"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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Evolve

Today I am grateful for my favorite sweatshirts and the sense of comfort, physical and other, that they provide. I am also grateful for the opportunities I am given to continue to evolve.

EVOLVE. It is defined simply as developing gradually. It takes patience and faith to evolve, and it also takes effort. We don't control every aspect of the evolving that goes on in our bodies and minds, in our hearts and souls, but we certainly are better served by it all when we are willing participants.

I continue to evolve as a wife and mother, a writer, a recovering alcoholic, a runner, a maturing woman. There is plenty going on in this head, heart, and soul and I am happy to report that much of it is positive and productive.

A key reason that is the case today is that I have evolved in my gratitude practice. What started as simply writing down a couple things I was grateful for each day in my gratitude journal has become much more. I have other mindfulness and gratitude practices incorporated in my days; quiet time on commutes, A-Z lists when exercising, gratitude letters and notes to others, this blog, and more.

The increased practice has led to growing insights and inspiration, and also to more focused energy.

It is with anticipation that I look forward to more evolving. I never could have imagined I would be here, comfortable in my own skin and often comfortable in my own head.

Pause and consider the positive evolving going on in and around us today.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fault

Today I am grateful for sunshine yesterday and a nice pace to the day. I am also grateful for the smell of a good meal as it is prepared.

FAULT is a loaded word. Stick with me and I will bring it around to gratitude. There are many definitions for fault, but I want to focus on these: an unattractive or unsatisfactory feature in a person's character; responsibility for something such as an accident or misfortune.

We all have character faults. I am impatient, perfectionistic, and overly efficient among other flaws. My ego has trouble staying properly proportioned. I can think I know it all one moment and try to impress that upon others without even realizing that is what I am doing, or I can feel like a failure and a misfit in another moment.

Accepting my own and other people's faults is hit or miss for me. It depends on my relationship to the other person, as well as my own frame of mind. I can tell you unequivocally, however, that I accept everyone better when I am in a grateful mindset. From myself to my husband, to a co-worker or the store clerk who is really slow when I am in a hurry.

Then there is the fault that has to do with placing blame, finger-pointing at the responsible party when a problem arises or something difficult happens. I have to hop up on my soapbox for a brief rant on this one.

I believe one of our society's biggest crutches right now is that it has become common to do so much finger-pointing and blaming of others that we render ourselves helpless at times. If it is always someone else's fault, action isn't required on my part. I am the victim. Someone else screwed up. They need to fix it.

If that is your expectation, you stay stuck, the problem stays a problem, your energy is wasted, and you develop tunnel vision. And when I say you, I mean me too. We all end up here from time to time.

My goal is to not stay there for long. That is not a fun place to exist. There isn't much positive contribution going on. The tunnel darkens and narrows.

The sooner I return to pausing, seeing what I have to be grateful for, and moving to a solution focus, the sooner I stop contaminating and start contributing. Even in difficult times, when I look for gratitude I can find it.

Instead of laying fault on myself or others and weighing us all down, I consider what I need to do and proceed. That is my goal. Gratitude practice makes it more plausible and possible.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gravitate

Today I am grateful for Sam's successful wrestling tournament yesterday and that his shoulder is doing much better. I am also grateful for Darcy and other parents who made the lengthy tournament
day enjoyable.

I am back to my Z-A list with the word GRAVITATE. To move toward or be attracted to a person, place or thing. When we encouraged Sam to try a winter sport in 6th grade, he leaned to wrestling over basketball or hockey, but was hesitant about any. Once he got involved in wrestling, he really gravitated to it and has remained inclined to it ever since.

We are grateful for that. It has been a positive involvement for him in many ways, and Darcy and I have appreciated getting to know a sport neither of us was very knowledgeable about.

I tend to gravitate towards people in recovery who are working on solutions, not staying stuck in problems. Really, these are the people I am inclined to want to be around in all areas of my life. People who are genuine and honest, and share the muck and mire, but don't stay bogged down by it all.

People who take ownership of their significant part in their own life story, instead of blaming and finger pointing and being a victim. People who have a positive energy and direction and exude that more than they exude self-pity and poor-me. Negative people are such a drain.

I gravitate to regular gratitude practice day after day for many reasons, but one is that I hope to be a person others tend to want to be around or be connected to. Gratefulness makes me kinder and gentler, more calm and a better listener. It is what I strive for anyway, and practice makes progress possible.

