"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

Friday, July 31, 2015

Video Footage Captured and Saved

Today I am grateful for the technology that allows us to get and keep video footage of special times in our lives. I am also grateful for the opportunities I regularly get to write and talk about gratitude practice.

As we often do on our anniversary, we pulled out our wedding video and watched some of it last evening. I so appreciate that we have this. We live in a digital age and people take having videos for granted. It wasn't always that way. Even in this 17 years, what was on a VHS tape was converted to a DVD, which is now becoming outdated.

It always brings me back to that evening. Yes, everyone looks younger and that can be bittersweet. But seeing my dad, who died just 3 months after our wedding, and Darcy's grandpa still getting around well, always touches me when I watch this. Not to mention, hearing us say our vows again.

I appreciate that we have hours and hours of footage of Sam since his birth. He sometimes pulls out a couple DVDs and watches them. We have plenty of footage of my stepchildren Arthur and Emily as well. Now, we can easily get our grandson Leo on video just using our phones.

Sometimes all the technology boggles my mind. Mostly I try to appreciate what is good about it and like everything else in life, use it in balance.

And to appreciate the images of loved ones and life experiences-big and small-that have been captured and saved.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

17 for 17

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and for our marriage.

Today is our 17th anniversary!

Seventeen reasons I am grateful for Darcy and our marriage:

1. The love we share and how it keeps growing and evolving.
2. Our shared "hobby" of running marathons together.
3. How we both have an affinity for treats from our local bakery.
4. Matching recliners in our living room and the times we use them.
5. How quickly Darcy forgives me. (I need it more than I care to admit.)
6. How he puts family first.
7. His sense of humor and how he can use it to defuse me.
8. The involved and caring father he is.
9. The loving grandfather he is to our grandson Leo.
10. Going to sleep and waking up next to him.
11. Sharing the work of keeping up a house, paying bills, etc.
12. There are still sparks.
13. He accepts me as I am.
14. He likes clean cars.
15. He supports me in my recovery.
16. We have shared dreams for our future.
17. Our communication brings understanding.

Marriages, like any relationship worth having, are a mixture of work
and fun, doing our own part and letting the other person do theirs.

Read a little about how we met here. See where we were married here.

My life changed forever when I met Darcy and the blessings keep coming.
Thanks dear!

I love you. Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Stillness or Mental Noise?

Today I am grateful for that cooler air we had hoped for and for the entertainment value and laughter provided by old movies like "Sixteen Candles."

This quote from Eckhart Tolle really resonated with me recently:

"To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest 
gift you can offer the universe."

The universe doesn't need more of my harsh judging or wheel-spinning. It doesn't need more of my complacent cynicism that can flare up.  The universe doesn't need my mental noise, and I certainly do not either.

Stillness, however, has much to offer. Stillness is welcoming and open. Stillness is accepting. Stillness allows me to gather energy.

With that energy I can offer the universe effective involvement and be of better service.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lightning, Thunder, Rain . . . Cooler?

Today I am grateful for our home and protection from storms. I am also grateful for our front patio and witnessing an early morning thundershower while sitting on it.

My husband Darcy and I are sitting having our coffee, protected from the elements, but still outdoors taking it in.  I love our front patio, the view, the calm I can feel sitting here, even amidst lightning, thunder, and rain.

This is a moment I can savor in my day. I can appreciate that this is nothing severe, that our lawn is getting a nice watering, that Darcy is next to me, that the coffee is good, that my five senses are all helping me be present to this.

And I can hope that before long these storms will be ushering in some cooler and drier air after days of oppressive heat and humidity.

Have a good day. Savor the moments.

Monday, July 27, 2015

An Antique Power Show

Today I am grateful for time with my son Sam and for my husband Darcy and his hard work on many fronts.

Yesterday one closed door (not making it to bracket play in the baseball tournament) led to another open door. That was an outing for Sam and I to the Little Log House Antique Power Show.  It's an annual event that includes many opportunities for those who like history and especially the history of farming and agricultural equipment.

Sam is an avid fan of farm life and tractors. He can tell you a lot about a lot of different makes and models. We saw plenty of green and yellow at the show. The green and yellow of John Deere.

We caught part of a tractor parade, looked at some engines that were old but still in working order, walked through an area holding many restored tractors, and even did some shopping. Sam's shopping consisted of looking over some old tractor manuals and checking out some 1/64 scale model equipment to add to a display that he keeps in his room.

