"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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Itchy

Today I am grateful for a good training run for Darcy and I yesterday and for the continued favorable weather. I am also grateful for what life's challenges and frustrations can teach me.

Today's word is itchy, a feeling that can apply in a couple of ways. Bug bites and dry skin can leave me feeling itchy. In those instances it is easy to scratch where it itches. But not too much. Putting some lotion on the dry skin or alcohol on the bug bites helps and keeps me from drawing blood, which only makes the discomfort worse and prolongs the healing.

There's another kind of itchy that is caused from within and doesn't respond to topical ointment. My friend Jill dubs it "itchy, scratchy" or "itchy, twitchy, and __________."  I'm sure you can figure out the third word that rhymes with the first two.

It certainly applies to me when I feel irritable and discontented. I am not pleasant to be around. And I am not pleasant in my own head, beating myself up because "I know better than to act that way." I can compound the irritation by fueling it, or I can ease it by letting go and moving forward.

Feeling itchy, in both ways, makes me human and helps me feel alive. Feeling alive means experiencing the gamut of emotions and pain. Itchy can be minor on that continuum, but still a good teacher.

When the source of the itch is exterior, it tends to leave more quickly. When the source of the discontent rests in my mind, heart, and soul, then I need to redouble my efforts to live gratefully, practice forgiveness, pray to my Higher Power, and talk it out with someone I trust.

When you are itching from the inside, what brings healthy relief?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Healthy

Today I am grateful for bananas, cow's milk and almond milk, for cool sleeping weather, and for time on our front patio right here, right now.

Feeling healthy is something I try not to take for granted, and that I work every day to embrace and preserve. This morning I am busy and feeling a little rushed, but I took the time to come outside to compose this because I feel healthy sitting out in the fresh morning air.

I write in my gratitude journal each morning and it helps me start my day with a healthier mindset.

I strive to pause in prayer and meditation each morning as well, even if briefly. It makes all the difference.

Darcy and I have a long training run scheduled for tomorrow as we enter the final weeks before our marathon. I try to eat healthy, get a good protein base, and then start carb loading. I psych myself up mentally for the miles ahead as well. And I recall other long training runs and the satisfaction and endorphins that await as the miles build and then we finish and can rest.

Two diseases that take lives every day are part of my experience. Cancer and alcoholism. They are my daily motivators to be healthy. And not just of body, but also of mind, heart, and soul. Overall health encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components.

I am blessed to have numerous practices in my routine to help in each of these areas. I don't always adhere to them as well as I should, but I do pretty well. It leaves me feeling healthy and it is key to grateful living.

These are some of my keys to feeling healthy. What are some of yours?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Grateful

Today I am grateful for mindful moments throughout my days, when I remember to take them. I am also grateful for the ways others push me to think more openly.

Maybe it seems a bit too likely, but I chose feeling grateful for the letter "g." I start each blog post saying I am grateful for one thing and then another. But I can honestly say there is nothing typical about feeling grateful day after day. It is an emotion that brings a freshness and an energy all its own each time it is fully experienced.

Sitting with feelings, once identified, can be productive time. Even sitting with perplexed bewilderment. Maybe sitting with it allows clarity to come through. Sitting with appreciation, living a grateful existence, is productive too.

One of the criticisms or concerns I sometimes hear about practicing gratitude is that it can make people complacent. What I experience is not complacent or passive. It is peaceful, yet motivating.

Starting with gratitude for what I have in the here and now is just that--a good start. I believe that when I do that, I show more respect and kindness to all around me; both human and other. With that as a catalyst, I move forward. Hopefully my efforts help preserve the good that is already here, while also creating more to contribute, more to offer.

When I embrace grateful living, I am embracing what Brother David Steindl-Rast refers to as "the great fullness of life." That is the opposite of complacency.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Flummoxed

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet and the calm it brings. I am also grateful for the daily tools to do daily recovery work.

Flummoxed. Now there's a word for you. It is beyond frustrated or confused. It is bewildered. Perplexed. It's a baffling state of being that requires a word like flummoxed.

Okay, I admit that I picked this word partly because it is unusual and a little fun to say. But it also is a feeling I do know and understand at times.

Those times are usually when I am confronted with the concerning state of the world, or the ever-changing state of today's teens, or the influence of technology on our lives, or some other such large, hard to fully handle, topic.

Fortunately, it doesn't tend to last too long. Go to bed flummoxed and chances are it will be gone in the morning, replaced by a fresh outlook on a new day. That is if you aren't too flummoxed to sleep.
Lack of sleep confounds feeling flummoxed. So does thinking I can "figure it out" with sheer brain power.

