Showing posts from 2018

Season Opener

Today I am grateful for my taste buds and the smooth coffee they are enjoying this morning. I am also grateful for especially meaningful conversations I had with two different people yesterday.

Yesterday was the first day of spring on the calendar, but typical for Minnesota, it didn't look or feel like it. Snowflakes were flying, though they didn't add up to much. Hats, gloves, and jackets were advisable.

Nonetheless, spring has arrived and we know it is only a matter of time before the weather starts acting like it, at least for a few days. That brings us hearty, but weary, upper Midwesterners some hope.

There may be plenty of snow on the ground here yet, and we are weeks from seeing real green, but we look for other signs. I took this picture on Sunday along the Mississippi River. The water is open after being pretty ice-filled for months. It's a sure sign of spring, as will be the first barge that makes it's way through the nearby lock and dam for the season.

I am r…

Not Just Another Day

Today I am grateful for Sam's wrestling season this year and the very strong program he is fortunate to be part of. I am also grateful for my seeming knack of remembering dates.

I remember birthdays, sobriety dates, anniversaries, other significant dates. I will often act on that memory with a card or email sent, a phone call or a text, some writing applied, or prayers said. I appreciate this memory, though it is slipping some. I augment it by writing things down or giving myself reminders.

Though a true blessing, this memory of mine also brings me difficult reminders, painful memories.
But I wouldn't have it any other way. Life is both full of joy and riddled by pain. To accept both as part of life makes the joy more intense, the pain more tolerable.

In recent days our grandson turned three, a first birthday after the death of a dear friend's child came and went, the first anniversary of a cousin's death was marked, sobriety milestones were celebrated. Bookends of joy…

Two Boys and a Dog

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my Aunt Helen, for my husband Darcy, and for the break from work the long weekend provided.

We enjoyed some time with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily yesterday, celebrating his birthday.  He turned 3 on March 14. He is into Spiderman these days, so that showed up on plates and napkins and his gifts. if you look closely, you can see his new Spiderman shoes in this picture:

He and our dog Oliver had some good play time together. The "toy" they are using is an empty paper towel tube. No bells, whistles, or batteries needed. Just a boy, a dog, and a little cardboard.
The second boy in today's post title is our son Sam. He spent considerable time in the kitchen yesterday doing an assignment for his Spanish class. He made avocado and tuna salad tapas and Galician soup. They were both quite tasty. Nice work Sam!
I appreciate that Sam doesn't mind making meals and helping us out at times with meal preparation. He doesn'…

A Little Detaching Goes a Long Way

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Sioux Falls to visit my mother-in-law Marlene, and for time to sit and take in this morning's sunrise.

I am also grateful for the healthy act of detaching. By detaching I mean to disengage, to remove myself and my thought processes, to withdraw to a safer distance. Even if temporarily, detaching can give our minds and hearts the break they need.

It can also bring a perspective I can't ever reach if I stay stirred up right in the middle of all of my thoughts and emotions. This is what I am prone to do, what my default tends to be. So I need to consciously detach and turn my thoughts off. It's like a reset and a fresh start.

It is possible to detach anywhere at anytime, but going away for a couple of days, 250 miles from home, was a good way for me to both physically and emotionally detach. It was helpful, restful. I laughed with family. I ran with and against the wind. I slept in.

What was I detaching from? My own obsessive t…

You Are A Miracle

Today I am grateful for safe travels for Darcy and Sam and that they are home. I am also grateful for the beautiful day and a run yesterday that brought me several doses of gratitude.
As I looked through some of my pictures last evening, I unearthed this one:

It's not a real clear picture, but the words "Don't look for miracles. You are a miracle." are visible in the middle of the picture. This is a bulletin board in my classroom at Spencer High School. I taught social studies there for six years, from 1992-1998. I liked to have lots of posters and signs on the walls, to pull students in and to also let them know my overarching philosophy.
"Don't look for miracles. You are a miracle."  Those words serve as much as a reminder to me as they are a plea to others. Smiles and laughter. The way our bodies work. A new day dawning. All miracles.
Making it one more mile. The interstate highway system being built. Technological advances. Being able to read and w…

A Happy Birthday and Pictures to be Treasured

Today I am grateful for the thousands of pictures I have taken in my lifetime. I am also grateful for our grandsons Leo and Aaron.

