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Showing posts from January, 2015

Yawn

Today I am grateful that yesterday I got to do something I hadn't yet. I am also grateful for the simple pleasure of a meal someone else made, shared in the company of pleasant people.

What I got to do yesterday that I hadn't done yet was see the inside of the chapel at the Benedictine monastery near the school I work at. What a beautiful and calming space. What a spiritually inspiring design. I hope to spend some more time there.

It was a busy week, leaving me exhausted. That brings to mind a fitting second "y" word-YAWN. We all know that yawning is an indication of being tired or bored. But interestingly enough, we don't know all that much about why we yawn. I did a little reading on it and was surprised by how mysterious some aspects of yawning are. One more recent idea is that yawning helps cool the brain. Or is yawning more about social interaction and is that why a yawn from one person will often trigger a yawn in another?

Animals yawn too. I don't thi…

Yet

Today I am grateful for a ripe pear and comfortable jeans. I am also grateful for my family and friends in so many different ways.

The A-Z trip through the alphabet that I have been taking is drawing to a close, but it's not done YET. I am approaching a thousand posts, but I'm not there yet. One post at a time, one day at a time.There are plenty of places I hope to travel to but haven't yet. One dream at a time. One trip at a time.

I have people I am worried about and praying for. I have job stress like many of us do. I have frustrations with finding time to do all the things I would like to do along with all of the things I must do. Yet, I am calm and content in this moment. Faith, gratitude, and mindfulness, all practiced with deliberate actions, make that peace possible.

I have been writing about gratitude for twenty years, yet I never run out of reasons to be grateful. I never cease to be amazed at the little things that truly make a day a good day. That cup of coffee.…

Xyst

Today I am grateful for a good presentation to parents last evening on the topic of "Gratitude and Positive Psychology." I am grateful for the parents who attended and for their input and comments.

XYST is an ancient word of Greek and Latin origin. In ancient Greek and Roman architecture, it was a covered portico. In ancient Roman villas, it was a garden walk planted with trees.

This brings to mind for me a particular road with trees on both sides that is located near my family's property in Iowa. The trees were planted over 30 years ago. Many times over the years, we have walked up that road while home visiting. Maybe there were other siblings home and we walked together. Maybe my husband and I went for a walk or a run. Maybe I was going solo.

Many times over the years. And slowly those trees grow. The changing seasons come and go each year. The trees are growing straight and tall. In the summer, the rows on each side almost join in the middle, creating that idea of a xy…

Xiphoid

Today I am grateful for the interest and joy I find in learning new things. I am also grateful for acceptance of my physical body.

XIPHOID, as in xiphoid process, elicits a variety of thoughts and feelings in me. It is a small, cartilaginous protrusion at the end of human sternums and the sternums of most vertebrates. It joins the sternum and rib cage and also serves as an anchor for the diaphragm. I recall it as a marker used to find the right location for chest compressions in CPR. There's another thing to be grateful for-CPR.

Think of the hundreds of various body parts that make up our complex, intricate, and fascinating skeletal, muscular, and organ systems. It is incredible how it all works together. Even the often forgotten xiphoid process has important roles and deserves our gratitude.

What am I forgetting in my own life that deserves my gratitude today?  I will try to pause from time to time during my day today to consider that question. It promises to be a busy day. All th…

Words

Today I am grateful for my fingertips working on the keyboard. I am also grateful for the plethora of words at our disposal.

Writers use WORDS. Singers use words. Everyone uses words. When you stop and think about how languages came to be and how they are translated and passed on, it is really quite amazing. How do I know and understand these words I just typed? There are over 400,000 words in the English language. That will give me plenty to talk about for years to come.

Some thoughts that come to mind, thoughts that only make sense because I have words to describe them, are:

*I am often surprised by what I might latch onto in the flow of writing, or what may come from a stream of inspiration. That is when writing really fires me up-when it just seems to come forth and pick up steam.
*There are always more words to learn. My vocabulary isn't too shabby, but it's certainly got plenty of room for future expansion.
*Words can wound if not chosen carefully, but they can also heal…

Writer

Today I am grateful for friends I can confide in. I am grateful for what wonderful ways writing has helped me.

