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Showing posts from June, 2016

Thank you SARK for These Words

Today I am grateful for the daily recovery from alcoholism that is available to me if I choose it. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and the many ways we understand each other.

This quote got me thinking the other day:

"And so, I kept writing, and slowly began to like what I wrote, and if I didn't like it,  I accepted it. As the pile of journals grew higher, I grew more confident. My journal became a place I felt experienced."  (SARK, from her book Living Juicy: Daily Morsels for Your Creative Soul)
SARK is the pen name of author and artist Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. Read a little about her. Pick up one of her numerous books and have some fun. I found the one above at our local library's book sale. I love when books get recycled like this. 
I especially appreciate the last line in the quote above. Early on in my life, there weren't many places I felt comfortable or experienced. I was full of insecurity and inhibitions. Pen to paper quickly became a saving gr…

Made in the Shade

Today I am grateful for the glasses I wear and the ways they help me see my surroundings more fully. I am also grateful for city utilities that make our lives easier and cleaner.

Yesterday our church had an outdoor service, followed by a picnic lunch. It had been very hot and humid on Saturday, but we were treated to cooler and drier air as we sat in the shade on an acreage where one of our priests lives. Thank you to our hosts Bob and Phyllis!

We were in part celebrating the recent ordination of our two newest priests, Beth and Mary, who were celebrants for the first time since ordination.

It seems we were also celebrating our congregation, small but steady, and the lovely backdrop only an outdoor service can provide. The sky was deep blue, the trees vibrant green, the airplanes nearly silent as they crossed the wide blue yonder. The wind gracefully swayed the soybeans in a nearby field, got the wind chimes chiming, kept the bugs away, and provided what I like to describe as a luscio…

The Inconceivable Good of Smiles

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Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday, despite the heat and humidity. And I am grateful for regular connections with others in recovery.
Recently I wrote a post about too much hate and not enough kindness, compassion, and tolerance. Let's add smiles to that list. Less hate. More smiles.
"What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable."
As Joseph Addison writes above, smiles can do so much good. They can break down barriers. Smiles come in a universal language. 
They can create forgiveness and fun in an instant. Think about the last time you had an irrepressible smile. I shared one the other day at the dinner table with my family. I don't recall the circumstances, but I recall the emotion: love, pure and simple.
Our grandson Leo has infectious smiles. It is pretty much impossible to not reciprocate.
And how about the toothy grins of my friend…

Oh Deer!

Today I am grateful for time with recovery friends and the wisdom they share. I am also grateful for the soothing sound of water in fountains.

The natural creatures just keep putting on a show in our neighborhood. Last night, I had just put my car in the garage and stepped out on to our driveway. At that moment, a deer came over a knoll across the street and continued to run right past our house and on down the trail and grassy area.
We have lived in this house for over 10 years and I have never seen a deer this close to our home. We do live near a golf course with wooded areas, so seeing a deer isn't shocking.
What struck me last evening was the timing. If I had stepped out a minute earlier or later, I would have missed the show, the graceful strides of the deer. I would have missed yet another reminder of the awe and beauty of nature.
I am grateful for good timing and working eyesight in this moment. But I am also grateful for those moments when good timing meant I didn't ha…

A True Scavenger

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Today I am grateful for the lessons in patience and persistence that continue to come my way. I am also grateful for humbling reminders of my small place in a large world.

Yesterday morning it was a bee on our front porch. Yesterday afternoon it was this on the
roof of our garage:

This is a turkey vulture, in the neighborhood to feed on carrion-in this case a dead squirrel. I am sure I miss the coming and going of plenty of creatures in or near our yard, but this bird was hard to miss, especially perched where it was.
It is not a pretty songbird, but it serves an important purpose. I read a little about it and learned it is called different names in different parts of the country and world. Also, we would only expect to see it here in the summer, it has few if any predators, and in the U.S. it is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
Turkey vultures also have keen eyesight and sense of smell. We are looking for different things, but this vulture will find more food and I…

A Bee at Work

Today I am grateful for the ordination ceremony we attended last evening, the beautiful cathedral it took place in, and the people who have committed to being of further service to the Episcopal Church.

Congratulations especially to Mary and Beth, two women from our home parish who were ordained as priests last evening. Thank you for your ongoing service!

I also appreciate the busy bee who joined me on our front patio just a few minutes ago. It was here to do what bees do-gather pollen and nectar from some flowers. It likely will return to the colony it resides in and help feed others. As it goes about the business of gathering food, it also does the important work of pollinating.

