"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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Real Pain in the Neck

Today I am grateful for a sense of humor (my own and others') and for perspective gained from things beyond my control (which is the category everything besides my own attitude and actions fall into).

Those things beyond my control can be "a pain in the neck." I had a real pain in the neck the other day. I didn't wake up with it, but I sometimes do. This time it developed by late morning and remained with me throughout the rest of the day. It slowed me down and limited my range of motion. I am sometimes able to rub or massage the stiffness out myself, but usually it takes a good night of sleep, with my neck in the right position, to get some relief. I will also use a hot water bottle, or seek a head/neck rub from my dear husband.

This happens in the same spot in my neck from time to time, on the right side. It is where I carry my stress, my tension. It has become more susceptible to tensing up, and once that happens, it just gets tighter. It's a real pain in the neck caused by things that may be considered the proverbial "pains in the neck."  Or maybe I just slept on it wrong.

Annoyances. Nuisances. Difficulties. All are part of the deal when we live our lives. They can't be avoided entirely. But we can loosen up and lighten up. We can pray, pause, let go, laugh, vent. And today I can appreciate my Higher Power's sense of humor. Maybe the neck pain is on my right side because someone is trying to remind me that too often I try too hard to prove I am right, try too hard to make things happen a certain way.

Circumstances beyond my control led to a later posting time for today's blog entry. They led to frustration, but also gratitude in perspective. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Partly Cloudy

Today I am grateful for a closed mouth when words aren't needed or sought. I am also grateful for a quiet morning with cool air and a slower pace.

This was the view from our front yard on Friday evening:


The picture only captures part of the effect. It was an odd cloud formation, moving and changing quickly. It didn't lead to much other than a little lightning and a few sprinkles, but it grabbed my attention when I stepped outside.

The rest of the weekend brought both clouds and sun and I spent plenty of time out in both watching my son Sam's baseball team. I like sun and blue sky, but I appreciate clouds and shade too. Especially this time of the year when clouds and shade have a cooling effect that midday sun and blue sky definitely don't.

I was considering calling this post "Cloudy With a Chance of Gratitude" but it sounded already familiar. Sure enough, I wrote a post with this title last July. Here is that post from July 10, 2014. With over a thousand posts, themes and ideas recur. But each time I am at a little different place, seeing life from a little different perspective.

I have had some of those figurative clouds hanging over my head lately. Some are created by real fears and worries. Others form when I forget to accept life on life's terms. Reality is that life can't always be sunny. The best we can hope for is often partly cloudy.  But I will take that. Partly cloudy gives me perspective. Partly cloudy also means partly sunny. Partly cloudy can mean less glare and more clarity.

Clouds come and go. Some will dump a storm of emotions on us. Others are high and fluffy and pass by uneventfully. Clouds change the light with which we see our life, teaching us about perspective. Teaching us to look for the good in the light that is currently surrounding us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Good Dog. Stay.

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Jenny and for sunglasses. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his place in our family.

Good Dog. Stay. That doesn't necessarily describe Oliver. He is inquisitive and wants to be where the action is. That goes over just fine at times, and can be a little challenging at other times. But we love him dearly.

Good Dog. Stay. does describe a book title from Anna Quindlen, one of my favorite writers. It was published in 2007, but I just picked it up last week. It's a quick read and is also full of great dog pictures throughout.

Here are links to a couple of other posts that show my appreciation for Quindlen's work and words:

Another Favorite Writer: Anna Quindlen  from June 13, 2013 and
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake from July 3, 2013

In Good Dog. Stay. Quindlen writes about the life of Beau, their family dog for 15 years. And in typical Quindlen style, she writes about a lot more. She draws several parallels between relationships with other humans and those with our pets. There is much to learn from our pets. And there is much to learn about unconditional love, about taking care of the basics, about napping.

Oliver is an exceptional teacher when I am paying attention. Life is an exceptional teacher when I am mindfully present. That is my goal today.

I will be taking a blog break for a few days. Enjoy the hours and days ahead. That's my plan.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ongoing Education

Today I am grateful for a cool morning and for the ongoing education I am receiving about alcoholism.

