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Showing posts from October, 2016

Our Church By Chance, Then Choice

Today I am grateful for my working legs and arms as I walked Oliver this morning. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage.

Yesterday we had a special service at our church. It included the celebration and commissioning of the newest shared ministry team members-Beth and Mary, both priests, and Darcy, a deacon. Ordination took place last year and earlier this year, but yesterday our bishop came to our church to make it all official.

I appreciate the efforts of Darcy and the others on the ministry team. They have dedicated many hours over many years to help our small Episcopalian parish keep moving forward. I also appreciate Bishop Brian Prior. He has a kind demeanor and an easy-going approach as he conducts a service and gives a sermon.
It brought me back to our decision to give this church a try 16 years ago. It had very little to do with the denomination. I was pretty much unfamiliar with the Episcopal Church. (It turns out that it is similar to the Catholic church o…

My Personal Headphone Policy

Today I am grateful for a clean house, working heat and electricity, windows that open and close, and much more about this place my family and I call home. I am also grateful for the mental benefits of running.

Yesterday on my 12-mile run, I played no music and had no headphones in my ears. That is my typical policy in recent months and years, whether I am running with Darcy or solo. From time to time, I may use my armband radio, but even that is a rare occurrence anymore.

I appreciate the true connection to nature, and the flow of thoughts that can take place as they wish. The quiet and the endorphins clear my head in a most efficient way. I get ideas for blog posts or columns. I process a situation or emotion that has been weighing on me. I often will say some of the prayers I say daily, or do an A-Z gratitude list, or pray for my family members and others, one at a time.

Running stride for stride, taking in my surroundings and my current thoughts, gives me a true sense of presence…

Endorphins and Leo

Today I am grateful for music and ears that work so I can hear the music. I am also grateful for the mood-boosting and calming effects of endorphins.

I have had a week of both before school and after school meetings or other things I needed to be at. So it was out the door of our house early each morning and back in the door later in the afternoon than I would care for it to be.  Good things are happening at work, and things are getting done, but still . . .

I need my time to myself and my outlets. Last evening presented just the right combination. I really felt like running. I needed to run.  Within minutes of getting home, I was back out the door and heading down the trail, first with Oliver and then solo. Some days after work it can be hard for me to muster the energy to regroup and get out running. On other days, I have an urge and a need to run that won't be denied. Last evening was the latter.

Then we got to spend some time with our grandson Leo while his mom Emily worked la…

Flukes

Today I am grateful for faith, family, and friends. All are so vital in my life.

Some flukes rolled with me through my day yesterday. Several of them happened at work. Things like not being able to get the wrapper off the cheese stick I was trying to make a quick snack of before scurrying off to the next task. I've had dozens and dozens of cheese sticks with no issue. Why today? Why when I was in a hurry? Because God has a sense of humor.

And then there was the student phone I confiscated, per our policy. It was far from a new phone, though I didn't look real closely at first. I was trying to make some deliveries of notes to other students first. During that process, the phone I had confiscated dropped to the floor. I wondered if some of the cracks it had had been caused by the drop.

I ended up having to go check with the student I had just taken it from, because I wanted to make sure I hadn't caused the harm. The student assured me it was already in that shape before I go…

Blocking or Aiding?

Today I am grateful for a better night's sleep and for take-and-bake pizza for an easy meal.  I am also grateful for time with our grandson Leo.

The lessons of grace just keep coming in recent days. Consider this quote:

"The winds of grace blow all the time. All we need to do is set our sails."  (Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa)
Grace is always available to me, but I am not always available to it. I make myself unavailable. Am I blocking the work of grace and stalling out any hope of sailing? Or am I aiding the breeze and allowing sails to billow and carry me forward?

I block the winds of grace when I overthink and overdo, when I try to manage unmanageables, when I become impatient. These are all aspects of my humanness, and they will crop up from time to time.
My goal is less blocking, fewer obstacles in the way between myself and the grace that can liberate and allow me to fully live in the present.

I aid the winds of grace when I slow down and focus on my breathing, even f…

Paced by Grace

Today I am grateful for my recovery friends and the hard-earned wisdom and laughter shared among us. I am also grateful for a sense of calm that can be both felt and heard.

Yesterday morning as I prepared to head back to work after a few days off, and as my mind cranked up with work stuff, I paused to regroup and the word "grace" came through. Grace is a very comforting word to me. It feels like the presence of a Great Spirit, God, Higher Power, who is here and cares about me, about each of us.

And I don't need to earn grace. It is a gift freely given. What will I do with that gift?  Yesterday, I carried the word and the feeling with me. I wrote about it in an email to my sisters. I thought about the "grace" ring that is on my keychain, given by a friend who exudes grace. I put on a necklace that belonged to my Aunt Esther, a woman who always carried herself gracefully.

