"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 8, 2017

Old Sun, New View

Today I am grateful for a feeling of coziness in my house, and for the forgiveness of my husband and son when I vent loudly.

I got to check out our brand new health clinic in town yesterday for a routine appointment. It has been open for about a month. A nice looking building inside and out, it sits on the west edge of town. It has two floors and I was in the waiting area on the second floor.

This was my view as I waited:

That time between daylight, dusk, and darkness. Between light and dark. This old sun never stops treating us to spectacular and one-of-a-kind sunsets each day. Different vantage points. Different skies. Different seasons. They all lend themselves to awe.

The sun, our sun, is just 4.5 billion years old. That's 4,500,000,000. I'm a mere 52. Ten decimal points to my two. That is a humbling thought.

A thought that causes me to pause and consider the fleeting nature of our days. To pause and relish in this present moment. To live and love gratefully.

I will be taking a blog break over the weekend. See you back next week. Have a good day!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

This Red Light Means Go

Today I am grateful for a warm house and a warm car. I am also grateful for family and friends to whom I can send holiday greetings.

Here's a light I appreciate seeing every morning at home. I often have this coffee brewing pretty early, before many of you reading this are up.

The light in the picture looks less red than it really is. In this case a red light is good. It means the coffee is ready and I can start drinking it.

We have tried various coffee pots and landed on using a percolator years ago. We like the way it creates our coffee drinking experience and taste. Darcy and I both like the fact that it is a bit of a throwback to earlier times as well. Not to mention that it is better for the environment than some coffee pots. The only waste it creates are coffee grounds.

Sometimes when I am starting the coffee, or cleaning the pot, I pause and consider that I am fortunate to have coffee, clean water, electricity, a husband to bring a fresh cup to.

I look forward to the sound and smell of the coffee percolating each morning. It is part of my daily routine, going hand in hand with writing.

I wasn't always a coffee drinker, but I sure am now. Life's simple pleasures.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cause to Pause: Reflector Strips

Today I am grateful for anti-lock brakes and traction control on icy mornings. I am also grateful for the honest sharing of other women in recovery.

This is the time of year that I will sometimes start an A-Z blog series, or as I did last year, a Z-A one. This year I have a different inspiration hitting me. Dark and light. They are so symbolic in emotional, mental, and spiritual terms. And they are also physical. As the physical light grows shorter and shorter each day until the winter solstice, darkness closes in literally.

There has been darkness in other ways this year. Pain. Suffering. Addiction. Loss. Suicide. Cancer. Death. If not for light, hope would be hard to come by. Getting out of bed would be more of a challenge. So I pledge to use these last weeks of this challenging year of 2017 to blog about the dark and the light, about how they play off of each other and are necessary. What about dark and light will cause me to pause?

Light can come with the flip of a switch for a lamp or overhead light. It can come with prayer and pausing to acknowledge gratitude. It can come from reflector strips on this running vest too. I wore this on my short pre-dawn run Monday.

It was 55 degrees and "balmy" by December's standards. I ran in short sleeves. I took time for the run partly because the warm weather was winding down. And wind down it did. We woke up yesterday morning to snow on the ground and a wind chill of 5 degrees. Gotta love the changing seasons, even when it happens in less than 24 hours.

Anyway, the reflector strips are for my safety and the safety of others. They also identify me as a non-criminal in the early morning hours. Others driving by or out on foot themselves can identify me as a fairly reasonable person because I took the time to put this vest on. Those who are up to no good usually don't want to be easily spotted.

Reflector strips work when light shines on them. They reflect light back. That is what I can do today. Be a light for others and myself. Reflect back the good that is shown me. Onward!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Treasure Hunting Made Easy

Today I am grateful for conversation with my husband Darcy yesterday, sitting on our back patio enjoying a fire in our fire pit. I am also grateful for time with fellow recovering people over the last couple of days.

Yesterday I was listening to a conversation about treasure hunting, referring to some newly acquired property and some of the antique finds that had already been discovered there. Treasure hunting in old farm dumps. I can relate.

I can also relate to the idea of living gratefully as a version of treasure hunting. Treasure hunting made easy. Or at least easier.

Our brains get trained to look for what we tell it to look for. "We" being our mental and emotional selves, both strong influences on the rest of us. I have been in training for over 20 years, training to live gratefully, to look for what I already have. To notice, pay attention, pause.

