"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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thirsty?

Today I am grateful for time off from work and nice weather to do some yard work. I am also grateful for those who helped bring my simple breakfast of cereal, milk, flax seed, and banana to me.

I have numerous blog drafts that I have started in recent months. I will hear or read a quote and think it makes a good post topic, and then other ideas come up and more drafts happen. Some get finished and published. Others languish in the "drafts" folder for a time.

In the next weeks, I am going to give some time to these drafts and bring them to fruition. Here's a good one to start with. It is inspired by this quote from Br. David Steindl-Rast:

"Gratefulness is that fullness of life for which we are all thirsting." 

These words evoke thoughts of what it meant to be a thirsty alcoholic. There were times when I was physically thirsty for a cold drink, but it was usually emotional thirst that I drank at. And that is an exercise in futility. The empty promises of alcohol, and the isolation created, never quenched my thirst. In fact, they often made me thirstier.

Those of you who already know my story also know that a turning point in my recovery from alcoholism and a key practice in my ongoing sobriety is the practice of gratitude. Living gratefully in this infinite succession of moments that make up a day. Finding gratefulness whenever I pause and pay attention. 

These feed my soul and satisfy my thirst for living fully. Gratefulness is far more effective than alcohol ever was. The side effects of living gratefully are healthy. The side effects of drinking too much alcohol were anything but healthy to my body and the rest of me.

I am grateful I have healthy ways to quench my thirst today.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Infinite Succession of Presents

Today I am grateful for a nice visit with my sister Zita and that she was able to attend Sam's football game. I am also grateful for the medical insurance and available care that we have.

Yesterday's "Word for the Day" at www.gratefulness.org was this:

"We don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession 
of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that 
is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
(Howard Zinn)

I like this quote for many reasons. I had never really considered the future like this, simply the next moment to experience and appreciate. I paid attention to that in small ways yesterday. I noticed the pre-dawn moon and stars more than I do some mornings. Enjoying the favorite parts of songs like Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance" and Chicago's "Feelin' Stronger Every Day."  I went in to work later than usual after taking Sam to the dentist, and I enjoyed the lighter traffic on my commute.

The infinite succession of presents provided many gifts.

There is also plenty of hope in these words. There is plenty of bad around us, but I believe the good wins out. And it has a much better chance of winning when we pay more attention to it.

And it offers direction for my day ahead. Live now as human beings should live. Being kind and tolerant of ourselves and one another. Being grateful for this day and the tiny bits of future that will unfold moment by moment. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Broken

Today I am grateful for co-workers who help me in so many ways and who are true team players. I am also grateful for reminders of the precious gift of today.

Special happy birthday greetings to my friend Sheila. Enjoy your day! I am so grateful we were put on the planet within the same year and in the same area so our paths could cross.

A couple of things have been broken around our house in recent days. The shower is broken. The part that turns the shower on anyway. We still have a bathtub and water, and hot water at that. So it could be much worse. I am inconvenienced because I prefer showers. You want inconvenienced? Walk a few miles every day to get dirty water to haul back to your family, hoping you won't all get sick from it.

Sam's filling on a chipped tooth is also broken. It got chipped in football. It was an easy fix, but needs to be re-fixed. I am inconvenienced as I have to take him to the dentist and be late for work. He is inconvenienced because he needs to get up earlier. Inconvenienced or blessed?  I have a healthy son whose biggest medical issue of late is a chipped tooth that didn't hit a nerve or need a root canal. I have a job that will still be there when I go in late.

And then I think about the broken hearts and dreams of the victims of the northern California wildfires. Over 40 people have died in the fires, and well over 5, 500 homes and other structures have been destroyed.

Prayers go out to all impacted by these fires and those working hard to contain them.

My little broken inconveniences are put in perspective real quick when I consider the bigger picture.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pondering Life

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Aaron and his parents Arthur and Alyssa. I am also grateful for safe travels to and from that visit and vehicles in good working order.

Aaron is almost two months old now and is thriving. I hadn't seen him since he was just days old, and the changes are significant. Infants grow and learn so much in these early weeks and months. He is able to hold his head up some on his own, he eats well and knows how to let his parents know when he is hungry or needs a diaper change.

And he is ever observant. When he isn't sleeping, he is taking in his surroundings. The faces of people caring for him and loving him. The colors and sounds going on around him. The shapes and designs of toys and little animals dangling from his playmat. He kicks his arms and legs and never stops taking in his environment.

This picture captures the little observer and ponderer that he is:


Though he can't yet tell us with words what is on his mind, his facial expressions and the sounds he emits can tell us all we need to know.  And one thing he always tells me when I spend time with him is how amazing this world around us really is. Pause. Stop. Pay attention. Listen. Notice.

When I do those things, like Aaron, I notice so much more. The gratefulness finds me. I don't need to go looking for it. I just need to observe, ponder, and pass it on. Thanks again for this important lesson Aaron. You are a good teacher.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Silver Linings, and Yellow and Red Ones Too

Today I am grateful for safe travels and gorgeous weather this week, and for a good night's sleep back in my own bed.

I spent Wednesday through Friday on a field trip with forty-eight 7th graders and four colleagues who helped chaperone.  A big thank you to CeCe, Kelly, Aaron, and Trevor for helping make the trip a success and fun as well.

We had some challenges during the trip, but together we moved through them and stepped up in the ways that were needed. We came home exhausted, but appreciative of the silver linings of such a trip:

-absolutely stunning weather and fall beauty as our classrooms and offices for a couple of days
-reminders of the different energy and personalities that come out of our students when away from
      the typical educational setting
-laughter shared at various times, to save our sanity and strengthen the cohesion we felt
-our own opportunity to have a different perspective on our jobs

The silver lining of being out in nature can't be beat. The colors were vibrant. The sound of leaves rustling under our feet and swaying gently over our heads in the breeze had a calming effect just when it was needed.

Yellow was the dominant color by this time, but the reds were still exiting. Silver linings included the reds and yellows too:


It is a relief in many ways to be back home, to have all of the planning and the actual trip behind us for this year. But I will carry the silver linings, and the reds and yellows too, with me in gratitude over the next days. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Ongoing Gratitude List

Today I am grateful for marriage and motherhood and all that they each teach me and give me.

That gratitude list I started in yesterday's post? I decided that it might be a good idea to keep adding to it as my day went along.  So I did. I started more of a list on a piece of paper that I carried around in my pocket.

Here are some things on that list:

1. Indoor plumbing that made it easy for me to get ready for my day.
      -It's a luxury but I don't often think of it that way.

2. The stars in the morning sky and the awe they inspire in me.
      -The expansive sky and the stars in it also remind me of my human place.

3. Advancements in radiation and other cancer treatments.
     -I am thinking about my sister Leonice, who has started 25 radiation treatments this week.

4. A safe commute to and from work.
     -I drive 50 miles a day on average, and I appreciate arriving safely.

5. A meal with my family.
    - We try to eat together whenever we can. It is time together that I value and cherish. It was
       even nicer that someone else made the meal. (Thanks Darcy!)

Carrying gratitude throughout the day was helpful. It ebbed and flowed, but I gave it more time and energy than I do on many days, and it helped.