Happy 3rd birthday to Leo today! These three years have gone so quickly. From tiny newborn to an active and inquisitive toddler, we have watched Leo reach the milestones that come so quickly at this age. Here is Leo at a few days old, with his uncle Sam, newly a teenager himself.

And here is Leo last fall. Rolling along on his trike. 

Both Sam and Leo have grown up in many ways in three years. I was looking for a couple of items recently and ended up looking through some of my many photo albums.  I was transported to different times and places, and left feeling grateful for the many smiles in the pictures and the new ones evoked by the pictures. 
Moments are fleeting. The years seem fleeting as I continue to add them up. Living gratefully helps me treasure moments and savor memories. I have been blessed fully and richly. I will keep awake to today's fu…

The Outside World

Today I am grateful for the simple goodness of oatmeal, and for laughter among friends in recovery.

These words followed up nicely on yesterday's about sacred ground:

"Finding where exactly the outside world ends and I begin--is not so easy."   (Nora Bateson)

Sacred ground is all around. The divine Presence is all around. When I think of the outside world, I think of the natural world. The air around me. The huge expanse of sky. A wind coming up and hitting me in the face while also blowing tree branches around.

The bald eagle I paused to watch soaring high above. The piles of snow and the running water as some of it melts and flows away, pulled along by gravity.

It reminds me that the space I take up is also sacred ground. My earthly body is a marvel as it moves along and as my organs do their jobs. I am a worthy human being, deserving of my space and place. We all are. If we can get outside of our thoughts enough to remember this, I think there would be more kindness, a…

Sacred Ground

Today I am grateful for the chance to see my sister Ruth and watch my niece Ellie play volleyball yesterday. I am also grateful for the quiet that can bring clarity of thoughts.

Clarity of thought is often a goal but less often a reality for me, especially in times of concern for others and for the life circumstances some are facing.

These words from Brother David bring me comfort today:

"Any place is sacred ground, for it can become a place of encounter with the divine Presence."  Br. David Steindl-Rast
The divine Presence. Great Spirit. God. Higher Power. Call it what you like. The important thing for me is that I have faith in this Presence, that I can seek guidance and direction from the Great Spirit. And I can do that anywhere. It needn't be in a certain building or at a certain time. 
I considered this as I walked our dog Oliver this morning. Pausing to look at the moon and stars. Feeling my footfalls strike on solid ground. Breathing in the cold air and feeling it …

What's Your Hill?

Today I am grateful for tiger balm for achy muscles and the ease of sending a gift to someone else's doorstep with a few clicks on my computer.

I have hills on my mind. We live in a river town and hills go with the territory. I grew up in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa. I am thinking about those hills and my parents and siblings this morning.

As long as I have been a runner, I have been running hills. Yesterday, Darcy and I had a nice run together. The last portion of our route took us up one of the toughest hills in town, less than a mile from home. We sometimes avoid this hill on purpose, and we can always give ourselves a flatter route when on shorter runs. But we run plenty of hills and they are good for us and our training.

Yesterday we hit it straight on. I never walk up this hill. Damned if I am going to let a hill stop me. It might slow me down, but walk?  I'll show that hill who is in charge.

There are the hills of life though that aren't as easy to tackle. T…

Open Fields

Today I am grateful for headphones and relaxation tracks to listen to. I am also grateful for friends who helped me survive my drinking days.

One of those friends is my college friend Deb and today is her birthday. Happy Birthday old friend! Old because we have been friends for nearly 35 years, not because she's older than me :-)

Yesterday was one of those days when I needed my run almost desperately. Mind swirl and exhaustion needed an outlet. As my run brought me to the edge of town, I took in the open fields. I like to hit this stretch, just minutes from our house. An Iowa farm girl at heart, I always appreciate this area. Fewer buildings, less concrete, and pristine snow cover.

