"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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Itchy

Today I am grateful for a good training run for Darcy and I yesterday and for the continued favorable weather. I am also grateful for what life's challenges and frustrations can teach me.

Today's word is itchy, a feeling that can apply in a couple of ways. Bug bites and dry skin can leave me feeling itchy. In those instances it is easy to scratch where it itches. But not too much. Putting some lotion on the dry skin or alcohol on the bug bites helps and keeps me from drawing blood, which only makes the discomfort worse and prolongs the healing.

There's another kind of itchy that is caused from within and doesn't respond to topical ointment. My friend Jill dubs it "itchy, scratchy" or "itchy, twitchy, and __________."  I'm sure you can figure out the third word that rhymes with the first two.

It certainly applies to me when I feel irritable and discontented. I am not pleasant to be around. And I am not pleasant in my own head, beating myself up because "I know better than to act that way." I can compound the irritation by fueling it, or I can ease it by letting go and moving forward.

Feeling itchy, in both ways, makes me human and helps me feel alive. Feeling alive means experiencing the gamut of emotions and pain. Itchy can be minor on that continuum, but still a good teacher.

When the source of the itch is exterior, it tends to leave more quickly. When the source of the discontent rests in my mind, heart, and soul, then I need to redouble my efforts to live gratefully, practice forgiveness, pray to my Higher Power, and talk it out with someone I trust.

When you are itching from the inside, what brings healthy relief?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Healthy

Today I am grateful for bananas, cow's milk and almond milk, for cool sleeping weather, and for time on our front patio right here, right now.

Feeling healthy is something I try not to take for granted, and that I work every day to embrace and preserve. This morning I am busy and feeling a little rushed, but I took the time to come outside to compose this because I feel healthy sitting out in the fresh morning air.

I write in my gratitude journal each morning and it helps me start my day with a healthier mindset.

I strive to pause in prayer and meditation each morning as well, even if briefly. It makes all the difference.

Darcy and I have a long training run scheduled for tomorrow as we enter the final weeks before our marathon. I try to eat healthy, get a good protein base, and then start carb loading. I psych myself up mentally for the miles ahead as well. And I recall other long training runs and the satisfaction and endorphins that await as the miles build and then we finish and can rest.

Two diseases that take lives every day are part of my experience. Cancer and alcoholism. They are my daily motivators to be healthy. And not just of body, but also of mind, heart, and soul. Overall health encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components.

I am blessed to have numerous practices in my routine to help in each of these areas. I don't always adhere to them as well as I should, but I do pretty well. It leaves me feeling healthy and it is key to grateful living.

These are some of my keys to feeling healthy. What are some of yours?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Grateful

Today I am grateful for mindful moments throughout my days, when I remember to take them. I am also grateful for the ways others push me to think more openly.

Maybe it seems a bit too likely, but I chose feeling grateful for the letter "g." I start each blog post saying I am grateful for one thing and then another. But I can honestly say there is nothing typical about feeling grateful day after day. It is an emotion that brings a freshness and an energy all its own each time it is fully experienced.

Sitting with feelings, once identified, can be productive time. Even sitting with perplexed bewilderment. Maybe sitting with it allows clarity to come through. Sitting with appreciation, living a grateful existence, is productive too.

One of the criticisms or concerns I sometimes hear about practicing gratitude is that it can make people complacent. What I experience is not complacent or passive. It is peaceful, yet motivating.

Starting with gratitude for what I have in the here and now is just that--a good start. I believe that when I do that, I show more respect and kindness to all around me; both human and other. With that as a catalyst, I move forward. Hopefully my efforts help preserve the good that is already here, while also creating more to contribute, more to offer.

When I embrace grateful living, I am embracing what Brother David Steindl-Rast refers to as "the great fullness of life." That is the opposite of complacency.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Flummoxed

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet and the calm it brings. I am also grateful for the daily tools to do daily recovery work.

Flummoxed. Now there's a word for you. It is beyond frustrated or confused. It is bewildered. Perplexed. It's a baffling state of being that requires a word like flummoxed.

Okay, I admit that I picked this word partly because it is unusual and a little fun to say. But it also is a feeling I do know and understand at times.

Those times are usually when I am confronted with the concerning state of the world, or the ever-changing state of today's teens, or the influence of technology on our lives, or some other such large, hard to fully handle, topic.

Fortunately, it doesn't tend to last too long. Go to bed flummoxed and chances are it will be gone in the morning, replaced by a fresh outlook on a new day. That is if you aren't too flummoxed to sleep.
Lack of sleep confounds feeling flummoxed. So does thinking I can "figure it out" with sheer brain power.

On the other hand, gratitude and quiet together with patience and acceptance tend to send the flummoxed feeling away.

Feeling flummoxed? Try some mindfulness and gratefulness and then get some rest.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Exhilarated

Today I am grateful for being able to walk up and down stairs. Our house has four levels. I am also grateful for each one of those four levels and our entire house.

Fire up! Today's feeling is exhilarated. 

Feeling exhilarated is experienced viscerally for me. I experience it physically after a run, mentally when I am on a roll with some writing, emotionally when I make a sincere connection with another human, and spiritually when I pause in nature and let the awe roll over me.

Grateful living is exhilarating in and of itself, and it makes everything seem to come alive more. Being present in the current moment has a way of doing that. Mindful presence and the exhilaration of full attention and sensory focus on the here and now is what I strive for.

Some days I only seem to have fleeting moments of exhilaration. On other days I ride the energy throughout the day.  But it all starts with feeding that which we find most invigorating and healthy in our lives.

Go for a run. Write a poem. Send a handwritten thank you. Read a good book. Laugh with a friend.
Stop and look up at the sky. Tackle that work project you are almost done with. Sew. Garden. Pull some weeds, literally or figuratively. Go for a bike ride. Smile.

Have an exhilarating day, in big and small ways. It all matters!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Devoted

Today I am grateful for a pleasant Gopher to Badger half marathon experience yesterday and nice weather to run it in. I am also grateful for my physical capabilities. I don't ever want to take them for granted.

I landed on devoted for today's emotion. Loyal. Faithful. Steadfast. Constant. Committed. Dedicated.
Disciplined and determined; with less of an edge and more love. Like most emotional traits I hope fit me, I also know I often fall short of the description above as well.

Devoted wife, mother and stepmother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt. I try. But I also don't call as often as I could, or reach out often enough to family members who need a reach out, or stop myself from saying harsh things to those nearest and dearest to me.

Being human doesn't preclude me from being a devoted family member. I do my best, and I keep working on forgiveness of self and others. (Though what I usually need to forgive in others is more about me and my expectations than it is about them.)

Devoted friend, listener, and supporter. I feel good about the kind of friend I have been and continue to be to many people in my life. Some of them are the very ones who taught me how to be a good friend, showed me the way. Being a dedicated and steadfast friend takes time and effort, and it is a profound way of giving and sharing.

Devoted runner, writer, recovering person. I find it easier to be loyal and faithful to endeavors that enrich my life so much.

And put grateful living at the top of that list. Devoted to finding the gifts in today. Devoted to creating an upward spiral in my thinking rather than a downward spiral. Devoted to gratefulness as a mindset.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Content

Today I am grateful for another sweet, ripe peach to enjoy this morning for breakfast. I am also grateful for the opportunities I have in my local community to connect with others in recovery, and the many benefits I get from those connections.

Feeling content about life is a true gift. I spent much of my earlier years in a state of discontent. A little worrier, a little starved for attention, a little stuck in a counterproductive train of thought.

Look up the definition of content and you will find things like "a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction." Feeling satisfied in the present moment.