I am a WRITER. I have been a writer since before I was a teen. It is only more recently that I have become a published and paid writer, with a monthly column called "Gratitude Flow" in our local newspaper for two years now. I get paid $30 a column. Prior to that, I had three op-ed pieces on the "Opinion Exchange" in the Minneapolis Star Tribune over a couple of years, and they each paid $100 apiece. (They stopped paying the $100 now, so my 4th piece was unpaid, but I am still so grateful it went in. The payment was just a bonus really.) I am not raking it in, but I am indeed paid and published.

I am also proud of the guest blog posts I have written for "Pink Ribbon Blues" and "Nancy's Point." Of course, the blogosphere makes it possible for anyone with access to the Internet to self-publish, but to have someone else feel my writing …

Vertebrae

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet today, a lovely run in the sunshine yesterday, and a nice birthday for Sam.

As I pondered my first "v" word-visceral-a second word came to mind-VERTEBRAE. They are two words that not only share a first letter. They share an important role in the lives of humans. They help us feel deeply, to move and be moved.

I am a physical being, a runner, active, trying not to take my health and physical capabilities for granted. But I must admit I hadn't thought directly about my vertebrae in a long time. A more formal definition of vertebrae goes like this: each of the series of small bones forming the backbone, having several projections for articulation and muscle attachment, and a hole through which the spinal cord passes. There's a reason why we use phrases like "they were the backbone of the team, the family, our business." Our backbone is vitally important and contains vital components of our central nervous system.

Wit…

Visceral

Today I am grateful for our son Sam on this, his 13th birthday, and for the positive experience wrestling has been for him over the last two years. I am also grateful for normal bloodwork from my recent check-up.

I often use the word bittersweet to describe how I feel on my child's birthday. I am so grateful for his healthy growth and development, for the young man he is growing into. Bittersweet has to do with how quickly the years go by, how rapidly he went from an infant nuzzling with me to this . . . a teenager, taller than both his dad and I, complete with the push for independence and a growly disposition at times.

Bittersweet. But VISCERAL too.

Visceral: relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect; instinctive, deep-down, deep-rooted. Also defined as "coming from strong emotions and not from logic or reason."  That pretty much nails parenthood doesn't it? Visceral for mothers because of the deep-rooted connection that started with conception,…

Umpire

Today I am grateful for laughter and humor amidst tense times. I am also grateful for my ability to type, even if I am self-taught and slow.

The word UMPIRE for me conjures up images of softball diamonds, an ump behind the plate and another on the edge of the infield. Softball was the sport I was involved in for the longest time as both a player and a coach. I did a little umpiring myself, but only informally and in a pinch. I preferred to leave that job up to someone else.

But I certainly appreciated the job the umpires did. Though we may have complained at times about inconsistencies in an ump's strike zone and calls we believed they had blown, we usually went about the business of playing or coaching the game and let them go about their business of umpiring. It was rare when we felt umpires may have been pivotal in a game's outcome. In my opinion, the game's outcome was more determined by player mistakes and successes, by missed or seized scoring opportunities, by the w…

Undertone

Today I am grateful for exercise and endorphins. I am also grateful for my oncologist.

After a meander back to the letter "Q" it's time to get back on track with a "U" word. An UNDERTONE is an underlying quality or feeling, undercurrent, atmosphere. It is a fitting word for today after I spent time yesterday at the cancer center where I am a patient.

Being over 6 1/2 years out from my diagnosis and just reaching six years on Tamoxifen, it had been a year since I had seen my oncologist. It was a milestone a year ago to be told I didn't need to come back for a year. That year sure went fast, and it was a healthy one. I am so grateful for the days and the health.

I have been with this oncologist since the scary beginning of my time as cancer patient. She is leaving the clinic I am at and I will miss her. I am grateful I was able to see her yesterday and to give her a handwritten thank you. I was surprised to get a hug as my appointment wrapped up. Dr. ________…

Quagmire

Today I am grateful for working heat again and for a visit from a retired colleague.

One more "Q" word wants to be written about in this alphabet run-through. That word is QUAGMIRE. Quagmire is defined best for me as a situation that is hard to deal with or get out of: a situation that is full of problems. Entrapped captures it too.