Spring and green, the smell of the fresh soil, the new crops coming up. These each are still dormant, but the anticipation of them is heightened. They are mere weeks away. I follow the changing seasons from this open field vantage point. Those changing seasons and being able to experience them is one o…

Hold On

Today I am grateful for the lengthening daylight and the hope of spring. I am also grateful that this practice of living gratefully helps me take less for granted in my life, in my days.

Yesterday's "on hold" is today's "hold on." Let's go with some thoughts of a random nature on this one. As a writer, I sometimes have one train of thought. At other times, several trains leave the station for destinations unknown. I enjoy the process of seeing where the writing process takes me.

*One of my first thoughts was of the Wilson Phillips song "Hold On."  I liked it long before it was part of the hit comedy movie "Bridesmaids." "Why do you lock yourself up in these chains? No one change your life except for you. Hold on for one more day." These were just some of the lyrics that resonated with me when the song came out in early 1990, when I was not yet 25 years old and not yet sober for a year.

*I need to tell some of the things on …

On Hold

Today I am grateful for old songs that bring new meaning and for honest sharing happening among people in a trusting group.

Have you ever been put on hold when trying to make what you hoped would be a pretty quick phone call?  It seems tougher and tougher to reach a real human these days when calling many places. There are menus and numbers, but not a friendly voice right off the bat. I get it, automation makes sense, but I do miss the old, pre-computerized days in ways.

My husband Darcy ended up on hold on a phone call yesterday at the end of the day. He was seeking to speak to customer service at our old internet provider. He was experiencing some frustration and impatience early in the call, stemming from the mishandling of our account closure.

Not a huge deal in the larger scheme of life, but a microcosm of what we face day in and day out. Plenty to accept and not a whole lot we can do about it. I witnessed Darcy dial back the impatience and frustration and state his case well, an…

Loving Intentionally

Today I am grateful for my sense of touch and the feel of snow and wind on my face and skin. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and our son Sam and sharing meals together. 
I intentionally considered these words yesterday: "Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally."  They were the ones that stayed with me the most from the quote in yesterday's post. 
Love intentionally. Make the effort. And it does take work. Don't be fooled that it is all sunshine and roses, whether romantic or other love. Labor of love. True words. But it is far from drudgery, in my opinion. The fruits of the labor are priceless. 
I loved intentionally when I wrote a note to my sister, put it in an envelope, and ran with it to the mail drop a mile or so from our house. I thought of her and sent her good energy and well wishes. Every step was a step closer to sending that little note, a hug from across the miles.
I loved intentionally when I prepared a meal for my family. Nothing fan…

The Light that is You

Today I am grateful for the energy and joy our little grandsons Leo and Aaron project out and that we get to take in. I am also grateful for the ease of phone communications across the miles with family and friends.

There are always new quotes, new combinations of words, that I come across and find inspiring. Hopefully, some of my words do the same for you as you read them. This quote touched my heart at a time when I was indeed feeling dismayed by the brokenness of the world:

"Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. 
And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. 
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world 
waits in darkness for the light that is you."  (L.R. Knost)

All things can be mended. I appreciate that the author didn't say "All things can be fixed." They can't. But mended implies healing, improvement, acceptance. Those things can and do happen, even in dire sit…

Wind-Driven Sleet

Today I am grateful for a warm house, rain gear, an evening out with Darcy, and warm milk on cereal.

That's a random gratitude list to start this post, and the post will likely be pretty random too.  Just like our weather has been. Yesterday it was sunny and nearly 50 degrees. This morning Oliver and I were greeted with wind-driven sleet as we headed out for his first morning walk. He didn't know what to make of it and it threw off his routine. There isn't much pleasant about wind-driven sleet.

The unexpected throwing off our routine. It happens. How do I handle it? Some days pretty well, other days with what amounts to swirling frustration. Oliver didn't know what to make of the wind-driven sleet, or the flash of lightning and roll of thunder that also took place in our brief minutes outside.

I don't always know what to make of the curve balls life throws me and the people I care about. Like this morning, the wind-driven sleet may be short-lived, or it can pelt us…

Natural or Forced?

Today I am grateful for a good turnout at an event at my school last evening.  I am also grateful for the invaluable experience of years of gratitude practice, through thick and thin.

