"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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Friendly Hello

Today I am grateful for a weekend at home after several busy travel weekends in succession. I am also grateful for a friendly hello and a holding of a door from a fellow human.

I was out doing errands yesterday and stopped at the post office. As I was about to go in the door, a woman I didn't know came out, held the door for me with a smile. I said "thank you" and she replied with a "have a nice day."  I appreciated that brief interaction and it was something I likely would have done too if I had been the one coming out with someone else going in.

In today's society, we are busy, frazzled, connected to our technology. It would seem we would be well-connected to one another; considering that we can communicate instantly in a variety of ways. It would seem, but it doesn't feel like the reality. The reality, to me, feels like we are getting more disconnected and isolated because we aren't looking one another in the eye, we aren't sharing a smile because we are focused on the next thing we must run to do, and so on.

Slow down. That is all it takes. A few seconds to interact with fellow humans in the ways that really matter. It would serve us all well to keep doing this in our homes and workplaces, but also out in the general public. After that brief exchange with the pleasant stranger at the post office. I paid more attention. I would like to think I slow down and pay pretty good attention already. It is one of the healthy side effects of gratitude practice. But there is always room for improvement.

So, I paid more attention and what I saw and felt was heartening. There were many friendly faces, hellos, helping hands all around. It may seem like people crave technology fixes. I think we are craving human interaction. I saw people I knew and could greet by name, but I also saw strangers who are really just fellow humans trying to make the most of the day in front of them.

If I am too busy to muster a friendly hello, I have gotten caught up in the wrong things. Slow down. Notice one another. It can be that simple. It is that simple.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ink

Today I am grateful for unexpectedly fast progress at work on a couple of things. I am also grateful for the chances I get to be quiet and closed-mouth each day.

The word "indelible" was in my head after writing yesterday's post and it was just a matter of time before "ink" was added. Indelible ink is often referred to as permanent ink these days. Call it what you wish. It means the same thing-ink that cannot be washed out or erased away.

And that led to thoughts of the large amount of ink I have used over the years. My first poem and my first diary were both around age twelve. I have gone through many, many pens since then. I have filled dozens of journals with everything from gratitude, life's happenings, poems, to words to my son. My first years of teaching I filled many legal pads full of notes as I worked to better learn the material myself that I would soon be teaching to my students. Computers were not around when I was growing up and they weren't in widespread use in my early years of teaching.

So pen and ink it was and pen and ink it remains. I like the action. The smooth movements of the pen leaving its mark on a page. The handwriting-albeit poor handwriting that others may find hard to read. There seems to be a connection between mind, heart, and hand and the pen finishes the job. That is evolving as I use computer and phone keyboards more, but I will always return to my roots as a writer. Ink and pen.

As I further consider these writing tools, I am grateful that I have always had them at my disposal. Granted, there were times I had to get creative and use napkins or check register pages, but I have learned to keep both pen and paper with me most of the time. There are people who have never learned how to write. People who don't have pen and paper at the ready. Today I pray for people around the world who go without these basics.

Like the ink I use is permanent, the role of writing in my life is permanent. As is the practice of gratitude. Practices and actions that define who I am, help me process emotions and figure out what to do next, remind me of my priorities, and show me my humble place in the wide world are deserving of permanent residence in my life's toolbox.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Indelible

Today I am grateful for life. My own life and the wide variety of life surrounding me-human and other. I am also grateful for time with our grandson Leo.

There may come a year when I don't feel the urge and motivation to write about the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. This isn't that year. Some use the term "cancerversary."  Some choose to celebrate it. Others choose to try to put it behind them. There is no right or wrong way. There is only each individual's own way.

I choose to write about it because cancer has left an indelible mark on my life in many ways. Since this marks the 7th anniversary of "D-Day," here are seven ways cancer is a permanent part of who I am:

1. The obvious: two mastectomy scars on the flat terrain of my chest.
2. The less obvious: the four smaller scars below the mastectomy scars, from the drain tubes that helped me recover and heal after surgery.
**But I have to tell you that even though I see my scars each day, they don't glare at me. They just are.
3. Cancer became a catalyst for the writer within. Long a poet, I am now a blogger and columnist writing essays with plenty to say, from the heart. The heart that lies beneath those mastectomy scars.
4. There is a fear that lurks in the back of my mind, moving to the front from time to time. Fear of recurrence or the scarier metastasis. But I face fear with faith and I try to do what I can each day to make healthy choices. (I mess up plenty, but I think my healthy choice column is ahead of my unhealthy choice column.)
5. That same mind is able to give a deeper and wider focus to prioroities and to gratitude for the gift of each day.
6. My soul is more in tune with my body, mind, and heart because of the experience we all went on together with scans, waiting, biopsies, waiting, surgeries, waiting, chemotherapy, waiting, healing. In losing body parts, I gained soul parts.
7. Indelible memories remain. From hearing the words "you have cancer" to the sharp pain of having those drain tubes removed; to the love, support, and prayers I received and continue to receive from others.