Lean into some gratitude practice, whether just starting out or continuing an ongoing effort, and see where it takes you today. Gravitate to gratitude.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

More Where That Came From

Today I am grateful for the success of Darcy's medical procedure yesterday and that he came out of anesthesia pretty well. I am so thankful to the pulmonologist who did the procedure and her compassionate but direct demeanor, and to all who assisted her from start to finish in big and small ways.

Hindsight: there's always more where that came from. So more hindsight before moving on to the letter G. The procedure Darcy had yesterday was an advanced bronchoscopy to remove a hamartoma (benign tumor) in the left lower lobe of his lung. It was blocking a bronchiole and causing recurring pneumonia.

A post from December 6 and this post from December 8 both are about the initial bronchoscopy Darcy had, awaiting biopsy results, and the huge relief in news of a benign tumor. In the 6 weeks or so since then, we have many times returned to the gratitude we feel that Darcy isn't dealing with something more serious.

But as yesterday's procedure approached, there was also concern and trepidation. He had never been under full anesthesia before, so he had the fear of the unknown that no one else can quell entirely. And though low risk, this procedure could still become problematic and have far greater ramifications than a same-day procedure would have.

As we headed to the hospital early in the morning, all of those varied emotions came along. Add to it that I was now the loved one sitting in the same hospital waiting area Darcy had sat in for my bilateral mastectomies eight years ago.

Before recent events, he had the hindsight of a caretaker and I had the hindsight of a patient. Now, we both know at least some of what the other was going through. It adds a layer of understanding that you can't get any other way.

With this new hindsight, we also gain fresh insight and foresight. Each day is a gift. Live it well.
Find peace and share it. Give love and receive it. Don't wait. Start now.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Hindsight

Today I am grateful for the others parents we have gotten to know through Sam's activities. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his unconditional love.

HINDSIGHT is today's word. It refers to understanding an event or happening after it has taken place or become more fully developed. "Hindsight is 20/20" is a phrase often heard. I think about the many important insights I have gained by looking back on something just experienced. It may have been hours or days, or perhaps weeks, months or years.

There is only one way to get to the hindsight. Keep plugging along. It helps to not overthink it; trying to predict or push for outcomes. It also is important to keep the faith and believe, even in difficult times, that we will glean some positives and gratefulness when it is all said and done. This has been my experience time and time again. Writing about it just helps the hindsight crystallize.

Hindsight requires pausing and patience. If I don't give myself and life some time and reflection, I race right past the messages, new knowledge, and fresh perspectives that are possible.

Pause patiently and look back today. What do you see?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Isolating

Today I am grateful for Culver's custard, comfortable shoes, and family and friends who enrich my life.

I return to my Z-A list today with the word ISOLATING. Setting apart. Separating. In this case, humans isolating themselves is what comes to my mind first.  People in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions talk about the danger in isolating. Pulling away. Not choosing to be around those working on recovery. Staying in one's own mind and space.

These are indeed dangerous places for people suffering from a disease that primarily rests in the mind. If I isolate, I only have my own thoughts to rely on. It can become a slippery slope quickly, because my alcoholic mind starts to think some pretty tricky thoughts when left alone too long.

I am also thinking about isolating as it refers to one of the drawbacks of technology and screen time. It would seem that we are more connected than ever in terms of social media, email, text messages, etc. In reality, they isolate us because they limit the type of communication that is most humanizing and most authentic--face to face, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder.

I am grateful that I have recovery friends who would notice if I was isolating. I am grateful that my day has plenty of humanizing and authentic communication.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Birthday Boy

Today I am grateful for my son Sam, for who he is, and who he helps me be. Today is his 15th birthday.

A recent post on my second blog "Late Bloomer, Slow Learner" titled A Late Arrival Comes Early is the story of Sam's delivery fifteen years ago today.

And a recent photo from our family pictures taken last September shows Sam looking nothing like the little infant he started as:


Since I took a break from my Z-A list today, how about a different kind of list?

Here are 15 gratitudes for Sam:

1. The opportunities that being a parent presents, and the gratefulness they bring.
2. The challenges that being a parent presents, and what I can learn in the process. 
3. The way he interacts with his little nephew Leo.
4. When he and our dog Oliver get playful with one another.
5. The fact that he lets me hug him. I strive for one a day. 
6. He is a creature of habit with things like making his bed every morning.
7. That he helps his dad and I balance each other out as parents.
8. He has shown me that he will approach the early driving experiences with reasonable caution.
9. Although injuries have slowed him down at times, he is overall a healthy teen.
10. As a middle school counselor, I have appreciated that I can ask Sam his thoughts on things 
and inquire what is done on certain topics at his school.
11. His blue eyes.
12. His smile and laugh (though usually quiet, you know when he finds something really funny).
13. The future direction that he has had for years already--an agriculture-related career.
14. He cares about his grades and takes care of his studies pretty much on his own.
15. How both his dad and I are evident in him physically and in other ways, but how he is also 
his own unique person.