On the other hand, gratitude and quiet together with patience and acceptance tend to send the flummoxed feeling away.

Feeling flummoxed? Try some mindfulness and gratefulness and then get some rest.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Exhilarated

Today I am grateful for being able to walk up and down stairs. Our house has four levels. I am also grateful for each one of those four levels and our entire house.

Fire up! Today's feeling is exhilarated. 

Feeling exhilarated is experienced viscerally for me. I experience it physically after a run, mentally when I am on a roll with some writing, emotionally when I make a sincere connection with another human, and spiritually when I pause in nature and let the awe roll over me.

Grateful living is exhilarating in and of itself, and it makes everything seem to come alive more. Being present in the current moment has a way of doing that. Mindful presence and the exhilaration of full attention and sensory focus on the here and now is what I strive for.

Some days I only seem to have fleeting moments of exhilaration. On other days I ride the energy throughout the day.  But it all starts with feeding that which we find most invigorating and healthy in our lives.

Go for a run. Write a poem. Send a handwritten thank you. Read a good book. Laugh with a friend.
Stop and look up at the sky. Tackle that work project you are almost done with. Sew. Garden. Pull some weeds, literally or figuratively. Go for a bike ride. Smile.

Have an exhilarating day, in big and small ways. It all matters!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Devoted

Today I am grateful for a pleasant Gopher to Badger half marathon experience yesterday and nice weather to run it in. I am also grateful for my physical capabilities. I don't ever want to take them for granted.

I landed on devoted for today's emotion. Loyal. Faithful. Steadfast. Constant. Committed. Dedicated.
Disciplined and determined; with less of an edge and more love. Like most emotional traits I hope fit me, I also know I often fall short of the description above as well.

Devoted wife, mother and stepmother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt. I try. But I also don't call as often as I could, or reach out often enough to family members who need a reach out, or stop myself from saying harsh things to those nearest and dearest to me.

Being human doesn't preclude me from being a devoted family member. I do my best, and I keep working on forgiveness of self and others. (Though what I usually need to forgive in others is more about me and my expectations than it is about them.)

Devoted friend, listener, and supporter. I feel good about the kind of friend I have been and continue to be to many people in my life. Some of them are the very ones who taught me how to be a good friend, showed me the way. Being a dedicated and steadfast friend takes time and effort, and it is a profound way of giving and sharing.

Devoted runner, writer, recovering person. I find it easier to be loyal and faithful to endeavors that enrich my life so much.

And put grateful living at the top of that list. Devoted to finding the gifts in today. Devoted to creating an upward spiral in my thinking rather than a downward spiral. Devoted to gratefulness as a mindset.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Content

Today I am grateful for another sweet, ripe peach to enjoy this morning for breakfast. I am also grateful for the opportunities I have in my local community to connect with others in recovery, and the many benefits I get from those connections.

Feeling content about life is a true gift. I spent much of my earlier years in a state of discontent. A little worrier, a little starved for attention, a little stuck in a counterproductive train of thought.

Look up the definition of content and you will find things like "a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction." Feeling satisfied in the present moment.

Being content isn't a constant state, for me or for anyone I know. But it is a state I can achieve and sustain more readily than I used to. And I have a growing repertoire, a toolkit if you will, of things that help me find and maintain contentment.

Connecting with people I care about, in person or via phones and other technology. Disciplined recovery practices. Running. Writing. Reading. Grateful living. Sitting or walking in nature. Pauses in a busy day. Deep breaths at a hectic time. 

Content with the content of my days and my thoughts. More than before. What a blessing!

What brings you peace and contentment?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bold

Today I am grateful for time on our patio this morning and for productive time at work yesterday.

From temporary apathy to bold affirmation. Daring. Brave. Courageous. Valiant. Confident. Willing to take risks. But this isn't a big and bold, it's a little boldness.

It starts with the bold move of looking at myself in the mirror and being able to make eye contact.

Then I get a little bolder and I hold eye contact while adding "You're okay."

A little bolder still and I am able to look myself straight in the eyes and say "I love you" and mean it.

A little boldness has gone a long way, has brought me a long way.

It beats the boldness, only temporary, that alcohol would give me.

It puts in its place the misplaced boldness of the alcoholism that held me in its grip and wanted me to keep saying "You dumb, ugly bitch."

