"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

Monday, August 31, 2015

In Simplest Form

Today I am grateful for the sound of crickets to confirm my ears are working. I am also grateful for the simple joy of awakening to a new day full of opportunities.

This was a recent "Word of the Day" on www.gratefulness.org

"Joy is the simplest form of gratitude."  (Karl Barth)

To find joy in the little things is certainly an easy street to more gratitude. But that doesn't mean it is always easy for us to do. Action, or perhaps inaction, is needed.

Pause. Pay attention. Listen. See. Feel. Taste. Smell. Joylets, as my sister Aileen has dubbed them, are all around.

Water flowing. Dawn rising. Cool breeze blowing. Fresh coffee. Joylets to start the day in grateful mindfulness.

Look for gratitude in its simplest form today and you are sure to find it. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30, 1950

Today I am grateful for a good 18-mile training run yesterday. I am also grateful for the 48 years of marriage my parents shared.

My parents were married on August 30, 1950. My dad passed away in October of 1998. Today would have been their 65th wedding anniversary.

I often think of my parents on their anniversary and wonder what kind of marriage they shared. We had a glimpse into it, but really only the two people in it know their marriage. I recall playful teasing between the two of them. Strong support of one another, a solid work ethic, a lasting faith. They weren't overly affectionate around us, but I had the sense that there was genuine love and caring between them.

They went through many challenges and many joys side by side. They raised thirteen children together and kept a farm going to help support us all.

Today, what they started on August 30, 1950 is now an extended family numbering over 100 and still growing.  I appreciate my family today and the values that still get passed on from generation to generation.

Thanks Mom and Dad!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Unanswered Question

Today I am grateful for peanut butter on toast and for the weekend.

"Life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe 
in the dignity and importance of that question."
(Tennessee Williams)

The unknowns in life are what help make it precious and fragile, to be honored and cared for. If we knew what was coming, we would either run from it or not appreciate it fully, or a combination of both.

Instead, I try to get up each day with some sense of wonder that I am here and alive, that I get to go exploring for more answers today. Answers to where peace is found. Answers to what my priorities are and where my time should be spent. Answers to how deeply love, faith, and gratitude can be felt.

We each have our own set of questions and pursuits. Hopes and dreams. We each deserve to have our lives, our selves treated as important and with dignity. That starts with how we treat ourselves. Then it turns to the people we choose to spend our time with and give our energy to. Healthy choices for ourselves tend to lead to healthier relationships with those around us.

And it continues further with how we treat anyone we encounter in our day, from co-workers to other customers at the store to other drivers on the road. With importance and dignity means we are leaving  a positive mark, contributing rather than contaminating. It's a good start.

If life is an unanswered question, joy is found in pursuit of answers, but also new questions.
Happy pursuing!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Keeping It Simple Revisited

Today I am grateful for good company, good conversation, and good food at a gathering my husband and I attended last evening. (Thank you to our hosts Beth and Tom!) I am also grateful for our son Sam and his healthy growth and development.

Keeping it simple is a theme I try to weave throughout my days, and is certainly one I have written about numerous times on this blog. It is a theme worth revisiting time and time again.

Today I can keep it simple by pausing and bringing myself back to the present moment when some part of me (usually my brain) wants to race off ahead. Being aware of my five senses in that pause can also help me regroup.

I can keep it simple by saying no and yes at appropriate times, to myself and others. Setting healthy boundaries is sometimes done by declining something. At other times it is done by embracing an opportunity. If I kick myself after saying a "yes" when I really wanted to say a "no, " or vice versa, I can learn from that and remember it next time. That will lead me to a healthier response then.

I can keep it simple by remembering that I have help and support. It is a lonely and exhausting place to be in when I think I have to do it all. Having faith in a higher source of power helps. Asking others for their input and help is also beneficial. And the benefits go both ways.

Keeping it simple. How will you revisit this theme today?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How about a 2 x 4?