Happy Birthday Sam! I love you. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jelly

Today I am grateful for the way my new Isotoner gloves feel and that they were half-priced. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and the nice meal he made for us last evening.

Like comfortable gloves, JELLY is a simple pleasure in my book. I have always been a fan of jelly, on toast in particular. Growing up, I was not a fan of peanut butter, so it was usually butter on toast and then whatever jam or jelly was available. Sometimes it was homemade, but often store bought.

I would have to give the nod to grape jelly as my go-to, but I like raspberry and strawberry too. I will try anything from marmalades to jalapeƱo. I also like the squeeze bottles they come in now, making it easier to apply.

Somewhere in my adult years, I warmed up to peanut butter. Now when I have jelly on toast, it usually starts with a layer of peanut butter that has to go on when the toast is hot so it can get a little melty. (Is that a word? Turns out it is.)

Life's simple pleasures. Jelly. Gloves. Coffee. Little joylets to help me maintain a grateful mindset.

Have a good day! Unless you've made other plans.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kibosh

Today I am grateful for forgiveness-from others and myself. I am also grateful for the few pounds I have taken off in recent weeks after adding them post-marathon, and Darcy's support and similar efforts along these lines.

I return to my Z-A gratitude list today with the fun word KIBOSH. Stop. End. Put the kibosh on it. Actually, scholars are unsure of the true origin of the word, though known use of it dates back to the 1830's.

Put the kibosh on self-pity. That is what gratitude practice allows me to do to my former default mode.

Putting the kibosh on drinking starts by "putting the plug in the jug," but for people like me requires much more than the absence of alcohol.

This week I had my annual check-up with my oncologist. We discussed some leg muscle pain I have been having on and off and agreed that I would put the kibosh on taking the medication I have taken for 8 years. The kibosh may not last, but it will be on for at least a month, to see if I notice any changes.

Tamoxifen is drug designed to put the kibosh on roaming cancer cells that like estrogen. It is meant for women like me who had estrogen-positive cancer, and it can also be taken prophylactically for those at high risk. I am grateful for this medication and the the proven record it has. I have mixed feelings about putting the kibosh on taking it, but appreciate that I have tolerated it well for 8 years.

It has helped me put the kibosh on the fear that can rise concerning a recurrence or metastasis of cancer. Faith and mindful gratitude are good ways to calm that fear as well.

What do you need to put the kibosh on today?  Start small if needed. Onward!

Friday, January 20, 2017

One Day or 10,000 Days?

Today I am grateful for my five senses and the milder temperatures we have been having.

Today and every day I am grateful for and committed to sobriety and to my recovery from alcoholism. I am taking a break today from my Z-A list to mark a milestone.

Some friends in recovery use a sobriety calculator app for their phones. It tells them how many days and months they've been sober. I pulled it up on my phone a few weeks ago and realized I was nearing 10,000 days sober. I thought that was kind of cool. I almost forgot about it and then checked again yesterday, realizing today is day 10,000.  One minute at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time.

I hesitated to bring it up. You will hear differing opinions about marking sobriety. All any of us have is today, whether a recovering alcoholic or a "normie." My favorite line regarding this is the caution "Don't get so many years that you forget the days." I strive to live in today, not yesterday or tomorrow.

But it is worth noting and celebrating, and it tells others, especially those new in sobriety, that ongoing sobriety is possible. One day at a time. With help from others and a Great Spirit as each individual wishes to define his or her idea of a Higher Power.

I say yes to today, as I said yes to each of the last 10,000 days. Knowing that without sobriety and recovery, I would not be living the full and rich life I am living. Knowing that if I had continued drinking for another day, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 more, I may not have survived.

Some of those 10,000 days have been amazing and incredible, others have been very difficult and full of despair, most have been mundane. I appreciate every single one of them. Amazing grace.

A special thank you to all the people who have supported my daily recovery in so many different ways over these last 10,000 days. It could not have happened without you. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Listen

Today I am grateful for my oncologist and his patience in our medication discussion yesterday.  I am also grateful to have seen a friendly and familiar face, that of a nurse, who was such a kind and caring support in those first appointments I had after my cancer diagnosis.

LISTEN is today's word. I appreciate the medical professionals who listened to me yesterday and so many more over the years. I appreciate being heard. Who doesn't? Being heard requires two (or more) people taking the time for the task at hand: the speaker who is choosing his/her words and the listener(s) who are giving full attention to the speaker.