Being content isn't a constant state, for me or for anyone I know. But it is a state I can achieve and sustain more readily than I used to. And I have a growing repertoire, a toolkit if you will, of things that help me find and maintain contentment.

Connecting with people I care about, in person or via phones and other technology. Disciplined recovery practices. Running. Writing. Reading. Grateful living. Sitting or walking in nature. Pauses in a busy day. Deep breaths at a hectic time. 

Content with the content of my days and my thoughts. More than before. What a blessing!

What brings you peace and contentment?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bold

Today I am grateful for time on our patio this morning and for productive time at work yesterday.

From temporary apathy to bold affirmation. Daring. Brave. Courageous. Valiant. Confident. Willing to take risks. But this isn't a big and bold, it's a little boldness.

It starts with the bold move of looking at myself in the mirror and being able to make eye contact.

Then I get a little bolder and I hold eye contact while adding "You're okay."

A little bolder still and I am able to look myself straight in the eyes and say "I love you" and mean it.

A little boldness has gone a long way, has brought me a long way.

It beats the boldness, only temporary, that alcohol would give me.

It puts in its place the misplaced boldness of the alcoholism that held me in its grip and wanted me to keep saying "You dumb, ugly bitch."

Big and bold isn't my style. I leave that for the extroverts. Still, a healthy, mild version of being bold has served me well in recent decades. It  helped me start my first gratitude journal, in spite of my own reservations. It has helped me commit to my first marathon and start my first blog. That was 14 marathons and 1600 blog posts ago.

How has being bold served you well in your life? How has it helped you grow?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Apathetic

Today I am grateful for coffee, bananas, a new day.

Apathetic kicks off the A-Z feelings list. I have considered apathetic to be a feeling or trait to avoid, that I wouldn't want used to describe me. But I have also tried to keep an open mind. That same mind that is often prone to overthinking and over analyzing.

Maybe, just maybe, some apathy now and then can actually be a saving grace. We'll call it temporary apathy.  I'm too tired tonight, that post idea can wait until tomorrow. A little more dust in the corner won't hurt any of us. The clothes will still be there to wash in the morning.

Those feelings of fear, frustration, resentment, loss? I have to take a break from them because they are exhausting my head and heart. Maybe tomorrow or next week I can feel them and work through them a little.

Temporary apathy may just allow enough of a break to regroup and get back moving in the right direction. Sure, it can be a slippery slope. If "I couldn't care less" is getting applied to too many instances, I need a dose of gratitude to help me find my passions and priorities back.

Apathetic:  showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

synonyms:uninterestedindifferentunconcernedunmoveduninvolveddisinterestedunemotionalemotionlessdispassionatelukewarmunmotivatedhalfhearted
informalcouldn't-care-less

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Feelings, Nothing More, Nothing Less

Today I am grateful for sobriety and the recovery wisdom others share with me. I am also grateful for
the feel of cool air on my warm skin after a run this morning.

On my run yesterday morning, I got an idea that it was time for another A-Z list. I was thinking about apathy, feeling apathetic. So let's go with an A-Z list about feelings.

As I thoughts about feelings, I thought of the old Morris Albert song "Feelings."  Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Feelings, wo, wo, wo, feelings.  A fairly successful single when it came out in 1974, it was a song about losing love that people loved to hate for its overly sappy sound. Nothing more than feelings, but nothing less.

Our feelings, our emotions are crucial. Identify them, rather than deny. Experience them rather than suppress. Emotional health is as important as physical, mental, and spiritual. They are interwoven.
It is actually healthy to know a range of emotions, to be able to name them for what they are, and to give them time to work their way through. That is true of joy and of sorrow. That is true of feeling satisfied as well as feeling frustrated. We can't be happy 24/7. We wouldn't appreciate it or give it back. Yet, we shouldn't be experiencing painful emotions 24/7 either. That is a sign that help is needed.

It also brings to mind a visual that I used with students when I was an elementary school counselor. Actually two visuals-a gift bag and a Pringles chips can. I used the gift bag to talk to children about feelings as gifts. All feelings are gifts. They are telling us things are right, or that something is wrong.
If we never let those tough feelings through, if we never talk about them or admit them, it is like stuffing that Pringles can with those negative feelings. And what happens if we stuff for too long? The can bursts. It's a visual young people can understand with a lesson still as important for us as adults.

What are you feeling today? Honor those emotions. Be grateful for them. Then take right actions to help the positive emotions keep flowing and to stem the tide of negative emotions before they sweep us away.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Unbridled Joy

Today I am grateful for bike rides, perspectives and connections made, and for this little guy and his unbridled joy:


This is our grandson Leo and he spent a good portion of the weekend with us. The smile and energy he exudes in this picture captures what can be aptly described as unbridled joy. Toddlers are uninhibited in their curiosity. That is why they need to be watched closely, but it is also why they are so fun to be around. A bug, a different book, something to look at out the window can all be met with a curiosity that keeps things fresh.

Two-year olds have irrepressible get-up-and-go. When they slow down, you know they are truly tired or they are coming down with something. This energy wears off on others. Yes, it can wear grandpa and grandma out too, but in a good way.

So we enjoyed the time with Leo, witnessing his delight as he played at the park or sat next to our dog Oliver.

There is plenty of heaviness around, with news of cancer deaths and a friend's parent passing away.
That is tempered with the unbridled joy of Leo and other toddlers, reminding us that today awaits. Bring energy and curiosity to it, along with some gratitude. Onward!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Waiting in Lines, Reflecting on Life

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and reading books to him. I am also grateful for this day ahead.

Yesterday, for the second day in a row, I stopped at a local store to pick up sympathy cards. It seems I have been stopping there for sympathy cards a lot in recent months, interspersed with cards for weddings, showers, new babies. A co-worker's sister died of cancer at age 53 and a church member's elderly brother passed away.

Both times I stopped, I was hoping to be in and out quickly, and both times I had to spend a little time waiting in line. It gave me time to pause, to consider the precious and fragile nature of life. To consider how many people I know who have suffered the loss of loved ones, health challenges, and other concerns in the last few months.

Mixed with that is the joy of weddings and new babies and growing families. Such is life.

Waiting in line for those brief moments brought things back into perspective for me. Life brings both joy and suffering. We don't fully appreciate the former without some doses of the latter.

Then, last evening, I saw an obituary on social media. For a woman I had coached early in my coaching days. I also coached her sister and knew their family. They were part of some great teams and some wonderful memories. Another victim of cancer. At 48.

Waiting in line, reflecting on life. Coming across an obituary. Life isn't always fair. But it is always a gift. Each day of it. Each hour. Each moment. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Home

Today I am grateful for the smell of freshly cut grass this morning as I ran past the golf course we live near. I am also grateful for healthy flax seed to add to my dietary intake.

After many miles of travel and being away from our home for several days, I especially welcomed being back in our own space, our own bed, surrounded by our familiar stuff.

But I still appreciate these words from James Baldwin:

"Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition."  

I most often think of home as a place, yet I appreciate considering it as a condition; thoughts or emotions that I can carry with me wherever I am. I do like our physical home, the rooms we have, the outdoor space we can enjoy, and much more.

As I think about home as an irrevocable condition, I am most grateful for my recovery from alcoholism. It has brought me home in ways that nothing else could have. I was destroying myself with alcohol and alcoholic thinking. Recovery has made me comfortable in my own skin, with my own heart and soul.

That is a wonderful way to describe home, and a reminder to me to keep doing daily work for my daily disease.

Home is also the comfort of waking up next to my husband, in whatever state or city we find ourselves. It means being with family and friends who I trust and am at ease with. It means a peaceful sigh and a feeling that I am right where I should be at this moment.