And a link to my post from two years ago today here. The poet has not left. She lives on. Just like I do, ever grateful for the opportunity to do both-live on and write on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Carcinoma of Another Kind

Today I am grateful for my hearing and my other senses that allow me to interact and communicate with others and the world around me. I am also grateful I made it to the dermatologist recently.

As I reflect on where I was at seven years ago today-awaiting the results of my breast biopsy-I am thinking about a carcinoma of a different kind. My breast biopsy showed that I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). A recent biopsy of an area on my right shoulder showed that I have basal cell carcinoma.

It was probably a couple years ago when this area first appeared, looking like a small patch of dry skin. As it underwent some changes, I had my doctor take a look. She wasn't overly concerned, but suggested I go to the dermatologist. I put it off for a while because I was waiting for our flex dollars for health care to kick back in after using up what we had the previous year. But I knew I wanted it looked at. I wanted the reassurance. Either it's nothing or it's something that needs to be addressed.

Basal cell carcinoma is common and usually quite treatable. It rarely spreads. I appreciated that the dermatologist, whom I had just met, was reassuring to me as well. He could see my history of previous cancer and tried to put me at ease that this was not concerning, that it could be easily removed and taken care of.

So this carcinoma of another kind hasn't thrown me for a loop like the IDC and DCIS did. But I am still grateful I got in to have it checked and I am grateful it will soon be removed. It reminds me to pay attention to this early vehicle I reside in. To take good care of it. It's the only one I get.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

H.O.W. to Make a Difference

Today I am grateful for rest and comfortable places to get it. I am also grateful for good books and magazines to read.

There are days and dates you don't forget. Seven years ago today I had an MR-guided biopsy of my right breast. The biopsy would determine a diagnosis of breast cancer. I am here today, doing well and living life fully. Tens of thousands have died of breast and other cancers in these last seven years.

There are many ways we can help move science closer to unlocking cancer's many mysteries and finding a cure. I am proud to be part of Dr. Susan Love's Army of Women and also the newer Health of Women Study. The former helps researchers fill studies with subjects much faster and keep the pace of research moving more quickly. More quickly to useful information.

The latter, found at this link- https://www.healthofwomenstudy.org -is a database of women worldwide who complete health questionnaires to help researchers look for connections and clues that may also lead to answers and insights about the complexities of cancer. Both are open to all women, whether or not they have had breast cancer.

I also blogged about these back in October of 2012 and 2013 here.

Earlier this week, I did the most recent survey for the Health of Women Study. It is the 6th I have done since joining the study over 2 years ago, and it was about bacteria and the breast. It took only about 20 minutes for me to complete. It is easy to register and you decide when you take a survey. You can even start one, save it, and finish it later.

I see that the total number of women in the study is now over 52,000. Are you one of them? If not, consider joining and adding your effort and information to the growing database that may one day help unlock the mysteries of breast cancer.

Like practicing gratitude requires action, so does helping a good cause. Today I will try to do my part.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Out of Sorts

Today I am grateful for health insurance, antibiotics, safe travels, and a quiet house.

I wish my mind were quiet. I am feeling out of sorts, and so is my mind. Darcy has been sicker than I have ever seen him in the years we have been together. A virus that then led to some sort of infection is the likely culprit. We have had a very busy and draining last few weeks, so his defenses were probably down.

It leaves me feeling out of sorts because it is not the usual routine. Plans had to be adjusted and actions needed to be taken. We missed time with my family and our niece's graduation party. I would like to think I adjust to change and unmanageables better than I used to, but it's still an adjustment.

I am trying to keep it all in perspective. Darcy is feeling better and this appears to be running its course. Some others deal with chronic and terminal health issues. It makes me appreciate health and each day we get. I don't want to take either for granted. It makes me appreciate my husband and the love I have for him. I don't want to take either of those for granted.