Listening is a crucial skill in any human interaction, starting with those closest to us but including anyone we encounter in a day. It is about respect, but so much more, including safety-emotional and physical. I fear listening skills are being eroded by our fast-paced days, the technology that pulls our attention away, the less and less face-to-face communication.

So I strive personally and professionally to be a good listener, in my physical stature as well as my mental focus. We all know what it feels like when someone is really listening to us. That's my goal.

A couple of phrases I often repeat on this topic are:

"Listen to what silence may teach us." 

"There's a reason why we have 2 ears and one mouth. So we can listen twice as much as we talk."

I try to apply these ongoing and incorporate them in to my interactions.

I also remember to listen to myself and trust what is coming through. Listen up! Today has much to offer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Magnify

Today I am grateful for the sound of ice and snow crunching under my boots as I walked our dog just now. I am also grateful for co-workers who help me in so many ways, and make my job more enjoyable.

MAGNIFY. There's a word to ponder. To make larger. See more clearly. Look at a definition for magnify and you will find words like boost, enhance, amplify, maximize, intensify. These all describe what I try to do with gratefulness in my daily life. Enhance the positive. Amplify the beauty and awe that is right here.

Our own minds are the magnifying glasses we apply to our life and the circumstances we are in.
So I need to continue to ask myself questions such as these:

What am I choosing to magnify?
Blessings or curses?
Gratitude or misery?
Self-care or self-pity?

How I answer these questions determines my perception of self and surrounding world. The answers matter a great deal.

I also give thanks for lenses, microscopes, and other equipment that magnifies what doctors and others are looking at. Such magnification finds problems sooner and addresses concerns more effectively to help people live longer and better lives.

Today the positives and daily gifts around us will be magnified if we focus on them. Will you join me?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nigredo

Today I am grateful for forgiveness from others and for myself. I am also grateful for the friends I have in recovery and how we can laugh together.

Today's word is NIGREDO. It is not a word I was familiar with, until last week when it was shared with me. Jera, who is with our local arts center and is facilitating the poetry readings I have attended, brought it to my attention. I am grateful she did, because the meaning it carries certainly resonates with me.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that, in psychology, nigredo has become a metaphor for "the dark night of the soul, when the individual confronts the shadow within." It originated as a term in alchemy, which was early chemistry. It means blackness, decomposition.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung and others of his time compared the alchemist idea of nigredo to the human ego; how stemming from our darkest times and deepest despair can come light and growth. And how at least some of our problems of our own making, thanks to oversized or undersized ego.

I relate to this idea. With the disease of alcoholism, I had to face the darkness in my life, hit bottom, roll around in deep despair at times, and feel intense emotional pain before I started climbing out. Only with the help of a Great Spirit and others did I start that climb and make it.

That darkness can and does return at times, but it stays for far shorter periods of time, and the way out is more manageable. Such darkness is part of being human, I think. It helps us appreciate the light, the hope, the energy that comes when it is lifted.

If darkness is too much a part of your life and thoughts, please reach out and seek help.

Practicing gratitude is a wonderful source of light for me, including lighting the way out of a dark time or dark thoughts.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Oxygen

Today I am grateful for time to sit and enjoy the sunrise, and for the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others who have advanced equality in the United States and elsewhere.

But there is still much to be done, and we each have our own part in that. It starts with how we treat those we encounter throughout our day, and continues with what we say to others and to our children.
Kindness and compassion connect us. Fear and judging divide us.

To do our part each day requires more than intentional thoughts and actions, it also requires OXYGEN. I have a clean and free supply of oxygen at my disposal every minute of every day. It is vital and life-giving and yet I often don't even consider the importance it has to me, to all of us.

Consider those with health conditions that make breathing difficult. They need help getting enough oxygen to survive. Consider also those who live in areas with air pollution that may be making them sick or causing diseases. Clean, free oxygen I can get just by breathing is not something to be taken lightly. It is something to be deeply grateful for.  Pause. Breathe in and breathe out. Give thanks.

The words of author Natalie Goldberg seem very fitting:

"We should notice that we are already supported at every moment. There is the earth 
below our feet and there is the air, filling our lungs and emptying them. We should begin 
from this when we need support." 

Oxygen is indeed our life support. Pause. Breathe in. Breathe out. Give thanks. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Punctual

Today I am grateful for the beautiful walk I just took with our dog Oliver in the arriving daylight, my favorite time of the day. I am also grateful for every poem I have written in the last 40 years. There are hundreds and they have each helped me get to know me better.