What does home mean to you?


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Stream of Life

Today I am grateful for the simple pleasure of eating peanut butter and jelly on toast. I am also grateful for the soothing sound of rain from inside my home with a roof, windows, and dry floors.

I came across this quote right as we were spending time on some beaches along the Oregon Coast:

"The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through 
the world and dances in rhythmic measures."  
(Rabindranath Tagore)



This is Neskowin Beach. Seeing the ocean and witnessing the tide, the sounds, the smells, the changing light as the day progresses, are all a real treat for me. I grew up and live in the Midwest. I only visit the ocean and that has only been a handful of times. The awe of nature is all around, but sometimes we notice it more when we go to places we don't often go.

As I walked along the beach, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, I pondered the stories behind the rocks and driftwood that washed ashore. I soaked up the sun and the calming nature of the waves coming and going. Like our lives, sometimes things are calm and sometimes they are stormy. But I don't appreciate shelter in a storm as much if I don't first appreciate the beauty in the quiet.

It is all very humbling to me. My tiny role on this planet. The flow of oceans, rivers, and jet streams.
The gratitude that abounds, even in difficulties. All are part of the stream of life. As humans, we are small in it all, but not small in the difference we can make.

What can I add to the stream of good in the world today? 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lots of Miles, Smiles, and Gratitude

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from a very nice visit with my sister Leonice and sister-in-law Annie. I am also grateful to return to one of my favorite, favorite places--the Oregon Coast.

Darcy and I flew 3,000 miles round-trip to Oregon, and I drove 600 miles to drop Sam off and pick him back up at one of his favorite places--my family's farm in Iowa. So very grateful we were able to make this trip and for the safe travels all around.

I sure appreciated giving my sister Leonice the hug I have been waiting to give her since first hearing of her cancer diagnosis in April. She has completed four of six rounds of chemo and was doing well during our visit. She kept active and that was encouraging to me. It was also reminiscent of my own chemo days. When I was able to work, or exercise, or be out and about, I felt better and like I was going to be okay. That means a lot in the thick of cancer treatment.

Here the two of us are shortly after arriving at Neskowin Beach:


We are sporting smiles and the shirts of our hometown--Ossian, Iowa. That's the thing about siblings. We have much shared experience, and we have our own lives too. Cancer diagnoses and chemo treatments are now part of our shared experience, but so are memories of our youth and the new memories created and conversations shared on this recent trip.

There were many miles covered, smiles shared, and gratitude cultivated. It was a great trip.
Thank you Leonice and Annie!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Changed Forever

Today I am grateful for the lines in my journals that somehow help guide my thoughts. I am also grateful for vehicles in good working order and money to pay for gas for them. 

In the final installment of breaking down a wonderful quote, we get to the dividends, the real meat of it all. Gratitude practice and an open mind and heart work magic on us fragile and flawed human beings.

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life . . . and the world." 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

One might think that after 22 years of daily gratitude journaling and five years of habitually blogging about the topic, that the pace of change has slowed for me. It hasn't. Maybe because I started from such a deep hole of self-pity and self-centered thinking. (Whether I am thinking good or ill of myself, lots of time spent thinking about little ole' me is self-centered.) 

When I started in sobriety, working on recovery from alcoholism, I could have never fathomed going from how I felt then to how I feel today. From self-hatred to self-acceptance is a long journey. The
same is true of gratitude practice. I couldn't have guessed in those early months, as the practice slowly changed my unhealthy perceptions, that it would continue to build and bolster me all these days later.

When I apply gratefulness to my view, I see more of life's blessings, which in turn leads to better choices and more respect for self and others on my part. And a positive ripple becomes a wave carrying me away from darkness and into light, away from mired in muck to energized and moving into the next moments and hours with more peace.

I look forward to where the practice of gratitude will continue to take me. So much more lies ahead. 

I am taking a blog break until next week. Until then, keep a grateful mindset and keep sharing what you discover. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Transcendent Moments of Awe

Today I am grateful for a good visit to the vet for Oliver and for the kind and gentle approach used by the vet and staff where we go. I am also grateful for the feel of raindrops on my skin. 

Here is part three of the quote dissection and interpretation that is underway: 

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life . . . and the world." 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Transcendent moments of awe can be as simple as realizing that my son's facial features are all his, but also parts of his father and I.

Or the wave of gratitude that hits my skin as I feel a cooling breeze and give thanks for my sense of touch.

Maybe it can be as routine as watching another sunrise sitting on our front patio. The same patio and the same sun, on a new day in a new way. It makes all the difference. There is nothing routine about a sunrise when one is really paying attention to it.

Exceptional. Incomparable. Spiritual. Awe is all of these things when I am fully tuned in. Simple awe, fully experienced, humbles me and brings grace to my mindset. A grace-filled mindset takes in the day a lot more patiently and intentionally than a racing mindset does.

Here's to experiencing some transcendent moments of awe today. The sun showing itself through a gap in some clouds is my moment right here, right now. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Encountering Everyday Epiphanies

Today I am grateful for what writing poetry has allowed me to give to myself and also share with others. I am also grateful for an easy morning run to work my muscles after a long training run on Saturday. 

I appreciated the time Darcy and I spent at my friend Claire's 80th birthday party yesterday. She has touched many lives and I am grateful to be one of them. She wears her age well--because she starts from the inside with heart, soul, and an energetic spirit. 

Back to breaking down this quote: 

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life . . . and the world." 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

To encounter epiphanies, I need to slow myself and my thinking down, even momentarily, or I miss the message in the moment. No, I don't spend my day moment by moment receiving one epiphany after another. Still, when I can be still, I get the awakening that comes with realizing that I am full of life, full of ideas, full of potential. 

Encountering everyday epiphanies. To encounter means to be open and willing to receive, and to also have faith in the unknown. Everyday means the mundane and simple, and it also means where most of our joy lives. Big days and significant events don't and won't happen often, and we would be in trouble if they did. Epiphanies happen when I am paying attention. I read one definition of epiphany that said "grasping reality." My reality is that I am richly blessed with a new day ahead to be lived. 

Just for now. It can be enough to carry me forward more peacefully and more productively. Let's each 
be open to encountering everyday epiphanies in the hours ahead. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Breaking Down a Quote

Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday morning with Darcy, for time with our grandson Leo, and for my friend Claire.

We try to never forget how fortunate we are to be able to run, cover the distances we do, and also share in this passion for staying fit and challenging ourselves with marathons. Leo's energy and playful smile warm my heart. Claire turns 80 today. We met through breast cancer support group and I am so thankful we did. She has such spirit! Happy Birthday Claire!

I am also grateful for words and the way they carry so much meaning. They can be mixed and matched and placed in countless combinations that provoke food for thought.

Here is a quote that says so much it really needs to be broken down:

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life . . . and the world." 
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Gratitude bestows reverence. Appreciation grants deep respect. That which we pause and give our full attention to is more fully understood as a gift to be treasured. A sense of respect allows better treatment and more compassion. . . whether it be a person, place, or thing.

The reverence bestowed by gratefulness creates a kinder, gentler approach and we all benefit.

Start there. Just for today. 



Friday, July 21, 2017

The Next Breath

Today I am grateful for a comfortable bed and pillows for rest. I am also grateful for the insights of our son Sam and that he shares them.

"It is enough to be grateful for the next breath."  Br. David Steindl-Rast

In busy times, days with full schedules, and the way I tend to expect much of myself, these words are like a salve applied to the spinning parts of my overactive mind. A salve to reduce friction and slow the rotation, allowing me to return more fully to the present.