I am out of sorts also because I am feeling a little crummy myself and I am taking a sick day from work. I have many sick days built up and I certainly don't abuse them. But part of my overactive, not quiet mind right now has to do with work and what I could/should be doing. Put it away Lisa. It's just a job. A little self-care can go a long way.

One thing I am not feeling out of sorts about is that I am happy to wish my "baby" brother Lee a Happy 45th Birthday!  I remember when they brought Lee home from the hospital on a rainy May day all those years ago.  Enjoy your day Lee! More birthdays please! For Lee and for each of us.

Just for today I will live the life I have. Out of sorts or not.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Always a Good Reminder

Today I am grateful for my job and the variety of people I come into contact with there. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and the love we share.

One of the daily meditation books I have is titled Keep It Simple.  I don't even always read each day's reading. Some days just seeing that title is all I need. It is always a good reminder to me. Keep it simple Lisa.

I am an intense and driven individual in many ways. Thank God I am not driven to drink anymore. But I can still go down unhealthy roads with my expectations of myself and others. I can push myself too much and forget to practice what I preach about pausing, taking time to relax, resting, being grateful.

It has been a full week, a full month. Darcy is still sick with a nasty virus and that has made our week a different one. I have had to take care of things that he sometimes does, and also take care of him in ways too.  I am grateful for the love I have for him, and the sympathy I have for him because he feels really crummy. I am glad to do things like run to the store or bring him a glass of water.

It's been an off week in ways, but Darcy being sick has also helped me keep it simple. There's only so much time in a day, and my priorities become more clear when I have to consider what other people need from me.  Some of my plans and expectations need to be put aside.

And that is what keeping it simple is all about.

I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Thank you to all the service men and women who have served our country throughout our history. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Enroute from a Funeral

Today I am grateful for my cell phone and the convenience it provides. I am also grateful for the slower-paced morning I am allowing myself.

Yesterday I was reflecting on driving TO my aunt's funeral. Today, I am considering the different feel the reflecting had on the way home FROM that funeral.

I was tired driving home, and ready to be back with my own family in my own home. I am grateful for both-family and home. My own and extended.

I was thinking about loss and grief and how everyone experiences it differently. I was thinking especially of my mom and my surviving aunt, Marie's two sisters. There had been a 4th sister, she would have been the oldest. She died at age 15 from complications stemming from rheumatic fever. My mom was 6 years old and remembers the day her sister died. Her name was Frances. I had asked Mom questions about Frances before, but I don't think I had ever asked what my mom remembered about her death. I appreciated the opportunity to talk to Mom about it on Tuesday. I appreciated what Mom remembered and shared.

Seventy-eight years later, Mom and her remaining siblings said goodbye to Marie, as they have also said goodbye to two brothers over the years. I couldn't help but think about my own seven sisters and five brothers and what our futures may hold. Just for today, I will remember them each in my thoughts and prayers.

Each day has opportunities for hellos and goodbyes. Most are not of the permament sense that comes with a funeral.

Today I will try to make the most of my opportunities for hellos and goodbyes as I move through my day.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Enroute to a Funeral

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from my Aunt Marie's funeral and for the time I got to spend with my large extended family.

As I drove to Marie's funeral yesterday morning, I was in a reflective frame of mind. A funeral, 150 miles, and time to myself all make me pause and ponder a few things.

Some of the things that flitted through my active mind and 
various sensory inputs included:

*The various shades of springtime greens on the hillsides.
*The sun and clouds playing together, or so it seemed.
*Appreciating the time to myself and my music, my way.
*Fears and worries hanging out for a time, then being pushed out
by some faith and let go of with some prayer.
*The fact that 32 years ago yesterday, May 19, 1983, I graduated from high school.
Here's a shout out to the other members of the SW Class of '83!
*Wondering what my mom, my Aunt Helen, and their 3 brothers were thinking
and feeling as they prepared to say goodbye to their eldest sibling.
*Considering what it might feel like to be one of Marie's nine children, who now are
without either parent.
*Appreciating that Marie lived over 92 years and was still living in her own home
and driving less than a year ago.
*Following some school buses and recalling my own days on buses as a student,
player, coach, teacher, counselor.

I arrived at my destination physically, but also emotionally.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Able to . . .

Today I am grateful for laughter among recovery friends and for early morning quiet and changing light.