I was entrapped by self-pity for years, especially during my active alcoholism and in the early years of my sobriety. I was mired in the muck and quagmire of negative thinking and couldn't get out. Such thinking created many problems for me, and gave me plenty of reasons to stay stuck and keep drinking. It shaped an unhealthy perception through which I viewed myself and the world around me. The quagmire of my mind was a dangerous place. It isn't so dangerous anymore.

I used to get myself in the quagmire and not ask for help. Today, I ask for help. Sometimes even before I get stuck. Help from my Higher Power and from supportive people. Hel…

Questions

Today I am grateful to be here and now. I am also grateful for equipment parts that do the job they are supposed to do.

I typically have QUESTIONS every day. Questions for my husband or son. Rhetorical questions for our dog Oliver. Questions about the bigger meaning of recovery and life that I only share with myself or those who won't think I am crazy.

Then there are the "What if??" questions that come along in so many ways. We had a big "what if?" in our home Sunday night and yesterday. So big that it makes questions like "What is the meaning of life?" pale in comparison. It is more a question of "What is life?"

Life is precious. Life is fragile. In the scheme of the universe, life is fleeting. All those points came home to us loud and clear in a unique set of circumstances. I was the first to wake up yesterday morning. Nothing unusual about that. What was unusual was how cold it felt in the house. A quick check of thermostats on each level…

Quotes

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Today I am grateful for warm clothes, a hot cup of coffee, and the rising sun.

I was looking at my A-Z list yesterday and realized that I had forgotten about "Q."  I hadn't really forgotten, I already had some ideas for "q" words. I just forgot that "Q" comes after "P" and before "R."

So let's reel back to the letter "Q" and talk about QUOTES. Many quotes from many writers are littered throughout the 900-plus blog posts you can read here. There are even some of my own here. How to pick one quote to focus on in a post about quotes?

This is the one that comes to mind: "If it is to be, it is up to me." It is attributed to William H. Johnsen, though I couldn't find much information at all about Mr. Johnsen.

Interestingly, the quote is made up entirely of two-letter words. I am a fan of bigger, more complicated words. They seem more sophisticated and weighty. But this short quote full of short words is sophis…

Time

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my sister Ann and for the health care available to those who need it. We are so fortunate in this country to have the access we do.

Happy Birthday Ann! Each birthday is a reason to reflect and celebrate. It's the gift of another day.

The gift of another day. That is how I try to look at life each morning when I get up. Some days my brain is already on overload before I get out of bed, but that is happening less and less. I believe that is the case because I am practicing mindfulness and presence more and more. Gratitude practice has opened up the world of "right here, right now" to me. Amazing. Amazing grace.

Energy given to the present moment is never wasted. But energy spent spinning in yesterday's regrets or tomorrow's worries is wasted. Gone. I will never get it back. I have too much I want to do with my life, with this succession of moments, to carelessly squander precious energy.

So it is about TIME. This po…

Tipsy

Today I am grateful for the morning sunshine streaming in to our living room and for my ability to hear.

Apparently I am pondering my two diseases on my way through "T." It was Taxotere and cancer yesterday and today it is TIPSY and alcoholism. Tipsy. Slightly drunk. Unsteady or foolish from drinking. Or as defined by the Urban Dictionary: The state when you are drinking alcohol in which you are past light headedness but before being drunk.

Slightly drunk meant I was just getting started. You might hear a normal drinker say something like "I better stop, I am getting a little tipsy." I never said that and I never understood it. Tipsy was never a stopping point for me. It was a starting point. It didn't last long because I usually drank fast enough to move right on to drunk. I don't understand the idea of social drinking. I don't know an alcoholic, recovering or not, who understands that. It's laughable to us, and also elusive. It's part of our d…

Taxotere

Today I am grateful for a comfortable recliner to rest and read in and I am also grateful to have slept in a little this morning.

Time to head into the letter "T." TAXOTERE was one of the two chemotherapy drugs I was given over four treatments in the fall of 2008 for breast cancer. The other drug was Cytoxan. I received them through IV infusions. I took pre-treatment Decadron, a corticosteroid, prior to each round of chemo. Then I got what was a relatively new anti-nausea drug at the time-Aloxi-in my IV before they brought out the big guns.