This quote is a variation on “Let go or be dragged” and “try easier.”

"Do your best and then relax. Let things go on in a natural way, rather than force them." Paramahansa Yogananda
Words and intentions that I need to hear and practice regularly. I hear this idea more among those recovering from alcoholism and other addictions, but they are of value to any and all of us. What and who can I really change?  Just me and my own attitude and actions. Things unfold naturally or unravel forcibly. I have a choice, even in the most difficult of times, amid the most powerful of emotions.

I very much appreciate that my gratitude practice and my intention to live gratefully do tend to come naturally. They aren't actions and thoughts I need to force. Sure, there are days where I need to be more intention…

Heading into March

Today I am grateful for our appliances--washer, dryer, oven, refrigerator--and more. They bring convenience and help us stay well-fed and in clean clothes.

I am also grateful that today is March 1. March has always felt like a hopeful and interesting month to me. It can be muddy, messy, rainy, snowy. It can be breezy and mild, or windy and cold. Clear blue skies or several gray days in a row. Every month has variety, but March tends to have more.

It comes after months of more dark, more cold, more outdoor limitations. It comes when we are getting a little stir crazy and craving more fresh air. I get outside a fair amount even in the winter, but I am ready for more, ready for patio time. Ready for shorts and shirt sleeves, less bulk and less time needed to get ready to head out the door.

March brings daylight savings time and spring break. More light and less work.

The green of spring will show itself a little later, but the seeds and sprouts spring forth in these next weeks.

Looking f…

Proud Native Iowan!

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and his reminders to me to stretch after sitting for a time and to not take myself too seriously. Thanks Oliver.

I am also grateful for my dad, Arthur, on this day, his birthday. His legacy lives on in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We miss you Dad and we thank you.

And speaking of Dad and family, I am a proud native Iowan this morning, in the wake of my home state topping U.S. News and World Report's list of this year's "Best States." Read about it here.


Today I am grateful for our coffee pot and what it delivers for my morning routine. I am also grateful for the bright and mild sunshine I had time to take a walk in after work yesterday afternoon.

As I drove home from work before I took that walk,  I realized I was feeling discouraged, disillusioned, disheartened. I am guessing you all have days like that too, related to work or other areas of your life. They aren't fun, and they are draining. My job will leave me feeling this way more often than I prefer, but I also always have a choice.

I can choose what I take on and what I let go of in terms of thoughts and emotions. I can remain rational and reasonable and remember what is my part and what is not. I can return to my priorities--family, friends, recovery/faith, running, writing.

And interwoven in all of those priorities is a sense of gratefulness. Living gratefully takes practice, takes daily habits. I am very well aware that my years of practice pay dividends back on days lik…

What are you? A human being.

Today I am grateful for fresh air, working limbs, food in our refrigerator, and meals shared as a family.

I also appreciate that, even in the racially homogenous rural farm country I grew up in, I was shown and taught the dignity of all humans, all living things. And that I was instilled with some level of tolerance and open-mindedness.

Not that my parents addressed diversity all that much, but that means they also didn't talk down about others either, regardless of race, beliefs, etc. My mother's well-worn phrase of "If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all" sounds far less trite and far more wise to me in my adulthood than in did in my youth.

Our world, our nation, and the grassroots level of our communities are in need of this reminder of human dignity, tolerance, open-mindedness. The reminder that we who share this planet are far more alike than we are different.

On Saturday, Darcy and I attended an event to honor our community's bla…

A Couple of Thrivers

Today I am grateful for how modern technology connects us in positive ways. I am also grateful for my seven sisters and five brothers and our perspectives on life--both how they are similar and how they are different.

The modern technology I appreciate is the kind that allows us to easily share pictures and videos across the miles. Our grandson Aaron reached the milestone of 6 months old yesterday. He lives four hours away with his parents Arthur and Alyssa. So getting treated to pictures like this one and videos of his latest escapades are especially cherished.

