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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Hills Are Alive

Today I am grateful for my co-workers and our shared experiences, for the work ethic I was taught by my parents, and for new green life.

On my commute to work, I cross the Mississippi River and head up a long hill out of town. That hillside has been gray and brown for months. I have been itching for green and it is getting here. The daylight is coming earlier, so when I headed to work on a sunny morning yesterday it looked like those riverside hills and bluffs were indeed alive-alive with green. It has been a beautiful last few days. The green is fresh and vibrant and one of my favorite things about this time of the year.

A few minutes after appreciating the hills of green, I had NPR on my radio to catch the news headlines and heard the latest on the earthquake in Nepal. It was such a shift . . . from the hills are alive with green to the hills are a place of . . . devastation, disaster, death, injury, grief, need. Such a dichotomy. Such a shift.

The death toll is over 5,500 and expec…

Caterpillars and Butterflies

Today I am grateful for the transforming that has and continues to take place in my life. I am also grateful for time with our grandson and for my stepdaughter's perseverance.

The "Word for the Day" on www.gratefulness.org last Thursday was:

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." Margaret Fuller
What came to my mind as I let it brew on this quote over the last few days were words like transformation, evolving, metamorphosis. I love words and their intricacies. 
Transformation means a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. Evolving means developing slowly, especially from simple to more complex. Metamorphosis means changing into a completely different form or person. All of those definitions fit the caterpillar/butterfly scenario.
Applied to my own life, two of those three words apply better than the third. Recovery from alcoholism and gratitude practice have helped me thoroughly transform into a heathier …

Missing Silver

Today I am grateful for the connections I have with others in recovery. I am also grateful for a nice evening to watch my son's first baseball game of the season.

Sam's team won in a long, up and down game. It was to be expected early in the season. I appreciated that after falling behind right away, the team kept plugging along and didn't give up.

Keep plugging along and don't give up. That is sound advice in many ways. Gratitude practice allows me to better follow that advice because it energizes me and gives me clarity about priorities and what I should do next.

I came across this saying the other day:

"Too many people miss the silver lining because they are expecting gold." (Maurice Setter)
This really resonated with me because it is what so many of us do with gratitude, me included. We miss the many small gifts throughout the day or week, while holding out for a promise to be fulfilled, for the news to be good, for the money to be there, or whatever else …

I Have a Confession

Today I am grateful for time with family yesterday and for good salads to make and share.

A special thank you to my sister Zita and my mom for making the trip up to visit us yesterday. It was really good to see you and we are glad you got to meet the newest addition to our family-Leo.

I have a confession to make. To myself. To anyone who read yesterday's post. Moving meditation is a good practice for me, but it is also a bit of a trap when I am not careful.

I love to be efficient with my time. I am busy and always have many things I hope to accomplish in a day's time. It doesn't hurt to be an effective manager of time, but I have to use caution. Yesterday morning part of my motivation for moving meditation was to save time. I wanted to go for a run at some point, the dog needed to go out, I needed my prayer and meditation time. Let's combine all three Lisa instead of doing them each separately.

That's my confession. That's what I mean when I say I am making pro…

Running Meditation

Today I am grateful for the fresh air of this beautiful morning. I am also grateful for the healthier thoughts that are present in my mind when I am present in the moment.

This morning I woke up with some soreness in my legs from yesterday's run. Our dog Oliver needed to go out. The daylight was just arriving. It was a good morning for some moving meditation. Most mornings I try to practice some humility by praying on my knees. But moving meditation works too.

The steady footfalls of my feet, the birds singing, the changing light, and Oliver's predictable behavior all served to bring peace to my mind and energy to my body. As I run, I say some of the prayers I typically say. And I pray for others. I always pray for those I know or know of who are current or ongoing cancer patients. I pray for those suffering from alcoholism and other addictions. I pray for family members and others who are facing challenges of any kind.