I will be taking a blog break over the next couple of days and plan to be back over the weekend.

And then this morning's "Word for the Day" at www.gratefulness.org showed up and seems like the perfect ending to this post:

"As I express my gratitude, I become more deeply aware of it. And the 
greater my awareness, the greater my need to express it."   
(Br. David Steindl-Rast)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Too Busy in My Brain

Today I am grateful for several ways to stay warm, both indoors and outdoors. I am also grateful for the reminders to stay present in the moment.

I am coming off of a stretch of being too busy in my brain, but the slope remains slippery because of  two more significant work demands in the next week. I can only gain perspective when I stop spinning, when I start pausing mindfully, breathing, and taking one thing at a time.

That can be a tall order for me when I feel crunched for time, weighted down by things that need to get done. Resentments, fear, and my self-centered ego can all flare up. They don't help, they hinder.

So the mindful practice of gratitude becomes even more crucial. When I am too busy in my brain, I take myself and pretty much everything too seriously. Pausing, being quiet, focusing on the gratitude found in a simple breath I am able to take, or in the beauty of fall colors, or a laugh shared, can all help.

I wrote a post titled A Tool for the Trouble Behind My Eyes in March of 2013. It was good for me to re-read that post, and to be reminded of the "God" or "Worry" box.

I just put a couple things in there, to lighten my load, to slow my brain down, to return to the gratitude.

Here's a brief gratitude list to start my day off:

-coffee
-Oliver
-bananas
-a good morning kiss with Darcy
-warm water to shower with
-the ability to read
-shoes to wear

What is on your gratitude list today?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Afforded a New View

Today I am grateful for daily recovery for the daily disease of alcoholism. I am also grateful for others in recovery who help me find my way back to some sense of sanity and serenity when I drift away from them.

I ran yesterday, on a stunningly beautiful fall morning, with blue skies and sunshine helping the vibrant colors come out more fully. I think it helped that my attitude and outlook were also improved, much like the clouds clearing and the sun coming out.

My brain, also known as my dearest alcoholic mind, had been running on too much selfishness, ego, and fear for days, and in some respects, weeks. It's subtle and creeping, but next thing I know I am overthinking and overdoing pretty much day in and day out. It ain't fun and it ain't pretty.

Before yesterday's run, some other happenings had helped me get some perspective back. A conversation with my friend Sheila on Friday morning and another with my husband Darcy on Saturday evening were both helpful. Ranting to a couple of recovery friends mid-week last week had allowed some of the toxicity to be weakened. Rest over the weekend also allowed a more calm approach.

And on my run, I paused to capture these photos, from a bridge on a new stretch of trail along the Vermillion River.  I am afforded this view because of the efforts of others. Those who secured funding for the project. Those who did the labor to complete it. And the Great Spirit who provides nature's awe.


The river flows, as it is meant to. It reminds me to go with the flow, to not try too hard and end up fighting the current. Go with the flow. And keep the gratitude flowing. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Raining Down Positive or Negative?

Today I am grateful for a nice evening out with Darcy last evening and healthy conversation. I am also grateful that the sun appeared before the end of the day, after a couple of cloudy, dreary, and wet days.

Rain came down over the last several miles of last Sunday's marathon. It rained down as I drove to and from work, and tried to get Oliver out for walks without getting us both too wet. It came down during the Homecoming football game Friday night and for the second half of Sam's JV game yesterday.

There were wet clothes, shoes, muddy football attire, and an attitude of my own at times that was soaked with frustration, exhaustion, and growing resentments about certain circumstances and certain people. One of those people is always me.

And then the sun came out later in the day yesterday. I got some rest. Darcy and I had a nice evening out, including a pleasant walk along the river. Slowly, I regained perspective on my job and on some other things going on in my life.

Then, I came across this quote yesterday:

"If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought." 
(Peace Pilgrim)

I have seen it before, and I wrote this post about it in January of 2016.  

I am human and my humanness will continue to show itself, in both beautiful and ugly ways. If I have negative thoughts, gratitude, goodness, and God are crowded out. Fear, ego, and selfishness crop up. My view becomes small and bleak.

If I can focus, at least some, on today's gifts, on the simple joy of this present moment, the clouds lift in my brain and the sun comes out to brighten my view. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Working Concessions, Making Concessions

Today I am grateful for rain gear and fried eggs. I am grateful of the reminders to appreciate the simple things in life.

Last evening, Darcy and I had the opportunity to work concessions at the Homecoming football game. We try to work a football game each season, supporting the wrestling club and Sam's involvement in that sport as well.  Despite a rainy and wet night, there was a good crowd and a victory for our team was a bonus.

We don't work concessions often, so it was a nice change of pace, and we enjoyed meeting and working with some parents we didn't know. It was also fun to watch and observe. Our world has changed in so many ways since I was buying concessions at games in my youth.

It was heartening to see the innocence of a young child, excited to get some treats, encouraged by their parents to make selections, and then do their own asking and paying, followed by a thank you.
It brought a chuckle to see kids digging wet and crumpled dollars out of deep pockets so they could enjoy a candy bar or popcorn.  Though exhausted in ways by the week I had, our concessions shift was a nice way to spend a Friday evening.

Working concessions also brought to mind the idea of making concessions. In busy times, I need to allow myself some concessions. Make some compromises on how I will spend my time, because there won't be enough of it for all I might like to do. Make some exceptions to my own high expectations of myself and remember that one of my priorities needs to be self-care.

Between working and making concessions, I am feeling some sense of balance. Moment by moment, I will try to stay in that sense by slowing down and experiencing the present.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Our Morning Walks

Today I am grateful for food in our refrigerator and for a roof over our heads. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and the morning walks we share.

There is something to be said for routine, especially when those routines are healthy and contribute to balance in my days. Routines like going to bed and getting up at consistent times, regular exercise, writing in my gratitude journal, reaching out to others in recovery.

And add to that list the routine of my early morning walks with our dog Oliver. Most mornings, he and I head out somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30 for a walk that is less than 10 minutes. But we enjoy the fresh air and the time together. He takes care of his business and I enjoy the quiet and take in my surroundings.

The days are getting cooler and I need to put on some layers. I appreciate that I have plenty of layers available to me. The scents of fall are in the air. I give thanks for my sense of smell. My legs, continuing to recover from Sunday's marathon, enjoy the movement and stretching. Gratefulness flows through me as I consider the physical capabilities I am blessed with.

Oliver is predictable. Our route is predictable. The outcome is predictable. Oliver and I both enjoy our morning walks together.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Recovering

Today I am grateful for the gratitudes shared by others and for forgiveness-mine to give and receive.

People have asked me how my recovery from the marathon is going and some have noted that I seem to be moving pretty well. The Galloway method we use (walking of 30-45 seconds each mile of a long run) really works. Thank you Jeff Galloway!

It makes the marathon itself more manageable and it makes the days after far less painful. Marathon recovery is going well. I may even take a nice and easy run this afternoon to loosen up.

And how about recovering from alcoholism? That is going well too. It's a daily deal to deal with this daily disease.  It remains a priority and my early morning practices-including prayer, meditation, and gratitude practice-are vital to this ongoing process.