Living gratefully can indeed make treasure hunting easy. Easy is a relative term though. Easy doesn't mean effortless. Easy doesn't mean it just happens. Daily work for daily gratitude. Treasures await.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Little Amazing Things

Today I am grateful for a well-timed nap for me yesterday afternoon and for the athletic trainer available to all athletes at Sam's wrestling matches.

The nap gave me a better perspective on the remaining hours of my day, after I had gotten just a wee bit "itchy, scratchy."  The trainer provides good direction and suggestions beyond what concerned parents can.

I was thinking about those things I take for granted after I wrote my post on Friday. I then had the opportunity to be a chaperone for my school's choir as they performed at the Mall of America. I saw some little, or should I say huge, amazing things there.

It started with the reflection of a jet in the glass windows of the mall entrance we were using. Amazing eyes to see. Amazing reflection. Amazing jet propulsion.

As I sat in a busy area of the mall a little while later, observing, people-watching, I was intrigued.
Intrigued by the many faces and voices, body shapes and sizes passing by. I could see family resemblances, hear excited voices alongside frustrated and tired ones. Yet, every individual was unique.

Amazing. There are over 7.5 billion humans on the planet today, each one of a kind and each with their own story.

That idea alone stops me short, gives me reason to pause. We each deserve respect and our space in this amazing mix of humanity. If I carry that idea into my day, I am more likely to contribute more and contaminate less.

Friday, December 1, 2017

For Granted or for Gratitude

Today I am grateful for songs that make me think and feel. I am also grateful for all of the things I often take for granted on any given day.

We pretty much all do it. Take things for granted. Take people in our lives for granted. It is part of our human condition. We tend to get used to what we have and want more or different. Living gratefully challenges this part of our nature. And it is a good challenge.

Living gratefully on a daily basis changes the way we perceive ourselves, those close to us, the world around us. Therein lies the profound power in living gratefully. We are surprised more often, humbled in a grace-filled way more often. It tends to leave us more satisfied and more likely to care for and respect what we have.

It doesn't take long at all to create a list of some things I take for granted most days:

-access to clean and temperature-controlled water
-food to eat
-legs and arms that work
-my five senses
-cars in the garage and money for gas

I try not to take the people in my life for granted either. It happens of course, and I not only take them for granted, I will also be annoyed and irritated with them at times. Living gratefully helps me see the gifts they bring to me, and helps diminish the petty or controlling frustrations I may have with them.

As Brother David Steindl-Rast says in this video titled "A Grateful Day": "Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open."

Open your eyes to that which may be taken for granted. Apply gratitude. Live gratefully today.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

More Connections

Today I am grateful for oatmeal and a good night's sleep.

I was going to title today's post "Connections," but with well over 1700 posts on this blog, I wanted to make sure I hadn't already used that title. I appreciate how easy it is to search for that possibility, and it did indeed yield a previous post from December 11, 2015. Read it here.  It is a fitting one about a visit to Colorado following the death of my brother-in-law Roger.

In that post I also wrote about a quick connection with a random fellow human. They happen daily and we get more from them if we pay attention to the interaction.

After yesterday's post about interconnectedness, I was more in tune to some of the ways I was connecting with others and my surrounding world in the hours that followed.

Here are some of the ways:

-the stars in the sky and my place on earth, and how we are all part of a wider universe
-my feet touching the ground, floor, trail, tile, etc. with each footfall
-how dark and sleep are connected like light and awake are
-a quick text message with others and a genuine connection is made
-a phone conversation with my sister hundreds of miles away
-the tires of my car and the roadway I was driving on
-smile to smile, smiles can be a connection both outward and inward
-the touch of my hand on our dog Oliver's warm fur

I appreciate these connections and the many more each day brings.

Thank you for connecting with my writing by reading it here. Have a good day!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Today I am grateful for the comfort of soft light and for the connections I have with others in so many different ways.

At an event last evening, I was reminded of the many ways we are interconnected as humans on a shared path at this time in history. In ways both minor and profound. I share common ground with others in a myriad of ways, yet remain my own ever-evolving self.

Fellow cancer patients and survivors. Those recovering from alcoholism and other addictions. Shared upbringings. Farmer's daughters. Sisters. Friends. Co-workers. Teammates. Writers. Runners. Commuters. Shoppers. Humans in tune with nature and other living things.

We are interdependent, complementary of one another when we honor our togetherness as well as our individuality. When we pause to respect our own journey, we acknowledge and extend respect to our fellow travelers as well.

Some of the connections are fleeting, others are lifelong. Some change us tremendously, others simply offer comfort. All of these connections matter. All of this weaving together creates a life story;
my story, your story, our story.

