Showing posts from December, 2016

Running Mindfully: Just Strides and Flakes

Today I am grateful for a visit with my friend Betsy and for the well-written sitcoms "Mom" and "Life in Pieces" and the laughs they bring.

Yesterday I went for a run in the cold with a cold. I have been fighting with the cold for four days and the cold is winning. But I still felt like going for a run outside. I was getting a little stir crazy.

As I started my run, I caught my mind going all over the place and I had to rein it in.

I tried focusing on just the run. Stride by stride. Slower when I hit an icy patch. Hood up when the wind came up. Stride by stride. Just running.

Then some light snow started to fall. I focused on a flake as it floated in front of me and then another flake. And another. Just a snowflake at a time.

It helped. My mind emptied out some of the useless rhetoric it had been busy replaying over and over. It brought some relief to this overthinking overdoer.

I'll take what I can get. A mindful run. A step at a time. A clearer head. Fewer th…

Perkins Through the Years

Today I am grateful for conversation, a shared meal, and some walking with my friend Liz and her granddaughter Victoria. I am also grateful for an afternoon nap as I fend off a nasty cold.

And I am grateful for Perkins Restaurants. I had two good meals at two different Perkins yesterday. A quick Google search tells me that Perkins was founded in 1958 and there are now over 400 locations across the United States and Canada.

My first experience with Perkins came in college in 1983-85. We were in the smaller community of Forest City, Iowa and nothing was open 24-hours a day. But about 25 miles down the road was Clear Lake, Iowa and a Perkins Restaurant that stayed open all the time. We made a few late night/early morning Perkins runs in our two years at Waldorf College. Those were some fun memories. Thanks for driving Deb! Patty melt and fries was my standard order.

Over the years, I continued to enjoy a Perkins stop many times. As we moved to our current community, we quickly noticed th…

Captive Audience

Today I am grateful for dark chocolate, soft kleenex, and mechanics and technicians who know a lot more about vehicles than I ever will.

Sitting in the backseat of a car isn't something I do often. But I had the opportunity this weekend thanks to Darcy's willingness to drive. We drove in some adverse conditions due to winter weather. That also presented some good opportunities.  It was still dark Saturday morning as we headed to Green Bay from our overnight stay in Wausau. There was a fresh snowfall.

The daylight was approaching slowly, but even without it, we could see how the snow clung to the numerous pine trees and created a very picturesque scene. It was stunning actually. Nothing a picture could fully capture.

I rarely sit and do nothing. Pausing more regularly is something I am working on.  I was a captive audience that morning however. It was too dark to write or read. I just sat and looked out the window as we moved across the countryside. It was relaxing. A worthy pa…

Game Day

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Green Bay this weekend and for all the driving Darcy did. I am also grateful to have experienced game day at Lambeau Field with my stepson Arthur. He is, shall we say, a very avid Packers fan.
Thank you Arthur for sharing your Packers attire and enthusiasm with us. We had a great place to tailgate and equally impressive weather for late December. It was sunny and in the thirties. There really is something special about Green Bay and the Packers. There were lots of friendly people and Arthur wasn't the only one who went to the game minus a shirt under those bibs. 

I paused to take this second picture as Darcy and many other fans headed up the stairs and in to the Atrium to make our way to our seats. Lambeau Field holds 85,000, and the attendance on Christmas Eve was over 77,000.  
It was an enjoyable trip and my two favorite teams were playing. The only time I don't tend to cheer for the Packers is when they are playing the Viki…

At 15, and at 1500

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and our son Sam's help with him yesterday.  I am grateful for new opportunities and experiences, and also for the consistency and comfort of familiarity.

When I hit the publish button on this post, it will be post #1500 that has gone from draft, to preview, to publish on Habitual Gratitude.

I wouldn't have guessed at post #15 that I would ever reach this milestone of 1500 posts. A post at a time, a word at a time, anything is possible.

I wouldn't have guessed at age 15 that I would be an alcoholic with long-term sobriety at 51. A day at a time, anything is possible. But at age 15, I did come across a prophetic line that I wrote on a piece of paper and put on the mirror in the bedroom I shared with my sister. That line?  "The chains of alcohol are too weak to be felt until they are strong to be broken." In my case, they definitely were.