Today I am grateful for planks and push-ups to keep my body strong. I am also grateful for time to sit for a few minutes this morning.

What do I mean by a 2 x 4? First, let me tell you what I don't mean. I don't mean that imaginary piece of wood we sometimes figuratively bonk ourselves and others upside the head with. I can take life too seriously and give myself (and I am sure those around me) a headache with that kind of 2 x 4. Lighten up. Loosen up. Be kind and gentle with self and others.

The 2 x 4 I am talking about is a gratitude practice. Two things/people I am grateful for and 4 reasons why for each.

1. My husband Darcy
a. We laugh together.
b. He understands when I need time to myself.
c. He supports my recovery from alcoholism.
d. He accepts my body as it is; scars, flaws and all.

2. Early mornings
a. My energy is more focused.
b. The quiet is calming.
c. The coffee is always good.
d. I get to start my day with some writing.

This kind of 2 x 4 (which is greater than 8 by the way), is a good way to start the day. Try one yourself, or use any combination you would like-3 x 3, 4 x 2, 1 x 5, 2 x 2.  You get the idea.

Try some gratitude synergy today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Only in the Present-A Reminder from Abraham Maslow

Today I am grateful for reminders of what I can control (my own attitude and actions) and what I can't (everything and everyone else). I am also grateful for legs and arms that work.

Abraham Maslow was one of the founders of humanistic psychology and is well-known for his "Maslow's hierarchy of needs."  The hierarchy starts with our most basic human needs for survival and is topped off by self-actualization.  I appreciated studying his work when I was taking various college courses.

My journey to self-actualization continues, but I can see it from here at least. I am very grateful that my physical needs, my need for safety and security, as well as love, belonging, and acceptance are solid. To became all that I can be is still unfolding, but I appreciate each day's opportunities.

In this quote below, Maslow sums up what that daily opportunity means:

"I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. 
The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness."

Here and now. Fully present. Mindfulness makes for a good moment, which leads to a good hour, which leads to a good day. Am I there 100% of the time?  No. I never will be. But I am inspired and motivated to work to be there more often. Not only does my mental wellness benefit, my overall wellness does.

Here and now. Fully present. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Flowing Pen

Today I am grateful for the energy of middle school students and for the support I have for my recovery.

I have been a writer for the better part of four decades. Putting pen to paper, creating a flow between heart and mind. I do more of my composing on the computer and on my phone than I used to. 

I realized the other day, as I was putting pen to paper in my journal, that I need that "old-fashioned" form of writing. Writing seems to lose a little of it's positive power for me when I go too long without holding a pen in my hand.

From my heart and soul, through my pen, flow genuine thoughts and feelings.

I will try to honor what works for me. I hope you do the same.

Pen in hand. Gratitude in my heart. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fresh Garden Tomatoes

Today I am grateful for safe travels, time with family, and a healthier perspective on my job.

This weekend I spent a few minutes with my mom in her garden. We were picking tomatoes, some ripe and some not quite. They will ripen off the vine in the next few days.

I appreciate that my mom, 84 and getting more frail, continues to garden. I think it is good for her in many ways. It is heartening to me that she is still able to keep a garden.

And we get to enjoy the results. Just a few minutes after picking the tomatoes, I cut one up and ate it. You can't beat that kind of freshness.

She sent a bunch of tomatoes home with us and we enjoyed them with our meal last evening. We will continue to enjoy them as the week goes on. A tomato and a taste of gratitude. A good combination.

Thanks Mom!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sitting

Today I am grateful for pizza and for this gratitude practice.

I am taking a few minutes to sit on our front patio again this morning, enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband, and reveling in the cool morning air, the sound of our fountain, and the beauty of the coming sunrise.

Just sitting. My brain is already racing, and exhausted. But the sitting is helping me regroup. My body is tired, though ready to go after a few exercises and a walk with Oliver. The sitting is telling my body I want to take care of it today.