I am back to my Z-A list today. I used to pride myself on always being PUNCTUAL. In fact, I was often early. I have loosened up a little on my own expectations, but it is still very important personally and professionally.

I didn't realize it until I was married with children in the mix how easy it was when I was single and only had myself to get out the door. Punctuality simply requires a little planning and foresight. My problem is I get sidetracked.

My husband Darcy just shakes his head because I am usually the last one ready when we are all heading out together, even though I have probably been up longer than anyone else. I multi-task and do other things as I move around the house, instead of getting entirely ready. Then I may have to rush to finish getting ready.

I do the same thing to myself on work mornings. I get up in plenty of time, and I am a low maintenance gal so it doesn't take me that long to actually get ready. But add exercise, writing, walking the dog, doing laundry and some of my other typical morning tasks and I can end up having to hurry. That is not a good way to start a day. So I keep working on this area of my life. Pausing and prioritizing are helpful.

Punctuality when it comes to meeting others socially is something I am pretty consistent about. It's convenient to be able to send a quick text if running late. I appreciate getting a similar text from the friend I am meeting, because I know what the new time frame is. Less worry and less hurry for all involved.

Getting to a meeting on time at work is really about respecting each other's time and being professional. I strive for punctuality and expect the same of others. As a counselor, I can certainly have situations come up that will lead to tardiness--but for good reason. If communicated to those needed, I maintain my professionalism.

Punctuality fits my efforts to be mindful and balanced.

Friday, January 13, 2017

January Thoughts--A Guest Post

Today I am grateful for poems shared by others and to others. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver.

I am honored to share a guest post written by my good friend Liz today and I will be back to my Z-A list soon. Liz and I were co-workers for many years. She was an excellent English teacher, whether working with high-energy 7th graders or honors-level seniors, and an outstanding co-advisor to a student group. 

Liz has since retired and has other pursuits to keep her busy. Among many things, she is a writer, a walker, a believer in the power of gratitude. I am grateful for the years of collegiality and friendship we share. I look forward to our next opportunity to walk and talk.

Thank you for your wonderfully written and thought-provoking guest post Liz!

January Thoughts
January in Minnesota often brings some of the coldest and windiest days of the year. It also seems to amplify worries and challenges due to the general uncertainties of life. It can be easy to forget the sunshine that often blesses the skies amid the frigid temperatures.

The bright sky on a recent bitterly cold day reminded me of my father’s final hours in hospice more than a decade ago. It was such a time of sadness for me, braving the cold each day to be with him and listening to the howling wind as I sat by his bedside.  Yet, it was a time for which I have tremendous gratitude. I was able to be with him when others in my family could not, and my husband did more than his share to make that possible. 

I had the gift of seeing my father transform from an anxious state of terminal cancer to one of peaceful passing. The sun shone brightly many of those days, and that somehow eased aching hearts, enabling us to share laughter and sweet memories.  And when we buried him on the coldest day of the year, we sang his favorite song and smiled. He would have liked that.

Likewise, our hearts are lifted as we begin to notice the additional minutes of daylight in January. Such a gift they are as they help to turn our thoughts to future days of walking barefoot in soft, green grass. Ventures into the brisk weather are rewarded with the songs of cardinals and black-capped chickadees.  Icy paths are surprisingly eased by the warmth of the sun, and sometimes the help of a little salt or sand, and our optimism rises.

If we embrace this time of year, it is easy to see the many things that are worthy of gratitude – the bright blue skies, the gift of being with people we love, and the promise of the warmer days to come.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quench

Today I am grateful for the numerous writing outlets I have and pursue. I am also grateful for my job and the variety of ways I get to interact with others.

This week I have also been especially appreciative of the snowplow and salt/sand truck drivers who have worked hard to keep our roads clear and safer.

When I think of QUENCH, thirst usually comes to my mind first. I know it is winter now, but think of a hot and humid day; mowing lawn, getting back from a run, or helping unload a load of hay. Then think of that very cold, very refreshing drink of water that you treat yourself to. That type of thirst can be quenched. But don't wait too long.

Some of you non-alcoholics probably think of a cold beer as a quencher. It has the opposite effect on people like me. One drink doesn't quench, and neither does ten. The first sets in motion a craving that wants to drink itself silly and does.

Besides thirst, there are other priorities we each have that deserve quenching. Writing is one of my passions and I keep quenching it with daily efforts. One of the best benefits, of many, to come out of this blog for me is that my writing gets regular time and attention.