Admittedly, on some days the reprieve is short and the spinning ramps up again, but even a short reprieve is better than none. Gratitude is really about perspective and perception, and it is surprising how a few moments of mindful gratitude can reel in a runaway brain and bring me back to heart and soul.

Brother David is one of my favorite writers and proponents of the virtue of gratefulness. He has done much to advance the simple practice of simply noticing the world around us in this moment. I have numerous posts that include the words of Brother David. Are You Awake? is one from the early months of this blog.

If I can spend a few of my waking moments each day fully appreciating the breath of life, I can have a good day. If I can do that every hour, it is an even better day.

Fully awake. Fully appreciating this breath that carries me forward to the next.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nora McInerny-"It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)"

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to share my breast cancer experiences with someone newly diagnosed. I am also grateful for rain that we needed.

Tuesday I wrote about Nora McInerny's podcast "Terrible, Thanks for Asking." In one of the first podcasts I listened to, McInerny called Anne Lamott "her patron saint."  I knew I would like her work after hearing that. I haven't been disappointed.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors and McInerny does in fact have a similar style. Real feelings. Real messy. Real pain and poignancy. Real funny. Her memoir It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) is worth the read. It weaves stories of her upbringing and early adult years with the defining events of a miscarriage, and her father and her husband both dying of cancer, all within a few weeks.



Grief is something that we all face, sooner or later. The more we live life and the longer we live it, losses will occur. They can't be avoided. When it comes to how to handle grieving, there are many suggestions and words of advice, but it still comes down to an individual process taken uniquely by each person going through it.

There is no set timeline. No final wrap-up and move on. There is the facing of painful emotions and the sharing of joyful memories. Nora McInerny writes very well about all of it, and quickly pulled me in as a reader.

I feel deeply, so I appreciate books, podcasts, conversations, and other experiences that bring a range of emotions. It all makes me feel alive and helps me further explore my life and myself. Thank you Nora McInerny! Your book aided in my exploration.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pause and Say "Ah"

Today I am grateful for conversations with my friends Julie and Sheila yesterday, and for the beauty of the fog-laden sunrise this morning.

In the light of that sunrise, literally and figuratively, this quote from www.gratefulness.org  was especially fitting as I scrolled through my email inbox just now:

When before the beauty of a sunset or a mountain, you pause and exclaim, 
"Ah," you are participating in divinity." 
Ancient Hindu Text

Participating in divinity, or rushing headlong into my day and the long list of what I think I need to get done?  It should be an easy call. Yet, my brain tries to pull me from a divine view and back into ramped up thinking. 

So I pause, and I practice. I pause and appreciate the filtered sun through the low fog and the top branches of the pine tree across the street. I pause again and feel the rhythm of my breathing. I pause again. "Ah," the beauty of nature is stunning and awesome. And I get to be here to not only witness it, but to experience it.

Pause and say "Ah" a few times today. I plan to. Back to Nora McInerny's writing tomorrow. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Looking for a Podcast? Try "Terrible, Thanks for Asking"

Today I am grateful for the ease of finding online images to use in lessons/presentations I am preparing for next school year. I am also grateful for the connections I have with others in recovery and how we laugh and commiserate.

Add podcasts to my gratitude list too. Podcasts were pretty new to me a few months ago when my friend Kelly suggested  "Terrible, Thanks for Asking."  Podcasts are simply audio files that can be downloaded off of the internet and listened to at your convenience on any number of devices. They often are a series with episodes and seasons just like television shows.

So I gave a listen to a couple of episodes of "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" and I really appreciated them. I have now listened to many of the episodes from season 1 and some of the mini-episodes as well. I look forward to season 2. This podcast is a creation of writer Nora McInerny, who hails from the Twin Cities area.

McInerny had a miscarriage, and watched both her husband and her father die of cancer, all within a matter of weeks back in 2014. The premise of her podcast is to talk about the tough stuff, to not say the obligatory "fine" when someone asks us how we are doing. (Unless, of course, we are fine.)

From the website, here are the words describing TTFA:

You know how every day someone asks “how are you?” And even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say “fine,” so everyone can go about their day? This show is the opposite of that. Hosted by author (It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)) and notable widow (her words) Nora McInerny, this is a funny/sad/uncomfortable podcast about talking honestly about our pain, our awkwardness, and our humanness, which is not an actual word.

Her approach is compassionate, genuine, and runs the range of emotions. She has a comfortable style imbued with wonderful humor. In other words, my kind of material. Pain, loss, and grief are part of our human existence. Let's talk about them and shine light on them so we can keep living and have some hope and healing. That's this podcast in a nutshell. 

I encourage you to give a listen to TTFA. More tomorrow on Nora McInerny's book. Thanks for the suggestion Kelly!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Packed and Unpacked

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend and for the productive and successful time we had moving my mother-in-law Marlene.

I am thinking today of several people currently facing cancer treatment, decisions, and results; especially Leonice, Eric, Pam, Jessie, and Katie.

Back to Marlene and her move. She has known for years that her home would be replaced by a major road construction project in her community of Sioux Falls, SD. The process picked up about a year ago with meetings and paperwork, and this spring she started looking for a new place.

Real estate moves quickly in Sioux Falls, and she was lucky to find a nice place that is a good fit in a desirable location. It will work well for her, with the ability to stay on one level for everything she needs. The lower level will give us pleasant space to stay in when we come to visit.

Darcy, Sam, and I, along with his sister and her family, were able to get everything moved. Marlene had packed much of it up already, making things go more quickly. It was hard work and I used muscles that don't get used when I run. But I am grateful we could all pitch in, and Marlene was most appreciative too.

I wouldn't want to be moving someone every weekend, but it is fun and exciting when you get to do it from time to time. We were a good moving team and even got to enjoy our first night in the new place on Saturday night.

I am grateful for family and for the physical capabilities that were put to use this weekend, as well as the laughter and the time together. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Shine On! (According to the Upanishads)

Today I am grateful for 4-wheeled vehicles and their convenience. I am also grateful for ears that can hear the various sounds coming from those vehicles as they pass by or as I drive.

Consider this quote:
As the Sun shines upon my heart, 
so may my heart shine upon others!
The Upanishads


I was not familiar with the Upanishads and erroneously thought they were a group of people. They are actually ancient writings. According to Wikipedia: The Upanishads are a collection of ancient Sanskrit texts that contain some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism, some of which are shared with Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

I consider myself an eclectic spiritual being and though I was raised and currently practice Christian denominations, I draw faith and spirituality from many sources. Really, most religions have more similarities than differences anyway, in my opinion. It comes down to respect and reverence shown to others and the earth. In some faiths, that also includes reverence to a certain god.  

The Higher Power or Great Spirit I refer to personally is like the Sun in many ways. Encompassing much more than me. Giving off light and life to those who put themselves in its path. So a spiritual path, and a path of contribution and good, comes from both seeking light and giving off light. 

I can do that by being around others who light the way, lighten my burdens, lighten the mood when needed, even as I try to do the same. I can do that by practicing gratitude, being a good listener, seeking to be of service.  

There are many ways to shine on. Go do some shining today! 

I will be taking a blog break and be back early next week. Have a good day, moment by moment. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily Work for Daily Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the morning light and the way it welcomes us all to a new day. I am also grateful for the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Today is Brother David's 91st birthday. Find our more about him at www.gratefulness.org.

I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that recovery from alcoholism requires daily work. "Daily work for a daily disease" is a phrase I both like and dislike. Sometimes I don't want to put in the effort and do the things that help me stay sober and sane. Experience is the best teacher though, and I know I am a better contributor and less of a contaminator when I do the daily work.