He didn't end up buying anything, but I got a refreshing black raspberry shake from a vendor. We both enjoyed the time to just look around and I appreciated my son and the unique person and thinker he is.  It was a part of my day I was grateful to share with him.

Today I will look for ways to share gratitude with others.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sharing Some Strides

Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday and for Sam's baseball season.

That baseball season is now over, but I want to thank Sam's coaches, teammates, the other parents and grandparents who contributed to an enjoyable and successful season.

On that long run yesterday we encountered and greeted runners, walkers, bikers, and a few small critters. It is nice to see others out and about in our beautiful community on a typical warm and humid July morning.

We shared some strides and conversation with a fellow runner for a brief time in the middle of our run. He came up behind us and then went on ahead, but in between we talked about our upcoming marathons. He has two, we have one. I appreciate the camaraderie among runners, and especially appreciate talking to those who have traveled the marathon distance and keep going back for more, like Darcy and I do.

We shared some strides, then his longer and faster strides sent him off ahead. Darcy and I settled back into our usual stride and finished out a good run. It was a good way to start the day.

Sharing some strides. What else can I share today with others? The more present and mindful I can be, the more I will be able to both give and receive. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Change the Trajectory

Today I am grateful for air-conditioning and for the safe arrival of my niece and her husband's second child.

Yesterday my day started on a downward trajectory. Mostly thanks to my attitude about it and waking up at 3:30 a.m. and not getting back to sleep.  A tired Lisa can be an "itchy, scratchy" Lisa. That's not to say that some of the circumstances that surround me would be frustrating to most people. I can cut myself some slack.

But I don't need to add momentum to the negative, and that is what I did yesterday morning. Thankfully, recovery work and regular gratitude practice allow me to change the trajectory of my day when needed.

I can pause. Just breathe. Regroup. Remind myself to not take life and myself too seriously. I can start an A-Z gratitude list in my head, and even if I don't finish it, the trajectory has already started trending upward.

There was a time in my life when many days had that downward trajectory from the get-go. Not liking who you see in the mirror will set you up for that.  I am grateful that time in my life is over.

Today I will focus on what keeps me heading in the right direction. That starts with mindful presence and an awareness of the gifts around me.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Little Jewels

Today I am grateful for my ten fingers and ten toes and the hands and feet they are attached to.

I like to understand the science and rationale behind what makes you and I tick, what can lead to greater peace and contentment. A couple recent posts of mine talk about this science. Read them here and here.

But what is most important day-to-day is that I take the actions that will support the science behind gratitude and happiness.  It doesn't need to take much time, but it does require conscious effort. If I don't give it conscious effort, my unconscious mind defaults to the negative and I head down a slippery slope.

Rick Hanson puts it simply--look for the little jewels each day. A few seconds here and there. Brief moments, savored and then stored and transferred between synapses in our amazing brains, one synapse at a time.

As evidenced by my recent posts, I am looking for these little jewels more regularly again. I had gotten caught up in my head and that slippery slope was getting slipperier.

Look for the little jewels today. Get back to firmer ground.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Singing All Day

Today I am grateful for clean windows and a yard to care for. I am also grateful for the singing I heard yesterday.

Singing all day? No, that wasn't me and that is something those around me can be grateful for. Today's post title and content have more to do with a simple realization I had. 

Birds were singing. Nothing new there, unless you consider each day a new day with new birdsong to usher it in. That is when I tend to notice the birds and their chorus...early in the day. 

Yesterday in the late morning I was pulling a few weeds and picking up some twigs in our yard. I was appreciating my physical capabilities and a break from the schoolwork I had been doing much of the morning. And I was present in the moment. It was then that I heard birdsong. It seemed clearer, more pleasing to the ear. I noticed and then onward I went.

Then mid-afternoon I took another break and washed some upstairs windows. That gives you an idea of how busy it has been. Typically the windows get a spring cleaning in March or April. Yesterday was July 22 and I was just getting to it.

Anyway, I digress. As I washed the windows and appreciated having windows to wash and the obvious difference the washing was making, I again heard the distinct sound of nearby birds. 

That was when it struck me. The birds are always singing, I am not always listening. I can hear birds sing all day long when I listen. I can find reasons for gratitude all day long when I pay attention in the here and now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tiny Prayers

Today I am grateful for a stopwatch that works and the feeling I get when I put pen to paper in my gratitude journal each morning.