I no longer wait to get other things done and then get to my writing. (Many days, it never happened.) I now start each day with blogging and journaling. I am satisfied. My passion for exploring the writer within is quenched.

It has made all the difference. What needs quenching in your life? Start today. Start with little sips instead of gulps if needed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ruminate

Today I am grateful for wise and reasonable Minnesota winter drivers and for silence on my commutes yesterday, to help calm and center me.

You could say I like to RUMINATE. I certainly have practiced it plenty over the years. Going over something in my mind repeatedly, turning it over, magnifying it. Getting stuck on it. When it is a negative thought or emotion I am ruminating over, or a situation I can't change, it does tend to wear me down and become counterproductive.

I can ruminate myself right in to a bigger problem than I had initially. This kind of ruminating will puncture peace of mind in a hurry.

But here's the thing-typically if I have peace of mind, I also have peace of thoughts, and a kinder, gentler version of rumination is taking place. This rumination is more about reflecting and contemplating. And this healthier thought process can actually lead to solutions, to inspiration, to clarity.

Take a lesson from cows and other ruminant animals. Good things can come from ruminating-milk for instance. To keep the milk from souring though, it's best to not overdo the thinking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stars

Today I am grateful for my heart and my eyes--that they work in the physical and practical senses, but also in the emotional sense. 

STARS is the word I am going to give my writing energy to today. I am not referring to the celebrities here, I am referring to the awe-inspiring ones in the sky. I appreciate a clear morning or evening when I can be outside, look up, and see star after star. If I am out in the country, away from all the city lights, I can see many more. 

I can't really grasp the vastness of it all. There are billions of stars in the Milky Way and I can barely comprehend the distance some of them are from little old Earth. It is humbling to consider such vastness and my part in it. Humility is a good partner with gratitude practice. Starting with humility allows us to see more gratitudes than we would otherwise, which brings more humility, and on we go.

If I could step on my soapbox for a moment though, I do have a couple comments about those human "stars."  I am wary of all the hype and admiration heaped on people we have never met or don't know personally. 

I prefer to consider the human stars in my life to be people I know and interact with, like our grandson Leo. We watched him for a good portion of this last weekend. The pictures tell it all. He spent a lot of time moving around our house and really likes climbing stairs to check things out. Because he did a lot of that, the look you see in the second picture is little Leo minutes away from a well-deserved nap.


A couple of the other stars in my life are the ones who spent this time together with Leo and I--my husband Darcy and our son Sam. I share my humanness with these guys daily, and they still love me.
That puts them at the top of my list, and yet some days I take them for granted.

Who are the stars in your life? Have you told them lately? 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trouble

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and the fun we have together. I am also grateful for recipes--new ones and old standbys.

TROUBLE is the "t" word I arrived at today, for no particular reason. The thing about trouble is that it can't be avoided all the time, but the hope would be that I'm not creating my own troubles or being troublesome to others. 

Some people seem to relish trouble or being a troublemaker. I have seen that in students over the years. Nothing shocking there. They are seeking attention in ways that they feel work for them. The counselor in me wonders what is behind that. I have been able to help some students and their parents figure some of that out. That is gratifying work and always insightful to me. 

It is more troublesome when adults keep looking for trouble, when they keep repeating negative patterns. We all do it in small ways. For me, one example is eating too many sweets. That can get me in trouble with my weight and fluctuating mood and energy levels at certain times of the day.

The bigger troubles are actions that are harmful or abusive to self and others; actions like substance use, angry outbursts, or overspending. 

There is simple wisdom in the phrase "Don't go looking for trouble."  I think I will go with that today. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Urbanite

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy's support and mutual motivation regarding eating healthier and dropping our holiday pounds. I am also grateful for the squirrel that just ran across our back patio, giving me reason to pause. 

URBANITE brings up a few points of discussion for me. An urbanite is someone who lives in a city. I think we can all agree on that definition. What we probably will have wider views on is what constitutes a city. 

Technically, a city is defined as a permanent human settlement and it has existing government with rules and regulations. Good luck finding a population that people would agree to distinguish between a town and city, or a big or small town or city. 

With a little research, you will 2,500 is the population number often used to differentiate a town from a city. Depending on where you were raised, 2,500 can seem like a lot of people or be considered barely a spot on the map. 

I grew up on a farm, with my hometown numbering fewer than 1,000 people. My idea of a city was the community 15 miles away that had around 8,000 people, a theater, a bowling alley, and several restaurants along with plenty of retail stores and other services. 