It's a long list when I am done. It gives me perspec…

Raindrops Rolling

Today I am grateful for sound sleep for a few hours last night. I am also grateful for the awareness that even when I don't feel very grateful practicing gratitude can still be a helpful pursuit.

I am emotionally tired this morning and weighed down by some worries and concerns surrounding both family and work. But I also have many things I am looking forward to as well.

Yesterday I got to see my good friend Jill for a short visit. Our schedules don't allow the regular time together we used to have and I miss that. I enjoyed our conversation yesterday though, and her reminder to me as I left to "just breathe." Read a post about that here.

It stems from a time in the midst of chemotherapy treatment when Jill and I were meeting at our usual spot. It was one of those heavy days for me. When I rolled into the parking lot she was already there. Her windows were down and Anna Nalick's "Just Breathe" was playing on the radio. Just breathe Lisa. Just breathe. It…

Let It Be . . . Here I Go Again . . . Maybe I'm Amazed

Today I am grateful for ears to hear with and eyes to see with. I am also grateful for the multitude of songs I have loved over the years.

The inspiration for today's post came from random songs I heard on the radio yesterday. One while I was driving, the other two while I was out running. I thought about linking to YouTube videos of each song, but I decided to skip that part. If you know any or all of the songs, you can recall them in your mind, maybe start singing some lyrics, and enjoy an internal moment instead of an external one. That in itself is something to be grateful for.

"Let It Be" by the Beatles came on my car radio while I was driving home from work. That is one of my favorite songs from the "Fab 4." It was a fitting song. Busy day-let it be. Personalities and pressures at work-let it be. More to do than time to do it-let it be.

Let it be. Gratitude practice. Pause. Notice the gifts.

It was a beautiful day for a run yesterday, the best weather day…

Sunshine

Today I am grateful for my son Sam and the opportunity to be his mom. I am also grateful for my favorite sweatshirt.

After several cloudy, cold, windy days in succession, complete with some snow, we welcomed the sun back to our neck of the woods yesterday. It was still chilly, but the brilliant sunshine gave me hope that the warmth will soon follow. Soon is a relative term, but it is safe to say that in the coming months I will write about extreme heat and humidity and wish for a cooler day like the ones we have been having.

The Sun is a most interesting and amazing marvel when you think about it. It's another one of those things we take for granted. We wouldn't be here without it, but how often do we pause in gratitude for it?

Here are some interesting Sun facts:
*One million Earths would fit inside the Sun.
*The Sun is middle-aged at about 4.6 billion years. It has enough hydrogen left to
burn for about another 5 billion years.
*It takes 8 minutes for light from the sun to re…

Getting Pelted

Today I am grateful for simple messages with profound implications. I am also grateful for a run in some wind-driven snow yesterday.

Yesterday I heard someone scoffing at "one day at a time."  It was just a passing comment and not directed at me. In hearing it, however, I had a surge of gratitude that I don't feel that way. I'm not a scoffer. I try to live it. Simple message with profound implications. Simple idea. Harder to do. But it can be done. Mindfulness, via gratitude practice, helps make it possible to leave yesterday's regrets and tomorrow's worries in their place and give my energy to today.

About that wind-driven snow. We have had a fairly decent spring, but not this week. It has been unseasonably cold and windy. And it was snowing on and off yesterday. Darcy and I headed out for a run in the midst of intermittent snow squalls. At one point we were heading straight into the wind and getting pelted with a snow and sleet mix. It wasn't fun, but y…

The Journey of a Thousand Posts

Today I am grateful for daily recovery and living. I am also grateful for this blog as I hit the milestone of 1000 posts.

The journey of a thousand blog posts begins with one post. That was just over three years ago. I am amazed that I have reached this blogging milestone feeling the way I feel and so very grateful to be learning what I am learning. I have no intention of slowing down.

I am learning that the layers of mindfulness and gratitude are truly endless. I will never perfect this practice and that is the point-to simply continue to practice.