I want to thank my friend Steve for using these two words together the other evening: tiny prayers. He was talking about his own growing awareness, of being able to say tiny prayers in situations and circumstances when before that never would have happened.  I appreciated hearing that because I am a lot like him in this way. Thanks Steve!

Being able to say tiny prayers means I am able to be out of my own head and have an awareness of others and the world around me. I am reminded of Anne Lamott's book about the three essential prayers of Help, Thanks, and Wow!

Being able to say tiny prayers helps me through my day and helps me maintain sobriety and recovery from alcoholism.

It can be a tiny prayer going out to someone I know is suffering or a tiny prayer of thanks for being a witness to the coming daylight this morning. It can be a tiny prayer to help me keep my mouth shut and my ears open. It can be a tiny prayer of love to family.

Or a tiny prayer of wherever those sirens are headed, help those people. Or sending tiny prayers around the world to hungry children.

What tiny prayers come to your mind? Send them out . . .

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Next Meal

Today I am grateful for the food in our refrigerator, for the grocery store just down the road, and for money to provide food for our family.

This is another one of those things I take for granted, that many of us in the developed world take for granted much of the time. Our next meal. Knowing there will be one. Knowing we won't have to spend our day searching for it.

Yesterday Sam and I joined some others from our church youth group and many other volunteers for a two-hour shift of packing meals at Feed My Starving Children. It is a great organization doing amazing work. I have blogged about it before, as I have had the opportunity to volunteer there before. You can read more about it on their website here.

During our shift yesterday we helped pack over 30,000 meals that will feed 83 children for a year. It's a drop in the bucket when you consider this statistic we heard yesterday:  just today, over 6,200 children will die of hunger.

Sobering indeed. And I just walk to my kitchen and easily find something to nourish me.

I am grateful for my next meal. I will try to be more mindful of each meal. Thanking those who helped get it to me. Appreciating the nutritional content that gives me the energy I need. Slowing down to savor it and doing my part not to be wasteful.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Peace of Heart Amidst More of More

Today I am grateful for the refreshing taste and feel of ice cold water on a hot day. I am also grateful for some peaceful moments in recent days.

For my family in recent months, the pace of our lives and our days has been too fast too often. That is the way life can be for many of us. Certain times of the year can be busier. Certain times of our lives, such as when our children are growing up, lend themselves to more commitments, more events scheduled, more hours away from home, more worries, more stops at more stores, more of more.

It can be hard to find peace of heart in the midst of more of more. It is not the fault of our busy lives, however. It is our fault. It is my fault in how I approach a busy day, how I forget to pause, how I fly right past an opportunity to breathe in gratefulness.

So when I saw these words from Brother David Steindl-Rast last week on gratefulness.org,  I pledged to return to trying easier.

"We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart."

The lesson I am getting loud and clear lately as I try to maintain my gratitude practice is this:

Gratefulness is the avenue to mindfulness. Mindfulness is a direct route to peace. 

Take time to pause. To breathe in and breathe out. Think grateful thoughts. Take grateful actions.

When I am able to do these things, the rest seems to take care of itself. And I end up taking better care of myself and honoring my priorities.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Here an App, There an App

Today I am grateful for working limbs and the many steps I have put on over the last couple of days. I am also grateful for kind people offering use of tents for shade at baseball games.

And I will add one more gratitude this morning. I am grateful for my new phone. I was due for an upgrade, and my old phone was well over two years old. I am a creature of habit and familiarity, so when it comes to things like new phones I don't tend to get as excited as other members of my family might.

There is all that new stuff to get used to and the new ways of doing things and the confusion of figuring it all out. But I concede that I appreciate the bigger screen and faster speed of my new phone, along with many other functions. That includes a mobile app which allows me to do more blogging components on my phone.  I can't explain it for sure, but that app is why it looks like I have two posts from Friday and none yesterday.  Not a big deal. It's all part of getting used to new things.

I will continue to learn about my new phone and adapt to it. My goal each day is to say the same about life. Learn from it and adapt to today's version of life on life's terms.

Friday, July 17, 2015

In the Heat of the Heat

Today I am grateful for cool breezes, even brief ones. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy's sense of humor.

