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Showing posts from February, 2015

Early Mornings

Today I am grateful for smooth-writing pens. I am also grateful for my dad and the difference he made in my life.

I always think of my dad on this day, February 28, his birthday.
We miss you and we love you.

Early mornings are typically my favorite time of the day. The house is quiet. I am refreshed from sleeping. I have always been a morning person. I don't see that changing. I enjoy the time with our dog Oliver, that first sip of coffee, a morning workout, and more.

When there is a lot to be done, whether work-related, family, writing or other, I will sometimes wake up earlier than my usual early. My brain engages and starts ticking off all the things I need to do, and the sleeping is pretty much done. There have been many mornings like that this school year, and most days this week were like that. I like my early mornings, but too many of them exhaust me.

I am a little exhausted and tapped out this morning, but one thing gratitude practice allows me is enough energy to face a n…

Some Sun and Some Grapes

Today I am grateful for my job, my co-workers, the students and parents I get to work with. I am also grateful for the week's end during a very busy week.

Yesterday I wrote about "the expansive exploration of spirituality."
The quote below from Galileo is fitting:

"The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen  a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."   (Galileo Galilei)
That is the essence of expansive spirituality. The amazing energy of the sun and a little bunch of grapes ripening. A God or Higher Power who can do all things but still takes time to remind me of my priorities.
Exploring my gratefulness is also an ongoing spiritual expansion. It does indeed unlock the great fullnes of life.

Spiritual

Today I am grateful for the spiritual growth I have had and continue to have. I am also grateful for smiles-my own and those of others.

Spiritual health is an area that used to confuse and frustrate me. At times I didn't care and I equated spirituality with religion, which I was tired of. At other times I wanted answers to tough questions. I wanted to understand what it took to find spirituality. Like many other things in my life, about the time I stopped trying so hard is about the time I started knowing my soul, the base of my spirituality.

Today I don't consider myself a religious person. The rituals and the regimen seem too narrow to me. I like an expansive exploration of spirituality. It is good to start from a place of humility. I take less for granted--things like my physical health, my recovery from addiction, the gratitude practice that encompasses all of it.

But some of the practices of my religious upbringing are a valuable part of my spirituality today. One of thos…

Emotional

Today I am grateful for the peace that can be found in silence. I am also grateful for a closet full of clothes.

Thoughts and prayers for my brother-in-law Clay as he recovers from extensive surgery.

Emotional health has to do with feelings, the whole range of feelings. Life will give us plenty of ups and downs, triumphs and struggles. Emotional health means I acknowledge that range and honor the variety. Painful emotions are just that-painful. But if we never knew pain, how could we appreciate joy?

Some will go to great lengths to avoid pain or protect others from pain, and in actuality create more pain for everyone around them. Emotional pain is a powerful motivator. It can tell us it is time to leave an unhealthy relationship. It can tell us it us time to get sober and make healthier choices. It can tell us acceptance is the answer.

Some will search endlessly for joy and happiness and miss the joy and happiness right in front of them, here and now. We shouldn't have to chase j…

Mental

Today I am grateful for people who care about me and people I care about. I am also grateful for healthier thought processes.

Mental wellness has to do with my thought processes and my thoughts. Are my thoughts negative and defeating or are they positive and forward-moving? Can I think clearly or do I get hung up on a few thoughts and keep replaying them? Are my thoughts calming me or agitating me? These are all useful questions.

When it comes to my thoughts, I used to be my own worst enemy, and then some. I got really good at beating myself up. I finally learned a key lesson-whether you think you are worse than others or better than others, those are both functions of ego. (And even though I hated myself on some levels, I also had self-righteousness that told me I was right and someone else wasn't.)

It has taken training, effort, and time to shift my thoughts from less healthy and irrational ones to more healthy and rational ones. The work continues, but I feel confident saying t…

Physical

Today I am grateful for my physical body-scars and imperfections, working limbs and joints. I am grateful this earthly vehicle allows me mobility and an active lifestyle.

It promises to be a full week and I will need plenty of energy to move through each hour, each day as the week goes on. Much of the busy pace has to do with work. The student group I advise is sponsoring Wellness Week 2015 this week. The group has done this for several years now, bringing focus to and raising awareness about overall wellness. Focal points range from eating healthy, to stress reduction, to depression awareness and suicide prevention, to exercise.