Just sitting. Preparing for the day ahead which will undoubtedly bring things to add to my gratitude list, and also things to challenge me.

Either way, I will be better able to handle what comes my way because I took the time to sit.

I will be taking a blog break for a couple days. Have a good day and a nice weekend! Take some time to just sit.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

More or Less

Today I am grateful for time to play catch with my son Sam and for his good well-child check at the doctor yesterday. I am also grateful for some time with our grandson Leo.

So I considered this morning how I did with my intensity level yesterday. More or less, I did pretty well. The work day wore me down though, and by day's end things were out of whack. The intensity was too high and so was the exhaustion. That is not a good combination.

What started out as productive and positive degenerated into less than pleasant and nearly incoherent.

Then I went home and got to spend some time with family, including our grandson Leo and his mom Emily. Sam and I went outside to throw the football around a little. Darcy got me some ice cream.

I got back to my priorities. More or less, it was a good day.

Today is a new day, I will strive to make it more pleasant, less intense.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Intensity Level

Today I am grateful for long-time colleagues and for new colleagues. The former are a source of comfort, the latter a source of new enthusiasm.

My sister Aileen used the word intense in an email yesterday. Intense. Intensity. My own level. Other people's levels.

I can't control other people's intensity level, but I do have something to say and do about my own. When my intensity level is healthy, it is good for me, but also good for those around me. When I can maintain a calm reaction to someone else's high intensity level, that tends to help a situation and keep it moving in the right direction.

That last paragraph was basically a pep talk I needed for myself. If you glean something from it too, all the better! I am in the midst of a very intense time at work and my approach to it can make all the difference.

To start my day with some quiet gratitude puts my intensity level in the healthy range. The challenge is keeping it there. An open mind and heart and a mantra like "Be kind and gentle with yourself and others" should help.  Onward!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Diving In

Today I am grateful for sweatshirts and well-timed messages from others.

I needed that sweatshirt this morning when I walked Oliver. I so appreciate the cooler weather. I know I have repeated that gratitude lately, but it is worth repeating. As someone who really enjoys the changing seasons and aspects of each of them, I am also usually ready for the next season to come along.

The well-timed message was from Melody Beattie in today's reading in her book The Language of Letting Go.  She said "Help me dive fully into the present moment."

That will be a challenge for me today, as I am already pretty busy up in my head and my work agenda is a very full one today. I love the idea though, and the simplicity.

So I took the time to come out to our front patio in the cool morning air, in the early dawn, enjoying the soothing sound of our fountain. I dove in fully and it was good.

I will keep diving into the moments today and feel the refreshing energy that is found there.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Penny Reminder

Today I am grateful for my sense of touch and the pleasant feel of cool air on my skin. I am also grateful for the years I have been at my current job.

Many of you are probably familiar with the "pennies from heaven" story. It has many variations, but comes down to a simple reminder that we are not alone. Some find a penny on the ground and think of a loved one who has passed away. Others consider the "In God we trust" inscription.

One way or another, the message that gets through is that we are not alone, that there is a power greater than us at work in the universe. That is comforting.

Last week I heard one of these "pennies from heaven" stories and appreciated how little reminders can reap big benefits. A couple of days later, I came across a penny right outside our front door, after having gone in and out of that door a couple times previously that morning.

That higher force at work in the universe has good timing. I needed to step back and remind myself that I am not running the show, that I am only responsible for my part.

I picked up the penny and added it to the collection of items I often carry in my pocket. A penny reminder is a good reminder. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Once Upon a Time: 1100 Posts Later

Today I am grateful for a pleasant school shopping experience with my son and husband yesterday. I am also grateful for a good training run in spite of high heat and humidity.

Today's post, when I hit the publish button, will be post #1100 for "Habitual Gratitude."  I am a milestone marker and with each previous set of 100 posts I have dedicated a post to what I have learned and gained.