Pollination helps with the vital process of reproduction. That bee was doing what it does naturally, and the pollen gets dispersed almost as an afterthought. Nature has an amazing and intricate way of taking care of the business it needs to.

What a wonderful reminder to me this morning to respect all of natu…

There Are No Guarantees, But . . .

Today I am grateful for the joy our dog Oliver displays when he frolics in the backyard grass. I am also grateful for good reading material.

In recent posts I have talked about everything from strength training and 5-day cleanses, to the spiritual work of ego deflation. All stem from and contribute to my gratitude practice as well.

Healthy habits don't guarantee a longer life. There are no such guarantees. But healthy habits bring balance, energy, and more peaceful days.

Living life as "each day is a gift unto itself" works for me. I don't know how many days I will get, so I might as well live fully in this one.

Some take the approach that since there are no guarantees, why not live it up and be risky? Living it up might be unhealthy habits like drinking, smoking, overeating, too many hours on Netflix. Anything that leads to imbalance arguably is unhealthy. We all have this imbalance from time to time, but if it becomes my usual state, it also becomes slippery and da…

This Late Bloomer is Taking Another Leap

Today I am grateful for the family time we had together yesterday and the nice Father's Day my husband Darcy had. I also appreciate the cool air this morning after some hot and humid days.

Last week this late bloomer and slow learner took another leap into the blogosphere. I launched my second blog, titled "Late Bloomer and Slow Learner," after months of contemplation and weeks of tinkering with a new blog platform. Here is a link to the blog and my most recent post.

I will continue blogging habitually about gratitude, but it may be a little less habitually. This blog has taught me so much more about gratitude and humility and also makes me a better writer. Practice makes progress possible, both when it comes to gratitude and writing.

"Habitual Gratitude" has also given me the tremendous gift of allowing a regular way to honor my writing. I used to be a frustrated writer. Many days would go by with the hope of time to write. But the hope would be dashed by my t…

Father Figures

Today I am grateful for a beautiful morning and a cup of coffee to share with my husband Darcy on our back patio.

On this Father's Day, we can each reflect on our own fathers. I feel blessed to have known my father throughout my formative years and into adulthood. I feel blessed that his legacy lives on in my generation and the next. He was kind and caring in many ways, a hard worker and good provider, a man who enjoyed making conversation and reading the newspaper, a person who was usually pretty calm (unless he was trying to get pigs on a truck) and someone with a dry sense of humor.

But some people have never known their fathers, because of death or other circumstances. Or they have had strained and distant relationships. If they have been fortunate enough, others have stepped up to be father figures in their lives.
Maybe it was an uncle, a neighbor, an older sibling, a grandfather. Thank you today to all of those men who have stepped up to be good examples and teachers for ot…

Cleansed

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and that my husband Darcy and I encourage one another in our efforts to exercise and eat healthier.

Darcy and I just completed a 5-day cleanse. We have done it before and appreciated the results. Pounds taken off. A body detoxified.  Discipline is required and it is good that we have each other to support through it. It is just a start, however.

I love food and I love sweets. I run to eat and eat to run. When I reward myself with treats, I justify some of it because I am not drinking or smoking.

But if I start on the sugar, I can end up consuming it like I did beers-one after the other. So I will continue with the self-discipline and appreciate the sweetness of many natural foods like fruit. I will give myself permission to cheat a little. Austere eating all the time just tends to make me crabby.

I am grateful for the lovingkindness I have shown my body this week, and that my efforts have been rewarded. Clothes fit better. Bunion both…

Ego of a Different Kind

Today I am grateful for a walk with my friend Paula last evening and for the sweet and juicy grapefruits I have enjoyed each evening this week as Darcy and I do a 5-day cleanse.

The other day I wrote about hatred and how I am a person who has turned far more hate inward than I ever have outward. One of the key points of clarity I have gained in my efforts to have ongoing recovery from alcoholism is that arrogance and ego take on many forms, all of which deny and limit spiritual growth.

I used to define arrogance and ego as a person thinking and feeling they are better than others. How could I be arrogant and full of ego when I hated myself? Today, I understand it as thinking about ourselves too much, regardless of whether those thoughts are positive or negative. Feeling better than or less than are both forms of ego.

When I realized that and internalized it, I started to make some progress in recovery and I started to grow spiritually. It has made all the difference.

I heard a speaker…

Strength Training

Today I am grateful for the plush plants of early summer and the variety of greens and other colors in them. I am also grateful for the strength training exercises I am able to do.

Over the years, I have tried to incorporate strength exercises in my regimen 2-3 times a week. I appreciate the simplicity and effectiveness, as well as little need for special equipment, with the exercises I typically do.

Sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, mountain climbers, planks, squat jumps, and a couple exercises with the 7.5 and 10 pound weights we have-that's my current routine. Sometimes I do two sets of each, sometimes one. They make a difference in how I feel and they help this aging runner's body in many ways. I am on a good roll now and find it easy to motivate myself to do them.

Gratitude practice is strength training too. It may primarily be a mental health activity, but like my physical exercises, it provides me emotional and spiritual health as well.

It is good to know which exercises ca…

Too Much Hate, Not Enough ________________

Today I am grateful for my family and friends and how they enrich my life in so many ways. I am also grateful for the easy trail access we have from our house. 

Recent news has brought more devastating and disturbing news about the toll of hate in our country. I am not even going to mention a place or what happened. As soon as that is thrown out there, people tend to jump in on one side or the other.

Why take sides? Isn’t all hate something we should work to dispel?

Hate is not something I feel toward others. The harshest hatred in my life has been the kind I turned on myself. Thankfully, that has subsided considerably and if it shows itself, it doesn’t last long or cut as deeply.

Other people can certainly frustrate, disappoint, scare, and worry me, but hate is so pointless. It is wasted energy. Or energy that ends up doing a great deal of harm, often to innocent people. Both the hated and the hater are destroyed.

I had to learn patience, tolerance, open-mindedness, compassion, and love o…

Displaced-A Road Runs Through It

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend and a nice visit with my friend Betsy yesterday.

Displaced is one of those words I rarely use myself, and mostly hear on news reports about natural disasters and war-torn areas. It usually has some sort of unsettling connotation.
I am thinking about it differently after this weekend. My mother-in-law Marlene is being displaced from her home by a major road construction project. We have known about this for years, but now things are starting to happen. 
It has been a lot for her to consider and causes some stress, but some of that was alleviated this weekend as the process begins for appraisal of her property. She has also found a place to relocate.
We helped Marlene move in to her current home 12 years ago. She has really enjoyed having her own yard and space and put much time and energy into it. We have appreciated having a place to stay when we visit as well. 
It was compelling to see a construction model that literally relocates a r…

Four-Year Increments

Today I am grateful for good timing to take Oliver and the garbage out this morning between rain showers. I am also grateful for the peaceful sound of that rain falling.

Today our son Sam wraps up his 8th grade year and middle school. There is a low-key graduation event this morning and then he is officially done. Four years at the middle school flew by, just like the four years at his elementary did. (He went to a kindergarten center for one year.) Four years of high school are just around the corner now. 
I am proud of Sam and the young man and student he is. He has future direction and is level-headed. I hope those serve him well over the next four years. He is also typical in his teen angst and grouchiness at times, and I realize curiosity will likely lead him to make choices I wouldn't want for him. But I know that is all part of the deal of these formative years. We will keep communication lines open, even when his end may be closed. He knows our expectations, our hopes for …

Thinking in the Gray

Today I am grateful for a nice run in the cool morning air and for the vibrant colors of summer-like green leaves against a blue sky. I am also grateful for my mind, with all the positives and pitfalls within.

I consider myself a thinker in the gray areas. I can be black or white in my thinking about a few things, but I am mostly a believer in the idea that my perceptions and experiences shape my thoughts. Since perceptions change and new experiences happen, gray fits. It is not all or nothing.

The trouble is, our society seems to have succumbed to a cultural version of all or nothing thinking. You are either right or wrong, positive or negative, all for or totally against an issue. Really? We don't help ourselves out with this kind of thinking, and we don't help each other out with it either. All or nothing thinking closes minds and creates intolerance.

Consider looking for common ground and keep more of an open mind and a willingness to learn new things. For me, common groun…

Behind the Eye that is Reading

Today I am grateful for my sense of hearing and how it helped me appreciate a walk with our dog Oliver this morning. I am also grateful for laughter among friends.

I have one more post stemming from the words of Audre Lorde. The following was on the back of the book cover of The Cancer Journals when I first read it in early 2009:

"This is why the work is important. Its power doesn't lie in the me that lives in the words as much as in the heart's blood pumping behind the eye that is reading, the muscle behind the desire that is sparked by the word - hope as a living state that propels us, open-eyed and fearful, into all the battles of our lives. And some of those battles we do not win. But some of them we do." 

The work is our writing. My writing. The writing I did with my friend Jenny after we both traveled through breast cancer treatment and surgeries side by side. The writing I have done over the last forty years.