When I was an active alcoholic in my late teens and early twenties, I didn't realize that I had a disease. I thought I had weak will and lacked the strength I needed. I tried to stay sober on my own, succumbed to cravings and temptations, beat myself up for caving in, and repeated the pattern.

There's far more to it than that. Alcoholism is a disease with symptoms and progression. It can progress to fatal if untreated. It has physical as well as mental and emotional symptoms. I would add spiritual as well.

I can just read about the disease of alcoholism and that begins my understanding. But I get the best ongoing education from others when they share their stories and their recovery journey with me. Sometimes I read their words. Sometimes I see their faces as they speak. Sometimes they are the ones listening to me as I process my latest challenge and lesson as a recovering alcoholic.

I have a much better understanding of alcoholism, the daily disease, now than I ever did when I was actually drinking. But I will not graduate from this education. I will never have it all figured out. There was a time such an idea really bothered me. Now, it brings peace.

Recovery from alcoholism takes place a day at a time. Ongoing education. Ongoing effort. Blessings follow.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Batter Up! Lighten up. . .

Today I am grateful for sunshine and shade, and for appreciation of a game as a game.

We have spent a good portion of the last two weekends at baseball tournaments for our son Sam. Last weekend they thrilled us with close games and extra innings. This weekend the games usually weren't as close and we were usually on the winning side. The team took second place this weekend after taking third place in last weekend's tournament. They have won more games than they have lost.

But for me the key questions are always: 1) Are you having fun? 2) Are you learning and improving? 3) Is your team positive and supportive?  Wins and losses are not as important as these things. (Though I have seen many teams who have fun, keep improving, and positively support one another win a lot of ball games over the years. Like gratitude leads to happiness, teamwork and fun leads to wins, not vice versa.)

Sam says he is enjoying the season and his team. I appreciate that he really seems to take the games' ups and downs and his own individual player's ups and downs in stride well. We cheer him and his teammates on, compliment them on jobs well done, and leave the coaching to the coaches. For all the games we watch, I would rather enjoy them than get all caught up in how my own child or the team is doing, what the coaches may or may not be saying and in what tone, and what good calls the umpires may or may not be making.

Sometimes I witness players, coaches, parents, other fans, and umpires taking themselves and this game too seriously. It happens in any sport. Too competitive. Too perfectionistic. Too much trying to live vicariously. Too much emphasis on winning and "second place is first loser" mentality.

Lighten up. Please. It's a game. They are kids. Keep the energy positive or stay home.

And that reminds me to lighten up in all areas of my life. Don't take yourself too seriously today Lisa. Do one thing at a time, stay present in the moment. Today is here. Batter up! Lighten up.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ordination A-F

Today I am grateful for time with our immediate family to celebrate Darcy's ordination as a deacon. I am also grateful for all of those who helped make yesterday's event a smooth one.

I could probably come up with an A-Z Ordination gratitude list, but I am tired and short on time, and A-F is a good start.

A=Alleluia
Just one word of some of the beautiful music we heard at ordination. And an appropriate refrain of joy (and relief) for the ordinands and those supporting them.
B=Bishop
The presiding bishop is a warm-hearted man with a sense of humor. He made an important ceremony a pleasant ceremony as well.
C=Cantor
She sang beautifully, only about 20 feet from where we were sitting, and she persevered through a long list of intentions that were sung.
D=Deacon
Darcy, Mary, and Beth, along with many others, were ordained and encouraged to serve. I want to thank them for all the service they have already done.
E= Everyone
Everyone of us has a calling and chances to serve. It can be in a faith community, or any community where two or more are gathered.
F= Father
Happy Father's Day to Darcy and all fathers. I very much respect the father that Darcy is to all three of his children. He is a blessing in all of our lives. And I think of my own father on this day. I miss you Dad!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Road to Ordination

Today I am grateful to be ambulatory and able to walk to ball diamonds far from parking lots. I am also grateful for the day ahead.

The day ahead is a significant day for our family, as my husband Darcy is being ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. We will be traveling to another part of our metro area for the event, where 32 others are also being ordained as either priests or deacons. The crowd is expected to be large. Many people will be taking many different roads to get there.

