"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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Changed Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Transcendent Moments of Awe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Encountering Everyday Epiphanies

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

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

Back to breaking down this quote: 

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Breaking Down a Quote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start there. Just for today. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Next Breath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pause and Say "Ah"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

From the website, here are the words describing TTFA:

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Packed and Unpacked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Shine On! (According to the Upanishads)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily Work for Daily Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One Husband and Two Sisters

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

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

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

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

Here are links to their blogs:

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

Danita's at Aging Wrinkles and Wonders

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

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bless the Beasts and the Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Standing in the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Come Alive

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

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

Consider these words:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Variety of Hangovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a good day!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Family Ties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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