"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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sensory Overload or Loaded Senses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Nose for Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Smell your way through the gratitudes that today can offer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Properly Charged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Filled Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Pleasant Gathering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Outdoor Seating

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Four Sounds

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

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

There were four sounds I focused on:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Closed Doors, Opened Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Boredom

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

Another quote today, just five short words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Normal Day

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

Here is a quote to consider on this Monday:

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

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

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

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

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

Make today a better day! 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Happy Father's Day to all dads out there! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stopped In My Tracks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

41 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Swerving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Blank Slate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Downsizing

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

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

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

Here is that raised garden:


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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ease or Dis-ease?

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

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

"May you/I have ease of being."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Weight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

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 because of running, writing, breast cancer, and other avenues. What a blessing each and every one of these connections are.

Onward to make more connections today. Have a good day!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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 else's idea, and most often someone else's words too. I didn't find it all that comforting because I wasn't all that invested in it, or open-minded about it.

Like much of the best wisdom shared with me, other recovering alcoholics have taught me a lot about prayer. So have many others. Especially those who have known suffering. (And isn't that all of us?) People like my friend Sheila, facing a wall of grief since her daughter Carli died on April 4.

Prayer is about reaching out with an open mind and heart, stemming from our soul--that unseen source of who we really are at our core. Reaching out to others; those facing grief, loss, challenges, surgery, aging, broken dreams, a big event, marriage, a baby on the way, success. Prayer is for all times, not just the tough ones. Sometimes the good times are when we forget prayer and that is when prayers of thanksgiving are meant to flow freely.

In recent months there have been so many I have sent prayers of support and strength out to. I have been praying for others for many years. It is an important part of my morning routine because it is action and because it gets me out of my own little head.

I feel better for the effort, and I believe my prayers add to the positive stream of good in the world. To bring peace and comfort, in small, unforeseen ways when the pain is great. To bring humility and grace when success comes.

In other words, prayer always helps. Say prayers others have written. Make up your own. Listen and see what comes through. It all works.

How do I know it works? Because I believe it works. That is really all it takes.

But I can be a doubter, a person lacking in faith too. So to hear amazing stories of connections made on many levels, seen and unseen, felt or intuited, proves to me that it works. Taking the actions proves effectiveness. I get up off of my knees and feel a kinder and gentler approach to the day ahead and to my fellow humans, even myself.  I end a conversation and I feel fortified that there was much more between the other person and I than just words.

Prayer. Mutual support. Solidarity. Let us start here today.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Solidarity

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 hanging out together for a few days. Leonice has her second round of chemo on Thursday. 

The word solidarity comes to mind. Unity. Cohesion. Mutual support. I feel solidarity with my sisters. With fellow recovering alcoholics. With friends who are genuine and let me be the same. 

And with this guy--my husband Darcy. I got frustrated yesterday afternoon looking for some pictures of me taken during and right after getting my head shaved. I wanted to show solidarity with Leonice. I wasn't able to locate them. They exist, but I have too many cancer artifacts in too many places. They will show up sooner or later. 

But I did come across this one of Darcy and I, taken later in 2008 or early in 2009. My hair had begun to grow back a little, and Darcy, who now always keeps his hair short, had gotten a buzz to show solidarity with his cancer-stricken wife. My puffy cheeks are thanks to chemo and the other drugs that go with it. 


My health returned. It took time, but it did. That is my biggest hope and desire for you Leonice--a return to health.  I wish I could be there with you this week too, but the support is freely flowing your way, as are prayers. Sisters in solidarity!

Monday, June 5, 2017

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 mindfully. Consider where the food I am enjoying came from. Thank the many others who helped get it to me. Slow down and notice textures and tastes. Savor. Chew slowly. Be grateful for that one bite of food. It is more than many will get today.

Time to nourish ourselves is very important, and not just with food. Gratitude practice nourishes my heart and soul in healthy ways too.

Take a mindful bite today. Even if it's just one bite, it matters. It makes a difference in how we look at and experience the blessings before us.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

94 Hungry Kids in Haiti

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 Haiti for a year. Some of those 94 children may have been on the brink of starvation. Some may have been eating clay cookies to help ease the hunger pains. 

It was humbling and gratifying work. And a good reminder. I have never gone hungry in my life, except by choice. I have never wondered if my family and I would have a next meal, only what it might consist of. I haven't spent hours and hours simply trying to find enough food to live on for another day. 

Today I give thanks for the Feed My Starving Children organization and all whose donations and time make it possible to feed children around the world. I give thanks for the food in our refrigerator and cupboards. I give thanks for the car I can drive to the local grocery store and the money I have to purchase a variety of food for my family.

Knowing I have a next meal waiting is a significant blessing indeed. Over 800,000 people around the world don't have that blessing. Over 6000 children die each day worldwide from starvation.

The least I can do is appreciate the food I am blessed with, take the time to enjoy it mindfully, and not waste it. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

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:
-zippers
-Leo's laugh 
-the smell of Palmolive dish soap
-the memory of fresh kohlrabi from our garden in my youth
-the sound leaves make in a gentle breeze
-a clean towel after a shower
-ballpoint pens
-the first intake of fresh morning air as I step outside

Thanks Aileen for your reminders to savor and sip what this day will bring! You are each welcome to add to our list of tiny 'tudes.