I have never taken so many different drugs at the same time before or since. I am grateful that the Decadron and Aloxi, though having their own side effects, did a good job lessening the negative effects of the chemo drugs. And I am grateful for the Taxotere and Cytoxan, two chemotherapies well-established in the treatment of breast cancer.

Unlike the better known and more feared Adriamyacin, a.k.a. "The Red Devil," Taxotere an…

Savor

Today I am grateful for easy ways for big families to communicate, like texting and emails. I am grateful my mom is feeling better after an early morning trip to the ER yesterday.

SAVOR is a word that you will see referenced in the growing bulk of research on happiness, the benefits of gratitude practice, and other aspects of positive psychology. Savor. Relish. Enjoy. To enjoy something for a long time. People who are able to savor life as they go through their days are happier, healthier, more calm.

So I pause patiently and consider what I can savor: 

-moments like breathing in the air of a winter thaw
-memories like my son as a infant, sleeping on my chest
-tastes of my favorite foods, like pizza
-smells of home and a fire in the fireplace
-love given and received
-morning quiet
-a fresh cup of coffee
-the act of writing in my gratitude journal
-reading recovery wisdom
-the sweat rolling down my face
-my fingers on the computer keyboard
-putting on a warm sweatshirt

And the list goes o…

Scanty

Today I am grateful for my ability to walk, to put one foot in front of the other both literally and figuratively. I am also grateful for those who leave comments on my blog.

The word SCANTY caught my eye in this quote:

"A really thankful heart will extract motive for gratitude from everything, making the most 
even of scanty blessings." (J.R. MacDuff)

Scanty. Very small in size or amount. Meager. Skimpy. Sparse. Stingy.

Scanty is the opposite of words like abundant, bountiful, generous, plentiful.  But why is it that when I can see the scanty blessings, I live in abundance?

Because to notice the small things, the overlooked and taken for granted things, means that I have slowed down enough to actually live my life in the moment. And that is where the joy is. There is nothing scanty about a moment lived mindfully.

The moments and the little "joylets", as my sister Aileen has dubbed them, add up and my life has generous amounts of positive emotions and plentiful energ…

Respectful

Today I am grateful for perspective that only comes with mindfulness practice. I am also grateful for my comfortable workout clothes.

RESPECTFUL is the second "r" word I have chosen to blog about.This is a word we could all take to heart more. Regarding ourselves. Regarding others. Regarding this planet and all that lives on it.

I was having a conversation the other day surrounding "respectful fear."  It was a good reminder to me to look at how fear factors in to my day, my decisions. Fear can be pervasive if I let it run loose. There are rational fears and irrational fears. Respectful fear, to me, is keeping it in perspective. Where do I need to apply more faith? What do I need to let go of? What do I need to stop overthinking about? What fears can catalyze right actions and what fears can paralyze me?  Respectful fear.

These are some other words used to define respectful:
-humble
-deferential
-dutiful
-reverant

I typed that short list and then read through it seve…

Revealing

Today I am grateful for a warm and cozy bed and for my husband beside me in it. I am also grateful for my job and how it challenges me.

As I journey through the alphabet, my first stop at "R" is with REVEALING. This post has nothing to do with revealing secrets or revealing photographs. I don't believe I have any secrets that would be all that interesting and I certainly am not one for taking revealing photographs. The revealing I am writing about is "more will be revealed." Learning more about oneself, about those we love, about the mysteries of life.

By the time I reached a comfortable place in my adulthood, I had peeled back many messy layers I had accumulated over years of self-hatred, self-pity, perfectionism and active alcoholism. It took time before my true self was revealed to me. Today I appreciate it for the gift that it is.

For me, the revealing came slowly, with effort, and with a growing peace. But it was that effort and the time it took that helpe…

Pithy

Today I am grateful for Sam's involvement in and enjoyment of wrestling. I am also grateful for what I learn when I take the time to just sit for a few minutes.

PITHY is a word that showed up in my sister Aileen's poem the other day. Read it here. It is not a word I use often, but I find it to be one that I like to say and use now that I am.

Concise. Compact. Condensed. Brief. Pithy.

So here is a pithy post.

STOP!-so that you will not hurry past the gift this moment offers you.