Interconnected. There are gifts in the weaving, beauty in the designs being created.

Today I will pause to experience interconnections and interdependence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tunnel Vision, or a Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Today I am grateful for a bike ride on a windy but pleasant late November afternoon. I am also grateful for the convenience of microwave ovens.

On that Sunday morning run I mentioned yesterday, I was in new territory and discovered an underpass. As a runner and a biker, I really appreciate these underpasses, taking me beneath busy roads and potential hazards.

I was in picture-taking mode, so I captured these two below of the underpass tunnel. I often make links between my physical surroundings and my mental and emotional state. Exercising outdoors is my preferred location, and can really bring clarity to my thoughts and feelings at times. Along with writing inspiration.

Tunnel vision. I tend to get it often when I turn my thinking inward and crowd out reason and guidance from others and the Great Spirit. As I ran through this tunnel, the lights threw odd shadows. It gave the impression of me chasing myself. Isn't that what happens with tunnel vision?

If I would have stopped, the shadows would have stopped moving too, but I would never have reached this. The light at the end of the tunnel.

The lesson--keep moving forward and do the next right thing. It's the best way to escape yourself when that self is spinning and closed-minded.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sunrises and Softball Diamonds

Today I am grateful for safe travels to visit Darcy's family, for the pleasant weather we have been having, and for good insurance coverage for ourselves, our vehicles, and our home.

I took this picture as I ran early yesterday morning in Sioux Falls. The promising colors of sunrise beckoned me as I decided which way to run. Not a bad way to choose a course for a run, and for a day: nature’s beauty and a sense of purpose. 

The backdrop for the sunrise was a softball complex not far from my mother-in-law’s new place. Fitting for me, former softball player and coach, and my nieces and sister-in-law too, also softball players. My niece currently plays college softball and we shared some conversation about that over the weekend.

Sunrises and softball diamonds. I have enjoyed many of each over the years. The dominant thoughts I had as I ran yesterday are good for me to recall as I head into my day today:

-If not for recovery from alcoholism, my sunrises and days on softball diamonds would likely have been cut short. Daily work for a daily disease Lisa.
-I get this day to live. Many had their last day recently. Maybe cancer took them. Maybe a senseless act of violence and terrorism did. I can do my best to make this a good day.

Will you join me in that pursuit? Onward!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Two Legs, Three Wheels, Four Legs

Today I am grateful for beautiful weather to enjoy as we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, and for connections with family members via various modes of communication.

Legs and wheels are on my gratitude list today, as is gratitude shared by others in recovery.

Two legs that carried hundreds of us through the downtown and along the river of our community for a Thanksgiving tradition known as "Gobble Gait." It's a run/walk fundraiser for our local food shelf and family service. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the event and we were happy to be part of it. All three of us ran it, including Sam with some of his wrestling teammates.

The three wheels are on the tricyle that our grandson Leo was riding yesterday afternoon. It's a new trike with an old-fashioned look, reminding me of the one we had when I was growing up. We enjoyed the sunshine and pleasant temperatures as he peddled down the trail, heeding my caution of "not too fast."

And then there's the four legs on our dog Oliver. He joined Darcy and I on an early evening walk, and as always we enjoyed his lively participation in the day's events. When food is being prepared or eaten, and when little Leo is around, Oliver's energy ramps up. He can be a little pesky, but I appreciate his health and enthusiastic nature.

Gratitude flowed from the start of the day to the end of it. I tried to heed my own caution--not too fast. Slow down and enjoy.

I will be taking a blog break for a couple days, returning early next week. Have a good day and enjoy a pleasant pace.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Today I am grateful for what living gratefully has taught me and brought to me. I am grateful for the holiday of Thanksgiving today in the U.S. It is my favorite holiday. 

A holiday that focuses on giving thanks is right up my alley, but living gratefully is part of my daily plan. It needs to be if I want to reap the full benefits of it. And those benefits are summed up by a healthier perspective and a less self-centered approach to life. 

The benefits also include improved overall wellness, because living gratefully helps brings physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. There's plenty of scientific research to back up those claims if you need that kind of evidence. My life experience over the last two decades has been proof positive for me.

To close the post and open up some thoughts about this day, here are two quotes from my favorite gratitude guy, Brother David Steindl-Rast:

"Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise-then you will discover 
the fullness of your life." 

"The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, 
but in giving thanks we give ourselves."