Aaron is clearly content and thriving. He has a healthy appetite, is reaching more and more physical milestones which will soon make him mobile, and makes baby sounds and laughs in adorable ways. If you want a point of comparison, check out this post from mid-October, Pondering Life, that shows Aaron at 2 months old. 
We miss seeing you regularly Aaron, but we are so thankful you are doing well and that we see you across the m…

Shaky Flakes

Today I am grateful for overnight oatmeal as a quick and healthy breakfast and for the opportunities I get each day to make a difference in the lives of students, colleagues, and parents.

Yesterday I carried with me the idea of existing in a "more tender, shaky kind of place" as suggested by Pema Chodron. It brought me increased awareness, one of the most valuable rewards of pausing mindfully. It brought more compassion to my demeanor and approach.

I noticed the tender and shaky sound of a bird singing in late winter. They sound more confident in the spring. I paid attention to the icy walkways under my feet. My steps were more deliberate and slow. I am not one to tempt fate.

As the day went on, I had several opportunities to witness and be sensitive to a wide range of feelings other people were expressing and exhibiting. Feelings, in their raw and real state, are some of life's biggest gifts and teachers.

And then I went for a run outside after work, just as some snowfl…

A Tender, Shaky Kind of Place

Today I am grateful for the women in our local breast cancer support group and my comfort level with them. I am also grateful that Darcy is making my breakfast this morning.

This is a link to a post about Pema Chodron from April of 2015. In it, I write about old habits and fears and working to replace them, ideas in one of Chodron's books. It comes down to openminded kindness really. Toward others, ourselves, the environment that surrounds us. This is a reminder that I need daily. Staying mindfully present with an open heart are the keys to experiencing life fully.

She furthers these suggestions in this quote:

"Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live."
Gray areas for black and white thinkers, for all-or-nothing sorts of brain…

Big City

Today I am grateful for songs that come through my ears but reach my whole body. I am also grateful for letting go and resting instead of continuing to push.

You saw "Big City" coming didn't you, after Monday's "Bright Lights" post? New York City is by far the largest city in the United States, with over 8.5 million residents. The entire metropolitan area around NYC has over 20 million people, with roughly 1 in 16 Americans living in this urban area.

The mind-boggling part is that neither NYC or the metro area hit the list of the 10 largest cities in the world. Tokyo, Japan tops that list with over 24 million people, and 34 million in its metropolitan area.  I will stick to my small community and appreciate being just a short distance from wide open farm land.

One of the most captivating things to me during my brief visit to New York City was the view of the skyline. Here is Lower Manhattan from our ferry as we headed to Ellis Island on Saturday:

The number…

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today I am grateful for my working limbs and senses. And I am especially grateful for my mom today as she celebrates her 87th birthday.

Happy Birthday Mom!

This card fits. Understated, not about the glitz and glam. Flowers and green, two things you have always appreciated tending and viewing. 
As I ponder these working limbs and senses of mine, I consider how yours are on the decline. Your arthritic hands get more gnarled and bent. Your balance gets more questionable. Your eyes and ears still work, but nothing like they used to.
Happy Birthday Mom. How does it feel to be 87?  How does it feel to celebrate your first birthday in the nursing home? Mixed emotions? That is what I am feeling for you from my vantage point as your youngest daughter and #11 of 13.
Happy Birthday Mom! Your brood of 13 has expanded to a family that numbers will over 100 now. You have many well wishes coming your way on this day. I am grateful for your general overall health and that your new home is near your …

Bright Lights

Today I am grateful for safe travels and the chance to experience New York City for the first time. I am also grateful for my fellow chaperones and the students who helped me see things through different perspectives.

A special thank you to our lead teacher Judy and all the work she puts in to plan and lead this trip, and to my fellow chaperones Kelley, Ben, Mallory, Jess, and Mitch.

New York City and the surrounding area is an amazing place and has so much to see and take in. It was overwhelming at times, and one thing that struck me was the light. Lots of light. The lights of the skyline from the 86th floor observation deck at the Empire State Building on our first night, with One World Trade Center in the middle:

Or some of the multitude of bright and flashing lights that make Times Square both a beacon and a trap for travelers, shoppers, and locals and visitors alike who want to experience the true hustle and bustle of NYC:

From my window seat on our return flight last evening, I …

Twenty Years of Valentine's Days

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our love, our marriage, our lives together. I am also grateful for the ways I have been able to move from self-hatred to self-love.

