"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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Count on Me

Today I am grateful for laughter and for time with our grandson Leo. I am also grateful for the way songs inspire me.

Yesterday on my way to pick Sam up from football practice, I heard "Count on Me" by Jefferson Starship. Released in 1978, it is a song I have always liked. Really a love song, it's more the refrain of "count on me" that touches me. 

As I listened yesterday, I felt a tide of gratitude rising. Appreciation for people in my life that I can count on to offer support and encouragement, as well as loving honesty when I need it. My husband, my sisters, long-time friends, and fellow recovering alcoholics and addicts are some that come to mind, as do other family members and work connections.

I have faith in a Higher Power/Great Spirit that I can count on to always be there too. I didn't always feel that way. There is such a sense of peace in faith. 

I am never lonely, even when I am alone.

I strive to be the person others count on as well. It starts by getting out of my own head and being aware of others and how they are doing. Gratitude practice gets me out of my own head.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Frailty and Fragility

Today I am grateful for a closet full of clothes and for the people who support me in recovery from
alcoholism.

Circumstances with family, friends, and at work in recent days have reminded me of the precious and fragile nature of life. And of human frailty and the many forms it can take; from my mom's aging body, eyes, and mind, to the power of addiction, to those afflicted with mental illness, and more.

Some of us survive to see another day, some of us do not. That is what makes each day a gift. We can all probably name close calls and near misses in our own lives, or health scares and other significant hurdles in life that could have gone very badly for us, yet we made it through.

We have all suffered losses, some minor, others major. There is plenty of grief to go around, and none of us remains immune to loss.

In remembering the losses, in considering our human frailties, in contemplating our fragile existence, therein lies the key to today. To wake up is to be given a wonderful opportunity to keep living, loving, growing, sharing, giving, and receiving.

"Each day is a gift unto itself."  Treat it as such. Moment by moment. Hour by hour.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Journeys in Life

Today I am grateful for enjoyable family time and safe travels this weekend. I am also grateful for perspective that comes with pausing and keeping expectations reasonable.

A quick shout out to those who joined me in an impromptu little dance number to Johnny Cash's
"Ring of Fire" at the wedding dance. My sisters Zita and Ruth and sister-in-law Terri had some fun with it.

A special congratulations and best wishes to our niece Marissa and her new husband Keegan! Wishing you all the best as together you begin this journey of married life. 

Journeys in life. We share some and we pave our own way on some. One of the dances done during the wedding celebration yielded the couple married the longest--61 years. We all gave them a deserving round of applause. Newlyweds on day 1. Darcy and I at 18 years. The couple with over 6 decades. 

Healthy relationships, whether marriages, other family, friends, or co-workers, take work and attention. But the rewards are well worth it. Rewards like trust, comfort, security, love, and joy.

It starts in this very moment, with a realization and some gratitude. Realization that wonderful relationships have been built and continue to grow. And deep gratitude for the difference those relationships and people have made in our lives. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Breezing By

Today I am grateful for songs that move and headphones that heighten the listening. I am also grateful for the school our son Sam will be attending soon.

Yesterday we had a breeze with a touch of fall in it. I loved it. I am looking forward to fall-my favorite season. It was refreshing in a week where I have felt anything but refreshed much of the time. 

I added to the natural breeze with windows down and music up as I drove home from work. And with a brief but pleasant bike ride on my favorite stretch of trail.

It all helped bring some perspective back for me, as did a visit from our grandson Leo. A busy work week had been taking precedence. In ways, it needed to. In other ways though, I got sucked in by my propensity to overthink and overdo.

Life breezes by. Days and moments breeze by.  Am I spending them the way I wish? Are my choices healthy?  Do I know balance and peace?  All important and relevant questions to keep asking.

Have a nice weekend! I will be taking a blog break and enjoying family time on the happy occasion of a niece's wedding.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Energy Sources

Today I am grateful for my body's capabilities and strengths. I am also grateful that energy can come from many sources.

I was thinking about energy last evening as I witnessed a high level of it and excitement among new students and parents at the school I work at. We hosted an orientation event for them. I enjoy such times because I feel helpful. I can answer questions, be reassuring, and show my own excitement for a new school year.

What are my trusted energy sources?  Exercise and the endorphins it releases. Sleep, though I have been lacking in that the last days. Recovery and faith in a Higher Power. The people in my life who nourish and nurture me in so many ways--family, friends, co-workers. And yes, even coffee.

Another consistent source is this blog and the other ways I actively practice gratitude. It takes time and some effort, but what I receive back is a healthier perspective and a deeper peace. Peace preserves my energy and stretches it. Frenzy and overthinking do the opposite.

Today I will seek peace and positive energy through mindful attention to the many blessings around me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Balancing Act

Today I am grateful for my recovery friends and the honest sharing they do. I am also grateful for the energy in a school staff when they regroup for a new year.