Followed by this quote that I don't think I have ever seen before, but that gets my wholehearted thumbs up:

"ThanksGiving is good but ThanksLiving is better."
(Matthew Henry)

This year of 2017 has been a challenging year in many respects for many I care about, and for me as well, making living gratefully all the more crucial. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Onward. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dust in the Wind, Frost on Leaves

Today I am grateful for sleeping in and then being able to sit and watch daylight arrive. I am also grateful I saw a recovery friend last evening that I don't see often, affirming for both of us the importance of this idea of living gratefully.

I appreciated the way the streetlights played on the frosty leaves and grass this morning as I walked our dog Oliver. There were momentary sparkles and glints, fleeting but worth seeing.

It fit right in with the post I had already started for today, focused on these words from the Kansas song "Dust in the Wind." I heard it recently and these lines stayed behind to brew in my brain:

"Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind. Now, don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy." 

Hopeless or hopeful words? They can be taken either way. Just like the moments that comprise our days. Drudgery or opportunity? Grind or grace? Fleeting or fulfilling?

I choose to see the hope and tap into the energy. I choose to live gratefully, reveling in the sense of peace that comes with feeling mindful presence. I may lose it in five minutes, but I have now.

If nothing lasts forever, I best appreciate life while it is here. That glint of frost on a lone leaf in the early morning. The flash of a smile on a loved one's face. The voice of an old friend across the miles. The first sip of this morning's coffee. A good morning kiss shared with my husband Darcy.

Dust in the wind. Frost on leaves. Letting go of expectations and accepting the here and now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

More Reasons to Seek Balance

Today I am grateful for the song "Amazing Grace" and the several beautiful versions I can choose to listen to. I am also grateful for the way my fingers feel on keyboard keys as I compose words.

This article from CURE Today, a publication I mentioned in a post last week, was worth the read. There is so much information out there about links to cancer, what may cause it, what can prevent it, possible cures. If you are seeking to substantiate or refute one of these many claims, you can probably find some evidence for your case.

This article looks at some common myths about cancer, yet leaves us hanging a little. How much of a factor, if at all, is sugar in contributing to cancer's growth? Do cell phones cause brain cancer? Good questions with no clear answers yet.

But if you are looking for some convincing research findings, there is plenty to back up this statement: obesity and inactivity are clearly linked to various kinds of cancer. Too much sugar can increase obesity. Too much time on our phones probably means more inactivity. So if you need a reason to eat less sugar and spend less time in proximity to your phone, here you go.

It comes back to seeking balance in our days, in our lives. More of the healthy choices, fewer of the unhealthy ones. And always drink plenty of water. I tell myself it helps flush out toxins from my body.

Then there is my gratitude practice, my goal to live gratefully. It is quite effective at flushing out toxic thoughts and emotions.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Running in Circles

Today I am grateful for a Monday morning in a short work week. I am also grateful for clementines. I appreciate that these cuties are back in season and available at stores.

The other morning on my run, I hit a cul de sac at the end of a newer housing development. I decided to do a few circles around the cul de sac to add a couple minutes to my run before heading home. It was kind of soothing to do the little loop.

I considered the difference between literally running in circles, which I don't often do, and figuratively running in circles, which I am quite adept at. At least my mind has gotten much practice in it.

I have done far too much of this circular formation in my thought processes over my lifetime; regarding relationships, my job, writing goals, recovery, just little ole' me, and more. I can start with a healthy perspective and expectations. Then I get overly busy and lose perspective via a never-ending list of what I think needs to be done. Running in circles.

The cul de sac had a sign nearby reading "Future Thru Street."  My way thru running or spinning in mental circles is to pause, gain a sense of presence, live gratefully. That is a cycle worth repeating.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lucy, Dixie, and Gertie

Today I am grateful for the stars visible in this morning's clear sky. I am also grateful for the comforting glow of lights from our holiday decorations, and for a phone conversation with my brother and his wife.

So who are Lucy, Dixie, and Gertie? I don't personally know Lucy and Dixie. They were just random dogs with their owners on the trail as I went for my run yesterday morning. Their owners, women I also didn't know, out getting exercise on a sunny and chilly morning, used their dogs' names as I ran by them.

Random dogs and people, all of us sharing the trail and the return of sunshine after plenty of cloudy and dreary days this week. Random connections like this can bring concrete reminders of our small part in the larger whole, of the simple kindness in a smile and a pleasant greeting as we pass one another. No big deal, but also no harm done. The world could do with more simple kindnesses, less harm done.

I do personally know Gertie. She's my mom. I called her when I got back from my run. We had our usual conversation topics-weather, health, upcoming events. She used this line she has become fond of lately-"I have a good memory, it just doesn't last long"-at least twice in our brief conversation.