My job is demanding much time lately, as are family obligations. I am grateful for both, but they are also my slippery slopes. If I slide into overdoing and overthinking, recovery becomes precarious. Maybe not precarious in terms of wanting a drink, but precarious in terms of balance and emotional sobriety.

It only takes a few days to recover from a marathon. It takes a lifetime of days to keep recovering from alcoholism and the ongoing effects of an addicted mind.

It just helps to claim it as a priority, so I can continue doing what I need to do, tired or not.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Thank you random spectator!"

Today I am grateful for clean conditions and antiseptics. They are needed when toenails have to come off. I am also grateful for the music of Tom Petty. He and the Heartbreakers have so many songs I have appreciated over the years. R.I.P. Tom Petty.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those impacted by the appalling and tragic events in Las Vegas on Sunday night, especially those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and those who were injured.

I remain grateful for the many, many spectators who lined the marathon course and cheered on those of us running in Sunday's Twin Cities Marathon. Of the 15 marathons I have run, the Chicago Marathon and the Twin Cities Marathon are the best for crowd support in my opinion. Thank you Twin Cities!

The sign I wrote about yesterday-"Remember your reasons"-can be applied to much more than why a person chooses to train for and run a marathon. I was reminded of the significance of these words last evening as I talked with some other recovering people. I better, we better, remember our reasons to work on recovery. Otherwise, we may find too many reasons to drink again.

One other sign I enjoyed several times along Sunday's marathon route was one that said "Good job random stranger!" Each time I ran past one of those signs, I replied with a "Thank you random spectator!" Such signs and opportunities to say thanks were welcome throughout the course, and gave me little boosts just when I seemed to need one.

A simple sign. A simple thank you. Two strangers connecting in a small, yet kind way. The larger world and the smaller communities that we are each a part of could use more of that. Simple. Small.
Kindnesses. I will look for such opportunities today. Please join me.

Monday, October 2, 2017

"Remember Your Reasons"

Today I am grateful for another good marathon experience and that Darcy and I both finished in a healthy state. Tired, but healthy. I am also grateful for the great Twin Cities Marathon spectators lining many miles of the course.

A special thanks to my co-workers Dick, Pete, and Kelly who I saw out on the course. Familiar faces on the sidelines mean so much over the miles of a marathon.

There were many spectators with many signs, but the one I ended up appreciating the most was in the latter miles of the run. I was running along Summit Avenue heading toward the finish at the State Capitol, somewhere around mile 23. The sign had just these three short words:  "Remember your reasons." I thanked the sign holder as I ran past and said that was a perfect sign for that point on the course.

Exhausted. In pain. Just wanting to be done so I could rest a little. This was just the reminder I needed to help me dig a little deeper and keep going.

"Remember your reasons." Running in memory of Carli. Running for all those struggling with mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it. Running for my sister Leonice and others currently undergoing cancer treatment. Running for those taken by cancer. Running for health. Running gratefully.

Always running gratefully. Grateful that Darcy was able to run and finish after missing out on last year's marathon with a bout of pneumonia. Grateful that cancer didn't keep me from running this Twin Cities Marathon, like it did in 2008. Grateful to be able to keep doing this at age 52 and with my husband as a training partner.

I shared that gratitude throughout the 26.2 journey, thanking as many volunteers and course support personnel as I could along the way. Sharing that gratitude gave me more energy back than it took to share, even in the last few miles.

That's how it works. Living gratefully and giving gratitude to others returns some of that energy right back to the giver. We all win when sharing gratitude genuinely.

I appreciate all the opportunities I had to do just that yesterday.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Walking in Memory, Running to Honor

Today I am grateful for sleeping in (my version anyway) and for the early morning light as it changes.

Today my friend Sheila, her husband Dave, her two sisters, and many others will be doing an "Out of the Darkness" Walk for suicide prevention in Hammond, Indiana, near Chicago. They are supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Many other walks are taking place this month for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

They are walking in memory of their daughter and niece, Carli, who died by suicide on April 4. Today would have also been the birthday of Sheila's mom Nell.

I believe Carli and her grandma will be present in their own way at the walk, especially in the hearts and minds of their loved ones. Across the miles, I will wear the same button today that those walking in Carli's memory will be wearing:


These are words from Carli's obituary:

"Despite the best efforts of her family, teachers, and professionals, Carli lost her battle with depression and ended her own life."

"While we may never be able to make sense of Carli's tragic death, it is her family's 
deepest desire that those who were touched by Carli's life talk openly about suicide, 
and learn more about this disease."

I appreciate all those walking to honor loved ones and to support organizations that help raise awareness and increase prevention efforts. Thank you all for your strength and courage. 

Tomorrow, I will be wearing the bracelets below on my right wrist and my watch on my left. I wear some or all of these on most days, reminders of what is important and who needs thoughts and prayers. MakeItOK.org is a campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illness. "Thankful" reminds me to live gratefully and see each day, each step as the gift it is. 

The pink bracelet is for those with breast cancer, including two more women I heard news on this week, one who has metastatic breast cancer. The peach bracelet is for my sister Leonice and all with endometrial cancer. She begins five weeks of radiation soon.


I will add my RoadID to my right wrist tomorrow as well. I always run with it. It has health and emergency contact information on it. There is room on the RoadID for some words of inspiration as well. Here is what I have on my current one: 

GRATEFULLY LIVING  O.D.A.T.    

Finding gratitude in the significant and the mundane. Seeking healing through pain and grief. Remembering to pause and pay attention. One day at a time. One hour at a time. And fittingly this weekend-one stride at a time, one mile at a time.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Heavy on the Gratefulness

Today I am grateful for laughter shared with others and for a good breakfast of oatmeal and blueberries.

There is always plenty of gratitude to be found around marathon time, and there are a couple of reasons this marathon is even weightier in the gratitude department. 

The last time we registered to run the Twin Cities Marathon was in early 2008. We signed up in late winter, months before a curve ball came our way. That curve ball was my breast cancer diagnosis. I was undergoing chemotherapy and unable to run that October's event. I very much appreciated the few miles I could do between surgeries and treatments, but there would be no marathon that fall.  

Nine years later, I am healthy, able-bodied, with NED (no evidence of disease). I have run more marathons post-cancer (9) than I did before my diagnosis (5). It is still strange for me to think that I ran at least one, and likely several marathons, with cancer in my right breast. I ran the Brookings Marathon in early May of 2008, with the shadow of cancer already cast over me. I wondered if it would be my last marathon. 

Every year, over 40,000 women and men die of metastatic breast cancer. One in three of those started out with an early stage diagnosis similar to mine. Let me not forget these victims. Let me not take my own health for granted. Let me keep running for my health. Let me not take any day for granted.

More recently my husband Darcy has had some health setbacks. He had pneumonia three times over the course of a couple of years, the last time being right before last year's marathon. He wasn't able to run in Mankato and it was tough, for him and for me. But this last bout of pneumonia led to more thorough medical follow-up. A bronchoscopy revealed a tumor in his lung.

With huge relief, it turned out to be a benign tumor known as a hamartoma. He had it removed in January and returned to training. His training season has been solid. We both know now what it is like to face procedures under anesthesia and questions that could have scary answers.