We, the proud residents of the upper Midwest, like to call ourselves hearty folks. We earn that because of the weather we endure. More accurately, I should say the climate extremes that tend to occur over the 4 seasons and 12 months of the year. 

We talk about the weather, discuss trends, and maybe do a teensy bit of complaining and commiserating.

The recent trend is high heat and humidity and that lovely measure known as the dew point. Such weather makes me wish for that first snow. 

In the heat of the heat yesterday we watched baseball, carried chairs and coolers, looked for parking spaces in the shade, walked, sweated and wiped our brows more than once.

Then in our exhausted state we were rudely awakened at 1:00 a.m. by severe weather. Luckily we missed the worst of it. 

Hearty as we are, we are grateful to start another day in the heat of the heat.

Little Leo

Today I am grateful for NED (no evidence of disease) seven years out from my breast cancer diagnosis. I am also grateful for time with our grandson Leo this morning.

Leo reached the 4-month milestone earlier this week. He is doing well, healthy, smiles a lot and is just starting to roll over, although we haven't gotten to witness that excitement yet.

His mom Emily is working really hard to be the best mom she can be and provide for Leo. She is doing a good job and clearly her son means the world to her. She has some challenges in her circumstances, but what I see in her interactions with Leo are love and nurturing. You can see it in his face.



What I see and get from my interactions with him are joylets-little bits of joy like his smiles, the noises he makes, how observant he is of his surroundings, how he knows familiar faces, how he saves special smiles for his mom, how he kicks his legs and grabs things with his hands. In his presence I am more mindfully present myself.  Thanks Leo!

Seven years ago this morning I was preparing for a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, the first of three surgeries to address cancer in my right breast. I am so very grateful to be here this morning hanging out with Leo. My cancer experiences continue to shape my life, but so do experiences like being a grandparent.

Onward into the day! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Listen . . . Do You Hear That?

Today I am grateful for all of five of my working senses, and especially my sense of hearing as I take in my surroundings at this moment.

I am sitting on our front patio in the early morning, about 7:00 a.m. Plenty is already happening around our neighborhood.  Here are a few of the sounds I have heard in recent moments:

-the soothing sound of our fountain
-the loud sound of garbage and recycling trucks doing their job
-a mower at the nearby golf course
-vehicles coming and going
-my husband Darcy's "good morning"
-our dog Oliver with a mild bark for a passerby
-birds singing

To help me get back to mindful presence, I sometimes pick one of my senses and focus on what gifts it is sending my way, what I can appreciate about it's ability to bring me information and pleasantries.

Today, it is my sense of hearing. I encourage you to give it a try.  Pause for a minute or two and take in all the sounds around you.

When I do this, the next likely thought/action for me is to give thanks for ears that work and to give thanks for all that my ears tell me about. From living in a city with good garbage/recycling service, to the relaxing sound of water running.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Watch Where You're Going

Today I am grateful for the trees in our neighborhood and along my running routes, and the way the sunlight plays through them. I am grateful I was present enough to notice both the trees and the sunlight this morning.

Yesterday morning I was running late-my own schedule, no one else's. A couple of curve balls had come up, including a slow computer. But I really wanted to go for a bike ride. So I did. I reminded myself that today is the day. It's all that I get. Making the most of it included a short 20-minute ride on one of my favorite stretches of trail.

As I rode, I encouraged myself to stay out of my head and stay in my surroundings, noticing what my five senses were taking in. That is what I was doing on a curvy, tree-lined stretch of trail when another biker came around the curve. He clearly wasn't paying as much attention, but we had time to avoid one another. If I had been spinning in my head, I may have noticed him later and we may have had to take more drastic measures to prevent a collision. A good lesson in watch where you are going. You enjoy more with the added benefit of being safer.

A  few minutes later, I was nearing home and starting to think about what awaited me when I headed in to work. This time it was me not paying attention when I passed a runner coming from the opposite direction. She saw me first and was ready to move if I didn't see her, as evidenced by the look on her face. We avoided a collision and I apologized. Watch where you are going Lisa!

How quickly I can get caught up in thinking, in busy stuff, in worries, to-do lists, fears, etc. Daily practice at mindful presence helps and there is improvement, but there's room for plenty more.

Watch where you are going today. Share the trail. Share the day. Share gratitude.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Are You Hardwiring?

