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Showing posts from January, 2016

Layla, Linda, and Loverboy

Today I am grateful for warmer weather and an outdoor run with Darcy. I am also grateful for being able to laugh at myself more than I used to.

Layla by Derek and the Dominos is on my "Top 5 Favorite Songs of All Time" for sure. Don't ask me why. I think I have always liked the song because it takes the listener through the full range of human emotions. Listen to it here. The first three minutes are intense and include vocals, but the next three minutes are the ones that always moved me the most. Looking back, I think it is because the despair in that part of the song matched the despair and confusion in my own mind and heart at times in my youth. It still stops me short and brings me to the brink of tears (which is as close as I usually get).

Layla has an interesting history too. It was written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, inspired by a Persian poem about unrequited love, but also about Clapton's own unrequited love for Pattie Boyd. Boyd, a model and actress, was t…

Killing Me Softly

Today I am grateful for sleeping in and early morning quiet.

Killing Me Softly with His Song by Roberta Flack is a beautiful song sung by a beautiful voice. It has always resonated with me because it gets to the heart of where a good song can take us emotionally. It was a number one hit for her in 1973, helping Flack make history. She is the only solo act to win back to back Grammy Awards for Record of the Year. She won in 1973 for her song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and again in 1974 for Killing Me Softly.  

Both of these songs were sung by others, but I find Flack's versions to be the best. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is a heart and soul love song. Even at a young age, before I knew that kind of romantic love myself, the song still moved me.

Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant is another favorite "K" song of mine. I wrote about it in
What's Your Ringtone? from my earlier blogging days on November 16, 2012.  It is a fitting song for someone like me; …

Journey and Journeys Cut Short

Today I am grateful for this life journey I am on and the people sharing it with me. I am also grateful for my work colleagues.

A first look at the letter "J" starts with a highlight--the band Journey. From the late 1970's into the mid-1980's, I came of age and so did this rock group. Some of my favorite songs from the group are Wheel in the Sky, Be Good to Yourself, Only the Young, Don't Stop, I'll Be Alright Without You, Ask the Lonely, After the Fall, The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love) and Separate Ways (Worlds Apart). 

This last song seemed very fitting when it came out our senior year of high school. My friends and I would be heading in different directions after graduation. For me, Separate Ways has always defined that time in our lives and captured the mixed emotions we were experiencing.

A sadder side of the letter "J" comes when remembering those in the music world whose journeys were cut short. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died abo…

A Couple of "I" Songs from a Couple of "J" Artists

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage. I am also grateful for fingers that work on computer keyboards.

Imagine by John Lennon (released in 1971) and I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash (released in 1972) are two songs that I have never tired of listening to over the decades.

Imagine was full of messages the world needed in the early 1970's. We need the same messages today. Living for today. Living life in peace. Sharing the world. "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one." More love and tolerance, beginning in our own homes and going out to the wider community and world, can make all the difference.

I Can See Clearly Now,
if I had to pick just one, would probably win out as the most meaningful song in my life. I wrote about it briefly in New Glasses (Point #4), a post from January 18, 2013. Something in this song-the lyrics, the promise-gave me hope when I most lacked it…

A "Hallelujah" to bring them "Home"

Today I am grateful for a phone call from my oncologist's nurse confirming good blood work results and for other reminders to not take this precious and fragile life for granted.

I am thinking especially of my good friend Jenny and her family today. Her sister Susan died on Sunday, another casualty of cancer.

The beauty and power of music and our favorite songs is that they elicit emotional connections for us. Sometimes those connections are joyous. Sometimes they are full of sorrow. Sometimes both. A good song touches us on a visceral level and beyond. On a given day a song may make us smile. On a different day, the same song can move us to tears.

When we visited my sister Danita in December following the death of her husband Roger from Lewy Body Dementia, she shared this song with us: Hallelujah by Allison Crowe. She shared that they played it for Roger in his last living hours. I have listened to it many times since, thinking of Danita and the grief she is facing in these first…

Go Now . . . Your Own Way

Today I am grateful to be able to laugh at myself and circumstances. I am also grateful to be able-bodied and to enjoy shoveling some snow off of our driveway.

Go Now by the Moody Blues and Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac are two favorite songs by two of my favorite artists. I could list many more songs by both groups . . . but then G would get sidetracked. So how about a quick mention of the '80's group The Go-Go's and my favorite song Vacation?  On a side note, kudos to The Go-Go's for being the first all-female group to write their own songs, play their own instruments, as well as sing their songs. They had solid success at it.