LOOK!-so you will recognize this gift: the opportunity available now.

GO!- that means: Do something with this precious opportunity!

This wisdom is courtesy of Brother David Steindl-Rast. Read more about it here.  

Onward and keep it simple today.

Parka

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Today I am grateful for clean water to drink and for a warm parka to wear on bitterly cold mornings.

PARKA makes for a good blog topic today for my second "p" word. It is believed to be of Russian origin and the first known use of the word was in 1780. Merriam-Webster defines it as a very warm jacket with a hood. Here's a selfie of me with my own very warm jacket with a hood. I only bring this coat out on the really cold days. It does make a difference.


It has been cold across the country recently, even where it usually isn't that cold. In some places, a temperature around freezing seems extreme. To those of us farther north, 32 degrees sounds like a veritable heat wave right now. We have barely made double digits above zero during the day but have had double digits below zero to go along with even chillier wind chills in the 25 to 35 below zero range at night.
The parka in the picture is about 17 years old. I got it when I was an elementary school counselor in Sioux …

Plethora

Today I am grateful for my son Sam and what he teaches me about acceptance and patience. I am also grateful for my job and the variety it brings on any given day.

PLETHORA is a word I have always liked. It just rolls off the tongue in a unique way and it's definition-surplus, glut, a large or excessive amount-begs to be discussed in one way or another.

I am going to start with a perfect poem for this post, courtesy of my sister Aileen.
Thanks Aileen!

Plethora of Gratitude

Am grateful for the letter p
which provides punch
pop and pizzazz
to many words.
Pithy at times
persnickety at others,
plausibly
the most popular
productive and pleasing
letter.
Thank you P!  

You can find this and other writings from my talented sister on a blog she shares with a friend. It is called "Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events" and can be found here.

Grateful for a letter of the alphabet? Why not? Just reading the poem piques my interest, helps me pause, and points to the vastness of p…

Opulent

Today I am grateful for handwritten thank you notes to send to people in my life. I am also grateful for the poetry of other poets.

My husband and I are doing a 5-day cleanse to help us get back on track with weight and eating post-marathon and post-holidays. Today is day 5 and we are doing well, feeling good about our efforts, but ready for some of our favorites-like eggs and peanut butter. I am a little ornery too. Coming off sugar can do that.

So I am just ornery enough to take a word like OPULENT and put a different spin on it. Opulent means rich, luxurious, wealthy; having and enjoying really lavish and expensive stuff. I am concerned about how our society and culture seems to put too much value on achieving an opulent lifestyle, like that is the American dream come true. Dream come true? Or bad dream realized via overworking, jealousy, theft, and other nightmarish actions that hurt all involved?

Dig deeper and you will see these words used to define opulent: splendid, magnificen…

Ornery

Today I am grateful for other bloggers I enjoy following and for my five working senses.

Sometimes though, when my five working senses are on overload, I get ORNERY. What a fun and accurate word to describe me at times, especially when I am tired or have been on hyperdrive for too long.

Words used to define ornery include: bad-tempered, combative, stubborn, grouchy, grumpy, cranky, ill-tempered.

Face it. We all have orneriness in us and it will come out at times. Embrace your ornery side when needed. My goal is to keep it short and quiet. I usually fail at the quiet part, but my ornery spells do seem to be fewer and farther between.

For me, hangovers and orneriness went together. I was not fun to be around on those mornings. During my active alcoholism, even when I wasn't hungover, I was often cantankerous. I know now that those were my negative thoughts and feelings coming out sideways. I may have sounded angry at those around me, but I was really angry with myself and my choices…

Nine

Today I am grateful I was taught how to read and write at a young age. I am also grateful for coffee enjoyed in a cup given to me as a gift from a good friend.

NINE is fitting today as this blog post is post number nine hundred. What a gift this blogging journey and habitual practice have been for me. I could not have imagined at the outset, in late March 2012, that I would be here at post #900, and be here at a more humble and calm place.

In keeping with today's theme, here are nine things I have learned from
habitually blogging about gratitude:

1.Honoring your passion is a gift you give yourself. I used to get everything else done and then pick up my writing, other than brief journaling I did daily. That meant that most days I didn't get to write much. I start my day with this blog and I am a more content person for it.