Today I am grateful for a walk with our dog Oliver in the cool morning air, and for the birds that greeted us with their song. I am also grateful for my sense of touch, allowing me to enjoy that cool air after some high humidity.

Rick Hanson, author of Buddha's Brain, has other books to his credit. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence was published in 2013 and furthers the discussion started in Buddha's Brain.

It is interesting reading and I find it validating to my efforts to practice gratitude and the benefits I reap.  The "negativity bias" of our brains that I wrote about in a recent post here takes work to overcome.

Many of you have probably heard the phrase "the neurons that fire together wire together." Where we repeatedly put our thought energy will determine how we feel, which in turn will have much to do with the decisions we make and the actions we take.

Am I making more positive connections in my brain or am I strengthening negative neural connections that sabotage happiness and health?  That may sound extreme, but it really isn't.

We are what we think. Blessing or curse? It may depend on the day, but I can at least stack more cards in my favor by adding more positive connections in my brain. That is exactly what mindful gratitude does.

I continue to learn and work on this aspect of myself. Recovery from alcoholism and the work it takes has taught me much about this as well. Today I will continue to strive for positive connections with myself, others, and the world around me.  Let the hardwiring of the better kind continue.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Sisters in Sync

Today I am grateful for a better understanding of technology than I used to have. I am also grateful for my siblings.

I am thinking especially of my seven sisters. The word "sync" came to my mind because of some new technology I have been getting familiar with over the weekend. Add to that the fact that today is my sister Aileen's birthday (Happy Birthday!), that my sister Ruth and her husband Bob just visited, and that through one form of communication or another, I heard from each of my sisters in the days around my own birthday last week.

We are in sync about things like birthdays. We make the effort to keep in touch across the miles and to get together in person when we can. We are an eclectic group, and yet also share many similarities.

I am sending a hug and a hello out to my sisters, and also to my five brothers, Mom, and our extended family. We have much to be grateful for as a group, and those facing difficult times have the love and support of the rest of us. That is what family is about.

What are you appreciating most about your own family today? Share that appreciation with at least one family member. Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Plodding My Way To Peace

Today I am grateful for a visit with my sister Ruth and her husband Bob, and for the opportunity to visit with and laugh with others.

I want to wish my stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa "Happy Anniversary!" today on their second wedding anniversary. I am also grateful for a brief visit with them yesterday as well.

My husband Darcy and I had a good training run yesterday morning. We are so grateful he is feeling better and able to up his mileage. I was a little busy in my head when we left the house for the run, as evidenced by yesterday's post.

I tried to practice what I preach and after some initial mind swirling I began to focus on my footfalls and breathing and not much else. The word plodding came to mind. I was plodding along, a large-framed gal in the summer heat and humidity. One step at a time. One breath at a time.

In the plodding, my mind cleared and slowed, and I found peace. One mile at a time. One moment at a time.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ideas Everywhere!!

Today I am grateful for clean air to breathe, more deals at the consignment store, and time with my friend Jill.

Ideas everywhere! That is how I feel at times regarding ideas for blog posts. I go through my day and one possibility after another comes up. This initially sounds like a good thing. And it certainly is in terms of being aware of what I can be grateful for on a typical day.

But there is a drawback to ideas everywhere. I can get caught up in an idea and how I might want to write about it in an upcoming post. I may start composing in my head, as often happens on a run. Or I may quickly jot down a couple phrases in the notebook I carry in my purse. In and of themselves, also not bad things.

Except, if I do this too much I seem to become overly consumed by ideas, all of which sound good and all of which start jumbling my mind. Everything gets noticed and becomes an idea, but mindful presence goes out the window. I am missing the present moment and what it has to offer.

This can and does happen to me in other ways, such as when I get caught up in stuff I need to do around the house. I keep adding to the list, going floor to floor and seeing more to do. My head starts spinning, I become a bit agitated because I think I will run out of time, and the last thing I am thinking about is the joy found in the present moment, the joy found in having a house to take care of.

There may be blog ideas everywhere, but this writer and student of habitual gratitude practice needs to pause and remember it is not about the ideas as much as it is about the gratefulness. Take the exclamation points off the ideas everywhere and put them on here on now.

Friday, July 10, 2015

How Quickly . . . What Matters . . .

Today I am grateful for priorities and for some closet cleaning.