And please know that on many days this effort is invigorating for me, not drudgery.

It became more joyful and less laborious when I started to include regular gratitude practice after five years of sobriety. Slow learner here.

Daily work for daily gratitude helps me with my daily disease of alcoholism.

All things worth having require some effort don't they? (Don't buy the quick fix, easy solution hypes we are sold.) That includes better health through exercise and also healthy relationships. Relationships include the ones we have with ourselves as well as others and our surrounding environment.

Keep the gratitude flowing regularly and it comes through like a good insurance policy on the days when we want to say "no thanks."

My friend Steve Foran makes it easy to keep this daily gratitude flowing with his Daily Gratitudes.
I try to contribute several times a week, and just as importantly I try to read the gratitudes listed by others. If you haven't tried it, you may be surprised at how you feel a bump up in your own level of gratefulness when you simply take the time to read what others are thankful for.

A fitting closing to today's post are these words from Steve Foran, which I wholeheartedly agree with:

"When gratitude is at work in your life... everything is different. Everything."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One Husband and Two Sisters

Today I am grateful for the morning critters I have viewed from our back patio. This morning that included a squirrel, a rabbit, and a fox. I am also grateful for a productive day at work yesterday.

I appreciate the words and writing of so many people. Some I know personally, others I don't. The three I am mentioning today I do happen to know pretty well.

My husband Darcy is a deacon in our church and gives sermons every few months. He just did one this last Sunday. He studies the Gospel reading, does some research, incorporates his own experiences, and does a really nice job sharing a relatable message. A couple things he focused on Sunday included how we approach our email inboxes at work can either heighten or lessen our stress. And also pausing to "let go and let God" is time spent well. Amen to both. Thanks Darcy!

The other two writers I want to give a shout out and a thank you to are my sisters Danita and Aileen. We keep in regular email contact and I really appreciated seeing both of them at a recent family wedding weekend. As the baby sister, I likely followed them around some when we were growing up. In recent years, they have followed me into the blogosphere. I'm so grateful they have.

Here are links to their blogs:

Aileen's at Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events

Danita's at Aging Wrinkles and Wonders

Impressive and heartfelt. Thank you both! We remind each other and ourselves that "real writers really write." We support and encourage one another and we write!

Thank you to my one husband and two of my sisters for continuing to inspire me to write on and to live each day mindfully.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and the way he just naturally stretches before we go for a walk.
I appreciate this and other lessons from our four-legged friends.

Bless the beasts and the children. They give me good doses of gratitude.

Yesterday afternoon, Darcy and I had the opportunity to take our grandson Leo to one of our local parks to play. I appreciate that we have so many options right here in town. We put him in the stroller and walked to one a few blocks away. He hadn't been to this one before, so it was new territory to explore.

It was fun to watch him run from one thing to another. It was a blessing to hear his laughter and see the joy on his face from the simple pleasure of play.

Then there is Oliver. He has been with us for nine years now. He often wants to play and sometimes
gets a willing participant. At other times, he is thwarted in his enthusiasm, but we still get a chuckle and some good vibes from watching the little guy.

Bless the beasts and the children. Let us appreciate play time as adults too. One of my play activities this summer is reading some fiction. I mostly read nonfiction and, though insightful and enjoyable, it can also be draining. Some good fiction brings more fun.

Bless the beasts and the children. And follow their lead. Play a little today. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Standing in the Sky

Today I am grateful for the peace in silence and for the enjoyment of a good burger after a run.

The quote below really hit me yesterday morning, right before we headed out for a long training run.

"Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, 
but the sky actually begins at the earth."  (Diane Ackerman)

I had truly never thought about it this way, but it makes sense. Where the ground or soil ends is where the earth's atmosphere begins. We are surrounded mainly by nitrogen and oxygen, with smaller amounts of other gases like carbon dioxide and argon.

There is no need to leave the ground to reach the atmosphere. It surrounds us and we gratefully breathe in what we need. I find this humbling and a good reminder of the small role that we as humans really have in the whole scheme of the universe.

That still leaves me plenty for which to be thankful; including the success of that long run Darcy and I did yesterday, running through the sky and all.

Funny how considering standing in the sky brings a deep sense of being grounded in grace and gratefulness. It's a good start to another precious day. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Come Alive

Today I am grateful for a cooler morning breeze and for reminders of the peace found in acceptance.

I appreciated all the birthday wishes via phone calls, cards, text messages, emails, and Facebook. It was a pleasant day. "Better older than deader" continues to be my approach to birthdays.

Consider these words:

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
(Howard Thurman)

Writing helps me come alive. Recovery and running do too. Talking with interesting people (in other words EVERYBODY I get the opportunity to talk to) also expands my experience and the livelihood that comes with paying attention, real attention.

As I pondered turning 52 and having another birthday, I thought about those who will have no more birthdays, those who have died in the last year. Some lived long lives, others far too short. But we all
started the same way; coming alive at the moment of conception.

That is a pretty amazing thing to consider. A tiny start and then we become these diverse and unique
individuals and we make a difference in many ways to many people and to the world around us.

Gratitude practice brings me fresh perspective and new life each day. What makes you come alive?
Let's all go about the business of spreading the potential of this precious life today.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Variety of Hangovers

Today I am grateful for morning coffee and peace and quiet on my front porch. I am also grateful for the gift of daily recovery from alcoholism and those who support me in this effort.

I am thinking especially of those who are suffering from active alcoholism or who are early in sobriety. Finding hope and some light in the darkness can be tough, but it is possible. It is more than possible, it is waiting for you. Know that I am here holding a light for you all.

After doing a quick search of my 1600 + posts on this blog, I was surprised that "hangovers" only showed up 13 times before. They showed up often in my drinking days. I don't miss these alcohol-induced hangovers at all.

There are other types of hangovers though. I have an emotional hangover after a full weekend and family time together that I looked forward to for months. The time together included a lot of fun and was overall pleasant and appreciated. The hangover comes in with the letdown of it now being over. And some of it stems from the the changes and challenges that members of my family are facing, and my concern for them.

Today is my birthday. I am 52 years young. I am filled with gratitude to have 52 years behind me. So many rich blessings have filled those years. I look forward to the year ahead with those I love and doing the things I love most.

It's been a long time since I found it necessary to celebrate my birthday with alcohol. My ongoing gift to myself is no more hangovers on my birthday or any day. Instead, there is much gratefulness to drink in and pass on.

Thanks and have a good day!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Family Ties

Today I am grateful for the time with family over the last several days; the walks, conversations, celebrations, food shared, love extended. I am especially grateful for my mom and my siblings and the relationships we maintain. 

Congratulations to our niece Kiane and her husband Brad and wishing the newlyweds all the best! Their wedding day was beautiful in so many ways and the gorgeous weather was a special gift for them and all of us.

Our sister Leonice and our brother Morry weren't able to join us, but we know you were with us in spirit. That meant seven of the sisters and four of the brothers gathered together. We more fully appreciate such times as the years go by. 

There were many emotions that I encountered during our time together, and many surrounded the fact that aging is impacting all of us. Our own, and that of others. There are so many blessings I witnessed, and our family continues to grow and thrive. Yet, there was an underlying sadness and concern in the things that have changed, in the challenges that continue for many of us. 

I got a chuckle out of this pillow that was at the guest house several of us stayed at:



And here are seven sisters with niece Linley, the designer of the shirts we are all wearing. We especially felt the absence of our sister Leonice, currently undergoing cancer treatment. 