At 15 days of sobriety, how could I know that a new way of looking at life was…

Our Limitations, Our Talents

Today I am grateful for a fresh cup of coffee and for my friends at our local breast cancer support group.

We met last evening and enjoyed holiday treats and conversation, appreciating the fact that we were there together, alive, moving on with life after a breast cancer diagnosis;whether that diagnosis was years ago or more recent.

I have one more fortune cookie prompt to drive my writing this morning:

"Don't let your limitations overshadow your talents."
I believe this is a universal human struggle. Everyone I know beyond a simple acquaintance has this playing out in their lives in big or small ways. We hold ourselves back, intentionally or not, for a wide variety of reasons.
My reasons primarily revolve around fear. Fear of failure. Fear of doing something wrong. Fear of too much time being needed; time that I don't have. Fear of being judged or looking foolish. Fear paralyzes and paralysis limits.
Plenty of progress has come for me in my efforts to recover from al…

And a Few More

Today I am grateful for silence, enjoyed and embraced. I am also grateful for the changing light outdoors when there is snow on the ground.

With lists of various kinds at work and at home, it's a good idea to make sure one of them is a gratitude list, so here are a few more to add to what I started yesterday:

*printers that are working and accessible
*cake with light, airy frosting
*prayers-those prayed individually and collectively
*my husband Darcy's sense of humor (especially when it comes to my "occasional" moodiness)
*comfortable shoes and those who made them
*pants that fit (even this time of the year)
*the comfort level I have with many of my colleagues
*problems that have easy solutions, just requiring some literal or figurative legwork
*a variety of earrings to wear-many made by my sister Danita, I think of her when I wear them
*a conversation to remind me of the importance of sobriety and recovery
*those who clean our school halls, rooms, and offices

Just a Few Things

Today I am grateful for laughter, conversation, and good food shared with co-workers. I am also grateful for the feeling of belonging that I have among recovery friends.

I am keeping it simple this morning. Here are just a few things on my gratitude list from
the last couple of days:

*music that makes me feel nostalgic
*the wonder ingredient known as almond bark
*the energy in a school and among both students and adults
*knowing the solstice is just around the corner
*egg nog--alcohol-free, just like me
*cheerful people waiting in a long line at the post office
*people who understand alcoholism
*my friend Sara's Monday night text messages of support
*crock pots
*the acceptance I have for my mastectomy scars
*my old Wheaties jump rope

In these busy days with plenty to do, consider pausing to start a gratitude list and add to it as you move through your day. You might be surprised what shows up on it.

Have a good day! Don't forget to pause.

The Pros and Pitfalls of Technology

Today I am grateful for reminders to slow down and enjoy the holiday season rather than be consumed by it. I am also grateful for easy recipes and all the writing avenues I have.

One of the opportunities that makes me a paid and published writer is the monthly column I write for our local newspaper. I get paid $30 per column and have been writing it for about four years. I am both proud and humbled when someone mentions to me that they enjoy reading my column. I truly appreciate the opportunity to keep fresh the idea of practicing gratitude.

The column is called "Gratitude Flow" and here is December's effort:

“The Pros and Pitfalls of Technology” As part of the over-50 crowd, my comfort level with the various forms of technology at our disposal is mixed at best. Computers, cell phones, email, social media, blogs, flat-screen televisions, and more are regular parts of my life; some just personally, some as part of my job. We live in the “Information Age” driven by the “Digi…

Santa's Helpers

Today I am grateful for opportunities to be of service and for the event our church supports known as "Santa's Secret Shop."

For several years now, our church has hosted this event with the help and involvement of other churches and agencies in our community. It is an opportunity for families who can't afford to shop for Christmas gifts to come and shop for free. Gifts are donated and the children shop for presents for their parents and siblings.

There are gift wrapping stations and a parent's lounge where parents can relax while their kids shop.
It is a really nice event that touches many lives in many different ways. I don't know yesterday's numbers, but last year about 250 children participated.

On the one hand, I am saddened by the level of need in our local area. On the other hand, I appreciate that one of our community's strengths is having programs to support those who seek it.