Chobani yogurt recently came through with another message for me:


Here. Now. That is really the most stable place when considering mental health. Being balanced means spending more time in the present and less in the past and future.

"Balance Starts Here" also tells me it is up to me, not the universe, if I am balanced or not. The universe plays a role of course, but one that is beyond my control. My attitude and actions are within my control. 

The balancing act of life starts here, with me. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Getting Underway with Year #29

Today I am grateful for the sunrise I am witnessing as I write this. I am also grateful for my profession.

Although I have put in numerous hours over the summer, the next school year gets underway officially today with staff workshops. There are orientations for students and families too, and by the end of the week all students are back.

And there is always part of me that is ready to go back, ready for the routine, ready for fall.

It is my 29th year in the education field. The speed with which those years transpired is hard to comprehend. I started as a high school Social Studies teacher for 10 years. Then, I was an elementary counselor for two years and am just beginning my 17th year in my current position: Middle School Counselor and Student Assistance Coordinator.

Over these years I have met wonderful people, worked side by side with amazing educators, gotten to know a wide array of students and parents.  Experience has given me some wisdom, but more grace. I look forward to what this year will bring. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

14 Random Thoughts

Today I am grateful for the cool AND less humid air we have been waiting for and for the teamwork my husband Darcy and I have concerning family.

I am also grateful for this blog and the opportunities it gives me as a writer and a person seeking more gratefulness and mindfulness.

I have reached another century mark with "Habitual Gratitude." This is post #1400.

In honor of it, I am scaling back from 1400 to just 14 random thoughts.

Some came to me on Saturday's training run. Others came through in a quiet moment.
Here they are:

1. Writing saves my sanity.
2. People name their boats some pretty clever things.
3. Our son Sam starts high school soon. He is excited and so are we.
           But I would be lying if I said I didn't have some fear too. 
4. There are worse things to be hooked on than coffee.
5. Watching the changing seasons along the Mississippi River is a real treat.
6. Some days the clouds are just what I need.
7. Running in the rain isn't ideal, but it is still kind of fun.
8. My job creates stress for me at times, but it also reduces stress at times too.
9. I wish I could see my friend Sheila regularly, but I appreciate whenever we can talk.
10. Change from the familiar can be hard,  but it can be done and often brings growth.
11. I appreciate every person who takes the time to read any of my posts. It is important
           for me to know that I have readers out there.
12. Just listening to some people can be exhausting, but it also teaches me acceptance.
13. I have more people in my life who bring me energy than those who zap it.
14. A fresh haircut feels good.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Eternal Flame

Today I am grateful for a much-needed nap yesterday afternoon and for music that touches my heart and brings me peace.

On my way home from work the other day, the song "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles came on the radio. It's a song I have always liked. The windows were down and the radio was up. It energized me when I had little energy left.

That is what songs we like do for us. They uplift and open us. "Eternal Flame" is a love song, but that is not where I find meaning in it.

The song came out in 1989, the year I got sober. Symbolically, alcohol nearly extinguished my fire and my life. Recovery has given me a chance to keep going, to keep heart and soul afire so to speak. 

An eternal flame also reminds me that I am just one small spark in a fire that has been burning long before I got here and will hopefully continue long after I am gone. Faith in God or a Higher Power tells me that the flame is safe, that it will not burn out.

Sparks are vital though. Today I will appreciate the sparks in my life, the things that fuel me, the people that share their positive energy.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Playful Presence

Today I am grateful for exciting Olympic viewing and for a good first cup of coffee for the day.

Birthday wishes to my friend Beth! I am grateful for our lasting friendship and we both appreciate our summer birthdays more now than we did in our younger days :-)

Playful is a good word, a fun word. Playful describes our grandson Leo in this picture:


Notice the array of books and toys. He is playing with Grampy as we like to call my husband Darcy.

Leo warms my heart in many ways. And he reminds me to be present, right here and right now.

Last evening, he also reminded me to have some fun, be playful, not take life too seriously.

Thanks Leo! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Keeping It Simple With Yogurt

Today I am grateful for pleasant time with my good friend Betsy last evening.  I miss seeing her regularly. I am also grateful for the messages I receive when I am paying attention.

This is the message I saw on my yogurt lid the other day:



Thank you to Chobani yogurt for this little tidbit. And thank you for the ease of a healthy snack provided.

This is a sentiment I have tried to live out in my own life each day. Some days are easier than others. Some days are better than others. Some days I dwell on yesterday. Some days I fear tomorrow.

Yet, any day I practice gratefulness allows me to spend more time in the right day. This one.

Daily recovery and wellness require daily work. There is joy in the work and effort. And there is definitely joy in the results of the effort. 