She has been in the nursing home since May of this year. I think she would agree with me and the rest of my siblings that she is where she needs to be. How she feels about that, and how the rest of us each feel about it and her decline, is a wide range of emotions, many left unsaid. When I pray for my mom now I pray for her peace and comfort.

Peace and comfort. For all of us. It starts with sitting here in the present moment and accepting it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Substitute, Not a Replacement

Today I am grateful for brown sugar and oatmeal, and for my comfy slippers.

Yesterday's flat is today's perky. Another reason I chose to not have breast reconstruction following bilateral mastectomy is that nothing was going to replace what nature gave me and cancer took away.

Our real breasts are full of real nerves, fatty tissue, lobes, blood vessels, lymph nodes, ligaments and more. They are attached to our chest wall and the pectoral muscle. Even the best surgeons and cutting edge reconstruction techniques can't match the look and feel of the real deal, nor mend all the damage done with removal. Granted, I didn't think I had a perfect pair to begin with, and at age 43 they were already starting to show their age.

As I finalized my decision to not have reconstruction, I also looked into prosthetics. I wanted to have the semblance of breasts available to me, and they have fit the bill. I do appreciate that I can wear them and that they have allowed me to keep my usual wardrobe. If you don't know I wear prosthetics, you probably wouldn't guess it by looking at me.

I like the flexibility and portability of them, and the freedom to not wear them (which is my usual choice when at home and whenever I exercise). They may not look and feel like the real deal, but they are perkier than my real ones would have been at this point. They are not a replacement, but they are a worthy substitute.

I would have preferred to keep the ones I was born to have, and also do without the cancer that showed up, but the silver lining of a perky pair takes the sting out just a little.

I am in no way making light of the harsh reality of breast cancer. I am telling the only story I have the right to tell--my own. By telling my own story, with my words and my emotions, I believe I am honoring all women who have faced the difficult decisions and incisions that BC can bring.

And I honor those who have paid the ultimate price. There are far worse things to lose than breasts.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Flat, But Not Flatlined

Today I am grateful for my health and that in cancer terms I currently can be described as NED (no evidence of disease). I am also grateful for self-acceptance of this scarred body of mine.

I get a publication titled Cure. It is focused on cancer and is free to cancer patients. I have been receiving it for years and appreciate how informative and readable it is. It doesn't focus on one kind of cancer or one aspect of the disease. I can read about cutting edge research as well as personal stories from patients and caregivers. Check it out at cure today.com.

A recent special issue on breast cancer carried the cover headline of "Flat, But Not Flattened." Needless to say, it caught my eye. I always am interested to read about women like me who have opted to not have reconstruction following mastectomy.

I have several ways to refer to my new chest terrain following bilateral mastectomy. "The area formerly known as my breasts." and "strange vacancy" are two of them. Flat and free. Flat, but not flat affect. And as I read this most recent cover story, I thought about "flat, but not flatlined." I am alive. I have not flatlined. I am not remaining static, nor is my level of gratefulness and energy toward life.

I have lived life just as fully without breasts as I did with them. Arguably more fully in ways. There's something to be said for going through the fear and upheaval of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, toiling long and hard over decisions about what to do about body parts, and coming out the other side minus two breasts, but more deeply in tune to what it means to be alive and to be a woman.

A key reason I opted to not have reconstruction is because I wanted the best chance to keep running comfortably and I wanted to avoid further surgeries and possible complications or chronic pain. I miss my breasts, but I would miss running so much more.

I have felt self-conscious, known real grief, processed a range of emotions, and much more concerning the loss of my breasts. But it is a choice I have not regretted, and a choice I am grateful I felt free to make. It was my decision alone, but my husband Darcy and others supported it then and still do now. There is so much more to me, to all of us, than body parts.

Hereand here, are two other posts I have written along these lines.

I will take my flat chest and grateful heart and head into today with hope and energy. It's an opportunity some no longer have. Life is precious, life is fragile.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who? Me?

Today I am grateful for the hope that comes when people share their pain and their joy with one another. I am also grateful for lamplight.

As I exercised this morning, I considered this quote from Carl Jung:

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." 

It reminds me of this saying too:

"When we have one finger pointing at someone else, we have three fingers pointing back at us.

I am the only person I can change, and that can be a tough job. Other people help though, sometimes by being a confidant and hearing me out as I process my own thoughts and feelings and reach some clarity. (Thank you to all my confidants.) 