Darcy, Sam and I helped set up some on Friday afternoon. Then we w…

One of My Days

Today I am grateful for opportunities to be of service, and to join my husband and son in those efforts.

Today's date of December 17 marks the 8th anniversary of my bilateral mastectomies. December 17, 2008 is a date I have remembered each year since. Maybe with time it will fade, and it already has, but it's one of my days. Days important in my life's story.

Days like my birthday. My sobriety date. My wedding day. The day Sam was born. The day my dad died. The day I received news of my breast cancer diagnosis: May 29, 2008.

Of course, I don't remember my day of birth. But the rest of the days are etched in my mind and carry a myriad of memories and emotions, some full of joy, others full of despair.  December 17, 2008 ran the gamut of emotions. I lost two body parts. I gained the relief of being cancer-free and done with surgeries. I had a physical loss coupled with an emotional closure to a scary chapter of my life.

I honor this anniversary. I honor this day and the…

Our sacrifices connect, our benefits multiply

Today I am grateful for my five senses and that they are all in working order. I am grateful for my glasses which help me see better with my aging eyes.

I continue to consider how the sacrifices of others can and should show up on my gratitude lists. See Tuesday's post. I appreciate the opportunities I have to sacrifice my own time and effort to be of help to others. It is a win-win.

The sacrifice doesn't really feel like a sacrifice, especially if approached as a possibility to add to the positive stream of good in the world. If we are helping others, we are getting out of ourselves, even if briefly. If we are on the receiving end of the support, we are left feeling worthy. Someone cared enough to do what they did.

All of this connects us, creating a grateful weaving of human hearts and souls touching one another in simple and profound ways.

These connections in turn lead to each of us more readily recognizing benefits and sacrifices and internalizing them. Then something inc…

Answers, Assurances, and Advances

Today I am grateful for doctors who are patient with their patients and for new slippers that are comfortable and cozy.

Yesterday I accompanied Darcy to his appointments with a pulmonologist and a thoracic surgeon.
We left with some answers and some appreciation for medical professionals and the technological advances that help them do their jobs.

Darcy's tumor is a hamartoma, a benign growth that can occur in various places around the body. The location of his, in the bronchus, is actually quite rare. Many hamartoma are never discovered and never cause any problems. Because his is basically blocking a small airway, it was leading to recurring pneumonia. It needs to come out and that's what yesterday's appointments centered on--what is the best approach to removing it?

We met with the pulmonologist first, who had spoken to the other pulmonologist who had done the first bronchoscopy. She conferred with the thoracic surgeon, who then met with us. This multi-disciplinary appr…

Change is the Watchword

Today I am grateful for the milk and cereal I enjoyed for breakfast and the dairy farmer and cow that started the process that led to the convenience of me picking up a gallon of milk at the store.

Just to keep me on my toes, or my writing fingertips as the case may be, here is another fortune cookie prompt:
"Change is the watchword of progression."
Change or become stagnant. Move forward or get stuck. Take some risks or just keep wishing. It can be said in many different ways, but it comes down to growth and change go hand in hand. 
There are other words we may hear more than watchword; such as buzzword, slogan, catchphrase, or motto. But watchword seems especially fitting when applied to gratitude practice. Watch. Pay attention. What needs changing? What needs maintaining? Both are sources of gratitude reminding us of our humanness.
Progression. My first thought is that progression isn't always a good thing. Progression deeper in to an addiction can be deadly. Progressi…

Benefits or Sacrifices

Today I am grateful for the joy I hear and see in the words and faces of others in recovery. I am also grateful for others who share their gratitude practice and wisdom with the rest of us.

My friend Steve Foran is one such person. He posts regular videos about the topic of gratitude on his website Gratitude at WorkHere is one from about a month ago. I encourage you to pause and watch it. It is less than 3 minutes long. It has to do with what grateful people are four times more likely to do and they aren't even aware of it.

It was insightful to me to realize just how much more I give a "benefits to me" approach to my gratitude lists than I do "sacrifices of others." Some of the over 1600 gratitudes that Steve was looking at on the Daily Gratitudes portion of his website were mine.