A quote I really appreciate is this one, attributed to James C. Penney:

"Only the disciplined are free." 
Discipline. That is what it takes to compose and publish blog pieces about gratefulness and practicing it in my daily life. To be habitual about this, or anything healthy and sacred, takes discipline. The freedom has especially come in via the energy this practice and the writing involved create. And also the freedom I feel as…

How Can I Help?

Today I am grateful for exercise, sweat, and my physical capabilities. I am also grateful for a quiet evening at home last night.

The "Word for the Day" recently on www.gratefulness.org was this from Julia Butterfly Hill:

"I wake up in the morning asking myself what I can do today,  how can I help the world today."
I was intrigued by the writer's name and looked her up. You can read more about her on her website here. She is an environmental activist who in her early twenties was seriously injured in a car accident that took a year to recover from. A couple years later she spent 738 days living in a redwood tree, in protest and for awareness.

She has since spent the last 15-plus years making a difference as an environmental and social activist. She lives her own words.

Do I live my own words? Am I helping others and our world? It starts in my own home and my workplace. It extends to the other places I go on typical days. A smile and a friendly greeting is a good …

Free Upgrade

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage. I am also grateful for a good solo run yesterday morning. Darcy and I often do our long runs together, but I also appreciate the time to myself when I get the opportunity.

Darcy and our son Sam spent time yesterday updating and switching cell phones. We are at the point in our contracts where we are eligible for a free upgrade. Darcy was ready for that upgrade and of course Sam was ready to get his dad's phone because it's newer than the one he had.

I have a few weeks to decide if I want to upgrade my phone, and I probably will. With today's technology, a new phone can have a lot of advantages over one that is two years old. "Free" becomes a little less free with needed protection and features, but it's still a good deal. Loyal customers that we are.

There's another kind of free upgrade I don't have to wait for though. It doesn't cost any money. It just takes a little time and effort. I ca…

Green

Today I am grateful to "sleep in" this morning and I am grateful for the many colors I can see with my working vision.

There really is so much to see. I was thinking about seeing the color green yesterday, for several reasons. The main reason is that green is slowly returning to our yards and trees. It is a sight to behold and one of my favorite things about spring. It starts out slowly, just giving hints of the new life on the way. Then the pace picks up and soon you hear lawnmowers going and the light in the house has changed because the leaves on trees are altering the way the sun comes in.

Green is also a prominent color at the school I work at. It is one of our school colors and we see it in many places-mostly on people but also on walls, banners, posters and such.

And then there's the green of cash. Money in hand. I don't usually carry a lot of cash with me. It tends to get spent too quickly if I do. In our world of electronic payments today many people don'…

There's So Much to See

Today I am grateful for our grandson Leo's active little feet and I am grateful for the thoughtful young man our son Sam can show himself to be.

Besides this blog and my various journals, my other regular writing gig, and it is actually a paid one, is my column "Gratitude Flow" which appears monthly in our local newspaper. I get $30 a column. Below is yesterday's column, my 27th. There is indeed much to see. I will go into this day with my eyes open and my mind present. It's a good start.

There’s so much to see             When was the last time you paused to consider what your five senses do for you? If you are anything like me, it’s probably been too long. What an amazing gift each of our five senses are. I am fortunate to have all of mine in good working order. Most of us do. If you are someone who has a hard time seeing, or can’t hear well, or have lost the sense of smell, I want to tell you how sorry I am that you are without one of these direct links to other…

Try Pausing

Today I am grateful for a bike ride last evening and some laughs shared with others.

Habitual gratitude is not only the name of my blog, it is my daily goal. Practice habitual gratitude and my mind and heart are clearer and more positive. My energy is fuller and my path for the day is smoother. I better handle whatever comes my way.

I know that it works. I incorporate various practices into my life to make sure that I am keeping gratefulness as a priority. One of those practices that I continue to hone is pausing. Brother David Steindl-Rast and Pema Chodron both talk about this. Many who discuss and write about mindfulness and meditation talk about the pause.