And at other times, people help me in the way that Carl Jung speaks of here. They may be strangers or people I know quite well. They help me reflect on things like being judgmental, self-righteous anger, self-pity, perfectionism, selfishness,  and more. They reflect back to me those things that I continually need to work on. 

Who? Me? Yeah, me. I am a work in progress. We are all works in progress. I will never be free of my defects, but I can try to have fewer flare ups, fewer forays into the ugliness of things like trying to prove I am right or stinging judgment of a circumstance because I somehow would have done it better.

To read more about Carl Jung and this idea, here is a post from earlier this year.

As I conclude, I return to my reason for writing--to help me live gratefully each day and to share in that gratitude. While there remain things about me that I hope to change, gratefulness helps me more fully embrace the things about me that don't need changing. And when I do that for myself, I am more likely to accept those around me as well.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Remedy When Feeling Uninspired

Today I am grateful for the effectiveness of healthy habits. They work under all conditions. I am also grateful for a mild morning.

That mild morning, by November standards, has allowed me to sit outside on our front patio for a few minutes. The writer within was feeling uninspired, even with several post drafts started and more ideas too. Some days it is like this. Not sure where to go with my writing thoughts. Not sure what is pulling me the strongest.

When feeling uninspired, nature is always an effective remedy for me. I stepped out to walk Oliver and appreciated that though damp, it isn't icy. A forty degree morning in mid-November invites more time outside. I listened for the early morning sounds and mostly heard traffic, but I also heard the quiet. Listen to the quiet. Listen to the silence and what it says.

The sky view is limited on this cloudy and drizzly morning, but even just looking up and feeling the vastness of the space above me is helpful. It brings me some humility and a sense of perspective.

It was the remedy I needed this morning. The sky reminding me that I am a small part of a much larger whole. My part matters, and so does yours. We all matter, and we are all connected. It helped me return to a sense of not feeling alone, not bearing the weight of the world myself, but rather considering how I might contribute today. And that we can all support each other in minor and major ways.

It started with a small kindness offered to my husband. Simply bringing him a cup of coffee. Simply considering the sky, feeling the damp air on my skin, smelling the late autumn leaves. The remedy of nature coming through for me again.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Date in Common

Today I am grateful for an enjoyable bike ride yesterday afternoon, and for the fellow recovering people I can reach out to when I need some clarity and redirection. Literally, they are at my fingertips via text messages.

Today my sister Leonice will have her 25th and last round of radiation. That will wrap up the active treatment of her endometrial cancer. It started in May with the first of six rounds of chemotherapy. I knew that my last round of chemo had happened around this time in 2008, and upon further investigation, my hunch was confirmed. We share an end date to our cancer treatment--
November 13.

We share conversations and we share some common ground only those who have lived in Cancerland can share. We may have some similar feelings about it all, and know some similar fears for sure.

But we have each had to take our own single, solitary cancer journey as well. Just like our sisters Zita and Mary Jo. Just like I was the one sitting in that chemo chair nine years ago getting that IV started in my arm, Leonice will be the one going into that room today getting radiation beamed at her body.

I remember so many mixed emotions and wide-ranging thoughts throughout my active cancer treatment. I was relieved when chemo was done, but also hesitant to see it finish. I felt like we-my medical team and I-were going after my BC full force when chemo was going on. I carried fear-filled questions in my head. Questions like "Did we do enough?" "Will my cancer recur or spread?"

I still live with these questions, and Leonice will have to as well. I sympathize with her and the freshness of her fears and the immediacy of her questions. There is no way around them once a cancer diagnosis lands in someone's life.

Yet, there is also no other way to get true perspective on certain things in life, like our real priorities, than to be faced with a diagnosis that forever shatters the sense of security about our physical health we may have had pre-diagnosis.

And one of the things I have known with more certainty, felt with more depth since my own diagnosis, is that each day is a gift. None of us know how many days we get. To wake up in this one and live it fully is all we can do.

Like we lived fully the days we spent together in late July, taking in the splendor of the Oregon Coast. Leonice had several chemo treatments behind her at this point.

End dates like today's are to be acknowledged, and the emotions that accompany them are to be acknowledged as well. I am guessing you will have a full range of them today dear sister. Sending my love, prayers, and a hug to you Leonice.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Drinking History

Today I am grateful for a good run and a clean garage topping my "done list" yesterday. I am also grateful for those who have served in our military, past and present, to protect and preserve our freedoms.

Today, and every day, I am grateful for the opportunity to be sober and live a life of recovery.