As I look back, once upon a time, I see the rookie blogger I was in March of 2012 when I started my blog. I still feel like a rookie blogger in many respects. I haven't come close to maximizing the various functions and options available. My readers and pageviews haven't gone up exponentially.

When I ponder the effectiveness of my blog and how many people I have reached or not, a quiet voice inside of me says to keep going, to keep doing what I am doing. I don't doubt that I have reached others, but I know with absolute certainty that I have reached my own heart, soul, and mind in new ways.

I was not a novice to gratitude practice when I started blogging. I had been honing that practice for over 15 years by then. I was coming to know and understand mindfulness in ways I never had before.

Blogging habitually about gratitude has not made me a pro yet either. It never will. Progress not perfection. There is never an endpoint with development of a grateful mindset and the peace that can accompany it.

Somewhere between rookie and pro, I continue.  My level of gratefulness and mindful presence are more fully developed. My practice of gratitude flows a little more readily and easily.

I am more fully developed as a person of faith, hope and love. Energy keeps flowing. Life keeps coming. I keep living it more completely than I ever could have imagined possible as an active alcoholic in my early twenties.

Somewhere between rookie and pro, I continue.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

A List From a Follower

Today I am grateful for air-conditioning and a good carb-loading meal at Olive Garden. I am also grateful for those I consider family-both blood ties and beyond.

Speaking of family, happy birthday today to my sister Mary Jo and my sister-in-law Terri!

Thank you again to my sister Aileen and her insightful guest post yesterday about "follow the plan, not the feelings."  When negative and harmful feelings-like depression, anger, self-pity, fear-grab hold of our thought processes they can pull us deeper into the pit.

Have a plan of some healthy choices and use those actions even if you don't feel like it. It keeps the demons at bay or at least from really taking a bite out of your health and peace.  Being the youngest of 8 sisters, I have always listened to my older sisters.

Well, maybe not always. But Aileen's idea made sense, so I planned to pause several times yesterday and add to a gratitude list I started yesterday morning about the time I published her post. I followed the plan and the day went well. It wasn't perfect. I had my moments. I didn't get everything done. Yet, it was a day where I knew peace and presence, a day when my energy was sustained and I was productive when I needed to be.

Some things on my list included:
-finding a penny (more on that soon)
-frozen fruit
-cheese
-a clean laundry room
-fresh sheets on our bed
-time with recovery friends

Follow the plan. Have a good day!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Follow the Plan: A Guest Post

Today I am grateful for laughter in the workplace. I am also grateful for reminders from a Higher Power.

I am trying to mix things up a bit on my blog, and to do some different things. With that in mind, today I am happy to include a guest post from my sister Aileen. Not only are Aileen and I sisters, we are also fellow writers and bloggers.  Her blog, "Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events," can be found here.  Several of her poems have inspired several of my posts. Here is one.

Like the rest of us, Aileen hasn't been left unscathed by life. She has both literal and figurative scars.
Like me, her writing has been a saving grace. I have much respect for the effort and joy that Aileen puts into living a healthy life, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I am blessed to share her wisdom in this guest post, titled "Follow the Plan."   Thanks Aileen!

Follow the Plan

“Follow the plan, not the feelings” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard regarding depression. It also applies to gratitude practice. Exhibit A: today. The plan: pause for brief gratitude check-ins every hour or two. The check-in could be counting five gratitudes on my fingers or saying thank you to someone or making a list. Sounds good and manageable right? Enter feelings, captured by the following: why bother, who cares, it’s too much work and I don’t wanna.

Hmmm, if I wait to feel gratitude I may never do it. But if I follow my plan – regardless of feelings – I can often act my way into enhanced gratitude and well-being. Eventually “why bother, who cares, it’s too much work and I don’t wanna” become: “I bother, I care, it’s easy and I will.”