If you would like to learn more about the life, teachings, and writings of Brother David Steindl-Rast, the website www.gratefulness.org is a good place to go. On April 11 this was the "Word for the Day":

"Try pausing right before and right after undertaking a new action, even something 
simple like putting a key in a…

About that List . . .

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet and for core strengthening exercises.

At the end of yesterday's post I mentioned that I was starting a gratitude list on a piece of paper right then and there. I did. Before I left the house for work I had over 20 things listed. By the time I headed home from work another 25 or so items had been added. Before bed, the list was over 60.

Things on the list ranged from blooming magnolia bushes to smiles and a good meeting at work. Also included were bananas and connections via phone, texts, and emails with people I care about.

I made a conscious effort to take action and record who and what I appreciated about my day. It made a significant difference in my day. I know it did. I had woken up early yesterday morning, with thoughts of work stuff that needed to get done. It was a busy and draining day at work. That set up will often leave me tired and irritable by day's end, and my family sometimes gets the brunt of my irritability.

Well, I…

And a Benedictine Monk

Today I am grateful for a nice birthday for my husband yesterday and for my job and the people I am connected with in many different ways there.

A few days ago I wrote about Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun. How about some words from a Benedictine monk? Brother David Steindl-Rast's words are already prominent on my blog header: "In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." 

Those words guide and direct my gratitude practice. And I find truth in them. Gratefulness leads to contentment. It helps me see that what I have, what I am, is enough. So simple, yet so profound. And so elusive for so many when caught up in the endless stream of information, advertising, over-scheduling, and unreasonable demands we put on ourselves and one another.

Pause. Pay attention. Take the risk of being fully awake to your life. Read more about these from Brother David in earlier posts titled Are You Awake? and Worth the Risk?

Bro…

L

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our lives together. I am also grateful for our family and home.

The short title of today's post is my way of subtly wishing my husband Darcy a Happy 50th birthday. You may wonder where the heck I am coming from, until you consider that "L" is the Roman numeral for 50.

Half a century. Five decades. If you like numbers, consider these:

Fifty years old means over 2600 weeks of living, over 18,250 days, over 438,000 hours, over 26,280,000 minutes, and over 1.5 billion seconds. That is a lot of living. I am grateful I have known Darcy for over 17 of those 50 years now. It's a cool thing to consider that the older we get the higher the percentage of our lives we have spent together. We have a history. A growing and good history.

There have been challenging weeks, hours, minutes. There have been joyous weeks, hours, minutes. There have been mundane and complacent times and there have been troubling and concerning times. We have m…

A Channel of Peace

Today I am grateful for the sunrise I started my day with on our front patio yesterday, and the sunset I ended it with on our back patio. I am grateful for the good hours between the two.

Yesterday I wrote about Pema Chodron and unlimited friendliness, about how avoiding pain and discomfort actually leads to more of both. Each of us can either contribute to the intolerance and hatred in the world, or we can help lessen it. I hope I am doing the latter.

This quote seemed timely:

"Each of us can become a blessed channel of peace for the healing of Earth's wounds:  We can awaken from apathy and find creative, non-violent ways to transform the abuses  rampant in today's world." (Nan Merrill with Barbara Taylor, from Peace Planet: Light for Our World)
The book this quote comes from is about the healing and connecting power of prayer. It came out after 9/11. I believe in prayer as an individual. I believe in prayer for others. But there is a broader praying I could do more of…

A Buddhist Nun-The Work and Writing of Pema Chodron

Today I am grateful for a seat on our front patio from which to view the day's sunrise. I am also grateful for the experience of reading writers for the first time.

It has probably been a couple of years since my sister Danita suggested that I read books by Pema Chodron. It took me some time, but I finally read one of her books a couple weeks ago and I am waiting for another one through our public library. Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun. That sounds like an interesting combination. She has been a principal teacher at the first Tibetan monastery for Westerners, Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. She is also a mother and a grandmother.