Big and bold isn't my style. I leave that for the extroverts. Still, a healthy, mild version of being bold has served me well in recent decades. It  helped me start my first gratitude journal, in spite of my own reservations. It has helped me commit to my first marathon and start my first blog. That was 14 marathons and 1600 blog posts ago.

How has being bold served you well in your life? How has it helped you grow?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Apathetic

Today I am grateful for coffee, bananas, a new day.

Apathetic kicks off the A-Z feelings list. I have considered apathetic to be a feeling or trait to avoid, that I wouldn't want used to describe me. But I have also tried to keep an open mind. That same mind that is often prone to overthinking and over analyzing.

Maybe, just maybe, some apathy now and then can actually be a saving grace. We'll call it temporary apathy.  I'm too tired tonight, that post idea can wait until tomorrow. A little more dust in the corner won't hurt any of us. The clothes will still be there to wash in the morning.

Those feelings of fear, frustration, resentment, loss? I have to take a break from them because they are exhausting my head and heart. Maybe tomorrow or next week I can feel them and work through them a little.

Temporary apathy may just allow enough of a break to regroup and get back moving in the right direction. Sure, it can be a slippery slope. If "I couldn't care less" is getting applied to too many instances, I need a dose of gratitude to help me find my passions and priorities back.

Apathetic:  showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

synonyms:uninterestedindifferentunconcernedunmoveduninvolveddisinterestedunemotionalemotionlessdispassionatelukewarmunmotivatedhalfhearted
informalcouldn't-care-less

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Feelings, Nothing More, Nothing Less

Today I am grateful for sobriety and the recovery wisdom others share with me. I am also grateful for
the feel of cool air on my warm skin after a run this morning.

On my run yesterday morning, I got an idea that it was time for another A-Z list. I was thinking about apathy, feeling apathetic. So let's go with an A-Z list about feelings.

As I thoughts about feelings, I thought of the old Morris Albert song "Feelings."  Feelings, nothing more than feelings. Feelings, wo, wo, wo, feelings.  A fairly successful single when it came out in 1974, it was a song about losing love that people loved to hate for its overly sappy sound. Nothing more than feelings, but nothing less.

Our feelings, our emotions are crucial. Identify them, rather than deny. Experience them rather than suppress. Emotional health is as important as physical, mental, and spiritual. They are interwoven.
It is actually healthy to know a range of emotions, to be able to name them for what they are, and to give them time to work their way through. That is true of joy and of sorrow. That is true of feeling satisfied as well as feeling frustrated. We can't be happy 24/7. We wouldn't appreciate it or give it back. Yet, we shouldn't be experiencing painful emotions 24/7 either. That is a sign that help is needed.

It also brings to mind a visual that I used with students when I was an elementary school counselor. Actually two visuals-a gift bag and a Pringles chips can. I used the gift bag to talk to children about feelings as gifts. All feelings are gifts. They are telling us things are right, or that something is wrong.
If we never let those tough feelings through, if we never talk about them or admit them, it is like stuffing that Pringles can with those negative feelings. And what happens if we stuff for too long? The can bursts. It's a visual young people can understand with a lesson still as important for us as adults.

What are you feeling today? Honor those emotions. Be grateful for them. Then take right actions to help the positive emotions keep flowing and to stem the tide of negative emotions before they sweep us away.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Unbridled Joy

Today I am grateful for bike rides, perspectives and connections made, and for this little guy and his unbridled joy:


This is our grandson Leo and he spent a good portion of the weekend with us. The smile and energy he exudes in this picture captures what can be aptly described as unbridled joy. Toddlers are uninhibited in their curiosity. That is why they need to be watched closely, but it is also why they are so fun to be around. A bug, a different book, something to look at out the window can all be met with a curiosity that keeps things fresh.

Two-year olds have irrepressible get-up-and-go. When they slow down, you know they are truly tired or they are coming down with something. This energy wears off on others. Yes, it can wear grandpa and grandma out too, but in a good way.

So we enjoyed the time with Leo, witnessing his delight as he played at the park or sat next to our dog Oliver.

There is plenty of heaviness around, with news of cancer deaths and a friend's parent passing away.
That is tempered with the unbridled joy of Leo and other toddlers, reminding us that today awaits. Bring energy and curiosity to it, along with some gratitude. Onward!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Waiting in Lines, Reflecting on Life

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and reading books to him. I am also grateful for this day ahead.

Yesterday, for the second day in a row, I stopped at a local store to pick up sympathy cards. It seems I have been stopping there for sympathy cards a lot in recent months, interspersed with cards for weddings, showers, new babies. A co-worker's sister died of cancer at age 53 and a church member's elderly brother passed away.