We both know how much it means to be able to run at all, much less a marathon. Heavy on the gratitude. It's justified. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Picture Repeated, Mistakes Not

Today I am grateful for a few minutes to pause and meditate this morning. I am also grateful for the values my parents instilled in my siblings and I as children.

This will be the first time Darcy and I are running a marathon for the second time. The first time we ran the Twin Cities Marathon was in 2006, our third overall. We were 41 and had trained hard and set time goals faster than our previous ones. I was wondering if I had a sub-4:00 marathon time in me, and I did speed and tempo training (my version of them anyway) to better help me shoot for that goal.

It was a warm day on October 1, 2006, though the first miles of the marathon were still cool. I came in under two hours for the first 13.1 and felt like my goal of a sub-four hour marathon was possible. Then I bonked. I had gone out too fast. I was probably dehydrated and I cramped up (which felt like chest pains really and scared me a bit).

I walked a full mile between miles 20 and 21, then was able to resume running/walking and came in with a time of 4:15:35. It remains my fastest marathon, and I won't likely be challenging that PR.

I learned from that marathon experience. Don't go out too fast. It's better to start slower and see what I have in the tank the last few miles. I have had marathons since then that definitely felt better and less of a struggle because I followed that advice. I have even felt like I was picking up the pace the second 13.1 at times. I have yet to have a negative split in a marathon--that is running the second half faster than the first--but I have come closer since 2006.

Keep in mind, phrases like "less of a struggle" and "picking up the pace" are relative terms. But I do try to not repeat mistakes learned the hard way, in marathons and in life.

This picture from the TCM in 2006 has been repeated, however. It first showed up on a local news station in the years following, as mostly just a close up of my smiling face. We were surprised to see it one morning on the news.

This particular image below is straight from Wikipedia, if you search Twin Cities Marathon. I was equally surprised to see it there when I first stumbled across it.

That's me in the forefront, in blue, with my "Sub-4" hat and a smile on. From Wikipedia. (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. No changes were made.)
I plan to show up Sunday morning with a smile on as well. My color scheme will again be blue.
My hope again will be to enjoy the experience and finish. That's plenty. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Footfalls of Gratitude and Fortitude

Today I am grateful for my abilities to read and write and for those who first taught me to do both.

As I consider heading to the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, it helps to have the experience of 14 previous marathons behind me. It also helps to consider what can be done stride by stride, mile by mile. There have been tough stretches on training runs and in some of our previous marathons, but I have never been let down by the simple power of one step in front of the other, one footfall followed by another.

Even if there may be pain or exhaustion or difficult emotions involved. Fortitude moves me forward.

It is a life lesson well applied to all other areas of my life, day after day. (Though I also could work on stopping to rest more too.)

One of my favorite websites for encouragement to live gratefully is gratefulness.org. In early 2013, they held a contest as follow-up to the release of Brother David Steindl-Rast's latest book 99 Blessings. Read about the book here.

I entered the contest and was honored to be acknowledged on their website. The blessing I wrote then is worth revisiting today:

Source of all blessings, you bless us with footfalls . . .

From the steady rhythm of a marathon runner to the wobbly first steps of a toddler, from a stroll in the park to determined strides down a hospital hall, and everything in between. Whether on new grass, fresh snow, hard asphalt, or rough trail, the soil beneath our footfalls is solid and full of life. May we feel grounded by these footfalls, connected to our earthly home, appreciative of the growth and understanding that come one step at a time.  (Lisa Valentine)

Being a runner has done everything from helping me sweat out a hangover to giving me hope amid a cancer diagnosis. Steady footfalls have led to poem and post ideas, and to a clearer head after a busy day. Each footfall is worth it, and deserving of the gratitude I extend to it now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Easily Pleased

Today I am grateful for cooler weather and some rain for our lawn and gardens. I am also grateful for the people who share their recovery wit and wisdom with me and others.

This short quote says plenty in nine words:

"The key to knowing joy is being easily pleased."  
(Mark Nepo)

We live in a society and culture that tells us we can buy things to please us. That we can find the perfect person to marry and please us. That we are entitled to a good life. Yet, if we spend all of our time looking outside ourselves for what pleases us, we will be frustrated at the least and addicted at the most.

I think Mark Nepo is asking us to return to ourselves and the simple joys of just being, the joys in the present moment. We can appreciate others and how they help us know peace and contentment, but if we can't find that peace and contentment within, we are hard pressed to consistently find it elsewhere.

This may sound contradictory, but for me to know peace within, and then be able to share that with others, I first need to start with getting out of my own way. I am too tough on myself and it clouds my vision. It kills the simple joys. I expect too much and accept too little, mainly in regard to little 'ole me.

So I start today considering how easily I can be pleased when my heart, soul, and mind are open. Pleased with the first sip of today's coffee. With the smell of rain. In the pause to give thanks before eating my breakfast. With taking a moment to give our dog Oliver a belly rub.

Living gratefully equates to being easily pleased. Gifts are abundant when we learn to pay attention and look for them.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Marathon Week!

Today I am grateful for the truth spoken by my husband. I am also grateful for my sense of hearing and the music I am enjoying at this moment.

We have arrived at our marathon week for this year. This Sunday, October 1, Darcy and I will head to the starting line with thousands of other runners for the Twin Cities Marathon.

Each year, I get an excitement and anticipation as the marathon nears, and the last few days especially so. If I didn't get excited, I would have to consider why I am doing another 26.2 mile challenging trek. That hasn't happened yet.

We have had a good training season and the weather was especially cooperative on most of our long training runs. That is very helpful. Really tough 20-milers aren't as motivational as less tough ones. We ran two organized half marathons and were pleased with both.

We have done what we can to prepare our legs and the rest of our bodies for the physical aspects. Experience helps us prepare mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I head into this week feeling fully grateful for the opportunity that awaits. I head into today feeling just as grateful for the opportunities this day holds.  Have a good day!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Early Fall

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our marriage, and the time and effort we both give to keeping it healthy and happy.  I have also been really grateful for the comfort of air conditioning in recent days. 

We have had unseasonably hot and humid conditions this last week, so I totally missed the fact that fall had officially arrived. I love the changing seasons overall, and appreciate that my life spent living in the upper Midwest has always come with a variety of weather. 

There is something to look forward to for each season and something I am ready to say goodbye to for the current season.

Fall would have to be my favorite. Cool, crisp air after heat and humidity. The variety of colors. Smells and sounds that herald the end of the growing season. 

This picture was taken yesterday morning, a quick stop on our run. It is one of my favorite places to watch the changing seasons unfold. Near the Mississippi River and accessible only by trail, the fall colors are already evident. 



Let me not forget the gratitude in having eyes to see this, a nose to smell it, and legs that help carry me as I run past.

What is your favorite season?  Whatever it is, relish nature's variety and beauty. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Grateful Day--Please Watch This Stunning Video

Today I am grateful for the sounds of other people's voices, voices that soothe me and remind me I am loved. I am also grateful for the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Brother David's soothing voice speaks throughout A Grateful Day video here. It is a video that is beautiful in every sense of the word. You may have seen an earlier version of this video. This is a brand new version, just released yesterday for World Gratitude Day.