Some of those roads will be under construction, as is common this time of the year. It has me thinking about Darcy and the others getting ordained and how their hard work, dedication, sacrifice and support of one another have helped paved the way to today. Each ordinand has their own story and a road only they have traveled.

Congratulations to you all, especially to Mary, Beth, and Darcy and thank you for serving our faith community!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shared Ministry

Today I am grateful for joylets like sharing a moment of humor with my son Sam and for the way our dog Oliver stretches himself when he gets up.

I am also grateful for the members of the Shared Ministry team at our church, including my husband Darcy and two others who will be ordained tomorrow.

Darcy will be ordained as a vocational deacon in the Episcopal Church of Minnesota. Shared Ministry, in my simplified definition, is a group of volunteers in a congregation taking on roles within the church to allow it to continue to operate and serve. As congregations get smaller and money gets tighter, this team approach allows churches to keep their doors open.

And it allows people like Darcy to stretch themselves, to commit to a worthy cause, to put in many hours of time studying, discussing, serving, planning, reading, sharing. I respect and commend each team member for what they have sacrificed and what they have given back to their faith communities.

Darcy has been involved with Shared Ministry for ten years. He started out as Youth Coordinator and helped for many years with Sunday School, youth group, and mission trips. For the last three years, he has been training and studying to become a Deacon. He has taken on different roles and learned much; from giving sermons, to being worship leader, to altar guild. Part of what he has learned is a confidence in himself.

I am grateful that Darcy has stayed committed to this process. He began in it because we like our church and we wanted Sam to have the experience of growing up in it. Now, we will all share the experience of ordination tomorrow.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Delightfully Subversive

Today I am grateful for an afternoon nap and a good book to read.

To go from a post title one day of "Negativity Bias" to one the next day of "Delightfully Subversive" seems like a real switch. In fact, the two are intertwined.

This was the "Word for the Day" a few days ago on gratefulness.org:

"Evolutionarily, we're always concerned with what's not right. 
That's what makes gratefulness delightfully subversive." 
(Dale Biron)

Delightfully subversive. Look up the definition of subversive and you will come across words like overthrow, destroy, undermine. Subvert an established order or system. It is usually used in reference to rules, regimes, governments, legal matters. 

But consider how it applies to the inside job of gratefulness. Subverting our negativity bias. Undermining the self-pity that can come so easily and keep coming if fed. Going against what can tend to come naturally to us and to our brains, all for the good of a cause. A cause worth being subversive about. This one doesn't require deadly weapons, but more along the lines of spiritual tools kept in good working order.

When I use the tools of gratitude practice, I do find delight. Delight in the gifts of this day, small and big. Simple and profound. Tools work best when one is paying attention while using them.

Delightfully subversive. I encourage you to give it a try.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Negativity Bias

Today I am grateful for the sounds I can hear, like the crack of a baseball bat and our neighbor's lawn mower. I am also grateful to learn more about how I tick on a mental level.

"Negativity bias" is the tendency of human brains to default to negative, unpleasant experiences. Evolutionarily speaking, that probably served us well when life was "nasty, brutish, and short" and all
about "survival of the fittest."  As Rick Hanson puts it in his book Buddha's Brain, our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.

Of course, we learn valuable lessons from negative experiences and from pain. For example, anger spurs people to want to right injustices, both those of an individual nature as well as those on a cultural or societal level.  But being prone to focusing our mind power on more negatives than positives can leave us with more pessimistic perceptions.

This idea of a negative slant to how I perceived myself and the world around me are confirmed by my memories of adolescence and early adulthood. There was much good in my life, but I spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on what wasn't going well. I wasn't good enough, pretty enough, noticeable enough. Add alcohol, depressant that it is, and the negative slant got really skewed.

Dr. Hanson doesn't suggest ignoring or suppressing negative experiences. They will continue to happen. He suggests fostering the positive experiences. That takes time and effort. Retraining our brains is not an overnight matter.

Enter habitual gratitude practice. It has made all the difference in downsizing this negativity bias.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Buddha's Brain

Today I am grateful for laughter among friends and the peace of a beautiful summer evening at dusk. I am also grateful for the work and writings of researchers and experts that I can learn from.