Teens and people of all ages can benefit from consideration of how our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are interrelated. I likened wellness to a 4-legged stool in this post a year ago. It is something I have come to know and appreciate more in recent years, and for me it is all tied together with gratefulness.

So today let's consider phy…

Catching Myself Composing

Today I am grateful for our living room recliners and sharing time with my husband Darcy there. I am also grateful for the time we spent on our front porch yesterday afternoon-sunshine and 23 degrees was inviting enough for us.

On my gratitude walk yesterday, I started composing the blog post you read yesterday, thinking about what I could write and how I could say it. I was getting ahead of myself and had to bring myself back to the present moment a couple times. The point and purpose of gratitude practice is mindful presence. I have to continually hone this skill. Even in the midst of honing it.

At least if I am going to get off track and wander outside the present moment, it is better to be thinking about gratitude in some capacity rather than the other thoughts that can rob me of any peace and serenity. I used to be good at creating a pretty negative stream of consciousness that reeked of self-pity and self-hatred. I wasn't good at catching myself composing at those times, and…

A Gratitude Walk

Today I am grateful for a slower-paced weekend and for the rejuvenation I find in early morning quiet.

I took a gratitude walk this morning and here were a few things I put on my gratitude list:

*The "warmer" temperature. It's all relative and 21 degrees felt warm to me.
*The companionship and quirkiness of our dog Oliver.
*The street lights.
*A trail to walk on.
*The shimmers and glitters of the light snow that fell overnight.
*Having mobility and limbs that all work.
*Enjoying the quiet of a weekend morning and less traffic.
*Not having to push my pace like I often do on a weekday morning.
*Being able to keep my mind present, versus a weekday when my mind
    is often ahead of itself and thinking of work.
*Breathing in fresh air.
*Our house as start and end point for my walk.

Keeping it simple this morning. I hope you have a chance to take a gratitude
walk today too.

Happy 84th!

Today I am grateful for safe travels for my husband Darcy this week and I am grateful for my mom.

Today is Mom's birthday. She is 84. It is mind-boggling to consider the ways that things have changed since 1931, the vast history that has unfolded. I wonder what it feels like to her.

I am grateful to Mom for many reasons, starting with the obvious. She brought me life. She and I have a common passion for recording our lives in writing. I write more about thoughts and feelings. She writes more about happenings, weather, events. But we both write. We both enjoy nature and the changing seasons and walking. Between her and Dad, they instilled many good values in us: respect, sharing, giving, a strong work ethic, a sense of humility, a focus on faith.

I called my mom last evening and we had a nice chat. In recent years we have had family gatherings to celebrate Mom's birthday, but this year we are skipping that. After a health setback in January, she isn't up for it. She will li…

That First Entry Twenty Years Ago

Today I am grateful for exercise's calming effect on my body and mind. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy.

I was looking at my first gratitude journal the other day, a gift from my good friend Terrie for my birthday in July of 1994. It wasn't until February of 1995 that I started using the journal as she had suggested-as a gratitude journal, as an effort to pull myself out of the pit of self-pity I felt so comfortable residing in.

On February 12, 1995 I wrote my very first entry and it went like this:

"Today I've been grateful for people who understand alcoholism.  I'm grateful for choices." 
I remain grateful for both today. And I appreciate that one of the people who understands alcoholism better is me. I didn't understand this disease when I first got sober. Others taught me and showed me by sharing their own experiences and the hope of recovery. And understanding my disease does not mean I have it "figured out." It means I have some idea …

Going Deeper

Today I am grateful for my hearing and my other senses. They are all in working order. I am also grateful for push-ups and sit-ups.

In ways it is good to be in the same place I was, as I blogged about on Monday. If I were at the same place in all areas of my life, however, I would be stagnant, complacent. I would not be growing and learning and I prefer to keep growing and learning as a person, as a unique individual, as my life unfolds.