We were reminded early this morning about how quickly things can change in any of our lives. A fall down some stairs could have had some terrible outcomes. Thank God, other than a bit of a twisted ankle, everyone is okay.

Things can change that quickly. A phone call. A fall. An accident. A yes instead of a no. A no instead of a yes. A diagnosis or an all-clear. Split seconds can change things forever, both in positive and negative ways.

When one of those split seconds happens, not only do we get the wake-up clarity of how quickly things can change, we get to prioritize what matters most. Something that may have seemed big, important, and bothersome just a few minutes ago is put in true perspective.

What matters most is that we are here, healthy, sharing our lives-the trials and the tribulations. What matters most is being awake to the experience and the precious nature of each moment.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stride Out

Today I am grateful for sobriety and the support to maintain it daily. I am also grateful for birds singing to welcome a new day.

Yesterday morning I went for a run, doing a speed workout that I try to do once a week. (Keep in mind that speed is a relative term here.) If you are a regular reader of my blog, (Thanks!) you have probably noticed a struggle lately to find peace and calm amidst daily life. I was a little "in my head" yesterday morning.

When I headed out for the run, I had already walked twenty minutes or so and I am sure that helped my legs feel ready to go. But as I took my first steps, a voice in my head said "Stride out!" I believe that voice was my Higher Power giving me some direction. When I have faith and an open mind, I get messages coming through. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not; but coming through.

Stride out! So I did. I relaxed my arms and lengthened my steps out. I felt more loose, less tense. I felt a physical letting go. I ran smoother. Breathed easier. And yes, I ran faster, shaving off 45 seconds from last week's time. I got into the runner's rhythm and out of my overanalyzing brain.

When I got to the doozy of a hill in the last mile, I shortened my strides. My legs and lungs thanked me. We made it to the top and finished strong.

Sometimes we need to stride out. At other times we need to shorten it up. Calm presence helps me know when it is best to do each. Have a good day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Upkeep

Today I am grateful for cooler and better sleeping weather the last couple of nights. I am also grateful for the things in my life that require upkeep.

Upkeep does take effort, time, and energy. When you stop to consider it, pretty much everything that is important in our lives requires upkeep. From material things like houses, cars, yards, gardens, and clothes to human things like relationships, families, our bodies, souls, minds, and hearts.

There may be times I look at some of this upkeep as drudgery or as too much work. But when I look at it through the lens of gratitude, I tend to put the right kind of energy to it. There are so many people I cherish in so many different ways. Relationships require upkeep like communication, mutual respect, and forgiveness.

This body of mine, imperfect and flawed and all, deserves being kept up and performs much better when it stays hydrated, gets exercise and rest, and some healthy food.

It starts and ends with heart, soul, and mind though. If the upkeep on these is timely and balanced, the upkeep on the rest of what matters is made easier.

Where do you need to put your upkeep efforts today? I need to put mine to quieting and opening my mind.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Exit/Enter

Today I am grateful for a pleasant birthday and all the well wishes from family and friends via several communication routes.

I have been a poet since I was 11 or 12. In recent years, I have written fewer poems, turning instead to more essays. But the poet in me will always be there. Consider this the last poem of my forties, or the first of my fifties. I wrote it at age 49 shortly before turning 50.

It is really about reining in my propensity to default to negative thinking. That is what my habitual practice of gratitude is about as well. It works. It really does.

Exit/Enter
As I prepare
To exit
My forties
Self-pity
Wants to
Arm wrestle
With gratitude

One damn thing
After another
Has piled up
In and
Around me

A pity party
Started sounding
Warranted

But gratitude
Is in
Far better shape
From regular
Exercise and use
And handily
Defeated
Self-pity

As I enter
My fifties
I have
Fifty x 50
Reasons
To celebrate
And live life
Fully

But also fifty
Forms of
Self-pity
Lurking

I will continue
To gratefully
Flex the muscle
Of mindfulness
To put some
Distance between
Myself and the
Enticing self-pity

As I exit
My forties
I reflect
Humbly

As I enter
My fifties
I seek
Grace

No room
Or time
For self-pity

7/5/15

Thanks for allowing me to share my latest poem. Have a good day!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fifty for 50

Today I am grateful for another birthday, another day. And I am grateful for relief from the "ism" of alcoholism when I reach out for help.