It is 5 minutes long and I encourage you to take those minutes sometime today to sit and give full attention and all of your senses to this stunning piece. Share it with family, friends, coworkers. Watch it again.

Below are some lines pulled from the first minute or so of the video. Pick one and focus on it today.
Or carry them all with you. Enjoy this day for the gift that it is.

"It's not just another day. It is the one day that is given to you. Today."

"The only appropriate response is gratefulness."

"If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, 
then you will have spent this day very well." 

"Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes to open."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

World Gratitude Day is Today, Every Day

Today I am grateful for the valuable lessons I have learned as I try to live each day gratefully. I am also grateful for the convenience of cereal for breakfast and all who helped make that possible for me.

Today is World Gratitude Day. It's been around as long as I have, but I had never heard of it until two years ago. Here is a post I wrote about it then.

A date to focus on gratitude can be a good starting point, and if you're fortunate, maybe it will become a habit. That is what happened to me. I started keeping a gratitude journal at the suggestion of my good friend and spiritual advisor Terrie. I wasn't feeling all that grateful when I started, but slowly that changed.

It has made all the difference in my life, as I continue to live gratefully, to share gratitude, to train my mind to look for the good, rather than the downside. Changing our perceptions truly can change our world.

I am not a big fan of this special day or that special day. If it's important, we should do it daily or often. Waiting for "World Exercise Day" to exercise would be bad for my health. Waiting for "World Gratitude Day" to practice gratitude is equally as harmful to my overall well-being.

Today can be a good day though, if you need a push to give it a try. It can become the day you started to change the default mode in your brain, the day you started seeing the world around you with more clarity. The day you took a few more pauses to breathe and pay attention to that breathing.

The day you realized what a blessing a simple day and the people and experiences in it can be.
Onward! Have a good day!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kneel Down

Today I am grateful for connections with others in recovery that help me keep doing the daily work I need to do. I am also grateful for the team of teachers I get to work closely with at school.

This quote about kneeling down caught my attention because it is something I try to do daily:

"A desire to kneel down sometimes pulses through my body, or rather it is as if my body has been meant and made for the act of kneeling. Sometimes, in moments of  deep gratitude, kneeling down becomes an overwhelming urge, head deeply bowed, hands before my face."
(Etty Hillesum)

I can't really say the urge to kneel down pulls at me this strongly, at least not most days. But I have learned the value of kneeling down to pray, to give thanks, to take a quiet moment. I find it humbling and comforting. It reminds me I am neither alone, nor in charge of the world. 

Here is a post titled "Practice" that I wrote in March of 2015 that also talks about the humbling and helping practice of kneeling down. 

Etty Hillesum died at Auschwitz in 1943, at age 29. It seems that she had a full, sometimes tumultuous, life well before being sent to a concentration camp and put to death. Her days were cut short, yet the days she had were lived fully.

That's a question to ask ourselves:  Have I lived this day fully? And by fully I mean fully present.
Not fully busy. There'a s big difference. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Changing Stories and Perceptions

Today I am grateful for trustworthy friends and shared laughter. I am also grateful for the wisdom that  we can draw on from years of experience--whether it be work, marriage, life.

As I continue to reflect on 1700 blog posts and what the experience of this blog has taught me and shown me, this quote bears repeating:

"Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world."
Jean Houston

My story and perceptions were comprised of narrow-minded self-pity and inhibitions for the first two decades of my life. Both started to change when I got sober at age 24. If I hadn't stopped drinking, my story could have been cut short. It was the grace of a Great Spirit that helped me survive excessive drinking, drunk driving, and depressed thinking. 

Sobriety was a start, but the perception changing has taken longer. Recovery practices help in many ways, and one of the most effective practices has been gratitude practice, living gratefully day by day, moment by moment. That's my goal. I fail at it daily. But I also succeed at it daily. It's as simple as writing in my gratitude journal each morning, or pausing to smell the fresh air as I step outside.

A subtle shift in perception and less self-pity started opening my eyes and expanding my horizons. Open eyes helped me see beyond my own mind, which had often been a prison to me. Open eyes and open mind helped lead to a more open heart and reaching my own soul, which had been buried behind misperceptions.

My story changed. My view of the world around me changed and continues to change. The view I have of myself and the stories I add to my life each day are far more friendly and hopeful than they tended to be in my early years. 

These changing perceptions, and getting out of my own head, have given me energy and direction to contribute to the world. It started when changed perceptions helped me stop contaminating my own existence. And that truly started when I was five years sober and began to practice gratitude regularly. 

Try it. It works. It truly does. 


Monday, September 18, 2017

17 Seventeens for 1700 Posts

Today I am grateful for all the parks and playgrounds in our community and time to spend with our grandson Leo at some of them yesterday.

When I hit publish on this post in a few minutes, it will mark post #1700 for "Habitual Gratitude." It has become an enjoyable tradition for me to mark each century mark here. It is also a reminder of how taking a leap of faith into the blogosphere in late March of 2012 has led to deeper gratitude and a more humbled and satisfied writer.

In honor of my 1700th post, here are 17 seventeens. When I think of the number 17, the first thing that comes to mind is my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008.  I will start there.

1. My first surgery, a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, took place on July 17, 2008, after weeks of waiting and fear. These were some of the toughest weeks of my life.

2. On July 23, after that first surgery, I wrote out 17 thank you notes to family and friends who had offered me kindnesses in many ways. I didn't plan to write 17, it's just the number I ended up with. I wrote a poem about it too.

3. My third surgery, a bilateral mastectomy, took place on December 17, 2008. It brought relief and grief and everything in between, and it marked the end of months of surgeries and active treatment.

4. As my friend Jenny and I began to write about our shared BC journey, "17 Points of Clarity" came out. Read them here.

5. I began running again about 6 weeks after my mastectomies, and did my first post-cancer, flat-chested public run, a half-marathon, on May 17, 2009, exactly 5 months after surgery. It was joyful liberation, stride for stride.

6. As Darcy and I looked for our next marathon, it seemed fitting to choose the Kansas City Marathon, which took place on October 17, 2009. For the first time, we finished side by side in a marathon. Besides finishing our first marathon in Chicago in 2004, this is my most cherished marathon experience, exactly 10 months out from my mastectomies.

7. I graduated from high school in May of 1983, at age 17. Already drinking alcoholically, already full of the self-hatred and denial that would keep me drinking for a few more years.

8. From 17 days of sobriety, to 17 months, to 17 years and beyond, recovery remains a priority in my life. It has to or I lose everything, either quickly or slowly.

9. Marathons, or any run, begin with one step, then 17, then 1700, then 17,000 or more.
But a run of any length can only be done one step at a time.

10. Apply the same to a day. Whether it is 17 seconds, minutes, or hours, they can only unfold a moment at a time.

11. Consider mile 17 of a marathon. Those miles between 15 and 20 are tough. Over half done, but not yet past the psychological boost I get when reaching mile 20. Mile 17 is one that toughens us runners, in good ways, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

12. I have completed 17 full years at my current job and I just began school year #18 there. Seventeen years of experience is hard-earned and helpful. Seventeen years of many wonderful connections with many different people there, past and present, from students and parents to co-workers.