The book I just got done reading is Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears. It's a quick read at around 100 pages, with 10 chapters with titles like "Learning to Stay," "Getting Unstuck," The Importance of Pain," and "Unlimited Friendliness." Those titles sum up what I took away from the …

Listen Generously

Today I am grateful for the rain we have recently received, helping us catch up from a few dry months. I am also grateful for the people who share their words and wisdom with me, both people I personally know and those I don't.

One of those people I don't know is Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.  It was her quote on listening to create a sanctuary for others that I blogged about on Wednesday. I came across another quote of hers, also on the topic of listening:

"When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves,  often for the first time."  (Rachel Naomi Remen)
I knew her name sounded familiar, so I looked her up. She is the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal. I have heard of the book but not read it. I think I will put it on my reading list. As I read her biography, I found out that she is a pioneer and leader in the field of integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is about treating the whole person, not just the physical person. It …

Sleeping Cutie

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Today I am grateful for coffee, pauses, and a desire to keep writing, blogging, and practicing gratitude.

We had the chance to watch our grandson Leo last night while his mom ran some errands. We sure do appreciate the time we get to spend with him. He is nearing four weeks old and is filling out. Since I have only posted pictures of him one other time here, I thought it was time for a second picture.


That is one sleeping cutie! Grandpa fed him and burped him and Grandma helped work out the fussing and get him to sleep. I'm sorry I repeat myself, but the words precious and peanut just keep coming to mind. He feels less fragile though. His head and neck are getting stronger. He likes looking around and is more alert. I look forward to watching this little guy grow and learn.

And he is certainly helping me grow and learn as well. He reminds me of what really matters. I marvel that our son Sam used to be that tiny. I miss those times with Sam, but I also love the teenager who is grow…

Creating a Sanctuary

Today I am grateful for my job and some good self-care last evening. I am also grateful for the soothing sound of our outdoor fountain.

My hearing can be muffled, as I wrote about in a post last week, but listening is serious and blessed business. If someone entrusts me with their thoughts and feelings, the least I can do is give them my full attention. The most I can do is give them my full attention.

The following quote was recently gratefulness.org's "Word of the Day":

"Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person."  (Rachel Naomi Remen)
Those are profoundly beautiful words and ones I had not heard before. What came to my mind as I considered these words are the people who created a sanctuary for my suffering, homeless parts all those years ago when I was actively alcoholic and then newly sober; full of self-hatred, self-pity, fear and doubt. People like Sheila, Deb, Peg, Phyl, and Terrie. Some of them listened to the crying,…

"Small and beautiful graces"

Today I am grateful for a nice spring break and a job to return to.

I went to the funeral yesterday of my co-worker's mother. My co-worker just retired last June and had been doing much caregiving both prior to retiring and certainly in these last months. Her mom died just weeks short of her 90th birthday. As I spoke to my former colleague during the visitation, she mentioned how her mom had been pretty restless and agitated in the couple weeks before she died. But the night she died, she was more restful and at peace. That seems like an indication of her readiness to let go.

To go from the joy of Easter services one day to the solemnity of a funeral the next day was a contrast. But both services had beautiful music and the hope of new life.

The priest who gave the sermon used the phrase "small and beautiful graces." Those words really struck me. That is how we touch one another's lives. That is how we make a difference. Those are the gifts we are given and the gifts…

A Health Fair Experience

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Today I am grateful for a warm bed and my husband beside me. I am also grateful for the opportunity for a new experience that our local health fair presented me on Saturday.

Add to my gratitude list a nice Easter with my family and one of my favorite things about the day-the joyful music at church. It was our grandson Leo's first church service and he slept through it all, including the bagpipes that opened and closed the service.

I have been to health fairs before, but only as someone coming in to see what others have to offer and discuss. This time, I had a table at the fair. Most vendors are affiliated with a health organization or a retailer selling health-related products. As far as I could tell, I was the only one there as an individual and with nothing I was trying to sell. I guess I was trying to sell an idea, but a free one.

Here is a picture of my modest and low-budget display:


The turnout for the event was disappointing, but likely attributed to a busy holiday weekend f…

Happy New Day!