I have been setting myself up for a pity party in recent weeks. Slowly letting resentment, anger, fear and other fun stuff erode into self-pity and Lisa trying to run the show all by herself. "One damn thing after another" was happening and I was losing my sense of calm and mindful gratitude.

Thankfully, today I feel better. And just in time for my 50th birthday.
In no particular order...here is a gratitude list of fifty things to help me celebrate 50 years of life:

1. My physical health (even with a little skin cancer removed recently and a developing bunion.)
2. My emotional health (it gets tested at times, but endures.)
3. My spiritual health.
4. My mental health.
5. The role that gratitude plays in all these areas of health.
6. Being able to say "better older than deader" and meaning it. (Read more here.)
7. Saying "More birthdays please!" and wanting them. (Read more here.)
8. Daily recovery from alcoholism.
9. Surviving my active drinking days and dangerous choices.
10. My husband Darcy.
11. Our strong marriage and good communication.
12. Our son Sam and the opportunities to learn and grow as a parent.
13. Being a stepparent to Arthur and Emily.
14. Our daughter-in-law Alyssa.
15. Our grandson Leo.
16. Oliver, our cockapoo.
17. A sense of humor, more often than not.
18. My abilility to run and participate in other physical activities.
19. The chance to run marathon #13 later this year.
20. Tamoxifen, a proven medication for breast cancer patients.
21. Friends, new and old.
22. Support from other recovering people.
23. My seven sisters and five brothers.
24. Their spouses.
25. My nieces and nephews and the next generation.
26. My parents and what they taught us over the years.
27. The benefits of growing up on a farm.
28. The rolling hills where I grew up.
29. Ice cream.
30. Pizza.
31. Freshly brewed coffee.
32. Head massages from my husband.
33. My aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family.
34. My five working senses.
35. All the addresses I have lived at in Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
36. No more hangovers.
37. No more blackouts.
38. Acceptance of my flat chest and scars.
39. Prosthetics.
40. Air-conditioned movie theaters.
41. My job.
42. Co-workers, students, and parents.
43. Our current home and my favorite places in it.
44. Vehicles in good working order.
45. Ceiling fans.
46. To be a writer.
47. Bluetooth.
48. Laughter.
49. This blog.
50. The love that surrounds me.

Have a good day! Make your own list, short or long. Gratitude is always possible.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Codependence

Today I am grateful for healthy detachment and for traditions like ice cream on the 4th of July.

Yesterday's topic included independence and interdependence. Today's comes from a different angle-codependence and dependence. Codependence and dependence lead to a loss of independence, but it is more complex than that.

Melody Beattie, a well-known author on codependence and recovery from it, defines a codependent person as one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior. A couple other aspects to this definition that bear mentioning are people-pleasing to the extent that self-care is forgotten or severely minimized, and someone staying in a destructive/unhealthy relationship out of fear of being alone or being deemed unworthy.

Complex indeed. We all probably toy with codependence some. And we all probably know others who are way beyond toying with it and are engulfed by it. It can be a hard thing to witness. It can be a hard pattern to break if you are the one in it.

I try to remember healthy boundaries, healthy detachment, and detaching with love. I try to support others in their efforts along these lines as well. Alcoholism, addiction, family dysfunction, and generations of unhealthy patterns and behaviors can be formidable. It takes patience, faith, facing fear, self-care, and much more to move out of the bonds of codependence and dependence.

Maybe it is you who needs to start breaking the pattern today. Maybe it is someone you care about.
Staying present and being grateful in the moment can help take the next steps, can help us support one another in the right ways. Getting too far ahead becomes defeating and overwhelming because the problem seems impossible. One boundary at a time, one healthy choice at a time, change can happen.

Wishing you the best in your efforts. Consider the gratitude that comes with hope and opportunities to change. Just for today.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence

Today I am grateful for the freedoms I enjoy and for those who help maintain those freedoms. I am also grateful for time to savor cool air, birds in song, and a cup of coffee this morning.

Happy 4th of July! It is also known as Independence Day. I am reminded, however, that July 4, 1776 was simply when our founding fathers declared independence. It took many more years and the Revoltionary War before our nation actually gained our independence.

In ways, we continue to work for that independence and freedom for all. It even seems like we have lost some ground in recent decades. Ground that many fought long and hard to gain.There are concerning signs with growing materialism and entitlement, declining work ethic, racial tensions, and deteriorating interderdependence. It takes interdependence among citizens to maintain independence in a nation.