Last evening Sam and I brought our potted plants in to the garage. We are having some unseasonably chilly weather and were concerned about frost. Darcy is still sick and Sam's wrist is still bothering him a little, so I had to take care of a couple of the bigger pots. It struck me as I was doing this how fortunate I am to be able to take care of that task and so many others throughout my day.

I am able to walk the dog, go for a run, read, write, breathe, see, make breakfast, drink coffee, drive to work, walk up and down stairs, type, connect to WiFi, talk to teens, get some groceries, smile.

I think of those who aren't able to do some of these things because of health problems or other limitations. I think of those, like my Aunt Marie, who have left their earthly vehicle behind.

The list goes on and on. I am also able to be a recovering alcoholic for this 24 hours. I am able to find things to be grateful for and other people to keep in my thoughts and prayers. I am able to be present in this moment.

And when I do such things like being mindfully present here and now, I am able to see life for the opportunity and privilege that it is. I am less likely to squander the moments and hours. I am more likely to thank a Higher Source for what is provided to me and those around me.

Just for today, I am able to be grateful.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Curve Balls and Taking Pitches

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend and for the time with Darcy's family to celebrate our niece Maycee's high school graduation.

Congratulations to both Maycee and our niece Marissa who also graduated from high school yesterday. Best wishes in your future endeavors. You each have good direction and drive and we are proud of you!

I want to also express my sadness on the death of my Aunt Marie. Marie is my mom's oldest sister and they lived within miles of one another for most of their years together. Marie was 92 and had a full and meaningful life. I remember visiting her and Uncle Paul's family growing up. I remember having little chats with Marie over the years about what was up in my life and how she and her family were doing. Her husband Paul died just weeks after my dad and they are buried next to one another in our church cemetery.

Darcy ended up feeling pretty crummy this weekend. Enough so that we went into urgent care yesterday morning before beginning our travels home. We thought he might have strep throat. He doesn't. It's a tough virus though and it's really wore him down. I am grateful I could do the driving and take care of things when we got home so he could continue resting.

I guess this all has me thinking about life's curve balls and the importance of letting some pitches go by. Our niece Maycee is an avid and talented softball player. She will continue her playing career in college. We are in the midst of Sam's baseball season. It's not surprising that a baseball/softball analogy came to mind.

Curve balls will come our way pretty much daily. Some are easy to see and handle, others knock us off our feet a bit. Doing the next right thing and finding some gratitude in a situation help us get back up, brush ourselves off and proceed.

Then there are those pitches and life situations that we just need to watch go by. Keep the bat on the shoulder and the mouth closed. Acceptance of the situation as it is. Patience to wait for a better pitch to come along.

Today is a new day. Batter up!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why Do Birds Sing?

Today I am grateful for a good meal enjoyed at a relaxing pace and in pleasant company. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his predictability.

This quote has been hanging around in my head for a few weeks:

"A bird does not sing because he has an answer. He sings because he has a song."
(Joan Walsh Anglund)

I have also been listening to and appreciating the birds for several weeks now. It is one of the things I love about spring. They sound especially beautiful and inviting those first mornings hearing them again after the winter months. Sometimes I ask myself too many questions and think too much about things I can do little about. I am learning to just pause and enjoy the moment more. Birds sing in the moment.

I did wonder why this writer chose to use "he" and not "she" or "it" in this quote. But that is as far as I went with it.  He, she, or it, birds sing and humans appreciate. At least we should. It starts with paying attention.

I guess I could apply this to my gratitude practice. I don't practice gratitude because I have some magical answer, some secret to success. I practice gratitude because I never run out of things for which to be grateful.

My energy has been drained with busy times, but I still receive energy back when I listen to the birds and when I mindfully consider what I appreciate here and now.

I will be taking another blog break until early next week. Consider worrying less about answers that will come in their own time anyway. Consider noticing the singing birds instead.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Speaking of Insurance

Today I am grateful for a quick dentist visit and x-rays on my son's wrist that showed no fractures.

I mentioned my gratitude practice as a form of insurance in my post yesterday. I am also grateful for the other forms of insurance I have and we have as a family. My own trip to the dentist reminded me of that, as did Sam's potential injury. Both happened yesterday.

The dentist visit was "pleasant."  You will not hear me say that often, especially in light of all the dental work I have had done. Yesterday's appointment was to fill a small cavity. It was small enough that I didn't need to be numbed and I was in and out of the chair in about 10 minutes. Yippee skippee!