2. Expectations and humility go together. Early on, my expectations had me hoping for more page views, more followers, more comments. That didn't materializ…

Neighborhood

Today I am grateful for working heat in our house and for quiet solitude in the early morning.

NEIGHBORHOOD is a word that first brings to mind the neighborhoods I have lived in. I think of the farm I grew up on and our neighbors down the road or through the field. We had some distance between us but could still hear one another's dogs barking. I think about the six years I had my own apartment in Spencer, Iowa where I was teaching. I liked the neighborhood because across the street was open space and a park, and the Little Sioux River flowed nearby. It was my longest place of residence in my adulthood prior to our current home. It's part of my history. We appreciate our current neighborhood because it is a friendly and safe one, and puts us across the street from a nice trail and open space.

The word neighborhood also gets me thinking about my mind as a neighborhood. Is it a safe place? Am I in good company there? It is a legitimate question for those of us in recovery from alc…

Mail

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my sister and for the little surprises that sometimes arrive via snail mail or email.

MAIL went from a pretty generic word referring to one type of mail-the kind that arrived on trucks or in the mailman's car and ended up in the mailboxes at the end of our driveways-to a word with multiple meanings and methods of delivery.

I recall in my youth the simple enjoyment and deliberate nature of getting the mail. It wasn't one person's job, but I would sometimes ride one of our bikes down the driveway to pick up the mail. Or someone arriving back from an errand to town would stop and pick it up. Our driveway was probably a good couple hundred yards long, so it took a little effort to bring in the mail. I rarely got anything in the mail, but if I did it was exciting.

Then email, electronic mail, entered our lives in the last two decades. It is a form of communication I do appreciate and find convenient. I don't mind the writing,…

Manure

Today I am grateful for time with recovery friends yesterday and for interest in and passion for the science of positive psychology.

I was considering "m" words to blog about when MANURE came to mind. For no particular reason, it just did. The farm girl in me smiled and I started typing. Interesting topic, this manure. Animal waste. Smelly stuff.

I grew up in close proximity to it from a variety of sources-cows, pigs, chickens. I recall helping clean out gutters in the barn, or the annual cleaning of the chicken house before a new batch of young chickens was moved in. It was just part of what we did and part of life on the farm.You wore boots and you changed clothes when needed. Fresh air was always just a few steps away.

But manure is more than smelly waste. Manure is good fertilizer for fields and gardens. It's an effective recycling program and one that has been used for hundreds and thousands of years. In fact, a wider definition of manure is any refuse used as ferti…

Leave

Today I am grateful for a calm acceptance that sometimes settles around me and within me. I am also grateful for healthy habits like exercise, drinking lots of water, and gratitude practice.

LEAVE is today's word.Leave before saying something to later regret. Leave an old and ineffective way of thinking for a more energizing and effective way. Leave an unhealthy relationship. Leave after a family visit. Leave before the weather gets bad. Leave out unneccessary details.

There are many ways to consider the word "leave." Today I am thinking about the unhealthy things I have chosen to leave behind over the years. Drinking alcohol. Smoking. Self-pity. Certain relationships. Living in fear and worry.

I didn't wake up one day and unload them all. It has been a process, a work in progress. And I have sometimes gone back to pick up something left behind, something unhealthy but enticing, something I wasn't quite ready to leave. It sometimes takes several leavings to create…

Loaded

Today I am grateful for the accomplishments of 2014 and the possibilities awaiting in 2015. I am also grateful for an enjoyable evening with my sister, her husband, my husband, and the band Foreigner.

LOADED as a blog topic came to me yesterday morning as I was walking our dog in the bitter cold. Maybe it came to me because I was loaded with layers to keep me warm. Maybe it came to me because I was reflecting on how loaded 2014 was with blessings, lessons, health. My thoughts eventually went to 2015 and how loaded it will be with opportunities. Opportunities to keep growing and learning. Opportunities to continue this gratitude practice that reaps such benefits for me.

On a lighter, but still loaded note, loaded also makes me think of things like pizza loaded with toppings, and loaded baked potato flavored chips; two foods that load my taste buds with delight.

On a louder note, the Foreigner concert we went to last night was loaded with one hit song after another, some great music and …