As I drove to work, the phrase "paced by grace" came into my mind. Paced by grace …

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

Today I am grateful for a nice long weekend, beautiful weather, and the idea of quiet grace in my life.

"I am woman, hear me roar."  Am I referencing Helen Reddy's 1972 song that inspired many a female, or am I writing about myself and what it feels like to be a woman approaching menopause? It's both I guess.

I appreciate Reddy's song, co-written by her and Ray Burton. I remember belting it out as a young girl when it came on the radio. I may not have felt as confident as the song sounded, but I certainly felt my budding femininity and solidarity with my sisters, biological and other.

More recently, the "hear me roar" part could be referring to my mood swings and changing hormonal levels. Sleep disruption seems to be my most evident peri-menopause symptom, but on some days the mood swings hit hard.

I have had moments in recent months where I was very close to either breaking down crying (which I typically never do) or angrily giving someone an earful th…

Keep Remembering

Today I am grateful for a clean garage and a good run yesterday in the early morning solitude. I am also grateful for my dad.

Every October 23, I remember my dad. He died on October 23, 1998. It is hard to believe that is already 18 years ago.

I keep remembering so as to honor his life and legacy. I keep remembering to help pass on that legacy.

Some things I miss when I think of Dad:
-his striped bib overalls and the jokes he played on grandkids with the pockets in them
-his dry sense of humor and how he called our local paper, The Ossian Bee,"the stinger"
-the way he took chances on high bids in card games and relished in it when things went his way

Some things I continue to pass along, in his memory:
-the work ethic he managed to balance with taking time for things like church and visiting family
-keeping up on current events and being an informed citizen
-making sure ice cream gets enjoyed regularly(tough job but somebody's got to do it)

Regrets?
-that Dad died before my…

New Eyes

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and his predictable presence around our house. I am also grateful for my eyesight and the glasses that improve it even more.
Consider this:"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes  but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust
There is not much that we individually have control of in the world around us. Just our own attitude and actions. We do shape our own perceptions. We decide what we are going to focus on, what we are going to let roll off, what we are going to give energy to.
I was stuck in the rut of self-pity for years. I saw the negative in my own life's circumstances and I focused on the negatives I saw in myself. My mind's eye dulled the beauty and grace around me, while amplifying the pain I felt. The landscape of my life got uglier, I drank more, I hated myself more.
When I quit drinking and then eventually started practicing gratitude, I discovered a wonderful world that had been hidden from my …

More Reprieves to Appreciate

Today I am grateful for the sunrise I am enjoying from my recliner, and I am grateful to be part of our local breast cancer support group.

Earlier this month I wrote about reprieves. I am thinking about them again this morning. I am enjoying a couple days off from work after a very busy stretch. It is a much-needed break and one I have been looking forward to. Keeping reasonable expectations for this time off will be key to me enjoying it and getting rejuvenated.

I was reminded at last night's breast cancer support group meeting that I am deeply blessed to have the years of reprieve from cancer surgeries and treatment that I have had. I don't want to take my health for granted and I want to stay vigilant about what is going on in my body. Cancer is cunning and mysterious. It can return 2 years later, 5 years later, 12 years later, or with the woman I met last night, 17 years later.

I am thinking about my sister Danita and her grief process as the first anniversary of her husba…

Short but Sweet

Today I am grateful for my sense of smell and how it helps me appreciate the changing seasons.

I am also grateful to my sister Zita and the nice visit we have had. She came up yesterday afternoon to watch Sam play football, and we appreciate her taking the time. We were treated to a wonderful weather afternoon, a pretty exciting game, and a victory for Sam's team.

It was the final game of his freshman season and they got to play it on the varsity field in our community's historic stadium.  It was an added treat to have nearby parking, stadium seating, and a working scoreboard.

It was nice having Zita visit, as a visitor always helps take my mind off the work and home "stuff" that might weigh on me otherwise.  A little break from all of that can go a long way.

After an enjoyable game, we enjoyed some pleasant eating, a favorite pastime with visitors.

It was a nice evening and we appreciate the driving you did and the time you took Zita. Thank you!

Strong and Steady

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Today I am grateful for early morning quiet, supportive friends in recovery, and my healthy body. 
This is a photo I took before the Mankato Marathon started on Sunday. The starting line is barely visible up ahead. A sea of people all with a story.