That means going deeper. Deeper into my writing. Deeper into my relationships. Deeper into my faith. And it means work. Hard work. But as I say in my blog profile:

"A recovering alcoholic since 1989 and a breast cancer survivor since 2008, I work daily at recovery from both of these life challenges. But I also work daily at living life to the fullest. Gratitude is a significant part of that work. It is the best work I do, because the dividends are consistently positive. I am prone to self-pity and fear, so faith and gratitude are good antidotes. I…

New Glasses and Clean Teeth

Today I am grateful for a nice run in lightly falling snow yesterday, and for an extra day off from work. Add to that new glasses and clean teeth.

I was overdue for an eye appointment when I went a couple weeks ago. It had been almost three years. I also could tell that an updated prescription was likely. I was right. My eyes are healthy overall and the correction change needed isn't huge, but it is helpful. Yesterday I got my new pair of glasses, my second pair of progressive lenses. My distance vision hasn't changed much. It was the closer reading and computer work where I could tell I needed a little boost.

I am grateful for insurance coverage and good providers locally. There are millions of people who don't have access to regular health care, much less a new pair of glasses. I am also grateful for a style change and a bit of a new look.

It was also time for Sam and I to go in for our 6-month dental visit. I was commended on my home care and the cleaning went smoothly.…

The Same Place I Was

Today I am grateful for chocolate and recovery and a growing faith.

Speaking of recovery, I ran into a recovery friend I hadn't seen in a few months at the grocery store yesterday. It was nice to see her and get caught up a little. When we parted ways, I said something about "being at the same place I was at."  I was referring to my phone number if she wanted to call or text. But as I walked away I realized it meant more.

I am at the same place I was a few months ago in terms of stability; my home and family, my phone number and address, my recovery, my NED (no evidence of disease) status as a breast cancer patient, my blogging and column-writing, my goal to run another marathon. I am grateful for all of these and the peace of mind that is possible because of them.

But I am not at the same place in other ways. I am learning more about myself as I age. I am learning more about gratefulness and how to live it out daily. I am growing in my faith and in my own recovery. I am…

Delays and Denials

Today I am grateful for the sunshine and blue sky that takes the edge off a cold winter day. I am also grateful to be able to help some friends who are moving to our neighborhood.

I still have thoughts of Valentine's Day in my head, and chocolate on my breath. In thinking about how and when Mr. Valentine came into my life over 17 years ago, I recall a breakfast out with a friend a few months before I met Darcy. This friend was a co-worker, supportive, a good listener. I had had a few dates in the prior months and none had panned out much. I'm sure I was feeling a little sorry for myself and looking for some sympathy, but by then I had also come to a better place with how I felt about myself and life. I had come to some acceptance, but patience was more of a challenge.

As we left the restaurant and went to pay, my friend Elli noticed the day's quote on a perpetual calendar and pointed it out to me. It simply said:

"God's delays aren't necessarily God's denia…

A Valentine Message from a Valentine

Today I am grateful for the loves in my life: family and friends, running and writing to name a few.

Happy birthday wishes to my brother Artie today! And a thank you to him also for the time he spends showing my son Sam the farm life when we come and visit.

Today's message is my most recent "Gratitude Flow" column that runs in our local paper. Enjoy the read and enjoy and appreciate the loves in your life today and every day.

“A Valentine Message of Gratitude”
February rolls around and Valentine’s Day comes to mind. The history of the holiday is a bit muddled, but there is no doubt that today the holiday is “heartily” celebrated all across our country. The origins of the holiday may stem from both pagan and Roman traditions. There were reportedly several St. Valentines. A common story mentions a Father Valentine who secretly married couples after the Roman emperor of the time banned all marriages, wanting soldiers to focus on fighting only. Did grateful couples pass notes …

Make Good Use of Your Energy

Today I am grateful for laughter with my husband Darcy and for clean air to breathe.

Yesterday on my way to work I came up behind an SUV and on the back window was the message "Make good use of your energy." I liked that thought. It's a good wellness message. I was thinking about how gratitude practice helps me make better use of my energy, as does a good dose of acceptance and letting go of what is beyond my control. (A.K.A. everything other than my own attitude and actions.)

Then I switched lanes to pass the SUV and on the side of the driver's door was the name of a business having to do with "Electric."  I smiled to myself. What I had thought was a nice wellness message was more meant to be part of a moving advertisement. It doesn't matter. It can serve both purposes.