The largest city I have lived in-Sioux Falls, South Dakota-was over 100,000 and growing. That was an adjustment for me. Now that I live in a metro area of over 3.5 million people, I feel more like an urbanite than ever, taking multi-lane freeways to work and living 20 minutes from a large international airport. 

All of these varying locations I have lived in, including our current community which comes in at 22,000, makes me appreciate them all for different reasons. 

I am a suburbanite with a rural background. I still prefer the open spaces and less hustle and bustle, but I do appreciate the conveniences of more populated areas. Every community I resided in, large or small, has shaped my history. We love our current community and are grateful to be here. It's a good size, but also offers so much more. 

Today I will strive to appreciate my home and my community.  Consider doing the same.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Vacuous

Today I am grateful for other bloggers, some I know personally and some I do not, who share their words and insights with the rest of us. I am also grateful for apples and their crisp texture and taste.

VACUOUS is an interesting word that you don't hear all that much. A brief and general definition would be "lacking content." It often is used to imply a blank or empty mind, in a derogatory way.

Today I would like to consider the benefits of a blank or empty mind. Or at least a less full one. I am working on expanding this emptiness in a good way. Clearing the slate or turning off the "blahblahblah" in my head that can run nonstop is good for me, but difficult. So I seek progress, just simple progress.

Vacuous moments if you will. Pauses. Purges of self-defeating, energy-zapping drivel that one part of my mind always seems to be producing. Each pause and purge makes that part a little smaller, a little less powerful.

As I walked our dog Oliver this morning, I also thought of vacuous as I considered the space between us and the stars in the sky. Technically, there is plenty between us and them, atmospherically and cosmically speaking, but it feels like a wide open space. In the mornings, that is an inviting space for me. Welcoming me to a new day and fresh opportunities to live life fully.

My life is anything but vacuous when it comes to considering my blessings. For that, I am truly grateful.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wrong

Today I am grateful for conversation with and a ride home from my friend Paula. I am also grateful for the clarity of my thoughts this morning.

Why would I go looking for a word like WRONG? Because it carries many good reminders for someone like me. For all of us.

I was wrong several times yesterday. Nothing major, but wrong nonetheless. I suspect today will hold more of the same. Other people were wrong yesterday too. A couple of their mistakes or miscalculations impacted my day, but not too significantly. I am proud to say that I handled their "wrongs" in a calm and understanding manner.  We all make mistakes, right?

Why can't I be as calm and understanding with myself when I goof up, stumble, make an error?  I remain my own worst enemy. Progress is happening though. I cut myself more slack than I used to.
And when I cut myself more slack, I tend to do the same for those around me.

Wrong also calls to mind unjust and unfair situations. When I witness those, become an unwilling party to them, or inadvertently create such a scenario because of my own actions or words, I need to speak up. For everyone's sake.

It also calls to mind one of the key benefits of gratitude practice. I spend a lot less time pondering what is going wrong in my life and a lot more time noting what is going right. Nothing wrong in that approach.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Xenolith

Today I am grateful for motivation to be healthy and for those who help inspire me when I am feeling less than inspired myself.

It's back to our Z-A list now. "X" can be a little more challenging because it is a letter with fewer options. But did you know, according to thefreedictionary.com, there are over 2500 words that start with "x" in the English language? That is still a paltry amount when compared to "t" with over 41,000.

I have already used X-rays, Xerox, xenial, xiphoid, and xyst, so I turn my attention this time to XENOLITH.  A xenolith is a fragment of rock embedded in another kind of rock. A more geological sounding definition is: a fragment of rock differing in origin, composition, structure, etc., from the igneous rock enclosing it. They typically result from volcanic eruptions and are valuable in terms of information they can provide to scientists.

I had a rock collection when I was growing up. I still have a coffee can full of some of my finds. I am pretty sure there are no xenoliths to be found in my collection.

Instead, I find myself pondering things like:

-Like humans, every rock has a story, and the rock's story is usually much longer than the human's. There's some humility in that for us as humans.
-There are people we all know that are similar to xenoliths; they came from somewhere else and they stand out a bit, but they have become part of the local area and fit nicely. They help enhance our landscape so to speak.
-A small, smooth rock, held in my hand, is a source of comfort and strength.

Maybe you have such a rock in your pocket right now. If not, you can always get one. Holding a rock helps to ground us, helps us feel part of the larger planet. There is awe in that. Awe brings gratitude and presence.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Youngest

Today I am grateful for the sleet we got on top of some freezing rain. It helped make it far less treacherous on driveways and sidewalks. I am also grateful for the connections I have with others in recovery. It makes all the difference in keeping me on track.