Then at last night's baseball game, Sam took a pitch right on his wrist. We didn't think anything was broken, but it was definitely painful and he was having some trouble moving his wrist and fingers. We decided to be on the safe side and stop at urgent care. The x-rays they took there showed no fractures and we headed home thankful for that.

There are insurance policies we can buy with money. There are insurance policies we purchase with our time and effort. Today, I am grateful for all of them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Not Feeling It

Today I am grateful for rest and perspective. I am also grateful for the beautiful moon this morning.

I can type the words above and it's not a lie. I am grateful for those things. But there are days when I am definitely not feeling it. I am not feeling grateful or really all that upbeat. Days when I am tired and frustrated and more than a little edgy and crabby.

Yesterday was one of those days. I wasn't feeling it, this gratitude I try to practice. I wasn't feeling it, but I practiced it anyway.

Cynics beware. You may wish to argue with this next point. Go ahead. It doesn't matter to me, because I know what works for me. And gratitude practice works, even when I am not feeling it. Even when I am the grouchy cynic.

How does it work? It works by keeping me from going over the edge of the abyss. It works by saving me from a crazy idea like how much better I would feel with a few drinks of alcohol. It works because it opens my eyes just enough to keep me from veering off the road into the muck of self-pity.

On these days I am not feeling it, it's like a swerve off the road onto the shoulder, but that is when I cash in my insurance. Those many days of practicing gratitude when I was feeling it are cashed in like good insurance and I get the car back on the road and proceed.

Proceed. Onward into this new day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Passionate Individual

Today I am grateful for family and the many ways it can be defined. I am also grateful for recovery from alcoholism and others who teach me how to live day by day.

It's time to turn a little attention to a passionate individual by the name of Arthur, my stepson. Here he is on the morning of his graduation from graduate school. He is accompanied by his nephew Leo and his decorated mortarboard, creatively crafted by his wife Alyssa.


Anyone who knows Arthur knows he is a passionate individual. His passion for studies, excellence, and his career field (nutrition science and dietetics) led him to a great two years at Illinois State and helped him land an impressive job at age 24.

Arthur is also passionate about family, and as you can see quite passionate about "his" Green Bay Packers. He is not just a fan. He is a fanatic. It was a fitting idea from Alyssa that when his name was read and he got hooded, his support crew of 13 shouted "Go Pack Go!" in unison.

Arthur is intense and has a presence and an energy field around him that is more overt than it is for many of us. His wife Alyssa is a good balance for him. I am grateful to Alyssa for her support of Arthur during these last two years. As newlyweds they headed off to a very busy and challenging two years in a new state hours away from family. Her steadfast support, her own hard work, and their teamwork as spouses were key to Arthur walking across that stage on Saturday. Thank you Alyssa!


We are all passionate individuals about something. Probably about many things. Today I will honor my passions. Family and writing just got honored in this post. Have a good day! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

New Moms

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend as we covered hundreds of miles. I am also grateful for my stepson Arthur's successful completion of graduate school. Congratulations Arthur!

And I am grateful to be a mom and stepmom. As we traveled this weekend to Arthur's graduation, my stepdaughter Emily and her son Leo joined us. We have seen plenty of Emily and Leo since he was born on March 14, but I was a little concerned about all the miles in the car and hours in the hotel and other venues. Things went really well overall, though everyone is pretty tired. I got to see a new mom in action under new circumstances. Emily is a good mother and is attentive and loving. Her and her son are off to a good start.

But when you add his first big car trip, nights in a hotel, lots of people, lots of germs, lugging a car seat and a diaper bags lots of places, it can get taxing on everyone. We all hung in there and so did Emily. Leo had it the easiest, and that is the way it should be.

As I considered Emily in her role as new mom, I realized that I am also a new mom. All moms are new to each of their child's milestones and age ranges. Here is my son Sam and I after Arthur's graduation:


You can see that he is well past the infant stage, but he is just a few months into his teen years. I have worked with teens for decades, but I am still a new mom when it comes to my own teen. That is both humbling and helpful. I will do the best I can as a mom today. That is my goal every day.

Sam wrote me a nice note for Mother's Day and it included words like "my mentor, a role model," "thank you" and "love." Your words and your presence in my life mean the world to me Sam. Thank you!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Thousand Tiny Nows

Today I am grateful for my stepson Arthur and for our dog Oliver. Both celebrate birthdays today and both bring much to appreciate to our family.

