"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

Friday, December 30, 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 thoughts, more focus.
The unnecessary fell away like the snowflakes. The clarity returned.

A full mind or mindful? It's a daily question for me.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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 the large flag that is a Perkins trademark. Now we were living down the street from a Perkins. For years, it wasn't uncommon for us to take the kids there on Tuesday nights. That is when kids eat free. Easy for us. Good selection of kid's meals for them. Everyone wins.

We continue to visit our local Perkins from time to time and appreciate their varied menu.  The decor has changed more than once over the years, and the menu is ever-evolving, but we are grateful to Perkins for their good food and good prices.

Perkins run anyone?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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 pause.

I was a captive audience sitting in a moving car. It is the same any time I step outside. I am a captive audience to whatever Mother Nature has in store for us that day. I truly appreciate that and try to make time each day to be outdoors, even this time of the year, even if briefly.

Humans as captive audience on our planet. Let's pause and look around today. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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 Vikings. But I defected on Saturday. Actually, I was fairly quiet as far as fans go, but when at Lambeau it is hard to be anything but a Packers fan.

Go Pack Go!

Friday, December 23, 2016

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 starting and it continues, many days later. A day at a time, anything is possible.

Thank you to all of you who read my posts regularly, or just stop by from time to time. Thank you to those who take the time to comment and share your own words. You all inspire and motivate me to continue. Even after 1500 posts, the ideas keep coming. So will the posts.

I will be taking a blog break the next few days though. Happy Holidays to all! Be safe. Be grateful.
Be present.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

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 alcoholism (and the negative thinking that accompanies it) and make my perception of self and surrounding world healthier with regular gratitude practice. I can stand up and say one of my talents is writing and not shrink into self-doubt immediately. That is progress. 

We can help one another by encouraging and complimenting. By offering support in the form of listening or simply being present. By not letting our own limitations cause us to get in someone else's way.

That is my goal today: stay out of the way. Let things unfold as they were meant to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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
*those who provide music at our school masses
*the value of support groups, both for those coming for the first time and those who come for years

Have a good day! If you keep adding to your to-do list, please keep adding to your gratitude list too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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.

Monday, December 19, 2016

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 “Digital Revolution.” It is amazing and mind-boggling and I appreciate it in numerous ways.
Sending a text to a friend or family member is a quick and easy way to connect or figure out details like where to meet for coffee. My writing pursuits are time-efficient and reach more readers on blogs. It’s nice to know my running mileage from a recent run with the convenient app on my phone. (I just discovered the other day that my “Health” app includes a mindfulness component. I will be using that more.) Google searches help me find answers to many questions almost instantly. I may be a digital immigrant, but I have embraced this new territory quite a bit.
On the other hand, all of this technology and easily accessible information makes it hard to keep pace with today’s world. Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness, refers to it as “being fire-hosed” by information; a fitting analogy for the overload of material at our fingertips. It can be overwhelming, exhausting, and drown out what really matters.
            If we are honest, much of the information we are inundated with isn’t that important, though the providers would like us to think otherwise. It comes down to our individual choices. Like all areas of life, balance is crucial. The time spent with and emphasis given to our high-tech gadgets is a key to our overall wellness. Is it too much? Not enough? Just right? These questions will be answered differently by each of us.
            Framing technology use in the context of gratitude helps me maintain balance. Facebook and blogging allow me to more easily connect or reconnect with family and friends, reading the gratitude lists and writings of others and sharing my own. I appreciate seeing pictures and getting updates on life events. Text messages and emails are both consistent inlets and outlets for my gratitude pursuits. A few words or lines back and forth and I have a good boost.
Yet, it can easily become a time trap, or what I refer to as “getting sucked into the vortex.”  Start reading emails or recent comments on social media and it is easy to lose track of time. It can also chip away at a grateful mindset. Seeing snippets of people’s lives and vacation pictures can make it seem like our own lives are lacking. Seeing the next best thing in terms of clothes, a recipe, or a must-see movie begins to erode our peace. We start to wonder if we should be doing and pursuing more, losing sight of our own priorities. To safeguard against this trap, I never stay too long on social media and I refrain from comparing my insides to other people’s outsides.
Besides being a potential time trap, technology use also steals our attention. How much are we missing when we are plugged in versus unplugged? If someone is always looking at a screen of one kind or another, what else are they missing around them?
Have you ever wondered what good we could do if we put even some of the time and energy that we give to our gadgets in to other pursuits?  Like cleaning a closet and donating items or going out and doing community service for others in need. Or putting our thought energy into finding solutions that will help contribute to the greater good. Gratitude tends to get us out of ourselves. Screen time tends to isolate us.
Technology is a tool, not an end-all. I try to set my own healthy boundaries. I encourage you to do the same. For my family and I, taking intentional breaks from technology includes tech-free sleep areas. As parents, we have a responsibility to set boundaries for our children and help them find a healthy balance. Our future, and theirs, depends on it. Where we put our time and energy determines the pace of our days and the type of impact we leave on the world around us. Simply ask yourself this question: Is my technology use impeding or aiding my gratitude flow?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

