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Showing posts from June, 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…

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 …

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 th…

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…

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 t…

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…

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 tha…

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 c…

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 ca…

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…

Fathers

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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 Fa…

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.…

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, …

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 an…

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…

Downsizing

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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 downsize…

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 c…

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…

An Eclectic Mix

Today I am grateful for time with current and former colleagues last evening. I am also grateful for the relationships that I have built over the years with an eclectic mix of people.

I was pondering this eclectic mix this morning, as I appreciated the time last evening sharing conversation with several women I have worked with over the last 17 years. Some retired long ago, some more recently. Some are only just now moving on to other pursuits. Some of us will head back to school together in August. An eclectic mix of educators, mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters, with an eclectic mix of hobbies and interests. Thanks for the time together ladies!

An eclectic mix also describes the people I have met in recovery. Other than our shared disease of alcoholism/addiction, I can't think of anything else that would have brought these wonderful, interesting, and deeply genuine people into my life. I am so grateful for them.

And I continue to consider the people I have connected with beca…

Solidarity in Prayer

Today I am grateful for the road traffic I can hear this morning. It means it's a typical day.

I am also grateful for time with my friend Sara last evening. We ran together for the first time and got to talk and get caught up. Sara and I share a cancer diagnosis in 2008, and much more since we met on the day I got my head shaved. There is more to write, but for now, I am grateful for our time together and that Sara has been relieved of the burden of cancer in more ways than one. (The burden never fully leaves, but we take what we can get.) Great to see you Sara!

Yesterday's post was about showing and sharing solidarity. Prayer is an avenue to solidarity that I truly believe in. Prayer brings the seemingly disparate parts of myself together and makes way for acceptance and patience. Prayer allows me to connect with the Higher Power or Great Spirit I turn to instead of simply relying on myself and my often misguided ego.

For me growing up, prayer was more obligatory, someone els…

Solidarity

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Today I am grateful for the various birds greeting us humans this morning. I am grateful for dear friends and our deep connections. 
I am thinking of my seven sisters today, especially my sister Leonice. She got her head shaved on Saturday, a little over two weeks out from her first chemo treatment. In late September of 2008, also on a Saturday two weeks out from my first chemotherapy treatment, I got my head shaved too. 
I appreciated being able to FaceTime with Leonice the other day, and to see her with her new look, courtesy of this damn cancer she has and the treatment being aimed at it. I remember feeling quite vulnerable, and also finally looking the part of cancer patient, four months out from my diagnosis.
It's a feeling and a place you can't fully grasp emotionally and mentally until you've walked through it. Keep walking Leonice.
I also appreciate that my sister Zita is out visiting with Leonice this week, that two of the four "chemo sisters" are hangi…

Even If It's Just One Bite

Today I am grateful for less humid air and a nice breeze yesterday. I am also grateful for prayers and how they can provide strength and comfort, for myself and others I am praying for.

I am still thinking about our time volunteering at Feed My Starving Children on Saturday. Thinking about starving children around the world and then looking at a full refrigerator leaves me with a variety of feelings. I don't want to take the food I have for granted. I don't want to take anything for granted. But I do. That is the nature of humans. We have, we get used to, we forget.

Food is a necessity, yet those of us who have it in plenty and at easy access often forget that.  I have no idea what real hunger feels like. I can't imagine spending hours of my day finding and preparing food for my family. But I can choose to eat more mindfully, to grow the appreciation for the bounty of nourishment my family and I have available.

Even if it's just one bite at each meal, I can eat more mi…

94 Hungry Kids in Haiti

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Today I am grateful for the conversations I had with siblings yesterday, and for FaceTime so I can see them across the miles. I am also grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children.

Darcy and I joined several others from our church and then other volunteers at the FMSC site. You can read more about the wonderful work Feed My Starving Children does at their website. We knew where the meals we helped pack were going to be shipped, and through good organization and planning, agencies working on the other end assure that the meals get where they are needed.

Darcy and I worked back in the warehouse, assembling and labeling the boxes that the food packs are shipped in. It was fairly easy work and we made good progress, even being able to help out the next shift with some labeling. Here we are donning our required hairnets:


During the shift we participated in, 159 boxes were filled, meaning over 34,000 meals got packed.  That is enough to feed 94 hungry children in …

Tiny 'Tudes

Today I am grateful for a nice morning to relax on our front patio with Darcy. I am also grateful for dark roast coffee.

Thank you to my blogging sister Aileen for this mention on her blog Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events:

Tiny 'tudes*
*bits of gratitude ='tudes
For my sister Lisa Holthaus Valentine and her ongoing commitment to gratitude.

Dry right now
can't handle
big gulps of gratitude,
but can quell
my thirst for appreciation
with tiny 'tudes.
Will savor
sips of flavor
thru the day
and feed my
appetite for wonder
with little plates
of thanks
artfully arranged,
garnished with grace.
For dessert
I shall devour
one divine sweetness,
a final tiny 'tude.

Wishing you lots of tiny 'tudes and some big ones too.
Here are some of mine:
-the adorable, questioning sound my cat Oscar makes
-the baby green heads of perennials breaching the soil
-fun words like: petulant, flummoxed, prattle

Please share your 'tudes.
A big thank you!

Here are some of my recent tiny 'tudes…