Starting fresh today. Onward!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Scatter

Today I am grateful for people with whom I can share recovery from alcoholism and for opportunities to problem-solve with a clear head (or at least a fairly clear one).

Yesterday's take on scatter was a problematic scattered mind that needed to be reigned in. Today's take on scatter sounds like this:

"It is not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells what kind of life you have lived." 
(Anonymous)

At our core, humans hope to leave a mark and make a difference. That is done more by giving than receiving. Today, I will strive to give kindness and support, smiles and encouragement. To others, but also to myself.

Receiving has a part too, an important one. We can scatter humility and gratitude by receiving graciously and/or courageously whatever is being doled out. And also by gratefully receiving the goodness others are scattering.

Scatter gratitude and kindness.
Scatter pauses and moments to reflect.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Scattered Mind United

Today I am grateful for laughter, sleep, and clean water to drink. I am also grateful to be learning more about the importance of tuning in to my own breathing as a way to practice presence.

This quote seems very fitting then:

"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to 
take hold of your mind again."  
(Thich Nhat Hanh)

I have fallen victim to a scattered mind in recent days, and many times throughout my life. Most of my life really. Continued effort and daily practice are helping me make some progress on this mind unifying work, but I still have plenty of room for improvement.

Too often I forget that part about breath as bridge. Breathe in. Breathe out. Slow down. I can try to prevent the scattering in the first place, but also be more aware of when it has already happened. 

It reminds me of that line--"Stop the world, I want to get off." Too much scatter leads to such a feeling. More unifying thoughts needed. 

Practice makes progress possible. Breathe in. Breathe out. Proceed. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Saturday Night Ice Cream

Today I am grateful for a nice, cool morning on our back patio, shared with my husband Darcy and some playful squirrels. I am also grateful for ice cream.

I am a big fan of ice cream. Actually, I'm hooked on it. I'll blame my family. We seem to be genetically predisposed to be quite fond of it. Several of us are afflicted with this problem.  

I'll eat ice cream any day of the week, but over the years Saturday has been an especially frequent day to indulge. In my single days, many Saturday nights went like this: frozen pizza, movie rentals, ice cream.

In more recent years, married and marathoning, Saturday is often the day we do a long training run. That makes it a perfect time to treat myself to some ice cream.

I enjoyed some Ben and Jerry's "Phish Food" last night while watching the Olympics. I admit to overindulging at times, but I also justify my ice cream consumption easily. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I exercise. Ice cream is my treat.

It soothes me.There are no hangovers. And it doesn't give me bad breath. Ice cream it is! 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Blessings Abound in Sobriety

Today I am grateful for little moments of true presence yesterday and the peace that came with them. I am also grateful for the pre-run combination of peanut butter and jelly on toast.

Yesterday, I especially pondered the deep blessings in my life that have come to me in recovery from alcoholism. August 12 marks the anniversary of my last drunk. Here are two earlier posts that tell more about that day and time in my life:

Last Drunk (posted on 8/12/12)

Don't Ever Forget (posted on 8/12/14)

I work hard at recovery and try to put forth effort each and every day. Practicing gratitude is part of that effort, and quite effective. It has literally helped change my thinking from destructive to constructive.

I have the support and encouragement of family and friends, and a wonderful network of others in recovery. We see each other in person, we email, we text, we pray for one another and others still out there using. We try not to forget what we were and where we are today.

And I give a bulk of credit to the Higher Power/Great Spirit also at work in my life. Humble grace. That is what I feel so very blessed with. It is only by grace that I survived my drinking days. It is only by grace that I can welcome a new day, one day at a time.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Watching the Olympics

Today I am grateful for easy television viewing of the Olympics, the incredible athletes competing there, and the history they are making.

There has been some controversy and concerns regarding the Rio Olympics, but when it comes down to it, many athletes have dedicated countless hours over several years to get to the Olympics. We average athletes can be amazed by their skills and strengths, and respect that it took more than just natural talent to succeed.

We were traveling when the Rio Games started and I wasn't all that interested. Slowly, I started tuning in and now each evening I have been enjoying swimming and gymnastics, among other things. I look forward to the start of the track and field events in the coming days. These are some of my favorites.

Hearing the Olympic theme always grabs me in a good way. It takes me back to my youth when we would watch them on our black and white TV and I would be inspired to dream my own Olympic dreams.

I never did make it to the Olympics, but the dreams didn't hurt me. They helped me aspire to be more.
I appreciate getting to watch others' Olympic dreams unfold, and to also continue to have my own dreams-no longer as many athletic ones, but dreams nonetheless. Onward! Dreams take work!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Results of Procrastination

Today I am grateful for an enjoyable evening at our county fair, including the food of course, and for my job.

Yesterday I did a little procrastinating regarding that job and the result was a clean car. I got around to some work before the morning was over, but only after a little avoidance. I first dropped my son off for driver's ed class and filled my car up with gas. I decided to use a free car wash we had. 