The family time together is cherished and the hugs and love shared are genuine. That is what matters most. The next generation and their own families are seeing a good example of family ties. Family shares both the joys and the sorrows. This weekend brought more joy and for that I am truly grateful.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sensory Overload or Loaded Senses

Today I am grateful for our home and for working air conditioning. We needed it after humidity made
a quick return.

I am thinking especially of my sister Leonice as she has her third round of chemotherapy later today. This is round 3, so after today she will be halfway through.

Sensory overload is a term I think we can all understand, and I think it is becoming more common than is good for us. Various screens beckon us. A full and busy schedule keeps us going from one thing to another. We are bombarded with sounds, images, demands, going to and from, in and out.

I prefer loaded senses. This is when I take the time to pause and pay attention to what my senses are sensing. It brings me back to the present moment. It slows me down. It helps me find some calm and gratitude.

Yesterday I took a chance as I headed out for a mid-morning run. It had rained on and off for hours, but wasn't raining when I left. I knew it would be hit or miss if I would stay dry the whole way. But I don't mind running in the rain.

I was already tuning in to sights like the reflections I could see in the puddles of rain on the trail or the family of finches that flew off as I rounded a corner, and sounds like the breeze in the trees and my breathing.

Then the rain returned. I appreciated the new sounds and smells, and the way the rain felt on my skin. We had a nice run together, the rain and I. Loaded senses left me feeling energized and blessed.

My goals today: Avoid sensory overload. Seek loaded senses.

I will be taking a blog break and will be back after the 4th of July. Have a good day and a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Nose for Gratitude

Today I am grateful for all five of my senses, and especially my sense of smell this morning. I am also grateful for Darcy's support of my writing endeavors.

I gave myself a little assignment earlier today: notice the smells around you. Here are some that I appreciated in the short while I was especially paying attention:

*The smell of fresh coffee brewing, and then in my cup heading to my mouth.
*The scent of our laundry detergent and freshener.
*The way rain smells as it falls and then in the minutes and hours after it is done and before
the ground and streets get dry.
*The egg whites I fried for breakfast.
*Our wet dog Oliver.
*My new gratitude journal and the pen I use. Subtle scents, but they are there.
*The banana I had, and realizing that I could probably close my eyes and smell a banana
and tell you if it is still ripening, just ripe, or overly so.
*The faint hint of car exhaust mixed in with the rain as I walked Oliver.
*The newness of the most recent issue of a magazine we subscribe to.

And for each of these olfactory gifts, I could list several more reasons to be grateful. That is the nature of gratefulness. When you find some, it leads to more.

Smell your way through the gratitudes that today can offer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Properly Charged

Today I am grateful for a pleasant visit with my friend Betsy and the pleasant weather to go with it.  I am also grateful for daily recovery and the people who support me in it.

It struck me recently the role that chargers now play in our lives. They are prevalent in our home for our three phones and one computer. We have phone chargers in various places so you never have to go far if you need one. My work computer and our home computer use the same charger, so that is also a nice convenience when I am doing some work at home.

We are device-dependent now more than ever. Which also makes us charger dependent as well.
My husband and son will let their phone charge levels get fairly low before they plug in to a charger. Mine rarely gets below 50% before I am making sure it is recharging. That kind of summarizes my approach to life and always trying to be on top of things.

Properly charged devices can help things go smoothly, but it's only one part of an equation that also includes things like WiFi reception and internet speed. A charged device doesn't guarantee a whole lot.

Which led my brain down a different path. How do I keep myself properly charged?  What energy source do I plug in to regularly? Rest is important, as is proper fuel. I do pretty well with these, but some days are better than others.

Gratefulness is a great source of proper energy and perspective. I try to stay tuned to it daily, and throughout the day. It takes practice and it takes action, but it gives me far more meaning in life than
any fully-charged piece of technology ever will.

Are you properly charging your heart, soul, and mind today?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Filled Up

Today I am grateful for each entry in my most recent gratitude journal and for the ability to run when I want and push myself to run faster when I feel like it.

This morning I wrote the last entry in the gratitude journal I have been using for about 15 months. It is filled up now, front to back, with a couple daily gratitudes, a daily prayer to my Higher Power asking for help, and with several prayer intentions for others to wrap up each entry. I have a new journal ready to start fresh tomorrow.

Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best and healthiest habits I have. I have no intention of stopping. Do I wake up each day excited to write in it? Not every day. But I do it anyway. Just like running and other exercise. Some days I am motivated, and on other days a little reluctant.

I know this to be true though--about both my gratitude journaling and my running--I always feel better when I do them. It is easier to maintain a habit when good results are pretty much guaranteed.
And for those days when I feel little gratitude, I still take the action and it helps. The downward spiral is halted, or at least slowed. That makes all the difference.

The beauty is that those downward spirals happen less and less, and are shorter and shorter. It works. It really does. And if you remain a scoffer, please know that this isn't forced gratitude, it is simply the gentle practice of pausing and looking for the gifts in life in this moment.

Today's "Word for the Day" at gratefulness.org is a fitting way to close this post.

"The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy."
Abraham Maslow

I feel most fortunate to have been led to seeking gratitude by wise souls and that the practice quickly proved itself beneficial. So I continue. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Pleasant Gathering

Today I am grateful for time with family and comfortable and cool weather.

Yesterday we helped host a baby shower for our daughter-in-law Alyssa. My stepdaughter Emily planned the event and there was a nice turnout of people. With blended families and in-laws, a mix of people is created that only comes together occasionally. It is nice to have a celebratory time to bring us together.

A special thank you to all those who traveled from out of state to join us. There was good food, entertaining games, lots of fun baby presents to see, and the opportunity for a group picture.

Arthur and Alyssa are expecting their first child, a boy, in late August. It is an exciting time for new parents and the people around them. We hope the pregnancy continues to go well and pray especially for a safe labor and delivery.

I am also thinking about three nieces on my side of the family. One just had their third child. Another, along with her husband, is due very soon with her second child and their first together. A third niece and her husband are expecting their first child in a few weeks.

With the heaviness of recent months and some difficult and devastating happenings in the lives of people I care about, it is uplifting to have a pleasant gathering like the one we had yesterday and new lives to welcome.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Outdoor Seating

Today I am grateful for comfortable couches and for a splash of almond milk in my coffee. I am also
grateful for hearty laughter and funny TV shows (I don't watch much TV, but recommend Mom and Life in Pieces.)

I am enjoying outdoor seating on our back patio this morning. I try to partake of this on many summer mornings. Sometimes I sit on our front patio, sometimes on the back patio. I am grateful to have a home and two nice patio areas. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and his knack for creating calm and colorful spaces in these areas.

I love the early mornings, the fresh start to a day. I have always been a morning person and sleeping in for me is 6:00 a.m.  I don't want to miss this time.

Darcy, Sam, and I enjoyed outdoor seating of another kind the other evening. We went to a local restaurant that has added an outdoor patio area. It is a great space in a great location in our downtown. I am grateful for this new space to enjoy as well, and for our community and all of its appealing attractions.

Outdoor seating puts me in nature, puts me amidst sights and sounds that seem richer and fuller to me than many indoor sights and sounds. I appreciate the opportunity to slow down and start this day with some outdoor time.

Where is your favorite outdoor seating? I hope you are able to enjoy time there soon.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Four Sounds

Today I am grateful for my sense of hearing and that one of the things I could hear this morning was a phone conversation with my friend Sheila.

I also tuned in to what I was hearing as Darcy and I took a run earlier today.

There were four sounds I focused on:

1. The birds singing their various songs. I am not a good birder and couldn't identify all that I was hearing, but there were at least five or six different birds we heard. Just like humans have different languages and accents, birds have so many different sounds.