My own writing is often sparked by the words of anot…

Empowered by the Words of Audre Lorde

Today I am grateful for the hope in a fresh morning and new sunrise. I am also grateful for nature's beauty and the humbling effect it has on me.

I first read Audre Lorde's book The Cancer Journals a few months after my own bilateral mastectomies. I was still grieving, healing, and coming to terms. I was also processing many emotions, one of which was a nebulous form of anger regarding society's view of women and breasts. I had chosen not to have reconstruction, and I do not regret that choice, but I felt judged for it.

Certainly, part of that was my own self-consciousness, a limited acceptance at that point, and some residual anger that cancer had entered my right breast and my life. But it also stemmed from a culture saturated in pink and cleavage and women and our breasts being objectified.

So when I read Lorde's book, something crystallized in my thoughts and emotions. I captured some of that in this guest post on Nancy Stordahl's blog "Nancy's Point&q…

Celebrate Differences

Today I am grateful that our grandson Leo is feeling better and that we were able to spend some time with him last night. I am also grateful for fruitful recovery conversations with fellow alcoholics.

Audre Lorde had profound things to say about more than one topic. She was a poet, author, and activist in many ways. Here is what she says about differences:

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and  celebrate those differences."
Fear seems to be involved with these inabilities. We often fear what we don't understand. That fear can make us intolerant and close our minds. Reduce fear and open minds and doors by giving others a chance, hearing them out, or at least not speaking ill of them.
We have much to learn from each other and we often learn more from our differences than our similarities. Let's make efforts to appreciate those who push us beyond our comfort zone.
I appreciate the writing of Audre Lorde particularly in my…

Patience on that Refill

Today I am grateful for a good movie and good rest. I am also grateful for my gratitude journal practice and how it has helped transform my perceptions.

The other day I was filling my water bottle at the drinking fountain I usually use at school. The one I have used hundreds of times over the years.
That day it really struck me though. Struck me that these few seconds of pausing are vital throughout my day. Not only is that water good for me physically, it's good for me mentally.
It also brought to mind that endless debate about the glass being half empty or half full. Either way, I remain grateful to have clean water, easy to get, and a convenient container to keep it in.
Come to think of it, I am also grateful for clean and convenient indoor bathrooms. All that drinking of water leads to the need for such facilities. But indoor plumbing is right up there with electricity and air to breathe among things I take for granted.
And as Steve Foran recently reminded us, the times it is …

Tired and Retired

Today I am grateful for laughter over and identification with some sitcom characters. And I am especially grateful today to have worked with our wonderful school nurse Judy for the last 13 years.

Judy is retiring. Today she will turn in her keys and take the last of her belongings with her. She will be missed. She has been amazing with our students and staff and her compassion, intuition, and natural ability as a nurse made it easy to work with her.

Thanks for all you have done for our school Judy, and also for those many conversations we have had over the years. I wish you the very best!

Another shout out to Sue, an English teacher at my school, who is retiring after 45 years of teaching in various schools. No, that is not a typo; 45 years! Sue is a master teacher and a good soul. Best wishes and thank you Sue!

Each of the last three years, co-workers I worked closely with and who I share mutual respect for have retired. They have been missed in numerous ways as the rest of us have m…

Commencing

Today I am grateful for co-workers who make work more than bearable, even fun at times.  I am also grateful that each day I wake up with a fresh start.

Tis the season of commencements. Graduations. Last night it was 8th grade graduation at my school, next week it will be our son Sam's turn. We hear versions of the word commence this time of the year, but it doesn't seem to get used a lot otherwise.

I wrote a post titled "Commence" back in May of 2013. Read it here. From an action verb in commence to a gerund with commencing.

Go forth sounds pretty formal. Head out sounds casual. Whatever you call it, simply begin. Start.

Start that run with a single step. Begin that paper or report with one word. Go forth with a grateful mindset. Head out into the day. Take actions, however small, that make a difference to you and those around you.

Meaningful Conversations

Today I am grateful for morning quietude and for the various conversations I participated in yesterday.

The day started with some difficult conversations, supporting a school other than my own, at a sad time. Teachers who needed to process emotions or be reassured of classroom plans. Students who wanted to talk about their friend. I am grateful I was able to be available and offer support.

Later in the day, it was conversation of the more pleasant variety; a gathering of current and former co-workers and a nice meal. It was especially fun to see some recently retired colleagues near and dear to me in our years of working together.

Back when we worked together, conversations were easier to come by. We were in the same building day after day and opportunities to converse were plentiful. I miss these friends and our conversations.

Today I will look for opportunities for meaningful conversations and be fully present in them.