I got two shots of gratitude from that vehicle yesterday morning. The mindfulness reminder about how I want to best use my energy throughout the day and a reminder of how grateful I am …

A Pause Here, A Pause There

Today I am grateful for hooded sweatshirts and for several worthwhile pauses in my day yesterday.

Yesterday I made a point of following my own suggestion from yesterday's blog post:
"To be fully alive in more moments today I will consciously pause in gratefulness."

Because I tend to get caught up in the day pretty quickly and forget my own best intentions, I need visual reminders. I had a portion of yesterday's post printed out and I took it with me to work and kept it near my laptop. That allowed me to remind myself to pause, just pause, several times during what was a really busy work day. I had already done it a couple times at home before leaving for work too.

It may have been five or six pauses, and in total it was mere seconds and minutes, but it made a significant difference in my day. The pause gave me a second to slow down and consider what I was grateful for in that simple moment. That brought me back to a better place of balance, helped me regroup, reminde…

Alive in Those Moments

Today I am grateful for laughter and smiles and how they warm the heart and soul. I am also grateful for clean drinking water.

A recent quote on www.gratefulness.org's "Word of the Day" was from author and playwright Thornton Wilder:

"We can only be said to be fully alive in those moments when our hearts  are conscious of our treasures."
Fully alive. Living life fully. That is what I aspire to each day. That doesn't mean full steam ahead, 110% of the time. It means being fully present as the day unfolds. At times, that is a slow pace or a pause. At other times it is a more rapid pace of thoughts and/or actions. Fully alive means appreciating the different pacings of the different tasks of the day.
Sadly, I see people who appear to be caught n the "110% all the time" and the misperception that being busy equates with living life fully. They look and sound exhausted and frazzled. I recognize them because that is me a times. Gratitude practice has taug…

TLC

Today I am grateful for my ability to hear and the many ways my hearing reminds me of my good fortune-hearing the voices of loved ones, a favorite song, or the morning quiet.

TLC. Tender loving care? Not a bad approach to how we treat those around us. Not a bad idea for how we should treat ourselves either. From someone who has long been toughest on herself, long been her own worst critic and enemy, I will remember to apply TLC today.

But there's another TLC I want to write about. One that I am very grateful exists. TLC. Total Life Care. Here is a description from their website:

TLC Options for Women is a life-affirming, non-profit organization that assists 33 affiliated Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs), in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. These Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) help people facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies by offering total and compassionate service, extending God’s love to women and men, and encouraging them to make the loving choice — the choice for LIF…

Robots at Work

Today I am grateful for the connections I have with other people in recovery and how they teach me. I am also grateful for the enjoyment of watching the first middle school theater production at the school I work at. Nice work to all those involved!

I want to wish my sister Zita a "Happy Birthday!" today. I am grateful to have you as a sister. We go way back don't we?

Now back to those plant tours at John Deere. We saw several robots in action and several others that didn't happen to be in action at that time but are regularly used. I found them to be both fascinating and a little concerning. A few things struck me about the robots as I watched them and continued to ponder their role over the next couple of days. They are incredible machines. Some big. Some small. They were being used for various jobs including cleaning engine parts and painting chassis.

Some of the advancements in robotics are refining surgeries on humans. They are also providing incredible opportun…

John Deere

Today I am grateful for safe travels, a good run in my hometown yesterday morning, and an enjoyable family day on Friday.

We traveled to Waterloo, Iowa to take our son Sam on tours of two different John Deere plants there. Both facilities are expansive. One was over a million square feet, the other was over 2 million. We got to ride on a modified golf car at one and a cart pulled by a John Deere tractor at the other. Safety glasses were required, and we got headsets to hear the tour guide amidst the noise of a working plant with lots of heavy equipment.

Sam is interested in all things farming and is considering something agriculture-related as a career. My husband Darcy got the idea for these tours and looked into it weeks ago. You have to be at least 13 to go on the tours, so it became a fitting birthday present for Sam.