2. The traffic flowing. We were mostly running in a residential area, so it wasn't loud traffic. More the approaching vehicle, the hum of engines and the grind of tires, then the retreating sound as the vehicle moved away. And in the distance, the sound of traffic at highway speed. The traffic sounds are oddly soothing to me. They seem to tell me the day is a normal one with normal activities.

3. The sound of our feet hitting the sidewalk, trails, and roads that we ran on. I could hear Darcy's feet in a different way than I heard and felt my own. Both sounds reminded me of the gratitude I have
that we can both run and that we share this time together.

4. My own breathing. We weren't pushing our pace today, so my breaths in and out were pretty smooth. And a reminder to me of the air that I am freely given and the life it provides.

Four sounds. Plenty of gratitude. What are you hearing today that brings you gratefulness?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Closed Doors, Opened Doors

Today I am grateful for a pleasant walk/run with my friend Sara and nice mornings on our patio with Darcy.

I am on a quote kick this week. If you like these, I get many of them from the "Word for the Day" at gratefulness.org.

Helen Keller has always been an inspiration to me. I wrote about another quote from her in Overcoming Suffering last November. Talk about making the most of life, even with significant limitations. At 19 months old, an illness left her both blind and deaf. She went on to lead a full life, and earn both significant formal and informal educations. She left a wonderful legacy with her activist work for the disadvantaged and wonderful words like the ones below.

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long
 at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."
(Helen Keller)

She had doors closed. If she would have kept lamenting those closed doors, we wouldn't be where we are today with our culture's view of those who are disabled or lacking key capabilities that most of us take for granted.

Most of us won't go on to leave a mark nationally and internationally like Helen Keller did. Yet, we can each leave our mark on our part of the world and the people in it.

Doors will close that we don't want closed. Doors will close with our help. Either way, emotional weight may keep us stuck staring at the closed door. Look around. Release burdens. Pray. Have faith.
Reach out to others. Find gratitude.

Look again. Chances are you will see an open door. Move forward to it and into this day. Leave your mark.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Boredom

Today I am grateful for my eyesight and the various tones of color in the clouds I am viewing this morning. I am also grateful for butter on toasted bagels.

Another quote today, just five short words:

"Boredom is a lack of attention." 
(Fritz Perls)

Interesting that this quote comes from Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy is the focus on how our current emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are impacting us. In the time it was developed, psychotherapy often focused more on one's past and how it was impacting the person in the present. 

Gestalt therapy doesn't negate the past, but focuses more on present circumstances and how to achieve growth and balance. As I studied various theories in college and graduate school, I liked numerous aspects of Gestalt therapy.

So it isn't surprising that Perls penned this phrase, because paying attention is all about the present and the surrounding environment we find ourselves in. 

I know in today's world it can seem like there is too much to pay attention to, but we choose where we put our focus. We really do. Tune out and dismiss what doesn't matter. Tune in and focus on what does. 

I can honestly say I am rarely if ever bored. I aspire to more balance and calm in my days, but that starts with paying attention here and now. As I do that in this moment, I am hearing a wide variety of sounds around me, near and father away. Sounds are a good thing to tune into.

Which one of your senses is asking you to pay attention now? 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Normal Day

Today I am grateful for our son Sam and the nice meal he prepared for Father's Day. I am also grateful for the way writing helps me clarify my thoughts and feelings.

Here is a quote to consider on this Monday:

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in the quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow."
(Mary Jean Irion)

I appreciate these words and that regular gratitude practice has taught me more about what this quote really means. Each day is a gift. If I am always in pursuit of better days, I am missing the goodness in today, regardless of what is going on.

None of us knows how many days we will get. We make assumptions. We take things for granted. It often takes a shock, a mishap, a diagnosis, a full-blown tragedy for people to again be reminded of what priorities we have and what really matters most.

Interestingly enough, the woman who wrote the quote above, Mary Jean Irion, has had many people assume her name was spelled Iron, not Irion. Read here for more information about that. 

Today's lessons: Don't assume you know the correct spelling of a person's name. And don't assume today is just a day to get through on your way to a better day.

Make today a better day! 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers

Today I am grateful for my own father, Arthur, and for my husband Darcy and the wonderful and present father and grandfather he is.

This day can come loaded with emotions that truly run the gamut. I am thinking especially of my stepson Arthur, and his wife Alyssa, expecting the birth of their first child in late August. My friend Sheila's husband Dave facing his first Father's Day after the death of their daughter Carli. My friend Betsy whose father passed away less than two weeks ago.

Plenty of emotions. Lots of love. Many memories. It all adds up to the blessings and lessons our own fathers brought us, and the other fathers who continue to impact our lives.

A special thank you to Darcy, for helping me be a better parent and stepparent, and for having the courage and heart to break a pattern of fatherhood in his own family. It was a pattern that needed breaking and it has made all of the difference to his children and to me.

My sister Zita posted an old photo of our dad on Facebook yesterday. It reminded me of this photo that I have of him: 


We don't know the year this picture was taken, but we are guessing he was in his late teens or early twenties and it was in the early 1940's.  For most of my memory, my dad wore striped bib overalls as he went about the work of farming. He got dressed up for church, square dancing, and special occasions. But I only remember him wearing button down dress shirts, not collared polos like this one. 

My dad was 41 when I was born, #11 of his 13 children. I think wistfully about the child and young man he was. It is a time that remains mysterious to all children regarding their parents. It makes hearing some of the stories from those earlier days all the more precious.

It has been nearly 19 years since he died, but I still miss you Dad and feel your presence in my life. Thank you!

Happy Father's Day to all dads out there! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stopped In My Tracks

Today I am grateful for the soothing sound of running water and for bagels and peanut butter. I am
also grateful when clarity of thoughts and feelings come through.

The other day I was enjoying a slower pace to my morning. Most weekday mornings during the year, I would be well into my workday by 8:30 a.m.  The other day I was just heading out for a run.

I had a certain route I was on, mostly because I was on an errand to take a picture for my other blog Late Bloomer and Slow Learner. As I neared the bridge I wanted to capture a photo of, I was stopped short in my tracks by a train stopped on the railroad tracks. This stretch of track is a short line and rarely has traffic that interferes with our running, biking, or walking.

I took a look at the situation and determined I would be better off taking a detour rather than waiting. First, though, I clicked a couple pictures and started composing a blog post in my head. It wasn't until some time later that I realized what had happened. Duh! Sometimes I have to have things pretty much thrown in my face to notice them.

I was composing the post, thinking how the pictures I had taken would be a nice touch, and how pictures always seem to get more people to look at my blog posts. Then the zinger came through. That very morning, I had written a post titled Swerving and had commended myself for making progress in pausing and tuning into my breath when I needed to slow down during my day.

The Great Spirit in my life gave me a great opportunity to do just that on my run; pause and take some mindful breaths.

Instead, I took pictures, started some thoughts in my head for a post, and danced around a little before taking off on my detour. I lost the moment. I lost the stillness in surrendering and accepting. Granted, I was feeling pretty good anyway; out on a run, hours ahead of me in my day that could be flexible. But I still got caught up in the busyness, in the next task, in the constant stream of ideas and images that fill my head, sometimes to my detriment.

So this post is a confession. A coming clean. A plea for self-forgiveness. An effort to try easier. The pictures I took of the train are still on my phone, but you won't see them here. The post that came out in these paragraphs isn't the one I started in my head the other day, but it is the one meant to be written.