My friend Jenny has given me the reading suggestion of Buddha's Brain by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Richard Mendius, MD more than once. When she suggested it again more recently, I followed up. The book, first published in 2009, was an interesting read and served to give me more evidence-based reasons for the benefits of gratitude practice.

The full title of the book is Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Love, Happiness, and Wisdom. Practical neuroscience. Practical is a great word. It means we are taking information and putting it into practice. We are doing or using something, not just studying or talking about theories and data. Do something today.

It does help to have some science to give us insights and motivations as to why our practical actions may be a good idea. A full definition of neuroscience, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, is a branch of the life sciences that deals with the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissus and especially with their relation to behavior and learning. It starts with the brain, the control center of our amazing nervous system. And since it is our behavior and learning that are the most obvious and observable, it is worth looking at how the whole system impacts those.

I have proven to myself, beyond any doubt, that practicing mindful gratitude is one of the best things that I do for my overall health. I can tell others my views and experiences on the topic, and write about them as well.

It doesn't hurt to have a deeper understanding of what is actually happening in our minds and bodies though. That is where books like Buddha's Brain come in. That is where an understanding of the idea of "negativity bias" is a good place to start. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Do Something Today

Today I am grateful for dual purpose umbrellas-protection from rain one day and from sun the next. I am also grateful for opportunities to change.

Speaking of change, you will notice a little different look to my blog, in terms of color and background. I am a creature of habit and operate along the lines of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  But I also get complacent and full of fear about things too.

Over the last year, other family and work demands left me little time most days to do other than write and publish my posts. I knew it was going to be that kind of year, and the vitally important parts were still happening-this writer kept writing, this person seeking mindfulness kept practicing gratitude.

I have had basically the same blog design for over 1000 posts. I am not very confident in my technical skills so when I get a routine down, I like to stick to it. There are times, however, when we need to step out into the unknown. Changing my blog design took a couple clicks and was a minor example of this stepping out. As silly as it may sound to some, I still had to muster some courage to click.

I did something different today with my blog. Where else in my life do I need to do something today?

Someone in a conversation in recent days used that line-"Do something today."  Do something. Don't overdo. Don't underdo. Just do something today. Something you want to do. Something you love to do. Something you have been putting off. Something you will be glad to be done doing.

Whatever your somethings are today, approach them with gratitude. We each get today. Some people had their last day yesterday, last month, last year. You and I are still here. Do something today.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Under Our Feet and Over Our Heads

Today I am grateful for entertaining ball games to watch yesterday and for our grandson Leo's healthy growth and development as he reaches 3 months old today.

The "Word for the Day" at gratefulness.org today is from Henry David Thoreau:

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." 

Thoreau had much to say about our relationship with nature and our surroundings. It is at the root of paying attention and being mindful as well. We are surrounded by grace, beauty, wonder, amazingly intricate human and other life. Am I noticing any of it today or am I speeding by it in my race to do what I think must be done?

I am better at slowing down and noticing, only after years of practice and daily effort. But I don't want the word effort to make it sound like drudgery. It truly isn't. 

Yesterday Sam's team's first game was played in a steady, light rain. During their second game, the sun made some appearances. The rain was a hassle, but also brought some laughs and kept us cooler. Dry skies and some sun helped everyone dry out and warm up and made playing conditions safer and more ideal. Heaven over our heads kept it interesting.

Parking for these games was not in close proximity to the ball diamonds. I did much walking, including a short stretch of trail through a wooded area and partial laps on a dirt/cinder track in the athletic complex. I appreciated the walking and stretching after a 10-mile run earlier in the day. I appreciated the view through the trees. I was reminded of pleasant memories as I walked the track. My shoes got wet at times. My feet and the rest of me got tired at times, but there it was-heaven under my feet.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Love Wins

Today I am grateful for three lengthy conversations with three different friends on three different days this week. They are each friends I trust and feel comfortable with. Thanks Betsy, Liz, and Jill!

I saw another bumper sticker the other day that prompts a blog post. The sticker said "Love wins."  That's all. Short and to the point.