Some tar on the windshield needed extra effort to remove. Then, I figured I might as well wipe out the inside since I hadn't done that for awhile. When I was wiping the car out it became obvious that a vacuuming would be helpful. 

I did go through a week's worth of work email between the wiping out and vacuuming, so my procrastinating was only half-hearted. It was part procrastination, part easing back into. And for me, easing back into goes better than rushing headlong like I have been known to do. It allows me a sane pace and more mindful presence.

The car is clean. A few hours of school work got done. Sometimes a little procrastinating
goes a long way. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Our House

Today I am grateful for time with extended family, a beautiful wedding for our niece and her husband, and safe travels as we covered over 1900 road miles in the last week.

Congratulations to our niece Rena and her new husband Andrew! Wishing you all the best. It was nice to meet Keegan, who will also be officially joining our family when he marries our niece Marissa in a few weeks.

On recent travels to the wedding in Colorado, several family members rented a house for a few days. Eleven of us, including four siblings and our spouses, shared the space. It gave us each enough privacy, along with some nice common areas. 

We enjoyed meals together, numerous conversations, and time on the back patio. Our family that lives in the area and others visiting could join us there as well. Our house on the trip was a pleasant and affordable touch. Thanks to our sister-in-law Annie for finding it!

There were 8 siblings together, seven of the sisters and our eldest brother to keep us in line. (We missed the other five, but it's tough to get us all together these days with our own growing families.) Here we are:


There was some reminiscing and some fact-checking. Some politically-charged discussions and new memories made. I did some reflecting on houses: the one we were primarily raised in, the one we shared this weekend, and the places we have each lived. I marveled at the speed of the passing years and the volume of blessings I could count that stem from my family.

I plan to keep counting.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

This M.D. will be missed

Today I am grateful for an early morning run with Darcy and for my primary care doctor.

In the past year or so, my oncologist left my cancer clinic and my hair stylist of 15 years moved to another state. Now, we can add my primary care physician to that list. I know, in the whole scheme of things, these are definitely first-world problems. Yet, I pause in gratitude for the wonderful service they provided me, and feel some selfish sadness that they are no longer available.

Yesterday I had my yearly physical. It was also the final appointment with my doctor of 16 years. She and her family are relocating to another state. She will be missed, as will the comfort level I had with her.

Prior to moving here, the longest I had lived anywhere in my adult life was 6 years. I had a variety of doctors as I moved from place to place. When we arrived in our current community, my goal was to find a female doctor I liked. Mission accomplished on first attempt.

Not only did she deliver our son Sam, she was the one who delivered the news of my cancer diagnosis. I credit her and the radiologist who saw my last mammogram at that time with helping the cancer to be discovered sooner rather than later. After a normal mammogram, but aware of my family history and dense breasts, they recommended the MRI that detected breast cancer.

Over the years, she delivered quality and candid health care. I really appreciate the ease with which she seems to go about her job, and her patience with questions and concerns. I will indeed miss her and the rapport we shared.

Thank you Doctor. I wish you and your family all the best in your new endeavors.

I will again be taking a blog break for several days. The gratitude will keep flowing though.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Keep the Kindness Campaign Going

Today I am grateful for a little bye-bye kiss from our grandson and for good prayers to bring me peace and strength.

Fellow blogger Diane Lynn at The Gratitude Letters has an approach and style in her blog that I appreciate and which resonates with my own ideas on gratitude practice. In this post from July 4, titled  "Kindness Campaign Chain", Diane wrote about an idea she had picked up from a friend. It included doing her own 30 days of kindness campaign, and sharing some of the kindnesses and insights gained.

I decided to give it a try, and though I am a few days short of 30 days, I wanted to write about the difference this made to me. Like Diane, many of my gestures were to family members and were of a mundane nature. They ranged from bringing morning coffee to my husband and turning my son's socks right side out as I folded clean laundry.

They also included sending supportive text messages to friends in recovery and a couple of handwritten thank yous. I also let strangers go ahead of me in line or waited for them to cross in a parking lot. Nothing monumental here. I would like to think I do many of these things anyway, kindness campaign or not.

The part that really made an impression on me was the awareness piece. Committing myself to the campaign (no one else knew until now) and writing my kindness efforts down was very much like writing gratitudes down. The more I looked for ways to be kind, the kinder and gentler I felt. It didn't always translate into direct actions, but it slowed me down and helped me stay more in tune to be kind when an opportunity arose.

I encourage each of you reading this to give it a try too. The mind is very powerful. What do you want to fill yours with? Gratitudes and kindnesses, or fears and worries?  I say, let the gratitude and
kindness campaigns continue!  Thank you Diane Lynn at "Gratitude Letters."