It made me stop and think. I have tried to apply his idea in the weeks since, making a concerted effort to include the sacrifices or efforts of others in my gratitude list, not just…

Slow with the Flow

Today I am grateful for the beauty of a fresh snowfall and eyes with which to see it. I am also grateful for the snowplow drivers who clear our streets and highways.

After a more frenetic pace and mindset on Saturday, I approached Sunday more calm. I think keeping "one" as a guiding word is helpful. Regular pauses slow me down in good ways. It seems I will go along smoothly for a time, then I start to get spun up with overthinking and overdoing. I catch myself sooner than I used to, but it is still a work in progress. I am still a work in progress.

So I will keep writing about it, practicing mindfulness, pausing for reminders like this one:

Small ice and slush flows moving past me as I stood at an overlook along the Mississippi River. Just stood. Just watched. As they moved by slowly, at the pace and in the time they were meant to. I internalized the concept of moving deliberately.
Go with the flow. Slow with the flow. Sounds like a reasonable approach to the day. Have a goo…


Today I am grateful for the feel of new sheets in a warm bed, waking up next to my husband. I am also grateful for the word and the experience of "one."

"One" has been on my mind in the last days. I even checked to see if I had ever titled any of my other 1480-plus Habitual Gratitude blog posts "One." I had not, though it appears in several titles and in a majority of my posts, in one way or another.

Some of my ponderings:

-reading one word of my poems at a time and how each syllable matters
-rolling one Oreo ball or chocolate star cookie at a time
-placing one star on one cookie, then the next
-one pretzel dipped in almond bark, shook off, placed on waxed paper
-one snowflake making a unique journey among millions of other snowflakes
-one shovel of snow, followed by another, and another, and a driveway is cleared
-one drink of coffee to savor
-one banana as part of my breakfast almost every day
-one step at a time on a run with Darcy on a cold morning


A Voice at Open Mic Night

Today I am grateful for the song "Amazing Grace" and a poetry reading opportunity last evening.

A special thanks to those who supported me in that poetry reading, including my husband Darcy and son Sam who were in attendance, and my friends Kelly and Betsy who listened to me practice and encouraged me to proceed.

It is great to live in a community with places like BreakAway Arts. I became part of the first-ever poetry open mic night last evening. There was no microphone involved. The group was small enough to sit around a large table and listen and share. Thank you to all who listened. Thank you to the other poets who shared, including two writing group acquaintances.

This was a stretch for me. I have rarely read my poetry out loud; only one other time in a public setting. It pushed me beyond my comfort zone, but was also exhilarating. I enjoyed picking out a few poems, practicing pace and emphasis, and even revising. As I read them out loud, I made some changes here and the…

How do you spell relief? B-E-N-I-G-N

Today I am grateful for the palpable relief that comes with good news. I am also grateful for the support my husband Darcy and I give each other.

Darcy's medical procedure the other day was a bronchoscopy. The procedure discovered a small tumor in the left lower lobe of his lung. It was biopsied and then we waited. It didn't have scary cancer characteristics, so we were hopeful.  Still, I know Darcy and I both went to worst case scenarios in our minds at times.

When he got the word yesterday that the tumor is benign, our relief was audible and our gratitude deep. He still needs surgery and that means more appointments, risks, and recovery. But it is a whole different ballgame than going down the road a cancer patient needs to go down.

The procedure, the news of a tumor and subsequent biopsy, the waiting for results; all brought some flashbacks to the mind of this cancer patient and her spouse. The range of emotions for both Darcy and I in recent days has been wide.

Today, our …

A 2 x 2 of the Exercise Variety

Today I am grateful for our local writing group and our guest last evening, poet Margaret Haase.

I appreciated getting to writing group and seeing familiar faces, after being unable to make it for many months. I appreciated Margaret Haase's words of wisdom about the craft of poetry and writing in general, as well as her poems that she read to us.

How about a 2 x 2 today?  This one of the exercise variety. It is how I started my morning.

1.  Sweat
     a. I know I have worked hard and got my heart rate up, for my health.
     b. It cleanses stress and worry out of my body.

2. My vintage Nordic Track machine.
    a. The fact that it still works. Today was the first use in months.
    b. The fact that it was free at the curb and I have gotten years of use out of it.