I have kept that in my mind in recent days when I have felt myself getting frustrated or resentful. I have employed it in my home and in my marriage, and also with myself. No matter what I may have "my undies in a bundle" about, love wins. There is nothing else so important or vital.

Sometimes I have to go down that wrong road for a time before I figure it out, but the trips seem to be shorter and less frequent.

Love wins. I can employ that idea at work, at the store, walking down the sidewalk encountering a fellow human. I can hold out hope that the negativity I mentioned in yesterday's post can be washed out by love.

I am not talking about gushy, mushy love. I am talking about loving life, loving the opportunity to be here and experience it through my own eyes and the eyes of others on this human path. I am talking about the good and positive in the world. Simple kindnesses. A smile. Being gentle. Pausing. Silence.

Love wins. Good wins. Mindful gratitude helps me find more of each-love and good. Have a good day!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Negativity Perpetuated and Propagated

Today I am grateful for a nice bike ride with Darcy in the cool morning air. I am also grateful for warm cereal and bananas.

Yesterday I encouraged readers to watch Steve Foran's latest video. Here is the link again to the brief video with a message worth hearing and doing something about. He talks about "write wrage" and the negative comments that often get posted online on any number of venues. I have seen some of those negative streams of comments and been appalled and disheartened. People will go back and forth, getting nastier and nastier. Or others will jump in and take sides and add to the bashing. It often becomes about something pretty different than the original article or post intended.

It is often nameless, faceless strangers doing this to one another. Why? Do they feel better? Do they think they must keep retorting to get the last word in and "win"? Do they think if they say it one more time, a little more forcefully, that others will agree?  I don't know what their motivations may be, but it sure seems that negative leads to more negative. In the online comment arena, and any other arena.

That is sure how it used to play out in the arena of my mind. A little self-pity and self-hatred led to negative thinking which led to deeper self-pity and self-hatred. One of the greatest outcomes of gratitude practice for me is that it helps me start more positive and stay more positive in my thinking and perceptions.

In his video, Steve Foran suggests that every day for a week, we post positive comments online to offset the negative ones. Can our little comments make a difference? Sure. Not a huge difference overnight, but each positive comment is a good start. Be part of propagating some positivity instead of witnessing the perpetuation of all the negativity.

It turns out that there is something in human brains that tend to pull us to the downside-it is called "negativity bias."  I will write more about that next week. For today, I am looking for positves in a grateful frame of mind and sharing what I can with others.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Steve Foran: The Gratitude Guy

Today I am grateful for blueberries and for those people who are faithful readers of this blog. You inspire me to be a faithful writer.

Steve Foran is one of my faithful readers and has been for three years. Steve and I have never met, though we sometimes share comments on each other's blogs/websites. I would appreciate meeting Steve if the opportunity ever presented itself, but he is an example of positive connections that can be made in the digital world.

Steve is dubbed "The Gratitude Guy" and does monthly musings videos. He is a speaker and trainer for businesses as well. The description on his website reads: "Electrical Engineer teaches Gratitude Philosophy to people who want to be at their best and to leaders who want to bring out the best in others."  A worthy goal.

Our professions and audiences are different, yet similar, We certainly share a belief in the power of gratitude. A couple earlier posts on Habitual Gratitude are about the words and work of Steve Foran. Find one here from October. 4, 2013 and one here from May 8, 2014.

Here is a link to his latest musing titled "Write Wrage". I encourage you to watch the 1:48 video. From road rage, to right rage, to write wrage in our digital world; to a suggestion for action that is worth trying.

Steve Foran's brief videos always give me food for thought and also offer good suggestions to everyone about how to add to the stream of good in this world. We need the stream of good because the tide of negativity seems to be winning more often. More on "Write Wrage" tomorrow.

Thanks again Steve!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pushing the Pace

Today I am grateful for a nice walk and conversation with my friend Betsy yesterday. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his consistent presence in our lives.

Yesterday after posting "Use of Force," I went for a run. I decided to push my pace, partly because I was a little pushed for time and partly because I was curious how I would be able to do. It felt both pleasant and a bit uncomfortable (at least according to my legs and lungs). In the end, I was glad I "forced" myself to run faster.