Here are some things that made up my story over the next 26.2 miles:
*Running the first couple miles with a woman named Megan and discovering we had a  few things in common.  *A supporter along the route before we hit double digit miles saying I looked "strong and steady."  I drew on that in the last few miles when strong and steady take on a whole new meaning. *Seeing a man wearing a "50 States" shirt (for people who are well on their way or already have run a marathon in all 50 states). I congratulated him and asked him how many marathons he had done. His answer? 277! That's strong and steady. *Thanking every volunteer I could along the way. Sharing gratitude is energizing.  *Seeing 3 women spectating, each holding…

A Different Run

Today I am grateful for successful completion of marathon #14 for me, and for the many volunteers and support people who made the Mankato Marathon a well-run (pun intended) event.

This marathon was already setting up to be a different run. We had an exciting trip to look forward to last year along with our marathon weekend-a trip to Maine to run Mount Desert Island. Whatever we did this year would need to be closer to home, and somewhat low key. 
Darcy and I both had some nagging body aches and pains this year. He had more recent heel pain, and my right knee and a bunion on my right foot needed more frequent icing. Menopause has made an appearance for me, and for both of us it was mentally more challenging to stay motivated. Still our 20-mile training runs went well. 
Then, Darcy got sick on Friday; body aches and fever. Though he felt better Saturday morning, he got worse as the day went on. A trip to urgent care ruled out strep and the flu, and he thought he might try the 10K. Sunda…

North and South

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Today I am grateful for the beauty of fall, for a good school trip with 60 seventh graders, and for my fellow chaperones: Kathy, Kelly, Tim, and Trevor. 

The only full day of our 3-day, 2-night trip was a picture-perfect fall day in northern Minnesota on Thursday. This scene welcomed us in the morning,

And this one, viewed from a 60-foot high tower, helped us bid adieu to the ending daylight.

The trip was both exhausting and invigorating. Thank you to the staff and instructors at Deep Portage. It was a nice break from the regular workday, and what a classroom we had. I love fall and I appreciated getting paid to be outside for a couple of days.
Today we head to southern Minnesota for our 14th marathon tomorrow. The starting line of the Mankato Marathon awaits us. It hasn't been the smoothest year in terms of how our bodies and our minds are feeling about this run, but Darcy and I are both as ready as we can be.
Our last long training runs went well, and we are so grateful to be abl…

MET UP, Metavivor, and MBC Awareness Day

Today I am grateful for my health and for a healthier perspective on life. Even when I lose sight of it on busy days, I am able to return to it more quickly.

Every October 13, in the midst of pink ribbon warriors and a flood of feel-good merchandise, Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day takes place. It's goal is to raise awareness and funds for our BC sisters and brothers who need it most-those whose cancer has metastasized beyond the breast. Cancer that stays in the breast is not deadly. Cancer that spreads can be. It is what kills 40,000 people in the U.S. every year, roughly the same number that have been dying annually for decades.

Progress? Progress comes by looking our fears in the face, and looking at the faces of those with MBC. Not by promoting more pink stuff.

Since I won't be blogging for a few days, I wanted to get this message out in time for October 13.

Here is a post I wrote in 2012. In it are links to Metavivor and MBCN, two organizations that continue to hel…

Effort-Persistent and Consistent

Today I am also grateful for the bike trails in our community and a bike ride with Darcy yesterday. I am also grateful for the sermon given by our priest Beth yesterday.

When I go to church on Sundays these days, I listen more intently to the sermons  than I ever used to in my younger days. (Sometimes in my younger days I was hungover and looking forward to the cold Mountain Dew I would stop and get after church.) Yesterday's sermon struck me in several ways, but the key was in the simple message of ongoing action and effort. Faith takes work. Saying thanks is important, but putting gratitude into action regularly is more important. 
Persistent and consistent. Even when tired. Even when feeling ungrateful or impatient. Even when things don't go the way hoped.
There is freedom in disciplined actions. It has been proven to me resoundingly that if I practice gratitude I create energy and a better perspective. Life still throws curve balls. Life can still be discouraging at times.…

Marathon Season

Today I am grateful for another nice fall evening fire in our fire pit and smores to go with it. I am also grateful for the yard work and clean up we got done yesterday-mostly Darcy's efforts.

October is marathon season. Fall is a great time to do a marathon; with summer to train, and the weather more likely to be cooperative. Today is the day for two well-known marathons in the Midwest-Chicago and Twin Cities. Tens of thousands of runners will start in downtown Chicago and Minneapolis. Some will be veterans, some will be rookies. Some will finish, some won't. All will have an experience that you only get when you toe the starting line for a 26.2 journey.

Both marathons hold pleasant memories for me. Chicago was our first in 2004. A first marathon experience can never be repeated. Twin Cities was our third, in 2006, and my fastest (4:15), even after cramping and having to walk for a mile.

Of our 13 marathons, we have run more in October than any other month, 7 for me and 6 for…

Mindset not Measurement

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Today I am grateful for safety from storms and for clothes for all seasons.

Thoughts and prayers go out to those already affected by Hurricane Matthew and those in the
storm's path.

