"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Friday, April 28, 2017

Love Harder

Today I am grateful for the filling out of our trees with leaves, and for my sense of hearing. What gifts my senses bring to me when I pause to notice.

After my post yesterday on "Keep on Loving," this quote was in my email inbox from www.gratefulness.org

"When it gets harder to love, let's love harder." (Van Jones)

We have all been there. Our feelings are hurt by others. Or we have just done a number on ourselves with our negative thinking and overthinking.

Redoubling the effort to show compassion to others and ourselves, even when we aren't yet feeling it in our hearts, does make a difference.

Tolerance and acceptance are great companions to love. I will carry all into my day today.

I am taking a blog break and will be back writing early next week. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Keep on Loving

Today I am grateful for the love that I feel in my life, and for the easy and tasty overnight oatmeal Darcy and I had for breakfast.

Love. All we need is love. Keep on loving. Love is all around. Love takes two. Love takes time.
Love matters. Love heals. And on and on . . .

I am so grateful for the love of many others in my life, and for the self-love that has transformed me in my adult life, though the work of daily recovery from alcoholism and regular gratitude practice. I am deeply appreciative of the love of my husband Darcy and how our marriage has evolved and strengthened over the last 19 years.

Love from others, from an ever-compassionate Great Spirit, and that growing self-love have helped me through difficult times, and helped me soar to new heights.

People I love are facing true challenges, real tragedies, this very day. Let's keep on loving one another and sending the positive energy of love out in to the world around us. It does make a difference. It does heal and transform.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Other Forms of Life

Today I am grateful for wisdom shared in many ways by family, friends and colleagues. I am also grateful for time for meditation practice with others.

Yesterday's quote from the Dalai Lama is still lingering in my thoughts:

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life. 

I am thinking this morning of the last portion; human responsibility to other forms of life. Our cockapoo Oliver comes to mind. We just returned from our morning walk in a cold rain. We love Oliver and we do what needs to be done to make sure he is well-cared for. I'll walk in rain or freezing temperatures or uncomfortable heat with him. 

He brings much to our loves in terms of smiles and comfort. His personality and presence are part of our family.

I think also of plants, trees, the worms on the trail in the rain, the birds singing. I try to appreciate them all and do little things like recycling, not littering, using fewer chemicals, etc. that help protect all those forms of life and also helps us two-legged creatures.

It starts by noticing my surroundings, noticing who and what I am sharing those surroundings with.
That means starting with mindful presence. When I can exist in the present moment, I tend to be kinder and gentler with myself and everyone/everything else.

Start right here. Today I will appreciate life and the many forms it takes, starting with my own breathing in and breathing out. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Universal Responsibility

Today I am grateful for recovery friends and the laughter we can sincerely share. I am also grateful for the written word and how it enhances my life-both as a writer and as a reader.

Speaking of written words, I found these quite thought-provoking:

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life. 
(His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

There is much to be gleaned and garnered from these brief lines. What hit me first this morning is the "human to human" portion of this Universal responsibility. There is much suffering in the world. There is also much compassion and loving-kindness. 

Some of the suffering is brought on by forces beyond our own control. And if you are like me, some of it is brought on me by my own thoughts and actions. I was long my own worst enemy. I am less enemy and more friend to myself now. Progress, not perfection. Only healthy habits and actions make progress possible.

When I contribute less to my own suffering, I am better able to see the suffering of others and be of support and assistance. I become more compassionate and able to give consideration to others.

That is what I strive for today. Compassionate consideration of others and the world around me.

How about you? What part of this quote struck you when you first read it? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sitting Between

Today I am grateful for the beautiful weather that fell on the weekend so we could enjoy it more fully. I am also grateful for the hope and healing that can happen under any circumstances.

I am especially thinking today of friends and family who are facing difficult days, from grieving the death of a child to awaiting pathology results. Hope and healing.

I am sitting in one of my favorite places-our front patio on a beautiful morning. Thank you to my husband Darcy for making it our own little peaceful haven to enjoy. The birds are singing. The soothing sound of the fountain and running water joins in. The sky is transforming. It all energizes me.