Yule, yardage, yesteryear, yield, yearn, yolk, yet, yawn, and Yes (the music group) have all gotten space on Habitual Gratitude already. That leaves plenty of other "y" words to pick from. How about YOUNGEST?

The first two thoughts that come to my mind when I consider the word youngest are these:

1. Being the youngest of eight sisters.
2. My son Sam being the youngest of his generation on my side of the family.

Being the youngest of eight sisters is something I take a lot of pride and pleasure in today. My oldest sister Danita has about 13 years on me. My sister Ruth has about 15 months on me. In between, we have Aileen, Mary Jo, Ann, Leonice, and Zita. We didn't entirely grow up together, with that many of us and the years between. Still, there is much common ground and shared memories.

In adulthood we have come to appreciate our sisterhood more and more. The times the 8 of us have all been together at the same time in recent decades are few, but they are some of my most cherished memories.

Being #11 of 13, with five brothers joining the 8 sisters, has shaped me in many ways.

Since I was one of the youngest in my family, and didn't have my own child until I was 36, it's no surprise that my son Sam is the youngest of his generation among all of my sibling's children. It's also not a surprise that my niece has a son who is a couple months older than Sam. Generations overlap in large families.

Generations overlap. Experiences and milestones overlap. Gratitude overlaps.

The continuing surprise is how quickly all of these days and years move past. Youngest or oldest or in the middle, it all becomes part of our story.

Pause and be present in your own story today. Share your stories. Share your gratitude.

Monday, January 2, 2017

How about Z to A? Start from ZILCH

Today I am grateful for clean and cold drinking water easily accessible to us. I am also grateful for the members at our church who help make sure weekly services take place smoothly, including my husband Darcy.

It's time for my fifth A-Z gratitude list on Habitual Gratitude. To connect to the first four, start with this post.  I've decided to make this one a Z-A list. Why not mix it up a bit?  Keeps me on my writing toes. Gratitude is gratitude, no matter how it is organized. Avoid ruts and complacency by taking new approaches.

I also have this thing about not repeating myself, so I will make sure to come up with original ideas for each letter.

For "z" I have already used zeal, zest, zany, zinger, zenith, zucchini, Zoot, and Zeppelin.  So ZILCH it is this time around. The zilch I am grateful for is the dice game. Six dice, two or more people, and a suggested paper and pen to keep score. That is all that is necessary. No batteries needed. Nothing high tech about this game. That's exactly one of the reasons why I like it.

Another reason I like it is because it creates family memories. My husband, son and I just played a couple games last night and had some fun and laughter. My sisters in Colorado first got me interested in the game and we'll usually play when we get together.

I especially think of my brother-in-law Roger. He liked playing zilch and continued to play it even as Lewy body dementia took more and more of a toll on him.  His wife, my sister Danita, her son Tyler, and my sister Ann often got the dice rolling when spending time with Roger. They would tell you it was an enjoyable and comforting way to spend time with him, and Roger clearly was having fun.

That's the whole point with zilch. It always seems to bring out laughter and some friendly ribbing about who has the luck of the dice and who doesn't. Zilch may be a score in this game, but it certainly doesn't indicate how much fun is had while playing.

There came a time when Roger was no longer able to play zilch. He died on November 1, 2015.

Roger's memory lives on and so does the game of zilch.  A simple game of chances. Like life.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Gratitude Revealed

Today I am grateful for unique experiences in a day's time. I am also grateful for the family and friends who enrich my life in so many ways.

Happy New Year to everyone. Wishing you each a healthy and grateful 2017. More importantly and appropriately, happy new day! Happy new moment! That is what I strive for--to pause and capture the precious nature of a day as I move through it.

I wrote about this in a post from the first year of this blog. Just for Today (Point #17) was posted on February 1, 2013. In it I talk about "all we have is today."  I also reference the amazing work of photographer Louie Schwartzberg and the compelling words of Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Watch Gratitude | Louie Schwartzberg | TEDxSF for some incredible reasons to pause, watch, listen, absorb. Check out http://gratituderevealed.com for more on the ever-expanding science and practice of gratitude.

Gratitude has revealed itself to me in many ways I could not have imagined at the outset and continues to do so as I maintain my habitual practice. It is one of my healthiest habits and I have no intention of stopping. It works. It helps my overall wellness in ways no other single effort or practice can. I look forward to what will be revealed as I strive to keep an open mind, heart, and soul.

My wish for each of us is that gratitude reveals itself in new and special ways in the coming days, weeks, and months of 2017. Pay attention. Prepare to be amazed.