I was on a familiar loop we run that is just short of 3 miles. I know what my pace usually is (10:00 miles or slower) and I know when I am ahead of that pace. I got to my first "checkpoint" and was pleased with my 8:00 mile pace. I kept pushing it. By the time I finished, I had done the 3 miles well under 9:00 per mile pace, and closer to 8:30 per mile. That is no blazing pace, but it was a good pace for me and I will consider it my speedwork for the week.

There is also a hill on this 3-mile loop, in the last mile. It is a doozy of a hill, but one I am very familiar with. It is both a real and symbolic hill for me. Pushing my pace uphill is hard work. Living life each day can sometimes feel like hard work. One step at a time, though, the hill is completed and I can coast a little. One moment at a time, my day plays out.

It doesn't seem like such hard work one step at a time, one moment at a time. That is my plan for today. How about you?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Use of Force

Today I am grateful for a cool morning, good coffee, the recliner I am sitting in, and this blog.

Someone recently wanted to tell me that gratitude should never be forced. It made me think. Do I force it? I concluded that there is a difference between feeling grateful and practicing gratitude. Gratitude itself should not be forced. If it is not sincere, people can tell. Gratitude itself is an inner feeling experienced by an individual toward someone or something else. It can be shared and multiplied, but it can't be created where there is not a willingness for it.

But gratitude practice, like any other healthy practice, at times may feel a little forced. That is okay. That is part of our humanness. I don't graduate from gratitude practice just like I don't graduate from recovery from alcoholism. It is day to day. Each day is new, and each day requires it's own effort. In the effort, we find meaning and motivation.

Have you ever had to push yourself off the couch or away from the computer to get yourself out the door to exercise?  Have you ever had to force yourself to walk away from an enticing dessert or high-calorie meal when you were trying to lose weight and watch what you eat? I know I have.

Gratitude practice at times may feel like that too. I put it in the same category as exercise and food. Most of the time I am motivated to make good choices and I always feel better when I do, when I push myself to be healthy. But there will always be days when I feel less inspired, when I feel self-pity instead of gratitude, when I will take the "easy" way out.

It is important to separate the idea of gratitude practice from the emotion of gratefulness, however. I can push myself to practice gratitude when needed, but the emotion is not forced. It can't be. It has to be realized and allowed in.

The key is that by practicing gratitude, even on those days when I would rather not, it allows me to feel more mindful and more appreciative. Exercising gratitude through practice keeps me in better shape just like exercising my body by running keeps me in better shape. Better shape means better perceptions of self and surrounding world.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ball Diamonds

Today I am grateful for ceiling fans and for ball diamonds.

On Saturday we went to watch our niece play in a softball tournament. Yesterday, Sam and I went to our neighborhood park a block away and played a little baseball. The complex we were at on Saturday was deluxe compared to the minimal set-up at the park, but I am grateful for both. Sam and I have spent many hours at that park playing ball and that has been quality time together, time I appreciate. Just being able to keep throwing, catching, and hitting is pause for gratitude.

But I also appreciate the nice complex we saw on Saturday and the busy nature of four diamonds in close proximity, each with their own games, players, coaches, umpires, and fans. It gives me pause to consider the hundreds of ball diamonds I have played, coached, and spectated at over many years.

Many happy memories in my life have taken place at ball diamonds. The ones nearest and dearest to my heart are the ones I spent the most time on as a player and coach. I can see them in my mind's eye.

What happy memories and locations can you see in your mind's eye today?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Getting Rest

Today I am grateful for time with Darcy's family and a chance to see our niece play softball. I am also grateful for the precious smiles our grandson Leo treats us to.

While I am at it, I am also grateful for rest. Rest to me doesn't just mean sleep, though enough of that is vitally important to overall health. Rest also means time to sit and do nothing, alone or in the company of others, nature, a good book.

The many months of this school year found me up early most mornings, and extremely early some mornings. Our family commitments and other commitments both Darcy and I have meant many busy evenings and weekends. Some days I was running on low, pretty much tapped out. On other days, I was energized and forward moving. Either way, I was usually pretty productive.