Sitting between dawn and daylight-one of my favorite times of the day. In a few minutes, I will shift gears, go get ready for work, drive 25 miles, and head into what will be a busy day at school.

Sitting between calm and hectic, between simply being and too much doing. I will enjoy the being a bit longer. It will help me keep a more sane and human tempo the rest of the day.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pristine

Today I am grateful for legs and arms that allow me to do so many different activities. I am also grateful for the beautiful weather that fell on a weekend so we have more time to enjoy it.

One of the activities I most enjoy with my working limbs is running. Yesterday on our run, Darcy and I took in the stunning early morning scenery on a newer stretch of trail near here. I paused to catch the view from an overlook along the trail and here is what awaited me:


Pristine. That's the word that came immediately to mind. The new morning and the untouched surface of Spring Lake along the Mississippi River. It was calming to see in person and the picture is still bringing me peace as I sit here and look at it.

Pristine. Fresh greenery in the leaves and plants emerging after their winter's rest. It is one of the things I love most about spring--the rebirth and transformation of life most evident in the green grass and leaves.

Pristine. Each day starts the same way. Fresh. New. Untouched. I have some say in where it goes from there. My attitude and my actions can either mesh well or mesh poorly with the day's unfolding.
They tend to mesh so much better when mindful gratitude is included in my start.

Enjoy the newness of today. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

God's Curriculum

Today I am grateful for a successful mock crash and speaker event at my school yesterday, that the weather held for us, and for the many people who pitched in to make it possible.

I am also grateful for this quote:

"Everybody is unique. Do not compare yourself with anybody else lest you spoil God's curriculum."
Baal Shem Tov

Celebrate uniqueness and that no one else on earth is exactly like another person. Our differences make us each special and worthy of honor and dignity. Stop the comparing. Young people do it. Adults do it. Social media feeds it. Stop. Pause. Celebrate you and me. Celebrate the variety of people we each know. 

Too much comparing and everyone comes up short in one way or another. You are enough as you are. I am enough as I am. Just for this moment. Just for today. That is what God or the Great Spirit wishes for us.

I love the idea of "God's curriculum." Call it Higher Power, Supreme Being, whatever you wish. The important part for me is to acknowledge that in life I am the student far more than I am the teacher. I need a curriculum to follow that is better than any curriculum I could write. 

My humanness gets in the way of good lesson plans. If I step back and approach today with an open mind and heart, willing to do the footwork, it is amazing what I learn. If I relinquish my need for control, and make my learning objective acceptance instead, more is revealed as needed. 

We are all students of life. Let's see what today has to teach us.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Silent Gratitude

Today I am grateful for fellow breast cancer survivors who continue to share their experiences, strength, and hope with me. I am also grateful for the words "Thank you!"

I certainly appreciate hearing or reading a sincere "thank you" from others. And I do what I can to share those same "thank yous" with others.

Consider these words:
"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. "

This quote is attributed to both Gertrude Stein and G.B. Stern. To whoever wrote it, I say thank you!

Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. Saying the words out loud or writing them with pen or keyboard magnifies the appreciation. Gratitude felt at a deeper level, and received by others as a sincere gesture, is healthy and fortifying for all involved.

I do also believe, however, that silent gratitude has a place as well. Places really. Those places are my heart, soul, and mind on a daily basis. Gratefulness first experienced in a silent pause is gratefulness more likely to be both internalized and externalized.

Wherever your gratitude resides today, consider sharing it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Humbled by Humility

Today I am grateful for my sister's successful surgery and for an ice cream stop with my husband last evening at our favorite local place.

I am also grateful for the better understanding of humility I have today.

Humility. It is instrumental in recovery from alcoholism or any addiction. Addiction's very nature is to be selfish and self-absorbing. That is what allows it to keep feeding itself and killing the addict. Recovery can only take hold when someone's ego becomes right-sized and less inflated by justification, rationalization, and denial.

My favorite definition of humility is this one:

"Humility isn't thinking less of myself, rather thinking of myself less."