So, following the plan today I appreciated (not a complete list): a touch of chill in the air, a chocolate cake recipe that is an oldie but goodie, birds flitting in the yard, flowers at the University, that I have plenty of food and am not in a refugee camp.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Contributing to Inferiority

Today I am grateful for time spent with my friend Betsy yesterday and the history that we share. I am also grateful for dreams and goals to pursue.

When I think of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes, like the one I wrote about on Tuesday, I always think of this one:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." 

I wrote about it in this post from December 2, 2014. I gave my own consent to feeling inferior for many years. I still go there at times, but usually for shorter trips, brief interludes.

Today I am thinking more about my words and actions and how they may contribute to someone else's feelings of inferiority.  Granted, I can't control someone else's perception of what I say and do.
I can, however, control my own attitude and actions. Am I judgmental? Overly harsh?Condescending?

I have been guilty of all three, sometimes simultaneously. I bet that made the person on the receiving end of my poor behavior less than grateful (if they knew about it, sometimes this all happens between my own ears).

Consenting to my own feelings of inferiority is not helpful, but neither is contributing to someone else's feelings of inferiority.

What can I do today to contribute positively? What actions of mine will bring people to appreciate that they encountered me on their day's journey versus wishing they hadn't?


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Replenishing Exhaustion

Today I am grateful for the opportunity I had last evening to speak to a group of women on the topic of gratitude practice.  I am also grateful for this morning's sunrise.

A special thanks to my friend Claire for being a familiar, friendly, and supportive face in the crowd.

I appreciate all those in attendance last evening and the chance to weave in my own story, the science behind gratitude practice, some activities to give it a try, and connecting with others in ways that matter.

I am feeling both exhausted and replenished this morning. In good ways.

Today's quote from www.gratefulness.org is:

"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."
(Willie Nelson)

I agree with Willie. It didn't happen overnight, but amazing things have unfolded in over twenty years of counting blessings. I am not done counting. I add to the count on a daily basis and that is the way it  will be for me if I want to continue to reap the benefits to my overall wellness.

Ready. Set. Count. Just for today. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Light or Curse?

Today I am grateful for the peace in a simple pause and for my friends in recovery.

This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is one many of us have heard or read before. I have always liked it. But I haven't always listened and internalized it.

"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."  

I have done my fair share of cursing--of the verbal and nonverbal variety. I used to curse myself in the darkness of my own mind. Thankfully, there are a lot more candles in there now and when a cursed breeze blows a couple out, I know how to light them again.

A spark can come in a pause, a laugh, a friendly hello, a heartfelt thank you, a task completed, a walk taken. Light can be ignited from many sources.  

Helping others. Reaching out to someone in need. Being the one to listen instead of vent. Sparks, all of them. 

All I really need is some willingness. Mindful gratitude helps make me more willing. More aware. It even cleans the dark corners of my negative thinking when it flares up.  

How do you light candles for yourself and others? 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mindful or Mind full? And then a Blessing . . .

Today I am grateful for safe travels and an enjoyable visit to Iowa.

The visit included a chance to see several family members, Sam getting a good dose of the farm, and a solid, though hilly, 17-mile training run for Darcy and I.  It also included some much needed relaxation and time away from all the stressors of work and home that awaited our return.
Sitting outside in the early morning and at dusk were highlights too.

Here it is Monday morning now and those stressors are knocking on the door of my brain again. Mindfulness or mind-fullness? That is my daily struggle.

Yesterday's "Word of the Day" on gratefulness.org was well-timed:

"May the sun bring you new energy by day; may the moon softly restore you by night; may the rain wash away your worries; may the breeze blow new strength into your being."
(an Apache blessing)

Nature has a way of bringing me back to center. Simply pausing and paying attention to my surroundings is a good start. I am sitting on our front patio doing just that before and after I finish this post. There isn't much of a breeze this morning, but there is the new strength of daily gratitude practice. 

Let the day begin. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Having Feet

Today I am grateful for my office at work and for chance meetings with friends.