Go Now is the first track on "The Best of the Moody Blues" CD that I listened to many, many times on my commutes over the years. Go Now was like a directive for me. Go now into this day, a moment at a time. Go now and do the next right thing. Go now and listen to more Moody Blues like I'm Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),

Forgotten "Friends"

Today I am grateful for an enjoyable birthday for Sam, time with our grandson Leo, and for the simple deliciousness of "jubilee jumble" cookies.

Somewhere in my musical explorations of recent days, I was listening to an Amy Grant song and came across Michael W. Smith's Friends. You can listen to it here. I hadn't heard the song in years and had pretty much forgotten about it. It took me back to my college softball days and teammates who introduced me to both Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. I would describe their music as Christian rock. I went on to listen to plenty of Amy Grant especially.

Like many songs, forgotten and unheard over time, the words and the music playing again took me back to that time. These memories were pleasant ones. Good times during our softball season travels and nights in hotel rooms with lots of laughter.

I only keep in touch with a handful of my former softball teammates. What has happened to the rest? How are they doing in their lives?  Ho…

For My Son on His 14th Birthday

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Today I am grateful for my son Sam and for the shared parenting my husband Darcy and I do.
Sam was born 14 years ago this morning, just before 5:00 a.m. Fitting that this early bird gave birth to her only child early in the day as well. How could he be 14 already? It happens quickly. He starts high school in the fall and will be learning to drive before long. The last couple years have seen the chubby cheeks give way to the lean look of a young man. Here he is in this year's wrestling picture:

He looks tough, but he's still my baby and he still lets his mom hug him. He is quiet and gentle for the most part, with his quirks and whims like we all have. They define him and I love them all. I am proud of Sam and how he is growing and developing, levelheaded and with future direction. I appreciate that he has a sense of self and a confidence I never had at his age. We have worked hard to be consistent parents and to teach him important values while laughing with and loving him thr…

Sir Elton, Some ELO, and Real Perspective

Today I am grateful for time in my recliner this morning. I am also grateful for the time my new oncologist spent getting to know me yesterday and for his gentle approach. My previous oncologist, who I really liked, left that clinic. This was my first annual visit with the new one. All went well.

There are no shortage of "E" artists in the music arena. Elton John is indeed a superstar on the world's musical stage, in more ways than one. What a prolific and successful career he has had over five decades, including more than fifty Top 40 hits. We all have our favorites. Mine include Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tiny Dancer, and Someone Saved My Life Tonight. The last song rang true for me on some of my worst drunken nights. Thank you again to my steadfast friends Sheila and Deb. I write about them in Life Saver #1 and Life Saver #2.

Then there is ELO: The Electric Light Orchestra. One of the very first 45s I got of my own was "Telephone Line" for my 12th birthday. …

Day by Day via Godspell and The Hooters

Today I am grateful that Sam does well in school and I am also grateful for the comfort of sweatshirts and jeans.

"Day by Day" from Godspell is a song that dates back to my elementary days. (The musical premiered in 1970.) I don' recall a lot about our music classes with Sister Doris, but there were definitely hymns involved. I do remember a little green song book that had some more modern songs in it, and "Day by Day" was one of them. Listen to it here.

The lyrics include:

Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly 
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day

Whatever name you give it, many of us pray to a power source greater than ourselves. God. Allah. Higher Power. Great Spirit. What worthy goals-to see, love, and follow more clearly, dearly, and nearly. Not only that Great Spirit but one another, ourselves, nature, the world around us. This song always moves me.

There is another song titled "Day by Day" by T…

A Sea of C's

Today I am grateful for the convenience of cell phones and for time with friends in the BC sisterhood.

When I started jotting down artists and songs that start with "c", I quickly was inundated with some of my favorite artists. And they were not one-hit wonder bands. They were prolific creators of great sounds and we reaped the benefits. 
Think about some of these: Chicago, The Carpenters, Cheap Trick, Carly Simon, and Carole King. What a combined and varied discography that crew has. 
Then there are the songs to add more waves to the sea of C's. "Carry On Wayward Son" from Kansas was one of my favorites growing up. "Changes" from David Bowie, "Cruel Summer" by Bananarama, and "Crimson and Clover" come to mind. 'Crimson and Clover" is unique in that I liked both Tommy James and the Shondells and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts versions. I don't always feel that way about remakes. Read more about Cruel Summer here. "…

The Brothers Gibb

Today I am grateful for muscles to train and strengthen. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage.

The Bee Gees came to my mind right away as I headed into the alphabet. I actually liked the non-Bee Gee Gibb brother a lot when he hit the charts too. Andy Gibb had huge success before his untimely death. But I confess that Barry Gibb was always my favorite and the most easy on the eyes. He is also, sadly, the only surviving member of the trio.