What will your 2 x 2 gratitude multiplication be about today?

A 3 x 3 of the Medical Variety

Today I am grateful for medical technology and for family and friends.

One of the gratitude practices I sometimes use is what I call "doing a 3 x 3."  It is simply naming three things I am grateful for and then giving three reasons why for each. It is indeed an easy way to multiply gratitude. I encourage you to try it. Write it down or just say it. Use any number combination you choose.

Here is one I started yesterday as I nervously waited for Darcy to come out of a medical procedure:

1. Good signage at the medical facility we were at -guiding us to where he needed to start and the next steps -to help me walk off some worry and know where to return
-to more easily find our car when it was time to go home
2. Kind people
-nurses who kept me informed and with Darcy when I could be -a woman to share conversation with instead of sitting in my own fear
-the doctor who was straightforward but considerate with his words

3. Medical technology -a scope allowing a look at a concern and…

Prayers as Brain Activity

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our marriage. I am also grateful for some phone conversations with friends and family this weekend.

My goal is to begin each day with some quiet time. I say some prayers I have committed to memory. Prayers that hold much meaning to me and that help me get centered for the day ahead. I also will pray for others.

The list is long. Those who have had or are currently dealing with cancer. Those in active addiction and those working hard to recover. Anyone who needs special prayers; maybe they have suffered a significant loss, maybe they are facing surgery or health problems, maybe they are struggling with a decision.

I will often do these prayers on my knees. It is a more humble and open way for me to ask for help and seek compassion. But I also often do them as I am exercising. Moving meditation. Usually at least a couple times a week, I will pray for everyone in my large family.

I name them individually. Some of them I rarely see and can'…

Be prepared . . . in the days ahead

Today I am grateful for the beautiful snowfall and to be able to walk in it and enjoy the peace.

Today's post is inspired by another fortune cookie quote. I broke the cookie open and read the line, the went for a walk in the snow. Moving meditation to see what thoughts would come.

Here is the fortune:

"Be prepared to accept a wondrous opportunity in the days ahead!" 
Here are some of my random thoughts about it:
*"Be prepared to accept . . . " is a philosophy I try to apply every day. Accept life on life's terms. Accept results that are out of my hands. Accept that others have their own choices and beliefs.
* ". . . a wondrous opportunity" could be as simple as being at the right place at the right time to be able to offer assistance to someone in need, even if it is just carrying something for them or holding a door open. Any opportunity to be helpful and considerate is a wondrous thing.
* ". . . in the days ahead!" To best prepare for t…


Today I am grateful for lotion, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes. I am also grateful for clean water to help me use and benefit from these products.

As I put on some lotion last night, this morning's blog post took shape. I use lotion daily, and this time of the year it can be several times a day. For something I use and appreciate every day, I knew it hadn't shown up in this blog much, if at all.

A search revealed exactly one post, from three years ago, that even mentions lotion. Here is that post, titled "Painful Reminders" if you care to read it. Nearly 1500 posts, and I mention lotion, a product I use daily, only once until today. Gratitude practice only requires paying attention. Apparently, I haven't been paying much attention when it comes to lotion.

Each day, I apply lotion to my face and hands. The face lotion is a special one and a little more expensive. It's one of the personal care products I splurge on. It seems to help keep me looking a &quo…

Gray and Rainy Days vs. Endorphins

Today I am grateful for attire and shoes that allow me to run in pretty much any weather conditions and I am also grateful for the music of Neil Diamond.

We have been having gray and wet weather the last few days. Couple that with the shorter daylight and it can be depleting to the body, mind, heart, and soul. It could be worse--it could be colder, snowy, icy. It might be more treacherous running in that.

It can still be hard to muster the desire to go for a run after work when it is drizzling, chilly, and the daylight is already fading. That is the decision I faced a couple days this week. Run or not run?

I was a little frustrated by the fact that my commute on these days was mostly dry until I got close to home. Come on! But I changed, laced up, and headed out. Monday's run was sluggish but I still felt better for doing it. As always.

Yesterday's run was one of those that keeps me running. It was raining a little, but I had the right gear on, and it was a few degrees above …