There was a time when my best thinking did nothing but keep me stuck. Today, I can keep my thinking more productive and clarifying, which leads to more helpful actions I can take to contribute to the stream of life.

Thankfully, healthy humility is also produced through regular practice of gratitude. The very nature of gratefulness helps us see beyond our own limited view. It helps me see the wider world and the work of a Great Spirit, reminding me of my own insignificance while at the same time showing me how blessed I am.

The humble practice of appreciation is my goal today and every day. I will never perfect it. That's not the point. The point is to continue the humble practice.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Feeding Hope

Today I am grateful for recovery and the others who support me in our daily efforts to address a daily disease. I am also grateful for a good job opportunity for our son Sam.

I have several people I am keeping in my thoughts and prayers today for many reasons. I appreciate the grace that grants me strength and clarity to be of support to others.

It has been a tough stretch lately, with tragic deaths and difficult challenges facing people I care about. If I was still a drinker, I would no doubt be drinking. Very painful and devastating things are happening to people I know and love. Plenty to drink at.

But drinking doesn't help. It hinders and it dulls, only making matters worse.

I wrote this down a couple weeks ago as I pondered recovery from alcoholism:

"Drinking fed my hopelessness. Recovery feeds my hope."

And there is hope, even in the darkest times.

Gratitude practice feeds my hope as well. It allows me to see that there is much good in the world, even amidst the struggles. It allows me to feel the love and support of others and to extend the same to them.

Feed some hope today by extending appreciation to others and to positive happenings that are
going on. Feeding hope brings more of it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A New Address

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend and for the way phone calls can connect us with others across the miles.

My stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa have a new home with a new address, in a new state, in a new community, with new jobs awaiting and a new baby coming in August. That is a lot of new and a lot of excitement.

We appreciated the opportunity to travel this weekend to see their home and community and start getting to know the area. A new address looks easy on paper, but takes a lot of work. We were glad to help with some of that for a couple of days.

I appreciate the physical capabilities that allowed us all to do a wide variety of tasks. I enjoyed seeing the progress being made. It is always gratifying. It was nice to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration as well.

A fresh start is full of excitement and some fears too for sure. Anytime we stretch beyond the familiar, we are apt to grow and learn.

Gratitude practice provides a fresh start each day, if I am mindfully present and pause to experience the gratefulness right here, right now. It's like a new address in my mind, so I don't get stuck in a rut.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Caution: The Moving Walkway Is Ending

Today I am grateful for a nice birthday for my husband Darcy and for poetry and what it brings to my life, as well as what it takes from it.

I arrived early at Midway Airport in Chicago the other day for my return flight home. I walked around, spent a little time in the Chapel, journaled, read some poems, walked some more. I sat down for a break and a muffin at one point and realized I was too close to the repeating sound of the automated message "Caution: moving walkway is ending."

It started to get annoying, but I quickly concluded I had very little to be annoyed about. Annoyed was replaced by some gratefulness.

I can walk on my own. I appreciate the moving walkway when I am in a hurry. I could hear the message, which was being provided for my safety and the safety of others.

I thought about the move from one state to another that my stepson and his wife made this week.
Lots of excitement and new territory, literally and figuratively speaking.

I pondered the depth of pain and the moving emotions I had just witnessed in the aftermath of a tragic death. Some endings come far too soon.

Caution: Life is precious and fragile. Appreciate each day and each person in it.

Have a nice Easter weekend. I will be taking another blog break until early next week.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

5 x 2 = 52

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and for our marriage. I am also grateful for each of my 12 siblings.

Today is Darcy's 52nd birthday. He is just a few months older than me. We both marvel at how quickly the decades have passed. And how very blessed we have been and continue to be in so many ways.

Darcy is a true blessing in my life in a multitude of ways. I could list 52 of them, but it might make this post a little long. So I will take the 5 and 2 and make a 5 x 2 instead.

Five things I appreciate about Darcy and 2 reasons why for each:

1. Darcy loves me as I am. 
a. Understanding my moods and moodiness, he knows when to tune me out and when
to help me out.
b. As cancer changed my body, and now aging, he has helped me accept my physical being.

