notice. Others that may have scared us to our core.

My stepson Arthur had a close call last evening. He was involved in an accident that could have left him seriously injured or worse. He was able to get himself out of his vehicle and walk away from a totaled car. He is shook up physically and emotionally. Those of us who care about him are shook up too. Shook up about the close call. Shook up about how terrible it could have been.

I am so very grateful you get to awaken to a new day Arthur.

Life is precious. Life is fragile. Treat it as such. Today and every day. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Persistence Pays-In Exact Proportion

Today I am grateful for a warm enough morning to enjoy our front patio and a cup of coffee with my husband Darcy.  I am also grateful for a nice conversation with my son Sam.

This quote below makes me smile, both on my face and in my heart. Years with no results? I can't say I have ever experienced that. Persistence and perseverance are results in and of themselves.

"Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, 
one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul." 
(Simone Weil)

I know discouragement. I know "why bother?" and "does it really matter?" But I also know flooding of the soul with such a deep sense of awakening, a deep sense of grace. My soul. The human soul.

If I hadn't gained a healthier perception of myself, if I hadn't known a little peace from my self-defeating thoughts, maybe I would have given up. But it didn't take long into my gratitude practice, which I began in earnest 20 years ago, for me to know it was making a difference. 

I am not flooded with gratitude every day. Who is? But I know frequent and consistent positive upticks in my outlook on life when I persist in my gratitude practice. And by practice I mean awareness of the gifts in my life. Sometimes that translates into writing a thank you or giving a gift to someone, but day in and day out it is mostly about paying attention. 

The light is brighter on some days, but it is always there. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Heart to Hand

Today I am grateful for the wisdom I hear from others in recovery. I am also grateful to be a writer.

I have been doing less pen to paper writing for blog drafts and column ideas in recent months. I have the Blogger app on my phone and a free app that allows me to word process some document drafts on my phone as well.

Part of me appreciates the time I save. But another part of me is saddened by this trend. Writing saved my life in my younger years. It allowed toxic emotions a way out before they did me in or I did myself in. Pen to paper. Taking the physical action of writing with pen in hand on the paper in front of me gives more credibility to what comes out, and gives more freedom when released from my mind. Heart to hand.

Writing continues to enhance my life and help me embrace it more. In recent years, there has been more keyboarding on a computer or finger-pecking on my phone. It is not pen to paper, but it is still heart to hand.

I do look for ways to keep the pen in hand. I have a little book in my purse with a pen attached. I put ideas in when I think of them. Some days, I carry a piece of paper in my pocket. An idea has sprouted and I try to nourish it throughout the coming hours and days. It keeps my writing self close at hand, even in the midst of a busy day.

Whether pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, the vital part is heart to hand.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Putting Out Fires or Starting Them?

Today I am grateful for the soothing quiet of early morning and for time with our grandson Leo over the weekend.

I was pondering the idea of "putting out fires" recently as I thought about the busy pace of my job. Some days it does seem like it is about putting out fires, one after the other. The kind of fires you don't want to let burn, the kind that are best contained when small. The fires may have to do with students, parents, teachers, or any combination thereof.

But then I thought about how educating our young is supposed to be about starting fires. Fires of curiosity and motivation. Fires that need to be nurtured and protected until there is enough fuel to keep them burning strong on their own.

It seems a bit contradictory, all this talk of fires. But it really is the stuff of life. Positive or negative. Productive or nonproductive. Helpful or hindering. Warming us up or causing us to run from the heat.

Which kind of fire will I feed today?