What great voices these brothers contributed to their songs. I loved many of their earlier hits.
To name a few:

*How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
*Run to Me
*I Started a Joke
*Words
*To Love Somebody
*Massachusetts
*Lonely Days
*New York Mining Disaster

I wasn't a big disco fan, but their second era of success was indeed impressive. Some of my later favorites included:

*Nights on Broadway
*Tragedy
*Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)

I grew up listening to the Bee Gees. Their songs still move me. Thank you for such great music!
And I…

From Aldo Nova to Art Garfunkel

Today I am grateful for time with friends I don't see often and for my five working senses. I am especially grateful for my hearing today as I think about songs I love listening to.

To start my A-Z look at music, I start with a low point. That would be what I consider my ultimate drinking song:  Aldo Nova's "Fantasy."  I didn't realize until more recently that the song references cocaine. (We couldn't Google lyrics back then and we sang what we thought we heard.)

I just know that in my drinking days the song fit my brooding mindset--"Can't you see what this crazy life is doing to me? Life is just a fantasy, can you live this fantasy life?" There were drunken nights that I didn't know if I wanted to keep living my crazy life. I am so very grateful for the angels, in human and other forms, who helped me through such nights.

Another "A" artist and song worth a mention is Art Garfunkel and his solo hit "All I Know." It's …

The Soul of Music

Today I am grateful for calm thoughts this morning and for the influx of joy that comes with endorphins and gratitude practice.

I am about to commence my fourth A-Z gratitude list on this blog.  The others have been fairly random, working my way through the alphabet with words that came to mind for one reason or another. This time, my A-Z list will have a theme: music.

(If you are interested in looking at the other A-Z lists I have blogged, start here.)

Songs that have been on my life's playlist for a long time. Artists and musicians that have given me a good earful. I love rock and roll and the oldies, so you are forewarned that those two areas will be heavily represented.

When I saw this quote, it seemed like a good way to launch this A-Z journey:

"What is a soul? It's like electricity-we don't really know what it is,  but it's a force that can light a room." (Ray Charles)
That describes what music means to me and does for me. It's a force for positive em…

Wise Brain Bulletin

Today I am grateful for time with recovering friends and for opportunities to exercise indoors.

I have referenced the work of Dr. Rick Hanson before on my blog. Those posts include
Buddha's BrainNegativity Bias, and What Are You Hardwiring?, all from the summer of 2015.
He captures the science of why gratitude practice works for me. I don't need his proof, I have my own. But I appreciate his work and the work of others like Dr. Robert Emmons and those at the Greater Good Science Center (which also includes both Drs. Hanson and Emmons).

As Dr. Hanson states, our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive. That helped us survive and evolve over time. Too much of it now means we stay stuck, we sell ourselves and our potential short. We can and do learn from pain and negative life experiences, but if we remain there, how is that really living?

Dr. Hanson provides some good resources on his website and at wisebrain.org.  A recent "Wise Brain Bulle…

Dreams or Awakenings?

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to witness another sunrise and for our dog Oliver and his gentle, loving eyes.

The following quote from one of my favorite psychiatrists/psychotherapists of the mid-20th century, reaches me at a visceral level that I more fully appreciate at 50 years of age than I could have at 20, 30, or 40.

"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.  Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakens."   (Carl Gustav Jung)
There was a time in my life when going within was not a healthy place. Fear, self-pity and ingratitude resided there. They hid my true heart and soul from me.

Recovery from alcoholism, growing faith, and gratitude practice have helped heal me and clear a path to my heart and soul. Talk about awakenings!

You Can't Win If You Don't Play

Today I am grateful for quality headphones to help me enjoy quality music. I am also grateful for the opportunities this day offers.

There was much in the news this week about the huge multi-state Powerball jackpot. I usually don't pay much attention to it, but the frenzy was hard to miss. I even got involved in the hoopla. A few co-workers and I threw in a little money and bought several tickets. We shared several laughs as we pondered the "what ifs" of a win. I am out $4.00, but we had some fun and that is worth more than the money for sure.

I rarely participate in the lottery. I know, you can't win if you don't play. I would rather apply that idea to my daily life. You can't win at life if you don't participate in it.

By win I don't mean succeed in the financial and career arenas that seem to drive so many, sometimes to the detriment of everything else in their lives. By win I mean find joy in each day, in one's present circumstances. To play a…

Be Careful of Your Thoughts

Today I am grateful for competent and thorough medical professionals. I am also grateful for pizza and a quiet house.