2. He is always thinking about our house and yard.
a. He works hard to make our outdoor space inviting and comfortable.
b. He plans ahead for us to be able to have house projects done to keep things updated.

3. He is a grounded and supportive force in the lives of his children and 
grandson (soon to be 2 grandsons.)
a. Nothing is more important to him than us, his family, and he is ever devoted to healthy and helpful
communicating and relating to Arthur, Emily, and Sam.
b. Even with some lacking in his relationship with his own father, he worked hard to overcome that, and he clearly broke a pattern that needed breaking and created a new mold.

4. He likes to plan meals.
a. Finding new recipes and trying them is not something I have time or energy for. He does, and the rest of us enjoy the benefits.
b. As he tries to reduce elevated cholesterol and stay healthy, we all also reap the benefits of tasty low-calorie food.

5. Darcy remains committed to running a marathon a year.
a. This helps me stay motivated and gives us quality time together.
b. It gives us both energy to enjoy a full and rich life together.

Happy Birthday Darcy! I love you 💞

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Alone

Today I am grateful for safe travels, for my family, for friends old and new. I am grateful I had the time and resources to take me to a friend in need.

I spent time alone in recent days as a solo traveler. I typically don't mind time to myself, and as an introvert I need it. But it was out of my comfort zone on some parts of my recent trip, like driving in the Chicago area.

I was never alone in my rental car though. I had a couple passengers on short trips. I had my talking phone directing me quite effectively. And I always had faith in my Higher Power.

Sheila, Dave, and Katie are not alone in that they have so many sources of support. So many people willing to help in any way they can. So many who will be loving them, praying for them, as they move forward to grieve and to keep living.

And yet, parts of their journeys in the days, weeks, and months ahead will need to be taken alone.
That is the way grief is. Time alone, but never lacking the love, care, and concern of those of us who know you. Faith and hope will show up in many ways.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Then there are the words of Emily Dickinson

Today I am grateful for coffee and bananas and other simple things in life. I am also grateful that my stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa have many wonderful new opportunities ahead for them, including the birth of their first child, due in August.

I appreciated the opportunity at school Thursday and Friday to read some poetry to 7th and 8th graders. I read to six different groups of students. Thank you to my colleagues Kelly and Mallory for giving me this opportunity.  The students are beginning their own journey into reciting poetry aloud, so I gave them some examples.

I have only been reading my poetry out loud in earnest for a few months. It is such an invigorating experience.

I read three poems, including one of my own. One of the other two was this one, one of my favorites from Emily Dickinson:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain. 

I have liked this poem since the first time I read it many years ago. I was thinking of Sheila and her family each time I read it.  Some pain is very hard to be eased. 

There is always hope in a new day though.

I will be taking a blog break for a few days and look forward to being back at it next week.

Have a good day, moment by moment.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Sometimes there are no words . . .

Today I am grateful for the many ways compassion, care, and concern show themselves in human relationships, in both everyday and extreme circumstances.

My heart, and my thoughts and prayers, continue to go out to my dear friend Sheila, her husband Dave, and daughter Katie. They have suffered an unfathomable loss.

In the words of their daughter and sister Carli's obituary:

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

She had just turned 14.

Incomprehensible grief. Deep despair and devastation.

I appreciate the respectful openness in these words:

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

Sometimes there are no words.

But there is always enough love and support. Let's keep sending both this family's way.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Revving, Idling, or Humming?

Today I am grateful for the ease of electricity to use as I started my day by turning lights on and making coffee. I am also grateful for the peace that silence can bring.

Yesterday morning I woke up too early with too much already on my mind. I was clearly restless and discontent as I headed out the door for work. My husband Darcy can confirm this. He heard and saw me in action. I knew I was setting myself up for a rough day if I continued on that path.

I usually begin my commute with several minutes of quiet time. I don't turn the radio on until I get to a certain road. It ends up being 8-10 minutes of quiet. I do the same thing on my way home. It's a good practice for me and very helpful. It is also time I can spend doing a gratitude list or other reflections.