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 went early yesterday to shovel after the fresh snowfall, making it easier for all to park and come and go from our church. We returned a third time to help clean up.

It is important to Darcy and I to include Sam in these efforts, and though he may be a bit reluctant, he always steps up. It is an eye-opener and gives us true perspective. To be of service is a great opportunity and a great responsibility.  We are grateful to do our part, and grateful to be able to.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

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 others that have stood out on the timeline of my life.
I honor the fact that I am here, able-bodied and alive, to live the day ahead.

Friday, December 16, 2016

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 incredible happens--we have more energy and more grace to keep giving of ourselves and a more open heart to receive humbly from others.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

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 approach is becoming more common. I know Darcy and I both appreciated it. We got information we could understand. We got our questions answered. We got reassurance.

Any procedure carries risk and I will be nervous for Darcy when he goes in for an advanced bronchoscopy procedure to remove the tumor in January, but it amazes me what they can do with medical technology. It is a non-invasive, same-day procedure. Not every facility is set up for these and a limited number of doctors are trained in doing them. It was reassuring to hear that the pulmonologist doing Darcy's procedure has twenty years of experience and is fresh off additional training.

We appreciate that we live in an area where such medical care is available. Many are not so fortunate.

With answers and assurances yesterday, we await the procedure; confident that the advanced bronchoscopy will be successful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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. Progression in an abusive relationship can be stifling at the least and fatal at the worst.

Often though, progression is a positive. Progression toward a worthy goal is the stuff life is made of.
Little steps. Big shifts. Both matter.

I am also thinking of the line "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Change isn't always necessary. Don't change what is working, unless it is to make it even better. Consider changing what isn't working well. Sometimes that simply means taking a small step to do it differently, or to approach it with a different attitude.

These are all good thoughts for me to ponder today. I look back with deep appreciation for the positive ways I have changed since putting down my last drink, since meeting my husband, since becoming a parent.  I remain a work in progress, but my direction is solid.

How are you feeling about the watchword of change in your life today? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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 straight-up what has benefited Lisa lately.

Obviously they go hand-in-hand, but even the subtle shift in mindset helps me broaden my level of appreciation and become more likely to thank others for their part in my good fortune, even if I am not thanking them face to face.

Pausing to appreciate the people who grew and harvested the fruit I am enjoying today makes the fruit a little sweeter. Taking a moment to consider those who keep our streets and roads maintained helps me slow down in more ways than one.

Then I consider how I enjoy being helpful to others. My sacrifices of time and effort can help me be of better service to others. If I am doing it for a pat on the back or recognition, those are misguided motives.

Gratitude practice helps me get out of my self and my ego-driven ways. It helps me feel part of the bigger picture of humanity and it fuels me to give back. When I give of myself in those circumstances, my motives are pure.  I am simply giving back because I am appreciating what I have been given.