So a declaration is a good start, but only a start. It takes plenty of work and sacrifice to bring that
declaration to fruition. Am I doing my part? Am I contributing to society in positive ways? Am I following the laws that are there for everyone's safety and security, and for justice? Am I kind and caring to my fellow Americans, both those I interact with regularly and those I may only cross paths with once?

I looked back on my previous 4th of July blog posts and include links to them here for further reading if you are interested:

Happy 4th of July-A Great Day for Gratitude  from 2012.
Freedom Isn't Free  from 2013.
Freedom from . . . Freedom to . . .   from 2014.

I close with a line borrowed from last year's post: "If we want to maintain freedom from . . . we must exercise freedom to . . .  How would you complete those lines? What can you do today?"

Friday, July 3, 2015

Seven Years with Our Oliver

Today I am grateful for a closed mouth and an open mind and heart. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and what he brings to our family.

Oliver arrived in our lives seven years ago today. After a plane ride and a little time lost on a baggage carousel, we met him for the first time and quickly fell in love.

Here is a picture of Oliver that I especially like:



We were just having a little fun with the Twins cap. He's not a big fan of doggy attire or short haircuts. But this captures him in one of his favorite hangout spots in our house. When we first got him, the rule was "not on the furniture." Now, he sits/sleeps anywhere he wants to. Sound familiar?

He has shown us unconditional love and taught us much ever since. Our lives would not be the same without him.

Here is one of my first blog posts from three years ago. It is called "And Then There's Pup" and it tells more about the timing of his arrival. Oliver and my post-cancer self continue to grow and learn together and enjoy one another's company. Thanks pup! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Continuous Flow

Today I am grateful for ice cream sandwiches and for the daily opportunities I get to write.

The "Word for the Day" on gratefulness.org yesterday was:

"In the continuous flow of blessing our heart finds meaning and rest."
(Brother David Steindl-Rast)

Lately, there have been days and weeks that have seemed like one "pain in the neck" after the other. Case in point, as I started to type this line our dog Oliver proceeded to throw up on our carpet. Minor issue. As many of the things in recent weeks have been. But some have been more significant. Health issues like pneumonia for example. 

I am tired of "one thing after another" and sometimes I want to wallow in a little self-pity, a little rendition of "poor me" that I used to spend so much time mired in. Then the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast show up, both on my blog header and through this recent quote above. 

Life isn't always rosy and peachy. It never will be. I don't always make the best choices in my thoughts. I will continue to be perfectly imperfect. Yet, I handle things so much better than I used to, and that deserves some acknowledgement, a little pat on the back. Then onward we go.

Only by striving to keep a continuous flow of blessing going through my daily practice of gratitude am I able to stay out of the muck. That negative stream of energy-draining, spirit-zapping thoughts that would otherwise pull me in. Oh, I will dabble. But I won't fall in. My heart and soul find enough meaning and rest in mindful presence that I don't get fully immersed in the "poor me, poor us" stuff.

Instead, I seek keen awareness of the blessings in this moment. It's a good start.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Difference Between Cars and Brains

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy's ability to run again after an illness. I am also grateful for the appreciation and calm gained when I am able to keep things in proper perspective.

Yesterday's "pains in the neck" stemmed from vehicle difficulties with my stepdaughter's car. It has reached that point in mileage where issues crop up. It led to an early morning flurry of activity, the kind you wish you wouldn't have to deal with but that require action. All before 7:00 a.m. Yet, everybody got to work or where they needed to get, and the day proceeded.

Everyone was safe. The car issue could have gotten serious and become a danger. It didn't. There is a lot of gratitude in that alone. And if I stay stuck in the frustration of what wasn't going well, I miss what did go well.

Darcy and I shook our heads a little and asked "one more thing, really?"  But we maintained our sense of humor and we kept returning to gratitude. Gratitude for safety. Gratitude to have options. Gratitude that cars can be fixed or replaced.

A pain in the neck, yes. A routine-changer too. Not a life-changer though. Not like when things happen to our bodies that can't be fixed or replaced. Like the dementia that destroys the brains of wonderful, energetic people like my brother-in-law Roger and so many others.

That puts the hassle of car issues in perspective real quickly. And it puts Roger and my sister Danita in my thoughts and prayers each and every day.