It was nice to have the family time together too, and to take a break from school and work for a new experience for all of us.  I am grateful that we did it and the …

Wearing Jeans

Today I am grateful for the stopwatch on my cell phone and for the
comfortable nature of jeans.

I have been thinking more about jeans in recent weeks because my son has just started wearing them more recently. For years, he was not a fan of jeans. He preferred the athletic pants of various styles. I would have preferred he mix some jeans into his wardrobe rotation, but I didn't fight it. I knew sooner or later he would want to wear jeans. So when he turned 13 and we suggested shopping for some jeans, he didn't balk. He now has two pairs he's been wearing and I think about it each time I wash his jeans, hang them to dry, then fold them.

All in good time. All in good time. Patience rather than pushing. I could use that lesson in many areas of life.

I am also grateful for my pairs of jeans, the couple that stand out as my current favorites, and the comfort and ease they seem to carry with them.

What are you grateful for today, jeans or other?
I will be taking a blog break …

A Fresh Coating

Today I am grateful for a safe commute home in the snow yesterday afternoon and also for the beauty of that fresh coat of snow.

I have always liked snow. The quiet beauty. The brightness. The way it cleans things up after the last snowfall has become brown and dirty in many spots. I like walking in falling snow. It's a spiritual experience for me if I take the time to be present in that moment.

The drawback of snow is having to drive in less-than-ideal conditions. By this time of the winter, we have all gotten better at our winter driving skills and also at giving slippery roads the respect they are due. When the roads require slower speeds, it is a good reminder to me to slow down in my daily life, to just breathe, to be there in the moment, watchful and cautious. But also full of wonder to be experiencing that moment.

I also like shoveling snow. I am so grateful to be able-bodied and alive and I try not to take things like shoveling snow for granted. I don't consider it dru…

Some Different A-Z Lists

Today I am grateful for smooth-writing pens and indoor plumbing.

I enjoyed the latest A-Z words that I blogged about in recent weeks. From "Average" on December 5 all the way to "Zero" yesterday.  When I am in gratefulness mode, my days don't feel just average or boring. They feel energizing and positive, an hour at a time. When I practice gratitude, my A-Z lists or any other way of practicing gratitude, tends to be above zero.

I think of other A-Z lists like one that could include my siblings-from Aileen, Ann and Artie all the way to Zita. I don't have 26 siblings, but I do have 12 and we cover a few letters of the alphabet. Between us we cover a lot . . . of miles, of different career paths, of our own families, of triumphs and struggles, of shared history and our own unique paths. I am grateful for each of my siblings and our decades of life experience.

Another A-Z list takes me back to my days of teaching Iowa history. I used a book titled From Ackley t…

Zero

Today I am grateful for the longer daylight as we head into February. I am also grateful for a nap yesterday and a phone conversation with my sister.

This most recent A-Z blogging journey is about to wind down. I guess that makes ZERO a fitting word to end with.

Zero has these and other definitions:
-a quantity of no importance
-a mathematical element that when added to another number yields the same number
-the point of a scale from which positive or negative numerical quantities can be measured

Zero can be considered a starting point. For most of my life, I had run zero marathons. When my husband and I were 39 in 2004, we ran our first in Chicago. We are now up to 12 completed marathons with current discussions of where we may run #13 this fall. Every marathon starts at mile zero. The starting line.

I began my days of recovery at zero. I had my first sober day and then I kept having them, with the ongoing help, support, and wisdom of many others and a Higher Power. From zero to one …

Zucchini

Today I am grateful for the various resources and support services our community offers. I am also grateful for the thought of fresh garden produce to give me hope of warmer days on a snowy and blustery winter morning.

In fact, some fresh ZUCCHINI squash sounds good right now. I have always been a fan of zucchini and other summer squashes, and also acorn and butternut squash and the other fall varieties. When I think of zucchini, I think of zucchini bread, and I also think of a pasta dish that we like to make when we carb-load before a long run. It has zucchini, eggplant, and chickpeas among other ingredients.

Thinking of squash and other produce also conjures up images and memories of the large garden we had when I was growing up. I didn't mind working in the garden, though some jobs were more desirable than others. Weeding was okay, for a while. We had a push plow that could go between the rows. I liked doing that. When it was time to pick the peas or the beans or the strawberri…