The last weeks in particular have been almost frenetically-paced and packed with too much to do, leaving little time for the kind of rest I would have liked. Travels. A sick spouse. School years ending. Baseball games. And that only starts the list.

Then I am reminded of the full life I have and the many reasons, even amidst exhausting times, that I can find to be grateful.

So the summer months will present more opportutnities for me to rest. I know I can't make up for sleep lost in recent months, and I continue striving to honor my body's need for sleep and other forms of rest. At least the weeks ahead may allow enough rest to bring rejuvenation and new energy.

I am also reminded that some rest is better than no rest, like some exercise is better than no exercise, and some mindful gratitude is better than no mindful gratitude. And I proceed into the next moments, encouraging you to do the same.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Short Walk After A Long Career

Today I am grateful for nice evenings and breezes to keep bugs away. I am also grateful for the many positive working relationships I have had over the years.

One of those at the top of that list is my friend Julie. Yesterday, Julie ended her 28-year career at our school. For 12 of my 15 years there, Julie and I worked very closely together. She in the role of Middle School Coordinator, me in my role of Middle School Counselor. Julie's level of professionalism, attention to detail, and compassion for both the students and staff were outstanding. Julie and I also became good friends over the years, sharing our family news, weekend plans, triumphs and struggles and much more.

Her consistent leadership, willingness to try new things, and determination to go to bat more than once for what she thought was best for our school all helped create a cohesive and tight-knit middle school. Julie's position changed and I have had three years to miss her already and get used to the differences without her as a lead person in our middle school setting.

But she was still in the building each day, still a connection I could make to someone I trust and respect. She was still a sounding board when I needed. It's a comfort to have someone like that close by. You can cut to the chase, do some venting, usually end up laughing, then head back into the day at hand.

I will miss Julie's presence in our school in many ways. Yesterday her and I took a short walk out to her truck after she had done all the final little things someone retiring needs to do.

Julie is leaving for good. Her husband Brad retired last year. Together they leave a significant legacy on our school community, and they bring a warm smile to the faces of people like me who got to work with them.

A short walk after a long career. A final goodbye as colleagues. Julie, I wish you and Brad all the best in your retirement. And I know you will both continue to contribute to good in the world. It is what you do naturally and gracefully.

With deep gratitude I say thank you for the difference you have made to me both professionally and personally.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Take a Seat

Today I am grateful for pleasant conversation and good food shared with a wonderful group of women. I am also grateful for forgiveness-both that which I need to give and that which I need to get.

I appreciated being able to take a seat among that group of women yesterday as we gathered to celebrate my friend Julie's retirement. (More on Julie in another post soon.)  I saw colleagues and friends I hadn't seen in a while. I got to appreciate the company, and the fact that I sat and relaxed for a couple hours after weeks of very hectic times.

This morning I took a seat on our front patio and participated in the sunrise while I composed this post. I participated in enjoying a cup of coffee, the birds singing, the soothing fountain. I participated in the moment at hand.

Later this morning I will take a seat next to my friend Julie at the closing prayer service my school always has for faculty and staff on the last day we are together each year. A positive year in many ways, this school year also had some struggles and some turmoil -some was my own, some was systemic.

From my seat on our porch this morning, I choose to take energy from the positves and take lessons from the challenges.

Participating in life doesn't mean we are always on the go. Sometimes it means taking a seat, observing and reflecting. Life is both active participation and active pausing. Enjoy both today.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Finish Line and a Light

Today I am grateful for the students, parents, and colleagues I have worked with this school year. I am also grateful for the years of experience I have in education that help me keep things in perspective.

This school year is winding down. We are near the finish line. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

Some of those analogies sound more positive than others. In truth, aspects of this year were positive, but others were quite draining. I could probably say that about every one of my 27 years in education. Twenty-seven times I have reached the end of a school year and reflected back on it.

The nature of a school year, however, means that before one year is officially done, work is being put in to prepare for the next year. I am summoning the energy to do some of that work and I am encouraged by the possibilities and prospects that lie ahead. I am grateful for that. One finish line is crossed and training begins for another distance event. And even when things might have felt like a dark tunnel this year, even then I always had enough light to keep moving forward.