I am also grateful for this message:

This is outside our local Maurice's clothing store, which I honestly don't ever shop at. My style is more consignment store and clearance racks. But I do walk past this store often, usually not noticing much of anything about it. The sign struck a chord with me yesterday though.
The small print reads "Style is a mindset, not a measurement."

I have never been a single-digit size sort of gal. And I think size 0 should be banished. So should the many societal and media messages about what is a good size and shape.  
Much more important than a number, the pertinent question is am I eating healthy and exercising? If I don't get hung up on numbers like pounds and inches, but feel good and have energy for my day, that's a good thing.

Gratitude is …

A Loaded Month

Today I am grateful for co-workers I can laugh with and for ice cream with Darcy at our favorite local place.

October is a loaded month for me in many ways. It is definitely loaded at work with a variety of things on the schedule that demand my time and attention. It is personally a loaded month too.
As a non-pink ribbon breast cancer survivor, October (a.k.a. Pinktober) brings mixed emotions and some level of frustration.

Check out a previous post of mine here.  It is titled "Awareness? I'll Take Advocacy and Action."

My sister Danita just wrote a blog post of her own about this loaded month from her vantage point. I encourage you to read it here. It is titled "31 Days." The joys and sorrows of life are in it.

Our father also died in October, on October 23, 1998. I love that Danita calls him a "gentleman in overalls."  What a fitting description for him. I miss him still.

What would you add to this already-loaded month of highs and lows?

Picking Up Sticks

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Today I am grateful for an appreciation of time as I move through my days. I am also grateful for peanut butter.

After a busy day yesterday, with things just seeming off a bit, picking up sticks with our grandson Leo in our backyard was just what I needed last evening.

My work day started with opening my office and noticing that my wall clock had fallen on the floor. It was bent and not working. I wondered if it was a message for me about time and using it wisely or something along those lines. I thought of that old saying about "Even a broken clock is right twice a day."  Then I got caught up in meetings, seeing students, calling parents, talking to teachers, and another meeting.

By the time I left school I was desperate to get home and go for a run. I did get a couple miles in, and I also got time with Leo:

He loves to be outside and he's a good little helper. He rode along when I went to pick up Sam from football practice too while we waited for his mom. She had to wo…

Continuous Flow

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the ways we understand each other. I am also grateful for others who share their thoughts and wisdom about gratitude.

I always perk up when the "Word for the Day" on www.gratefulness.org is from Brother David Steindl-Rast, whose words you also see on the header of this blog.  Here are his words from yesterday:
"In the continuous flow of blessing, our heart finds meaning and rest."
Flowing water was already on my mind when I read this quote. I was thinking about Hurricane Matthew; the power it is carrying, and the devastation it is causing. I was also thinking how for many impacted by this current storm, clean water was already hard to come by. It will be moreso after the storm. 
And I have the luxury of going to any of several faucets in my home for safe and clean water.
"Gratitude Flow" is the name of my monthly column for our local newspaper. I just submitted column #44. I have enjoyed the writing for this, se…

Reprieves

Today I am grateful for a good weekend and a fresher perspective on my job to begin this week. I am also grateful for the reprieves given me and that I can seek for myself.

Reprieve is a word I appreciate and put into practice as a recovering alcoholic. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. It took me a long time to fully accept that. Today I have faith, and life experience to back it up, in knowing a day at a time I can find reprieve.

Reprieve is defined in a couple of ways:

-a cancellation or postponement of a punishment
-a temporary escape from an undesirable fate or unpleasant situation

Active alcoholism was brutal punishment. I haven't had a drink for quite some time, but I can still slip into alcoholic thinking and peace and perspective are lost.

I can protect myself from the battering of alcohol and alcoholic thinking with positive actions; like staying grateful, reaching out to others, making healthy physical and emotional choices. A reprieve doesn't just happen. I h…

Mesmerized

Today I am grateful for our local bakery and the treats we enjoy from there. I am also grateful for a beautiful fall day to enjoy yesterday in a variety of ways.

Last evening was a perfect evening for a fire in our fire pit. We had a busy day, the tiredness was settling in, and we almost ditched the idea. But the beautiful evening beckoned and I decided to get a fire started. The temperature was cooling off, but the fire made it comfortable in my shorts and t-shirt.
Darcy usually starts the fire but I did this time. Sometimes my fires are frustrating and need more tending than I care to give. Last night the fire fit the evening - it was just right. It burned long enough but not too long. Once started, it only needed a little more kindling and I could mostly just enjoy it.
Darcy joined me for a time and that is always nice, but I also appreciated some time to myself.
Watching a fire, one meant to be burning for function or pleasure, has always been mesmerizing to me. It relaxes me and …