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Showing posts from June, 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 …

Partly Cloudy

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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 po…

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 betwee…

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 alc…

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 game…

Ordination A-F

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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 c…

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!

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 M…

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. …

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…

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 …

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 coup…

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 s…

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 n…

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…

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 S…

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 i…

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 awa…

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 c…

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 game…

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 differen…

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 sc…

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…

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…

"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 physi…

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 b…