My daily gratitude practice is one of the reasons I can remain energized and forward moving, whether it be at work, at home, in recovery, with my writing, with marathon training.

As I close this post, I also want to say good job to our son Sam for a successful 7th grade year! He does well in school and is pretty even-keeled about it all. For that I am extremely grateful. Thank you to his many teachers and the other adults who help teach, guide, motivate, and inspire him and all of his fellow classmates.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Just Out of Reach

Today I am grateful for the energy of students at the end of a school year. I am also grateful for time with family and a nice walk last evening.

Sometimes I feel like peace and calm are just out of reach. Like gratefulness is just around the corner, but I can't quite grab it. But most days I can find some reasons to smile. And that smile brings some peace and gratitude.

Yesterday when I was leaving work, not necessarily feeling very peaceful or all that full of gratitude, something happened that made me smile. As I opened my car door to get my purse and school bag put in, my water bottle dropped and rolled under the car next to me. My first thought was along the lines of "Are you kidding me? What next?" My next thought was "Thank you for that bit of humor Higher Power."

I didn't want to abandon my trusted water bottle. I have had it for years and it was a gift. I thought I knew whose car it was under, in case I needed to go back into school. I surveyed the situation and located the bottle near a tire. My first attempt to grab it failed. It was just out of reach.

Then, I changed my perspective and angle, gave it another try or two and was able to grab it and be on my way.

Sometimes that is all it takes. A smile. A different angle. A second or third try.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"0.0"

Today I am grateful for laughter among friends and for an open mind as my goal.

I saw a bumper sticker that read simply "0.0" as I was commuting to work recently. It made me chuckle and then it made me consider some of the meanings it could have. I didn't notice the gender of the driver or really anything else besides the bumper sticker.

My husband Darcy and I each have "26.2" bumper stickers on our vehicles, which we only put there after marathon #12.  We are modest folks and even more modest marathoners. But we are proud to be marathoners.

You might also see "13.1", "70.3" or 140.6" on bumpers or elsewhere. The first number refers to the half-marathon, the next two to total distances in triathlons. Such bumper stickers can also open up a debate about the size of the ego of the driver of vehicles bearing such stickers. Consider my husband and I though. We don't run fast. We have never had what would be considered runner's physiques. But we cover 26.2 miles a step at a time after months of training. It means a lot to us. I hope everyone has at least a few things in life that motivate them and mean a lot to them.

So back to the "0.0" sticker. Maybe that person doesn't like to run. Maybe they were poking fun at those of us who have such stickers on our cars. Maybe they put it there solely to get people like me thinking about why they put it there.

I enjoyed the little jaunt my mind took around the possibilities. I added a few more. Maybe they are a runner and the "0.0" reminds them to take a day off here and there. No miles today. Just rest. Every runner needs days off.

Maybe they were saying sometimes it is okay to just stand still and do nothing-"0.0". You and I both know people who look like it has been too long since they stood still and did nothing. They are frazzled and sometimes they are us.

Whatever you meant fellow commuter. I appreciated it all. Thanks!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Just Go For A Run

Today I am grateful for time to play some baseball with my son Sam and to take a walk with my husband Darcy and our dog Oliver.

I enjoyed a solitary run Saturday morning, while at the same time missing Darcy. We have spent many, many Saturday mornings over the last 11 years doing training runs in preparation for each of our 12 marathons. Darcy has been sick and though doing better is exercising caution before heading back to more exercise.It has been a tough stretch for him physically the last couple weeks and I am grateful he is improving.

It is at times like these, and in reflecting on my own cancer diagnosis, that I am reminded of health being one of our greatest treasures. I am also thinking of my sister Mary Jo, who this month reaches the milestone of being five years out from her lung cancer diagnosis. I am grateful for her health as a two-time cancer survivor.

Our health deserves our attention, our efforts, our care, our mindfulness.

I am able to just go for a run. There have been times I wasn't able to run, but mostly I am able. There are others who are unable to do what I do regularly. They may be injured. They may be too ill. They may lack proper running attire and a safe place to run.

Just going for a run helps me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am grateful for every run I get to take. I am grateul for each day's opportunities and will try to make the most of today, a moment at a time.