Both times I stopped, I was hoping to be in and out quickly, and both times I had to spend a little time waiting in line. It gave me time to pause, to consider the precious and fragile nature of life. To consider how many people I know who have suffered the loss of loved ones, health challenges, and other concerns in the last few months.

Mixed with that is the joy of weddings and new babies and growing families. Such is life.

Waiting in line for those brief moments brought things back into perspective for me. Life brings both joy and suffering. We don't fully appreciate the former without some doses of the latter.

Then, last evening, I saw an obituary on social media. For a woman I had coached early in my coaching days. I also coached her sister and knew their family. They were part of some great teams and some wonderful memories. Another victim of cancer. At 48.

Waiting in line, reflecting on life. Coming across an obituary. Life isn't always fair. But it is always a gift. Each day of it. Each hour. Each moment. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Home

Today I am grateful for the smell of freshly cut grass this morning as I ran past the golf course we live near. I am also grateful for healthy flax seed to add to my dietary intake.

After many miles of travel and being away from our home for several days, I especially welcomed being back in our own space, our own bed, surrounded by our familiar stuff.

But I still appreciate these words from James Baldwin:

"Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition."  

I most often think of home as a place, yet I appreciate considering it as a condition; thoughts or emotions that I can carry with me wherever I am. I do like our physical home, the rooms we have, the outdoor space we can enjoy, and much more.

As I think about home as an irrevocable condition, I am most grateful for my recovery from alcoholism. It has brought me home in ways that nothing else could have. I was destroying myself with alcohol and alcoholic thinking. Recovery has made me comfortable in my own skin, with my own heart and soul.

That is a wonderful way to describe home, and a reminder to me to keep doing daily work for my daily disease.

Home is also the comfort of waking up next to my husband, in whatever state or city we find ourselves. It means being with family and friends who I trust and am at ease with. It means a peaceful sigh and a feeling that I am right where I should be at this moment.

What does home mean to you?


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Stream of Life

Today I am grateful for the simple pleasure of eating peanut butter and jelly on toast. I am also grateful for the soothing sound of rain from inside my home with a roof, windows, and dry floors.

I came across this quote right as we were spending time on some beaches along the Oregon Coast:

"The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through 
the world and dances in rhythmic measures."  
(Rabindranath Tagore)



This is Neskowin Beach. Seeing the ocean and witnessing the tide, the sounds, the smells, the changing light as the day progresses, are all a real treat for me. I grew up and live in the Midwest. I only visit the ocean and that has only been a handful of times. The awe of nature is all around, but sometimes we notice it more when we go to places we don't often go.

As I walked along the beach, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, I pondered the stories behind the rocks and driftwood that washed ashore. I soaked up the sun and the calming nature of the waves coming and going. Like our lives, sometimes things are calm and sometimes they are stormy. But I don't appreciate shelter in a storm as much if I don't first appreciate the beauty in the quiet.

It is all very humbling to me. My tiny role on this planet. The flow of oceans, rivers, and jet streams.
The gratitude that abounds, even in difficulties. All are part of the stream of life. As humans, we are small in it all, but not small in the difference we can make.

What can I add to the stream of good in the world today? 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lots of Miles, Smiles, and Gratitude

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from a very nice visit with my sister Leonice and sister-in-law Annie. I am also grateful to return to one of my favorite, favorite places--the Oregon Coast.

Darcy and I flew 3,000 miles round-trip to Oregon, and I drove 600 miles to drop Sam off and pick him back up at one of his favorite places--my family's farm in Iowa. So very grateful we were able to make this trip and for the safe travels all around.

I sure appreciated giving my sister Leonice the hug I have been waiting to give her since first hearing of her cancer diagnosis in April. She has completed four of six rounds of chemo and was doing well during our visit. She kept active and that was encouraging to me. It was also reminiscent of my own chemo days. When I was able to work, or exercise, or be out and about, I felt better and like I was going to be okay. That means a lot in the thick of cancer treatment.

Here the two of us are shortly after arriving at Neskowin Beach:


We are sporting smiles and the shirts of our hometown--Ossian, Iowa. That's the thing about siblings. We have much shared experience, and we have our own lives too. Cancer diagnoses and chemo treatments are now part of our shared experience, but so are memories of our youth and the new memories created and conversations shared on this recent trip.

There were many miles covered, smiles shared, and gratitude cultivated. It was a great trip.
Thank you Leonice and Annie!