Stopped in my tracks, first by a train, then by a gentle nudge from my Higher Power. Lighten up and slow down Lisa! Some moments of the day should be filled with nothing but a pause.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

41 Years

Today I am grateful for the co-workers, past and present, that I got to see last evening. And I am especially grateful for Colleen, whose retirement we were gathered to celebrate.

Colleen's career at our school spanned 41 years. Forty-one years!  She taught French, built strong peer tutoring and peer listening programs from the ground up, and gave her leadership to our accreditation and school improvement process for many years.

I have a great deal of respect for Colleen and we always worked well together, regardless of the task at hand. She is the real deal as far as a quality educator and a truly genuine person goes. She will be missed, but she so fully deserves the opportunity to embrace retirement. I wish you the best Colleen and hope you fully enjoy the slower pace and more time with family and friends.

A prayer service started out the evening and was titled "41 Years in 5 Words."  Five different people, ranging from past and present co-workers, to former students, to good friends, took turns speaking about Colleen's dedication, caring, fairness, wisdom, and sincerity. They captured the essence of a wonderful contributor. And a most genuine listener.

It is already a rarity to work in the same place for 41 years. It is becoming even less likely all the time. Our school community benefited from Colleen's commitment and we give thanks for each of those years, each of those days, each of those hours.

You have made a difference to me professionally and personally Colleen.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Swerving

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo last evening and earlier today, and his vibrant smile. I am also grateful for my sense of touch and the simple pleasure of a cooling breeze this morning.

Yesterday on my way home from work, on a multi-lane highway, one particular vehicle seemed to be in a big hurry and was swerving between all three lanes trying to get a few cars ahead.

And that was about as much as they did, got a few cars, a few seconds, ahead. I wonder if that made the driver feel better. They were erratic and a danger to themselves and the rest of us.

Perhaps something bad had just happened and they were in a hurry to get to a loved one. Or maybe they were angry about something and taking it out on the roadway. I mustered some compassion for that driver, and then gave thanks that it wasn't me. And I kept my distance. Whatever they were up to, I didn't want to be too close. To that negative energy. To that recklessness. 

Some days I feel like that driver and vehicle, swerving through my day. Switching tasks, switching thoughts, switching emotions in a pretty big hurry. There isn't much calm and peace in that.

As I try to practice more mindful meditation in recent weeks, I am reminded to return to my breath. The centering and grounding that can happen by simply pausing and noticing my breathing for a breath or two is palpable. The air going in, my abdominal area rising and falling, the feeling of life-giving breath sustaining me.

Swerving through my day or breathing in the moment? I have a choice. We all do. And even if we start swerving, the brake of breathing in and out can always be applied. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Blank Slate

Today I am grateful for time with other recovering women last evening. I am also grateful for the comfortable bed I get to sleep in and my husband Darcy beside me.

I was pondering several things already this morning in my active mind. Other people who need prayers, support, hope. The day ahead and how much I may or may not get done. Worries and fears.
Times that I am looking forward to, and the people and places that come with them.

As I sat down to start a post, I was uninspired. I have a few drafts started here and there. I will see a quote and want to build on it. Or a thought will come to me when I am running and I will make note of it because I think it will lead to a thoughtful blog post.

Nothing spoke to me this morning. Except the blank slate of the computer screen in front of me.

Indeed, today and every day start as a blank slate. The key for me is to not start filling them up with too many plans, expectations, thoughts, to-do lists. The key is to take it moment by moment and let today's design fill the blank slate as it was meant to be filled.

That takes patience, acceptance, an open mind and heart. Faith beyond our human capacity. Love and tolerance. More patience and acceptance.

Gratitude helps because it keeps me present and becomes the first brush strokes on the blank slate.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Downsizing

Today I am grateful for safe travels for several of us on road trips in recent days, and for vehicles in good working condition. I am also grateful for the comfort of air conditioning on humid days.

One of those road trips was taken by Sam and I yesterday to Iowa. We went to visit my mom in the senior hospice. It was important that I get Sam there to see Grandma in her new home, to get used to this new arrangement. It also allowed Sam time to help his Uncle Artie unload some loads of hay that he had just baled this week. 

Mom wanted to spend some time out at the farm, which was encouraging to me. Before we headed out there, Mom showed us the raised garden at the nursing home that she is tending, with the help of others. My sister Ruth and my brothers Artie and Lee, along with others, have helped her plant some tomatoes, kohlrabi, and a pepper plant.

Here is that raised garden:


It's a small garden when it comes to Mom's typical gardens. Gardens downsized, living space downsized, possessions downsized, short term memory downsized. All of these things are happening to my mom. That is the way of things as a person ages. It is to be expected. But downsizing doesn't mean disappearing.

It is heartening to me that Mom wanted to put some time and energy into caring for one of the three raised gardens at the home where she now lives. Gardening has been such a part of Mom's life and a very rewarding and fortifying activity for her. 

While we were at the farm, we walked out to the garden. We were able to enjoy some fresh lettuce at dinner and a few strawberries before we left to head back to town.

Downsizing in some ways, continuing to transform and emerge in other ways. Isn't that the best we can hope for? 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ease or Dis-ease?

Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday and time to myself, and for time to write, read, and relax. I am also grateful for the gentle and cool breeze I am feeling this morning after a hot and humid day yesterday.

One of the phrases from one of the meditation tracks I have been listening to and practicing is:

"May you/I have ease of being."

Ease of being. Sounds good to me. Sounds tough too. Accepting life on life's terms. Patience. Faith.

Ease of being. Try easier. Resist less. Thinking less often helps too. Let life unfold, or cause it to unravel?

I am sitting outside right now and the sun is preparing to rise in our part of the world. It dawned on me (pun intended) that the sun has ease of being. It does what it does at the same pace each day. It doesn't rush or worry. It just is. And I am very grateful it just is, because we sure need it.

If I don't achieve ease of being, am I living in dis-ease? There is plenty of gray area between those two. I can strive for ease of being, I can wish it for you as you read this, and for others I have in my thoughts today because of struggles or celebrations. Ease of being 100% of the time isn't realistic for me, for any of us.

The times of dis-ease, when heightened to make us uncomfortable, are trying to tell us to look at something, face a fear or emotion, take an action that is needed. Even the times of dis-ease help lead us back to ease of being.

Ease of being. This phrase alone, in the midst of meditation practice and focusing on breathing, helps me feel more calm, helps me think more kindly of others. And myself. It's a good start. A few words matter. Focus on breath matters. An open mind and heart matters.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Weight

Today I am grateful for a morning I could sleep in. I am grateful for the healing power of written words. Sometimes those words are my own, sometimes they are the words of others.

I was absolutely exhausted last evening, in a way different from my usual evening tiredness. I get up early and have full days most of the time, so it isn't unusual to be tired by early evening. This was different. It felt like an accumulation of the last weeks and months of a busy work life, a full personal life that has included much heaviness for many people I care about. And I am included on that list as well.

A song I have always appreciated is The Weight by The Band. "Take a load off."

Take a load off. Rest. Sit. Pause. Let go. Pray. Talk about things. Write about feelings. Rest some more. Let go some more. Pray some more.

There has been grief, fear, pain, life transitions, deaths, a worrisome diagnosis, aging, failings, lack of faith at times. And yet, there is hope in "take a load off."

I have family and friends who care, who listen, who help me gain energy back. Thank you all!

I have running and writing that revive me too. Ever grateful for these and the ability to do both, physically and otherwise.

So the weight seems heavy at times, but it has lightened even since I started writing this post.

None of us is alone in the weight we carry, as long as we don't isolate. Reach out to others, share a smile, a laugh, lighten your load by sharing it with a trusted friend, or be there to hear them out.

It all helps. We all help each other. We all matter. This moment matters. Start here.