13. I decided to go back and find my 17th post: And Then There's Pup. It's a post also related to the summer of 2008.

14. And my 170th post: Off Buttons. The message there is even more fitting today than it was five years ago.

15. As I continued coming up with my list of 17, it dawned on me that another 17 is the year 2017.
It has been a tough year for many people I care about, but also a year full of growing in gratitude and hope.

16. One of those people I care about is my dear friend Sheila. Her daughter Carli died by suicide on April 4 of this year, just a couple weeks after her 14th birthday on March 17. Sheila's birthday is October 17. The conversations Sheila and I have had in recent months, both pain-filled and hope-filled, have taken our care and understanding of life, motherhood, ourselves, and much more to deeper levels. I appreciate our friendship more than ever.

17. There have been many significant seventeens in my life. This number 17 marks a journey of 1700 posts on a blog I started to help me better practice living gratefully and to honor my writing with time each day. I can't begin to explain how much it has helped in both areas.

Thank you for reading and helping me spread the idea of living gratefully. Have a good day!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Stormy Weather and a Word Wrap-Up, Courtesy of Aileen

Today I am grateful for cooler air and less humidity after a warm week. I am also grateful for the thousands of words available for us to use, from simple and mundane to profound and unique.

Twice yesterday we nearly missed getting rained on. On our early morning run, and later at the park with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily. I think about all the people impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. How some got spared and some got hit really hard. Life is like that. Narrow misses, direct hits, glancing blows, and staggering upheavals. All the more reason to appreciate the calm that can be had in the present moment. 


My A-Z trip through some emotionally-laden words was enjoyable and thought-provoking. My sister Aileen and I were just talking about it yesterday. How words are fun to play with, explore in our writings, and some just roll off the tongue in their own special way-words like flummoxed and xenodochial. So as I took my journey, the writer in her took this poetic journey:


Lisa’s Words

My words
are apathetic,
will inhabit
my sister’s
bold and vibrant
ones.
Devoted to gratitude
she nurtured
and replenished
jaded spirits.
With quiet
and tolerant determination
itchy and icky
are transformed
into light-hearted,
unbridled joy.
Flummoxed frustration
morphs into
mesmerized
with the stream of life.
Exhilarated and grateful,
I thank you
for your words.


And I thank you for your words Aileen, which are anything but apathetic, along with our shared exploration of written language. Onward! Even when flummoxed or jaded. Writing always carries us. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

TGIF Revisited

Today I am grateful for my hands and fingers and feet and toes. They all work and they all help me plenty throughout my day.

There is something to be said for a Friday after a full week of work and meetings and games and school open house. TGIF. Fridays definitely have a different feel and I appreciate that.

TGIF can also be the "Thank God I'm forgiven" that I wrote about in this post four years ago.

And I am adding a new TGIF to the mix:  The Gratefulness I Find when I look for it.  What we practice becomes stronger.  We can literally train our brains to become better at finding the gratitude in a day.

My training continues. It's a marathon, not a sprint. I am enjoying the view, step by step. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Unbroken Gratitude

Today I am grateful for my marriage to Darcy, our home together, and our growing family. I am grateful that our new grandson Aaron is eating and sleeping well. It all sure makes him adorable.

Special birthday wishes today to my brother Neal and my sister Leonice. Enjoy your special day you two! They were born on the same day seven years apart. What are the odds? I guess higher when there are 13 of you. Leonice is done with her 6 rounds of chemotherapy and will be starting radiation in the coming weeks. I remember my first birthday after my cancer diagnosis. Talk about mixed emotions! Thinking of you.

My emotional journey through the alphabet has come to an end, but I am still wrapping it up in ways. On the day I wrote about "yucky," I had some yucky moments. Emotional, hormonal, edgy, the wrong kind of zippy. But the next day was a new day, as they happen to be, and I felt better.

One of the unpleasant things that happened that yucky day was dropping and breaking the coffee mug I have used at school the last year. It was a gift from my friend Betsy. Here it is, after I dropped it:


It looked like I felt. Sharp. Raw. A bit dangerous. But "grateful" was unbroken and ultimately my gratefulness returned as well. It always does. Some days it may be minutes, others it may be hours, but it is never too long. Perhaps there is a shared laugh, or an acknowledgment of my Higher Power's sense of humor, or the perception shift that always comes. 

Whatever I have going on is usually fairly minor in the whole scheme of things, contrary to what my mind can try to make it. And even when it is major stuff, I can continue to live gratefully, appreciating the next moment, the next breath. Gratitude is always possible. 

Unbroken gratitude for us broken humans. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Zippy

Today I am grateful for an easy breakfast of overnight oatmeal and fruit. I am also grateful for God's sense of humor (though often not right away).

Let's wrap up the A-Z list of feelings with another fun word: zippy. Full of zip, very quick or speedy, strikingly fresh, lively, appealing in style.

As a writer, I appreciate the word and I feel zippy on a good writing day. The words come, the sentences take shape, the purpose clarifies. Hopefully the reader feels it too after reading my words.

Some of my runs are zippy, during and after the run itself. I am not talking speed here, I am referring to feeling fully alive and energized. Zippy.

If I am honest, I do admit that I can be zippy as a driver. Sometimes I do speed, and I have been caught at it more than once. It's a good way to practice slowing down and mindfulness-being an obedient and respectful driver taking reasonable time to get from point A to point B.

And though I don't consider myself very fashionable in the clothing department, I do have some outfits that help me feel zippy. Confident. Composed. Comfortable. The best kind of zippy outfit.

I feel zippy in the mornings, as I greet a new day. I am grateful this one is here, full of moments and opportunities to pause, to live gratefully. Have a good one!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Yucky

Today I am grateful for my sense of taste and the way my first cup of coffee tasted smooth and warm this morning. I am also grateful for fellow recovery friends to help me stay out of my own head.

Yucky. Anyone feeling yucky today?  Unpleasant. Disagreeable. Sometimes I feel yucky myself. Often my own choices got me there. Maybe too much sugar or too much food in general. Maybe not enough sleep, or not showering soon enough after a run. Yucky isn't pleasant, but it is usually short-lived.

Sometimes things can look yucky. Eeewww! Being a farm girl who saw and smelled a wide variety of pleasant and unpleasant things on the farm, I am not overly sensitive to yucky looking or smelling things, but I also don't go looking for them.

I can get yucky in my head too, though I usually use words like overthinking or overanalyzing or spinning. It all amounts to the same--leaving me unpleasant and disagreeable to the people I am around. My family gets the brunt of my yuckiness and loves me anyway. Thanks guys!

I appreciate that I have people I trust who I can call or talk to and unload some of my yuckiness before it is unleashed on others.

Yucky is not a fancy word, but it fits at times. Feeling yucky today? Find some gratitude and share it.
Besides gratefulness, physical movement is one of my most reliable ways to relieve yuckiness. What is one of yours?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Xenodochial

Today I am grateful for my five senses and that they all work. I am also grateful for motivation to be healthy.