My sister for real and my sister in writing-Aileen-wrote this poem for her blog last week:

A Thousand Tiny Nows*
If a thousand tiny nows
rained down on me
I wouldn't know 
what to do.
But one tiny now,
that I can do,
including this moment
when my cat Oscar
insists on communing 
with the keyboard.
The next tiny now
holds the sound
of Canada geese.
Before long
a hundred tiny nows
create a day.

*Stolen from a greeting card-"Someday is a thousand tiny nows." 

You can find her blog "Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events here.

Here is the comment I posted there after reading the poem:  "I love this idea. I can do a tiny now better than a day or a week. We tend to want bigger and better, but when it comes to the substance of life, the best stuff is in the tiny nows. Thanks!"

Today I will be awake and open to the tiny nows. Thanks Aileen!

I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Failure

Today I am grateful for Papa Murphy's pizza and for the way my muscles feel after doing some strength-building exercises.

My post from yesteday had this as the final line:

"I will focus on appreciating what I get to physically be present for today."

I pretty much failed at that. I had a very busy day at work which continued right into my evening at home. I got caught up in all of that, as often happens. I am not beating myself up for this failure though. I appreciate my efforts and the insight gained.

And here's some good news. It was while driving home from work that I thought about this goal I had given myself. It used to be I may try to set a positive tone for my day and five minutes later I am off to the races in my head and stay racing all day. At least now I recognize progress when I see it.

It helped me appreciate the run my husband and I took together. It helped me find joy in watching our grandson Leo play on a blanket on the floor-getting to know his own physical self. He was kicking his legs, moving his arms, looking around. He showed me how to be physically present.

I don't always live with this positive tone I strive for. I don't always come from a perspective of mindful gratitude. But my thoughts, words, and deeds come from those healthy places far more than they used to.

That's not failure. That's success. Thanks for your help Leo!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Picture Only Goes So Far

Today I am grateful for my working senses and what they allow me to enjoy. I am also grateful for clean air to breathe.

Yesterday afternoon as I walked Oliver, we neared the trees in this picture below and I relished the delightful smell of trees in bloom. Nature can't be beat when it comes to stuff like this.


Last year I had a similar picture and a post titled "Nerves in Bloom" here. It was from May 24 instead of May 4. I am grateful for our earlier and more typical spring this year after a couple of atypical ones.

Yesterday I also appreciated some time with our grandson Leo. His little baby smell, his expressions, noises, and movements.

Trees in bloom and a little baby can both be captured on camera. But a picture only goes so far. I am grateful I got to be in the physical presence of both the trees and the baby yesterday to fully appreciate them.

I will focus on appreciating what I get to physically be present for today.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I Said Nothing

Today I am grateful for humidity in the air and for sun on my skin. I am also grateful for those celebrating brithdays. Yesterday was our daughter-in-law Alyssa's birthday and today is my oldest brother Linus' birthday. Happy birthday to you both! Keep those birthdays coming!

I know in a few short weeks I probably won't be grateful for humidity, but after months of dry air and dry skin, I can appreciate the first doses of humidity for the season.

I saw this quote weeks ago and it has come and gone out of my head many times, often at opportune times, allowing me to make a better choice than I otherwise might have.

"Drawing on my fine command of the language, I said nothing." 
(Robert Benchley)

I am grateful for this quote and the valuable reminder it gives me. There are times when saying nothing is absolutely the best course of action, because what I would say would hinder a solution or compound a problem. I can practice this with my husband and other family members. I can practice it with co-workers and others I come in contact with on any given day. I can practice it with myself in my own head.

This doesn't mean I won't say anything at all. It might mean that I will wait and come up with a more thoughtful response. It may mean I will wait and cool off so I don't say something in a highly emotional state that I will regret later. It may mean patience to see who else says what else, which then makes my input more timely or acceptable.

Like most things in my life, this is also a work in progress. I am seeing and feeling the benefits of saying nothing at times. That has raised my awareness and allowed me to catch myself and keep quiet a few times when I otherwise would have interjected what I thought needed to be said when it wasn't necessary or wanted.

For this reminder, for these life lessons, I am grateful. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Keys to Crazy

Today I am grateful I don't see a drink of alcohol as a solution or an escape anymore. I am also grateful for a good day of getting things done at a sane pace yesterday.