So I continue to move through the hours and days, trying to be more aware of those around me, near and far, and how they contribute in positive ways to my life.

Thanks Steve for being one of those positive contributors!

Monday, December 12, 2016

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 good one! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

One

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

One matters. This one moment. This day. My life. Your life. Everyone's life.

One. To experience it requires a pause, a mindfulness I sometimes forget to have. I enjoy holiday baking, running, and shoveling snow. (Call me crazy, but I do.)  Yet, I had to catch myself getting ahead of myself in each of these activities this weekend. Too much on my to-do list. Too many racing thoughts, mostly about what to do next, and writing ideas.

I spoiled some of the moments. But I caught myself savoring and relishing others. That is the best I can hope for on most days. "One" reminds me to slow down, pause. Be here. Simply here.

Friday, December 9, 2016

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 there and felt they were stronger.

Four of us shared, and there were about 10-12 people listening. I shared one I had memorized and then read three more.  Since I still have it memorized, here is one:

Throwing Up
I caught the bug
Of ego inflation
It brought 
A soul sickness
And a spiritual
Nausea

I felt like 
Throwing up

So I did

I threw up
My hands
And surrendered
My will

LV (originally written in October, 2012)

A special thank you again to Darcy and Sam who were there to experience this with me. It was empowering. It was fun. The affirmation I received means a great deal to me. My voice continues to emerge. And there's next month's open mic night to look forward to.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

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 gratitude is wide and our comfort level is back to a more even keel.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

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 yielding ample information
-a TV screen in the waiting area keeping me updated on Darcy's status
-that same scope giving us a real picture of the real reason for Darcy's recurring pneumonia

Go ahead. Multiply some of your own gratitude today. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

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't say that I know that well, but they are family and that means we have a special connection. Our family now numbers over 100, so there is always someone in need of special prayers of intention.

Admittedly, some days I am in a more prayerful mindset than other days. Just like some days my gratitude flows easily and other days it has to hurdle some obstacles in the stream of life. Even on those tougher flow days, taking the actions makes all the difference. I am able to proceed as a productive contributor to my own day and the day of those around me.

These prayers help me get out of myself. My own head can be a dangerous place when all it is thinking about is me. These prayers put me in a grateful mindset. I have people praying for me and people I can pray for. Just like I believe gratitude shared creates positive energy between people, I also believe prayers prayed create positive energy between those praying and those being prayed for.

This is a true gift of daily recovery and regular gratitude practice. I don't get mired in the muck of self-pity so deeply that I isolate and spin my wheels and become of no use to the world.

I consider prayers to be healthy brain activity.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

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 the days ahead, live in today. If I do that, I have better direction and more energy when each new day arrives.  

And I was struck by the exclamation point. I didn't add that. It was part of the fortune. Am I approaching today with fear-filled, energy-zapping questions? Or am I approaching it as a chance to see and experience the awe this day can bring if I simply pay attention? 

I choose the latter!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Lotion

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 "youthful" 51.  (Along with drinking lots of water, and good, clean living.)

The lotion I use on my hands is more run-of-the-mill. I have tried many kinds and use it several times a day this time of year with the cold weather and dry air. I am grateful for the relief it brings, and I also appreciate the various scents. I have lotion in my purse and in my office, so I have a variety of scents to savor.

Lotion. Simple. Common. Appreciated.

I will appreciate and savor the lotion I use today and look for other simple, common gratitudes.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

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 freezing, so I wasn't worried about ice. I hit a stretch of trail and could see the trees reflected in the water on the trail. Bare trees settling in for a long winter's nap are still beautiful.

The stress of the work day and worries about loved ones subsided with each stride. My head cleared and my heart lightened. Writing ideas began to populate my mind.

Physical exercise with mental, spiritual, and emotional benefits, courtesy of endorphins. Endorphins are free and very effective.

Gray/rainy days vs. endorphins . . . and the winner is . . . endorphins! And me.