I considered just passing by the letter "x" on my way to wrapping up my A-Z list of words about feelings, but that really isn't fair. And I always end up intrigued to learn something new, even if it is a word I may have never used before or will rarely use again.

So when I came across xenodochial, I thought to myself here's a word we need right now. Xenodochial means to be friendly to strangers. This is not flying in the face of the "don't talk to strangers" that we emphasize to our young children for their safety.

This is about the other humans walking this human path on this earth that we come into contact with each day. Some may have familiar faces. Some we have never seen before. But they are all people worthy of simple kindness and respect.  A smile and hello go a long way.

We have become more fearful and isolated in ways, even as we have become a true global community. Today is the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. There are indeed people who should not be trusted.  Yet, in our day to day lives, most people we encounter are doing what we are trying to do--live a good life and be a contributor.

Isolating, keeping our faces turned to some screen or another,  just compounds the fear and disconnection.

I feel xenodochial today. If you see me, I will be the one smiling and saying hello. I will be the one acknowledging your existence and your space in the world. It's a start anyway.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Worried

Today I am grateful for safe travels and a return home for my husband Darcy and for a good night's sleep after a very full week.

Worried seems like a fitting feeling today as so many wait, wonder, and worry about the impact of Hurricane Irma. Irma has already left behind huge devastation and taken numerous lives. Recovery from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath continue. Wildfires burn in several areas in the western United States.

Worrying about fires and hurricanes is legitimate worry. It's necessary worry. If people weren't worried, they wouldn't get themselves and loved ones out of harm's way. They wouldn't pitch in and help others more directly affected.

The people who are living out these very real situations and circumstances are in my thoughts and prayers as I sit on my patio on a pleasant morning with a gentle breeze. The power of nature and the lack of power of humans is a humbling reminder of our frailty, but also our resilience.

There's another kind of worried that is less productive though. It is a feeling I seem to know too well.
Worried about loved ones and health concerns. Worried about the future. Worried about being good enough. Worried about what others think of me.

Worry can stall me out and take energy away from endeavors that are helpful and hopeful. If I spin a pile of worry around in my mind long enough, I stop contributing and start contaminating. I have no energy left to help. I have begun to hinder.

Worry is natural and normal. It has a place at our table of emotions, but like any emotion, it shouldn't be served up as the main course day after day, meal after meal.

Pray, surrender, reach out, donate, and find some gratitude. These each help the worry subside enough so that I can get up and be productive.



Friday, September 8, 2017

Vibrant

Today I am grateful for the human capacity to help one another. I receive so much from others in so many ways. I am grateful for the opportunities I will have today to give back.

V is for vibrant. There are many ways to define vibrant. Full of energy, enthusiastic, bright, bold, passionate are just a few. Vibrant seems to be a word more often applied to colors and sounds that it is to human emotions, but they go together don't they?

I am an introvert, so I don't see myself as outwardly showing my enthusiasm and energy. Yet, I think others would describe me as positive and upbeat, so it does come through.

The key is to feed our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies so that the vibrancy emerges. Doing what I love makes me feel vibrant and fully alive. Out on a run. As the lines of a poem flow freely out of my head on to paper or screen. Taking the hand of our little grandsons.

Living gratefully feeds all of the things I need to feed to feel bold and passionate about starting a new day.  Grateful living is where it starts. I am pausing now and feeling the vibrantly cool morning air as I sit on our patio. Not a bad way to begin the next moment.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Understood

Today I am grateful for the energy within the walls of a school, and the people who feed that energy.  I am also grateful for a good cup of coffee this morning.

Understood. I believe we all desire to feel understood. Validated. Heard. Feeling understood connects us to others, creates lasting bonds, brings comfort.

In order to understand, we need to listen. We cannot be heard if we aren't listened to. We cannot hear others, truly hear them, unless we are giving them our full attention. Both ears. Our eyes. Our mind. Our heart. Only then, do we really take in their words and the other nonverbal that also speak to us in deeper ways than words alone can.

Humans were built to listen to one another, but I am concerned how our world today, especially in our age of advanced technology and multiple non-human screens, seems to lack listening skills.

I am guilty of this like anyone else, but I try to be in tune to it. Put the phone down. Look up from the computer screen. Stop thinking about what needs to be done next.  Simply pause. Listen. Hear.

The feeling of being genuinely heard and understood is one I have been blessed with many times in many ways with many people. My hope is that I have given the same in return.

We may be built to listen to one another, but I also believe it takes practice to be a good listener.
Today I will practice real listening. I will seek to give understanding to others.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tolerant

Today I am grateful for friends I trust and who listen. I am also grateful for the ways in which Darcy and I connect and communicate.

Today's word is tolerant. Accepting. Open. Willing. For me, being tolerant has to start with myself. I have been more intolerant to myself than anyone else over the years. Can you relate? The work I do in daily recovery from alcoholism, and my efforts to live gratefully help a great deal in making me more tolerant of myself and the world around me.

But it must extend beyond me. Am I open to different opinions and ideas? Am I open to hearing from someone I don't especially agree with or feel comfortable with? Am I willing to let go of preconceived notions and see what happens?

Our society needs more tolerance, our world needs it. There is so much fear feeding the intolerance and hatred. What are we so afraid of? We are all human and we have more in common than we don't.
Acts of kindness, or at least simple acceptance and quiet, can go a long way to soothing what ails humankind.

This seems to be a fitting quote to consider:

"I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a 
guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace."
Diane Ackerman

I will try to do my part today to soothe and tolerate. Will you join me? 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Satisfied

Today I am grateful for time with recovery friends and for the gift of a new day.

Today's word is satisfied. It means contented or pleased. Those sound like healthy feelings to attain.
In my active alcoholism and early sobriety, I suffered from perpetual dissatisfaction. I was never enough--whatever the standard I was comparing myself to or expecting of myself. Life was never what I hoped, my reflection in the mirror was far from satisfying, and on and on.

I still have bouts of dissatisfaction, but they don't last. Instead, they serve as an emotional barometer telling me I could use some acceptance, patience, gratitude, a break.

It seems that satisfied has become a word that is expected by many in many ways. Satisfaction guaranteed. Keep the customer satisfied. In our society today, some have moved beyond simply being content or pleased. They have become demanding and feel entitled. They want the satisfaction without the effort. And they are each of us in some ways.

That kind of "feeling satisfied" can be dangerous and become a tricky, slippery slope. What it comes down to for me is the source of satisfaction. If I am looking outside myself for that sense of satisfaction, I become impatient and expect too much. And I can blame others when I am discontented. Such a mindset only serves to keep me discontented, dissatisfied.

When I take responsibility for my part, for my own attitude and actions, and let others do the same, it is easier to find pleasure and contentment. When I am grateful for what I already have, I tend to seek less and enjoy more. That is peace and contentment in my book.

Living gratefully and seeking mindful presence can and do guarantee satisfaction here and now.


Monday, September 4, 2017

28

Today I am grateful for the conversations I have had with siblings in recent days and for the recovery from alcoholism that is available to me a day at a time.