Consider this quote:
"If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought." (Peace Pilgrim)
If I had only known the truth of that statement at a much younger age, I might have spared myself some years of torment. Indeed, we are what we think. We. Are. What. We. Think.
And I wish I could say that all negative thoughts have been banished from the kingdom known as Lisa's brain, but that is not the case.
What I can say with absolute conviction however is that ever since I started actively practicing gratitude, the negative thoughts have had much less of the upper hand than they used to. Some days they have no hand at all and can't grab on to the corners of my mind and start multiplying. 
My brain has been trained to look for good, to find blessings, to perceive myself and the world around me more gently and with accepta…

TMI of Another Kind

Today I am grateful for laughter among colleagues and for things falling into place on their own at times.

I am revisiting TMI for a third post, after this one and then another one a couple weeks ago. This TMI is not too much information, but rather too many images.

Too many pictures, photos, graphics inundate those of us in the developed world on our various screens. I certainly appreciate seeing pictures of loved ones and friends, or videos of Sam or Leo in action. But everywhere we turn in this culture, we see images, many of which aren't even real.

We become desensitized. We become unrealistic in our expectations of how we should look and act. It does impact our young people. It does impact all of us.

Images only tell us so much. A Facebook post of smiling friends. A radiant couple on a winter trip to warmer climates. A hilarious pet picture. A scenic view.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But with many thousands of pictures at our disposal, I think w…

How wild?

Today I am grateful for time with my friend Julie and for comfortable shoes to wear.
I have been hanging on to this quote in my draft posts for some time. It is time to let it be.
"It was my life-like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be." (Cheryl Strayed)
If you have not read the book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, or seen the movie of the same name, starring Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, I would recommend both. I don't know when Strayed composed the quote above. It could very well have been when she was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone.  
It doesn't matter when she wrote it. The words matter. They reach me as I sit in my recliner composing this post. As I ponder the mysterious, irrevocable, and sacred nature of my own life of over fifty years. As I cherish this life that is mine and mine alone. 
Letting it be can feel wild, can feel like a loss of control wh…

A Rebuttal from the Greater Good Science Center

Today I am grateful for phone conversations, delicious oatmeal chocolate chip bars, and time to write.

Barbara Ehrenreich's recent NYT essay, mentioned in yesterday's post, did generate many comments and ongoing discussion about the value of gratitude practice. A comprehensive rebuttal was provided by Jason Marsh at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. You can read it here.  You can also read much more on the GGSC's website about gratitude and other
aspects of well-being.  Here is a summary paragraph from their "About" page:

Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: Not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate indivi…

From Barbara Ehrenreich, To Barbara Ehrenreich

Today I am grateful for time with Leo, our grandson, and for our son Sam and his emotional health.
I am also grateful for the many authors I enjoy reading.

Bestselling author Barbara Ehrenreich is one such writer. She has a way of writing to the heart of the matter. Her essay titled "Welcome to Cancerland" was one of those zingers for me. Someone else was capturing a lot of my thoughts and emotions in their own words. Find that essay here. It originally appeared in Harper's Magazine in November of 2001. I came across it after my own diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer and found myself nodding my head in agreement many times as I read it.
She had a recent opinion essay in the New York Times titled "The Selfish Side of Gratitude." Find it
here. This time I found myself shaking my head in disagreement with Ehrenreich a few times.
In the essay, Ehrenreich goes on the offensive regarding gratitude as selfish and being too much about making ourselves feel better…

Never Seen This One Before

Today I am grateful for snow shovels and recliners.

The "Word for the Day" earlier this week on www.gratefulness.org was:

"This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before." (Maya Angelou)
Maya Angelou is another example of a writer who wrote from a place of pain and was transformed by both the pain and the writing. That is how I see it anyway. I appreciate her work and the legacy she has now left. A true writer's legacy. She was many things-poet, writer, singer, civil rights activist. Like so many others, I am very thankful the pain of her youth didn't silence her forever. What a voice!

Have you found your voice? Do you have something to say or write today? Write on!

I appreciate the newness of this day. It is indeed a wonderful and fresh opportunity to make a difference, to perceive the world and myself through a lens of gratefulness. I have never seen this day before, but I welcome it with open heart and mind.

And with that in mind, I will nex…

Various Pints

Today I am grateful for a good MRI report on Sam's knee and also for the beauty of a fresh snowfall on the trees this morning.

So I mindfully ate a pint of ice cream last night and enjoyed it. (Mindful eating can take many forms.)
I know, I was trying to eat healthier. But sometimes nothing soothes like ice cream.