There are a couple of sayings among recovering people that are good for me to remember:

"Never forget your last drunk."

"The further you get away from your last drunk, the closer you get to your next one."

Cautions worth heeding. Alcoholism is a subtle and patient disease, and I have a healthy fear of complacency. It is also a daily disease. Recovery needs daily effort. There is nothing worth drinking over. 

I feel well-grounded in my recovery and have healthy habits that are ingrained in my life. I am very grateful for this, because I also still have an alcoholic mind that lies in wait if I let up on recovery. I call it "my dearest alcoholic mind."

So when the conversation my friend Sheila and I had the other day included some of her memories of my drunken nights, it was helpful for me. Hard to hear, but helpful. Self-hatred was what I felt in my sober hours, and it is why I drank. To escape. To dull the pain.

But others, especially Sheila and a few others, witnessed my self-hatred in real time, when I was in blackouts. When I was literally and figuratively beating myself up.

Because I was a blackout drinker, many of my worst drunks never stuck in my memory. There is some blessing in that. The emotional pain and the mental anguish were always there though. A little dose of reality, through another's eyes, momentarily brings back the feelings I felt in the pit of despair I would fall into, making it more likely I will heed the above cautions.

And that brings with it renewed motivation to keep doing the work of recovery, day by day, hour by hour.  Living gratefully is a key to me finding some peace in recovery, and not getting thirsty for an unhealthy and deadly escape.

Thank you Sheila. Thank you daily recovery. Thank you Great Spirit/Higher Power.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Playful Pup

Today I am grateful for work perspective gained from years of experience. I am also grateful for the challenges my job presents. I learn and grow from them.

This morning I am also grateful for our dog Oliver. He is nine years old and a senior citizen, but we still often call him pup, Mr. Pup, or Oliver Valentine if he's being naughty. He's a playful little cockapoo and this morning he wanted to play.  He likes his chew toy, which somewhere along the line we started calling his "teddy bear."

Here he is this morning with it:

It's a little tattered and he's ready for a new one. But we aren't ready for a new pup, so we hope Oliver has several good years left in him. I like to say that we grew up together, Oliver and my post-cancer self. He came into our lives just weeks after my cancer diagnosis in 2008. He has been a treasure ever since.

He reminds me to stretch after sitting for awhile. To let the people I love know that I love them, even when they may have ignored me for a bit. To take a few moments to give attention to who and what matters most to us each day, throughout the day.

He reminds me not to take myself too seriously. A lesson I need on a regular basis. Playful pup takes on serious Lisa and puts me in my place, the right place, a place of gratitude. Thanks Oliver!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Early Morning Exercise

Today I am grateful for a hat and gloves to wear on a chilly morning, and for the various exercises in the various realms of wellness (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) that help me maintain some sense of balance.

I started my day with early morning physical exercise. And when I say early morning, some of you may consider it the middle of the night yet, but I have always been one who can literally roll out of bed and head out on a run or other exercise.

I stayed indoors this morning. The sweat and endorphins both got flowing. It was physical exercise, but it also helps me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It clears my head, gives me time for prayer and reflection, reminds me of my priorities.

If I go into the exercise with swirling thoughts, I come out with more clarity and perspective. It boosts my mood and it elevates the sense of living gratefully that I am trying to cultivate. It is good for my body, mind, heart, and soul. I always feel better when I am done.

All of this makes it easier for me to summon the regular motivation it takes to do physical activity several times a week. I very much appreciate the healthy habit it is in my life, and the physical health that makes it possible for me to move my body so I can also move forward more positively, and with more energy, into a busy day ahead. What a gift!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Twenty Years and Running . . .

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our lives together, our growing family, and the role of fate on the day we met, twenty years ago today. I am also grateful for my friend Sheila and the two conversations we shared yesterday.

This post, written five years ago today, tells the story of how we met. It's a good story for me to read now, to refresh my memory of that day, a day that changed my life forever. And of a man and a marriage that have fulfilled me in so many ways over the last twenty years.

It took me years into adulthood to love myself, much less feel lovable and attractive to the opposite sex. About the time I had come to a healthy level of self-acceptance, and some acceptance about whether or not I would ever meet the right man, is about the time I met Darcy.

Has it been a 20-year honeymoon? Let's be honest. Marriage is hard work some days. Any healthy relationship takes effort, compromise, respect, forgiveness, and much more. But I can honestly say that Darcy and I have a strong and solid relationship. It started on November 8, 1997, when we both brought our true selves to our first meeting.