With my frame of mind yesterday morning, I decided to drive in silence for my whole commute. Silence is indeed golden, and necessary. Thirty minutes of quietude to help quiet my overthinking and overactive brain brought me back to a better starting point for the busy workday ahead.

As I took an off-ramp and headed onto the freeway, the quiet allowed me to better hear my car's engine. It was revving a little as it got up to speed.

Engines shouldn't rev too much though, and neither should brains. Sometimes it takes periods of idleness to get the head and heart back to the nice flow of a humming engine working smoothly at a safe and sane pace.

Today I will check in with my own thoughts to see if I am revving less, idling more, and humming smoothly.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Good Realization

Today I am grateful for the convenience of cereal for breakfast and the predictability of our dog Oliver when we spend early mornings together.

A week off from work last week was appreciated and enjoyed, and part of me wasn't ready to head back to work yesterday. But part of me was. I like routine. And the rest of the family was in their usual routine, so it was time for me to get back to mine as well.

I was struck by a good realization. My job is gratifying. It can be challenging and hectic, and it can leave me exhausted. But it is also rewarding and even fun. The week away helped me regain some perspective, including this one:  I appreciate my job and believe I am effective at what I do.

No two days are alike at work. There are both blessings and frustrations that come with being at the same job for almost seventeen years, but the blessings outweigh the frustrations.

It's a good realization to keep rediscovering job satisfaction. It can seem fleeting on some days though, when emails, phone calls, deadlines, and issues to be addressed send the satisfaction flitting away, replaced by a frenetic pace. As long as every day doesn't become like this, I plan to keep on keeping on, to keep giving my job my best effort and attitude.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mix It Up

Today I am grateful for my job and the people I work with. I am also grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Sheila.

It's good to mix up our routines from time to time. I am a creature of habit, but that can also lead to tunnel vision at the least and complacency at the worst.  We take a certain route all the time, park in the same area at the grocery store, follow a recipe in exact order.

Something as simple as parking in a different spot in the grocery store parking lot yesterday and going at my shopping from the opposite direction than I usually do was enough to freshen up an errand I do pretty regularly.

I packed the cart differently and went down aisles from a different direction than usual. I appreciated how quickly I could move through my list. I spent the most time in the produce area--bagging up several items takes longer than grabbing something off of a shelf.

I usually start in the produce area. Yesterday, I finished there. It seemed to make the whole trip go faster. In the end, I appreciated that I have this store close by and that I am familiar with what to find where, regardless of how I approach it.

Little changes and shifts in our regular routines can help us appreciate both the usual and the variety available. Fresh perspectives and new angles are made possible with gratitude practice, just like they are made possible by a different parking spot.

Give it a try. Mix it up today. See what you notice.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Short List Long on Gratitude

Today I am grateful for my eyesight and hearing. Each helped me enjoy a beautiful day yesterday, including blue skies and singing birds.

There are many ways I incorporate gratitude practice into my days. I encourage everyone to try some different ways and land on those that work best for their routine and approach.

I journal daily, and use other practices in various ways throughout the week. These include this blog, A-Z lists, a gratitude stone, 3 x 3 (3 things I am grateful for and 3 reasons why for each), contributing to Daily Gratitudes as well as reading other people's lists, and more.

A simple one that can be done to end a day or reflect back on the previous day is simply listing 10 things appreciated about the day.  Here is my list from yesterday:

1. Enjoying the arrival of daylight with a cup of coffee and time to pause and take it in.

2. A good training run with my husband Darcy and getting back out on trails we haven't been on for a few months.

3. Being able to take that run with shorts and a single layer on top. My legs said thank you for the fresh air.

4. My running shoes and how they protect my legs and the rest of my body. I am not sore at all today.

5. A phone conversation with my cousin Julie. I have missed talking with her.

6. Poems that formed in my head and on paper as the day went on.

7. A satisfying plate of nachos at one of my favorite local restaurants.

8. Darcy, Sam, and I all working together to get our front and back patios ready for the outdoor season.

9. Sitting on new chairs with Darcy and enjoying the fruits of our labor and the soothing sound of water in fountains.

10. A phone conversation with my mom and the realizations she is reaching.