Today I am grateful to hear birds singing and for the fresh opportunties that the hours ahead will present.

I also want to say thanks to my friends Candy, Claire, Lori, Dorothy and Harvey for coming out to the health fair yesterday and stopping by to see me. And to Darcy and Sam for their help. I appreciate all of you! More on the health fair tomorrow.

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it. Happy new day to everyone! That is the beauty of mindfulness and trying to live a day at a time . . . each day comes with a welcome freshness that I look forward to. When I am stuck in the muck of regret, worry, or fear, a new day may feel like a burden.

Easter and spring bring a welcome set of words to mind too. I looked back at some of my previous posts on and around Easter.  Here are some of the words and phrases I used:

*new beginnings
*vulnerability
*rebirth and renewal
*awakenings
*sunrise
*renewed and refreshed or stale and stagnant?

I prefer fresh over stagnant. The rebirths and ren…

The Wealth of Health

Today I am grateful for an early morning run in the coming daylight. I am also grateful for the opportunity to see the incredible natural artwork of sculptor and artist David W. Cook, and to hear some of the sources of his inspiration.

Check his work out at his website here. Thank you to David and those who joined me in walking through the woods to some of his latest creations; made of vines, twigs, and branches.

A recent front page photo in my hometown newspaper showed workers at the new health care clinic that was celebrating a one-year anniversary. On the wall behind the workers was this quote:

"The greatest wealth is health."
It is actually a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and sometimes written as "The first wealth is health." Either way, the quote is spot on. Health is so vitally important to our quality of life each day. Not just physical health, but mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. I feel blessed in all areas.

I am nearly seven years…

A Good Day 3 x 3

Today I am grateful for positive thoughts built on positive perceptions, made possible by habitual gratitude practice.

Yesterday was a good day. No big plans, no special events, just a typical day during my spring break. My husband and son had the day off too, so we all could enjoy a nicer pace. It was the kind of day that presents a good opportunity to do a 3 x 3. A 3 x 3 is a simple gratitude practice I thought of a couple years ago and do from time to time. I list three things I am grateful for and three reasons why for each. By the time I am done, I already have at least 12 reasons to be grateful, often more.

Yesterday consisted of things I appreciated throughout the day, including the different times of day themselves. Here's a good day 3 x 3:

1. Morning
     a. Time to sit out on our front patio and enjoy the coming daylight.
     b. Hearing the birds sing.
     c. A long run (about 12 miles) with my husband Darcy.

2. Afternoon
     a. Holding our grandson Leo while he slept…

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

Today I am grateful for the friends I have in the local breast cancer support group and for my friend Dorothy and the chance for yet another walk and talk yesterday.

I have put the miles on the last few days while walking and talking with three different friends. Yesterday my friend, and new neighbor Dorothy, and I walked in the windy warmth. We got caught up on a few things going on in our lives and the lives of those around us. Dorothy is one of my spiritual advisors and was in that role even before she became an ordained minister.

To be able to walk and talk with a friend. To spend time with other members of our local breast cancer support group, all of us having known one another for several years now. To be alive. What blessings! What extensive gratitude.

In the midst of all this, I caught some of the six hours of the PBS documentary: "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies." It is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer…

Muffled

Today I am grateful for shirt-sleeve warmth on a spring day and for another walk and talk opportunity yesterday, this time with my friend Betsy.

Betsy and I have known each other for nearly 15 years and we have some common ground both professionally (we are both educators) and personally. On a pleasant spring day, we enjoyed the walk and the ease of conversation between two people who have mutual trust and respect. Thanks Betsy!

Turning my attention to the title of today's post, let me tell you where "muffled" started. In recent months I have woken up with a plugged ear from time to time. It usually popped shortly after I got up, and I didn't think too much of it. In recent weeks, it seemed to get worse, happening more often and lasting longer. I even had a couple days where my hearing was muffled for hours, for a good portion of the day. That was challenging and unnerving, and I decided I needed to look into what might be going on.

The likely problem was ear wax bui…