I will justify and joke with Darcy that he can have his beer and I will have my ice cream. (Believe me, I eat more ice cream than he drinks beers.) There's something to that. I hadn't thought about a pint of alcohol for quite awhile, until last evening. I wasn't thinking of it like I missed it and wanted one, but more about the memories and the measurement.

There was a time I downed a pint of alcohol as easily as I did a pint of ice cream. One of my favorites back in the day was a pint of something called sloe gin. (Think red and syrupy.) I would wager that in some of the friendly bets I had with friends and be happy when I "lost."

I'm so very g…

Attuning and Resonating

Today I am grateful for my stylist Lori and salon owner Mary and our conversation last evening, not to mention the fresh haircut Lori provided. Brief connections matter.

Here is another quote from my favorite Benedictine monk:

"A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it--that alone can be like waking up from a dream." (Brother David Steindl-Rast)
It does sound rather idealistic to be fully in harmony with the universe. And daunting. Awareness sounds doable though, and a little resonating can go a long way.

For me, that awareness starts with the action of writing in my gratitude journal each morning. I pause, write down two gratitudes, and set the tone for the day. I also write a small prayer to my Higher Power, asking for assistance in one way or another. Then, I add some prayers for others who are facing a challenge or a special day in some way.

These thoughts and actions g…

A Bite at a Time

Today I am grateful for humor and laughter. I am also grateful for modern medical technology and that Sam got through his knee MRI well.

And I am grateful for the variety of food available to us. I really enjoy eating. "Run to eat, eat to run" is one of my mottos. I tend to do some overeating over the holidays. Eat only when hungry?  Not with all of these goodies around.  So I pay the price with a little added weight and I reach the point of saturation. I become ready again to be a more mindful and wise eater.

That is where I am at now. Or at least where I am trying to be now. Healthier options. Smaller portions. No late-night snacking. A more mindful approach to each bite. A bite at a time allows me to slow down and savor what I am eating.

It also allows me to be grateful for how my food got in front of me. I have many factors and human interventions along the way to thank for pretty much all the food I consume. I don't have a garden or raise chickens or livestock (thou…

Where is Away?

Today I am grateful for the comfort of our home and for my job.

Having done a little traveling over the holidays, I typically enjoy getting away from my own home and my to-do list. But I also enjoy and appreciate returning home. Thinking about being "away," I recalled a writing assignment we got once in a high school English class.
I don't recall which class it was for exactly, but I recall the teacher easily. It was Mrs. Walker, my favorite teacher in high school. I loved her teaching style and the way she gently yet firmly pushed us to push ourselves. 
I already liked writing by that time, but classes with Mrs. Walker just strengthened my desire to write. She helped me appreciate the writing of other people more, but also to have increased confidence in my own writing.
The assignment I am thinking of was to write on this: "Where is away?" I liked any writing task that was open-ended and allowed for personal creativity. This one fit for sure. I have no idea wh…

The News

Today I am grateful for my sense of hearing and the soothing tick-tock of the antique clock in our living room. I am also grateful for clothes to keep me warm in the winter.

Happy Birthday to my stepdaughter Emily! She is 21 today.

As I watched some news recaps of 2015, that disillusionment and discouragement I wrote about the other day ramped up again. Mass shootings, racism, terrorism, the millions being poured into political campaigns that could be put to better use if we had some reform. . . and the list could go on and on. 
What tops the list of good news about 2015? A stronger economy and lower unemployment rates? Lower gas prices?  Those are good news stories, but how about some stories about average people (all of us!) doing extraordinary things?  Take a look at this website "Good News Network."  Another one is called Sunny Skyz. Here is a wonderful letter I found there, written by a 36-year-old woman who recently died of of cancer. Her spunk and spark will clearly l…

Oliver Neglected

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Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from South Dakota and time with Darcy's family. It is always good to see them and get caught up. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver.

Here is Oliver in a recent photo:



I realized this morning that I had been neglecting Oliver lately. Certainly we always make sure he is fed, has enough water, and gets outside several times a day. We take him for runs when the weather and conditions are cooperative. But I had been neglecting the little moments with Oliver. The belly rubs. The kisses on the nose. The times just sitting in one another's company.
Too busy I guess. Isn't that sad? Too busy for who and what I love? Time to get my priorities straight.
Come here Oliver. Let me thank you for the smiles, joy, and peace you bring into our home.  Let me thank you for how you remind me to stretch after sitting too long, rest often, and to always be happy to see those I love. Thanks Oliver!