I took my last drink of alcohol on September 3, 1989. Just a couple beers. Just. Those same beers had been my best friend and most formidable foe for 10 years. The next day began long-term sobriety that continues to this day, day by day. It has made all the difference. It is one of my deepest sources of gratitude. It is what motivates me to write, run, love, give back.

I was born on July 6, 1965. I was given a second chance at life beginning September 4, 1989. A second chance after many nights that could have ended all chances, ended my life. A second chance after feeling deep despair and that there was no way out. A second chance I have tried to honor, day by day.

Recovery is not a given. Daily effort for a daily disease. Complacency can be dangerous. Late bloomer and slow learner that I am, it took time for key messages to make their way through. My widest hope in life is the opportunity to keep blooming and learning.

Thank you to so many who have made a difference along the way. Special thanks to Sheila, Deb, Zoe, Sarah, and Leonice. Their words and actions allowed me to get to 9/4/89. And to Sonny, Terrie, Phyl, and Dorothy who have guided me to many moments of clarity. Always the Great Spirit/Higher Power who is patient and gentle with me and my ego.

And my husband Darcy who knows the time I commit to recovery efforts is time I need. He has supported me since we met several years into my sobriety.

I always write a poem or two to mark this day. Today's poem is "28." A simple 28 words to capture my life from before I even started drinking until this day, this very moment.

28

Uncomfortable
Fearful
Shy
Restrained
Thirsty

Carefree
Uninhibited
Caught
Ashamed
Drunk

Careless
Irritable
Trapped
Hating
Tired
Dying

Pitiful
Hopeless
Addicted
Powerless
Fragile
Sober

Surrendering
Accepting
Praying
Sharing
Serving
Recovering

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Replenished

Today I am grateful for the variety of words I get to create with and around. I am also grateful for the pleasant weather yesterday for Darcy and I to do our last 20-mile training run before our marathon.

Even after that long run, I am feeling replenished today. Renewed. Recharged. Restored. There are many people and activities in my life that replenish me each day.

Running, writing, and living gratefully take some energy, but restore far more energy than they take.
Within each of these activities, I become absorbed in the present. Being full of fear and worrying about the past or the future drains me. Feeding my body, mind, heart, and soul in the present moment with footfall after footfall, word after word, grateful pause after grateful pause, sustains me.

The love and support I experience and feel from many family members and friends, the laughter and the tears we share, the conversations we engage in, are also very replenishing. I am blessed with many people who help me recharge and renew simply by bringing their own genuine nature and listening ears to our time together.

Recovery from alcoholism restores me. Drinking alcohol never did that. It only took and took some more. Supporting and serving others in recovery also helps me recharge.

My physical body needs replenishing nourishment. I am grateful for the food in our refrigerator and the options we have for enjoyable post-run meals. And ice cream, of course.

What and who helps you renew and restore your energy, your zest for life?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Quiet

Today I am grateful for the changing light as dawn arrives, and for the few minutes I can enjoy this change as I sit on our front patio.

Happy birthday wishes to my friend and co-worker Kelly today. Welcome to your forties!

Today I choose quiet. Is quiet a feeling?  I believe so. Quiet can be experienced and felt. It can be absorbed and appreciated.

Quiet is an important part of my day. At least I strive to make it so. I usually get good doses of quiet in the early mornings and that helps set the tone for my day. But quiet can be elusive and fleeting, so I continue to seek it throughout my day. When I remember.

That is when quiet as a feeling is helpful. If I am feeling frazzled and overthinking, I am not quiet. If I want to return to calm quiet, I need to pause, to refocus. It can still be noisy and busy around me. Most importantly, I pause to quiet my own self, mind, heart, soul. I may pause in a brief prayer. Or take a mindful minute to breathe in and breathe out. Or literally take a step outside.

And then onward we go into the next moments and hours. Keep it simple. Keep it quiet. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Peachy

Today I am grateful for the lamps that light the early mornings in our house. I am also grateful for the many ways my family and friends enrich my life.

A special happy birthday wish to my friend Dorothy. Many more my friend!

I am thinking especially of my sister Leonice today as she wraps up her sixth and final round of chemotherapy. I recall my last chemo treatment and the mixed emotions it brought. A cancer diagnosis and all that comes with it takes time to fully feel and comprehend. Lots of time.

Today's word is peachy. Wonderful. Fine. Excellent. It's a fun word to use, and I will sometimes make it my response when people ask how I am doing.

Chemo treatments don't tend to leave a person feeling peachy. Life's challenges may elicit a sarcastic "peachy" from me and others. Life can't always be wonderful. I am convinced that would be as dangerous for me as life always being dreadful would be.

But peachy is a nice word to use when light of heart and facing a fresh day. Sweet and succulent, like a ripe peach ready to eat. Enjoy it moment by moment. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Obstinate

Today I am grateful for the people with positive energy who are in my life and share that energy. I am also grateful for early morning time to sit.

It's not that I am currently feeling obstinate, but it certainly has applied to me before and will again. Stubborn, unyielding, inflexible. Not much positive energy in that. When I am obstinate, my ego is flaring up, rational thoughts tend to get crowded out, and the Great Spirit is ignored.

The most obstinate time in my life was during my active drinking days, when I progressed in my alcoholism but continued to think I was controlling it and didn't need help. That stubbornness could have killed me.

My goal in recovery, and in daily living, is to be less and less obstinate and more and more willing. Progress is possible. Practice is needed.

Obstinance narrows the mind and heart. Grateful living brings me to a more open mind, heart, and soul, better able to keep nurturing this precious life we get to live and share with one another.

Where is obstinance an obstacle in your life today?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nurtured

Today I am grateful for the technology that makes my job easier, but also always the face to face communication and connections that matter so much--at home, at work, among friends.

As I return back to the "A-Z" feelings list I am blogging about, I feel nurtured today. I had sustenance last evening that took the form of food, hanging out with others in recovery, and some sleep. I woke up to this writing time, and writing nurtures me in so many ways.

To nurture is to care for, to encourage growth and development. Our little grandson Aaron is being nurtured by his parents Arthur and Alyssa. New baby and new parents all need encouragement, and I appreciate that they have each other as well as Alyssa's mom Donna in these early days and weeks.

Nurturing takes on so many more meanings too. Am I nurturing the relationships I have with the people I live with? Are my husband, son, and dog feeling my warmth and encouragement?

Am I nurturing the many connections and relationships I have with others where I work? Are new students, parents, and staff feeling welcomed by me and comfortable with me? Are those I already know being appreciated and supported, and not taken for granted?

And nurturing really starts with me. Am I nurturing my own self, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?  Right now I can say yes. Since I got up this morning, I have prayed in quiet, reached out to others in recovery, kept a reasonable pace to my tasks, had some coffee, and I walked with our dog Oliver. I wrote this post and fed the writer within. I journaled about gratitude and wrote about it here.

I am off to a good start. The challenge lies in staying in a nurturing mode as the day progresses. The better I nurture myself, the more able I am to nurture others. I am deeply grateful for the many people who love and support me in so many ways.

And there is always hope. Nurture hope today.


"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what to hope for. 
And the most you can do is live inside that hope."
Barbara Kingsolver

I hope you have a good day. I hope to add to the good around me in my own small ways today too. 
It can be as simple as the hope in a smile shared.