Yesterday's sandals bring up today's feet. My feet have carried me for fifty years now. From my first steps as a toddler, to mowing lawn on the farm, running 800 meters in track meets, walking me down the aisle at high school graduation, starting me on the path of recovery from alcoholism, walking me into and around the classrooms I have taught in.

And that is just a start. Taking me, beside my parents, to Darcy at our wedding, traversing 26.2 miles in twelve different marathons, carrying expectant-mom Lisa into the hospital and back out again as a new mother to infant Sam, taking me into hospitals and clinics for cancer-related surgeries and chemotherapy.

Those are some of the biggies. Day-to-day my feet have carried me through some wonderful and challenging times. And from one mundane task to another. But what a blessing they have been and continue to be.

They work well and they rarely cause me pain. As I said yesterday, they aren't that pretty. I am a low maintenance sort of gal, rarely wearing nail polish. The bunion on my right foot is visible, but not yet very bothersome.

I think of those who have no feet, or whose feet are a constant source of pain. I don't want to take these two I have for granted.

Consider your feet today as you move about. Also consider looking back at some of my earlier blog posts. That is what I will be starting to do myself soon.

I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Have a good day!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finding Sandals

Today I am grateful for a nice baptism for our grandson Leo and for those in attendance. I am also grateful for online shopping. (You won't hear me say that often. I'm not a big fan of shopping in general.)

Several years ago, probably closer to 10 years ago than 5, I found a pair of sandals that I really liked. They went with a lot, they were comfortable, they got complimented. They got worn out. I looked for a replacement pair the last couple of years, but I wasn't having any luck.

That luck turned last week when I found the exact sandal online. I ordered a pair, appreciated the free shipping, and got them in a couple of days. Here they are:


That's what happens when I am sitting in the car with my husband, in line at the car wash. I consider what is in front of me. Clearly my feet were. They aren't pretty feet, but they have taken me on some amazing journeys, one step at a time. More on that tomorrow. 

I look forward to the many opportunities and outfits that these sandals will work with, and for their comfort and blend of colors. 

Do you have a favorite pair of sandals? Bring them out and enjoy. 


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Peach Propel

Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday and for peach Propel.

I am grateful that Darcy and I feel like we are getting more on track with our marathon training, after some setbacks earlier in the training season.

It was a nice morning yesterday, but somewhat humid and it warmed up by the time we were done. We take water with us and are able to keep hydrated and refill at our local Y if needed. But we had some cold beverages waiting for us in the refrigerator.

Thank goodness my favorite cold beverages today are alcohol-free. Post-run I like Propel, a sports drink. My favorite flavor is peach. I can't always find peach amidst the various flavors, but I found a couple on Friday and got them in the fridge.

As we neared home, after somewhere around 14-15 miles of running, I was really looking forward to that peach Propel. Darcy is often ready for a nap fairly soon after a long run like that. I need more time to wind down. My nap came in the afternoon.

So I took care of a couple of things, took my peach Propel, sat on our back patio and savored it. I need to do that more often. Sit. Savor. Just breathe. With peach Propel and with life in general.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Stride In

Today I am grateful for the ability to see the steam rising from my cup of coffee and for a few minutes spent in quiet meditation.

I am also grateful for time with my good friend Jill yesterday. Talking with her helps me find clarity.
Thanks Jill!

As we prepare to head out on a long training run this morning, I am thinking about "stride in."  In all my years of running and a few years of coaching track and field, I can't say I have ever heard the phrase "stride in."  "Stride out" is used a lot, but not "stride in." Stride out is a good phrase, and one that reminds me to loosen up, go with the flow, reach, relax. Always good things to keep in mind.

But what I am thinking about now and will take with me as we head out the door is how nice it sounds to stride in to the first steps of our run on a nice cool morning. Stride in to this new day with new opportunities for grace, gratitude, and service.