We continue to bring our true selves to each day. Sometimes that can be messy, or loud, but so often it is a dose of gratitude for the sense of understanding, care, shared goals, and mutual respect and support we have. The attraction we share today is different than the attraction that brought us together, but they are both rich and meaningful in our shared story.

Twenty years and running . . . running literally side by side on many of our runs, and also running on gratitude for what we have together.  Thank you Darcy! I love you.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Unceasing Eloquence

Today I am grateful for the smell of fresh, chilly fall air. I am also grateful for peanut butter.

As I considered this brief quote:

"Silence is unceasing eloquence." 
Ramana Maharshi

I got these random thoughts:

*A friend and I were recently talking about the challenges of marriage and how if 
we could just learn to keep our mouths shut more often it would be helpful. 

*I am guessing both of our husbands would agree.

*The silence of nature speaks for itself. 

*Some things are definitely better left unsaid.

*We will tend to learn more from our own silence than our own speaking.

*That is especially true if we are really listening to others or to the silence.

*Typically, apologies aren't needed for something I didn't say.

*Seeking silence in my own mind is crucial for me. The "peddling b.s." 
I wrote about yesterday is more ugly than eloquent.

*Writing can be silent but still say a ton.

And then my random thoughts ran out and I headed into my day. Have a good one! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pedaling and Peddling

Today I am grateful for my thumbs and all that they make it possible for me to do with my hands. I am also grateful for the opportunity I have to be a sober and recovering person today.

Yesterday afternoon, my husband Darcy and I went for a bike ride. It was brisk, chilly, windy, and hilly at times, but we both were glad we were out there pedaling. We have bikes that work, legs that work, and each other. Many blessings to pedal about.

I also heard some words of wisdom from a fellow recovering person yesterday, as I often do. He spoke about "peddling b.s." It made me chuckle. Peddling b.s. is what happens to my thoughts when I forget to be grateful, when fear and ego grow, and the power source greater than myself gets crowded out.

Plenty of b.s. starts getting peddled through my overactive and perfectionistic brain. Energy gets misdirected and actions become misguided. On the other hand, or foot as the case may be, pedaling my bicycle and peddling gratitude bring clarity of thought. Energy returns. Actions are healthier.

Thank you to both my bike pedals and my recovery friend for reminding me what thoughts to focus my peddling on today.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

52 South

Today I am grateful for safe travels to a family funeral and for a warm and comfortable bed in which to rest.

I attended my Aunt Jenny's funeral on Friday and appreciated that I was able to be there. Jenny was my dad's sister. She had been ill with Parkinson's for many years, and she and her family suffered in that time. She died at age 87, and I believe she now knows peace. I wish for peace for her husband of 64 years, my Uncle Nilus, and for their six children and their families.

It was good to see members of my own family and my extended family, as cousins gathered to pay respects. I am thinking especially of Sister Norma Jean, my dad's youngest sister and now the only surviving member of her immediate family. She has said goodbye to both parents and all six of her siblings. It gives me pause to think about the nature of life, the wisdom of life, the full range of feelings that life brings if we truly live it.

I hadn't written a poem in months. Sometimes that is the way it goes. One started coming to me as I drove to the funeral Friday morning. I finished it Saturday morning, as I considered the previous day's events and emotions.

Here is that poem:

52 South

Leaving the edge
of urban
for the heart of
rural on an
early morning trip,
I took the on-ramp
for U.S. Highway
52 South.

Traversing the winding
roads and rolling hills
of my current home state,
I was treated to
beautiful skies as
daylight arrived.
Clouds and sun
played together to
beckon me.

52 South led me
right into my
native state,
into the county
of my birth and
into a mix of
emotions and memories.

Arriving at my destination,
adjacent to 52 South,
I pulled up to the church
where my aunt’s funeral
was about to take place.

The same church my dad’s
funeral took place 19 years
ago, also in the fall.
Siblings laid to rest in the
same cemetery as their
parents and brother.

Just yards off of 52 South,
family history closes
another chapter,
even as new ones
are being written.

A generation is
fading away, as cousins
of the next generation
speak of memories that
now span decades.
There is laughter along
with quiet wisdom.

We are bound together
by bloodlines, and
brought together by
U.S. Highway 52.

A well-traveled road
uniting us to honor
well-lived lives.

 And a picture to go with the poem, a sign just a few blocks down from that church and cemetery:

A life well-lived starts with today. It starts with living gratefully in the moment. If not for that, I would have missed this sign and so many others.