The things that had me edgy and frustrated yesterday are still lurking a bit. They don't ruin my day, but they do weigh me down some, and they do zap energy if I let them. Which brings me to the title of a book that my sister Aileen told me about. It is called People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them The Keys. It was written by Mike Bechtle and published in 2012. I may pick this book up at some point, but just the title is enough to help me.

What gets me frustrated and edgy is when I try to manage and control circumstances and others so that the outcome is favorable, at least in my opinion. I know on a cognitive level that trying to control circumstances and people is a futile effort. But my heart and my ego sometimes tune my brain out so I can pursue what I think needs to be pursued. And that is precisely when I give the keys away.

The only person I can control is little ole' me and that is only on a good day. When I can be mindfully present, I am less likely to be trying to run the world, and I am less likely to give away my keys. Gratitude practice, meditation, prayer, and pausing during my day are all some of the ways I try to achieve mindfulness.

I have made good progress. Yet, I look forward to how much more I can learn. Right here, right now, the keys to peace and serenity are where I can see them. I haven't given them away. If I can take my day in small chunks, hour by hour, I will be much more likely to hang on to my keys, much less likely to head down the crazy road of fear, worry, control, and ego.

It is the best I can hope for. It is enough.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Frustrated and Edgy, But Still Practicing

Today I am grateful for safe travels home for my husband and a good job offer for my stepson. I am also grateful for time with some of my recovery friends yesterday.

I am not feeling all that grateful at this particular moment. I am frustrated by a few things and feeling a bit edgy. Most days I have the desire to practice gratitude. But on days like this, I know that even if I don't have the desire, I can still take the action.

Here's a short gratitude list from the last days:

*Darcy's safe travels and hard work at his home office.
*A great job opportunity for my stepson Arthur.
*Our grandson Leo doing well in his first days at daycare.
*My stepdaughter Emily getting a good start to her CNA classes.
*Sam's baseball team having a good start to the season and a couple
of nice evenings for fans to watch them play.
*Birds singing to welcome the new day.
*Sitting in my comfortable recliner.

So even with a feeling of ingratitude, I can still take the actions. And you know what, I feel a little better. A healthier perspective is returning. It does work.

When it comes to physical exercise, any exersise is better than no exercise. The same is true for the practice of gratitude. Any is better than none. I think too many of us are tripped up by a plan or goal to exercise or journal so many days a week, or some similar goal. When we fall short, as we often will, at least early on, we sometimes throw in the towel. We end up giving up, quitting, saying it doesn't work.

Don't give up. Do what you can. In my case, I started realizing that a little gratitude practice can go a long way to improve my outlook. It became easier for me to keep practicing gratitude because it fuels me just like good food fuels me. Even on a day like today. A little frustrated. A little edgy. Still practicing. It works. It really does.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Years of Service

Today I am grateful for my current job and all the jobs I have had. I am also grateful for my husband and our communication.

The school I work at has an annual staff recognition dinner which was held last evening. It includes a nice meal, a gift, and the gift of hearing about and honoring colleagues who have hit 5-year milestones. It is also about celebrating retirement for anyone who has reached that major milestone. The three women who are retiring this year-Liz, Julie, and Sue-have all been an important part of my job experience and they will be missed.

I was also one of the people recognized last evening, as I am completing my 15th year of service in this school. It got me thinking about my 27 years of service since entering the field of education (longer if you count when I started coaching).

My first job, where I stayed for two years, was at my alma mater. I left to see what else was out there. I enjoyed my time there and it helped me get through those ever-challenging first couple of years as a classroom teacher. I taught high school social studies. I spent 2 years teaching at my second school, leaving for more opportunities, including social. It worked out well because I eventually met my husband.

I was in that job for six years, had started grad school, was mostly teaching, but also doing some counseling-related work. We got married and I started my career in school counseling. I was an elementary counselor for two years and really enjoyed it. I am grateful I had that experience. We moved here to be closer to my stepchildren and I took my current job.

Fifteen years in one place after 4 jobs in 5 different schools over the previous 12 years. There are both advantages and disadvantages to longevity. I have seen many changes. Good times and challenging times. But most importantly I have worked with many wonderful colleagues, students, and parents and that is what I choose to focus on today.

That is the nice thing about gratitude practice. It helps me focus on positive things, which keeps my perspectives, perceptions, and energies heading in the healthier direction.