Last year's post Mr. Valentine summed up things pretty well regarding my thoughts and feelings toward my Valentine. And Happy Valentine's Day was my first  February 14 post on Habitual Gratitude five years ago.

Today's post is about Darcy and I marking twenty years of Valentine's Days together with a little stroll down memory lane to the first Valentine's Day that we shared, back in 1998.

We met in early November of 1997, while living two hours apart and in two different states. Before long, we were spending our weekends together. It just so happened that Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday that year, so we got to spend it together. We got dressed up and went out to eat at a nice Italian place in Sioux Falls.

I wore a new outfit that Darcy gave me, and we both wore the smiles and glow of new…


Today I am grateful for our grandsons and the perspective they give us. I am also grateful for the REST I had last night. I stopped and went to bed earlier than usual, and it helped.

Like my friend Betsy and her focus word of REST, JOY is the word my friend Jill brought to a recent conversation.

In coming off of a tough year in 2017 that saw much pain and many challenges for people I care about, and also brought me some job-related stress as well as minor, but noticeable, physical health issues, JOY is a good reminder, a good focus.

Some random thoughts on JOY:

*"Don't squeeze the joy out." Each day, each hour provides joy for the taking. Notice it.

* Joylets, as my sister Aileen calls them, can be as simple as the smell of fresh air or seeing the stars in the sky.

*The joy in forgiveness is real. Whether forgiving others, being forgiven by them, or forgiving ourselves, there is joy in the unburdening and the compassion needed to forgive.

*The joy in a bite of chocolate.…


Today I am grateful for laughter, a clean house, and a cheap car wash.

Our vehicles were all pretty dirty after several rounds of snow, up and down temperatures, and road spray. It got to where I just needed to get some of the grime off my car and feel like my windows were at least providing me full visibility.

So for the cost of one automatic car wash, I took each of our three vehicles to the old-fashioned do-it-yourself wash. No sense spending too much, because it won't last long anyway. Besides, I enjoyed the chance to do this for the family vehicles as my way of pitching in yesterday morning.

By the afternoon, I took time for another run outside. I appreciated a honk and a wave from my son Sam as he drove by me when I was out running. It's nice to be acknowledged by a newly-licensed driver.

I had a full and busy day for other reasons yesterday too, but went to bed early and slept pretty well.
I got some rest. My friend Betsy has been focusing on the word REST, and we talk…

Nothing But Blue Sky

Today I am grateful for a nice dinner out with my husband Darcy last evening and for good luck finding some needed items when I was shopping.

Itching for both a run and some fresh air, I layered up yesterday morning and headed out in the near-zero temperatures. It was a most welcome run. I retuned home invigorated, and also a little frosty.

It was a beautiful, clear blue sky morning. It got me thinking about the "nothing but blue sky" cliche we hear. Below is a bona fide picture of nothing but blue sky. I took it after my run, standing in our driveway.

Blue has long been my favorite color. Yesterday's early morning sky was a deeper blue that became a little hazier and some light clouds moved in as the day went on. Some days the blue sky remains from dawn to dusk, and some days we don't see blue at all.

I don't kid myself that it will be "nothing but blue skies from now on."  But I do appreciate the blue when I see it, and like I had to do yesterday morn…

Some Graham Crackers and a Memory

Today I am grateful for my ears and ability to hear, for my eyes and ability to see, for clean air to breathe, and on a simpler note, for graham crackers.

Graham crackers are an old standby. I may forget about them for months and then go on a stretch where I eat them for months. My boys and I are on a roll these days. We always have a box on hand and we’ll all enjoy some as a go-to snack. They can help me calm a sweet craving without feeling like I really blew it, like a pint of ice cream would.

I like them with peanut butter or just plain. But I especially like them with milk, and will dip them in the milk for the full experience. Graham crackers. Tasty. Simple. Affordable. Effective. A good food to keep available in our house.

There’s another way to enjoy graham crackers that is a little more decadent--with frosting. Pleasant childhood memories come up when I think about frosted graham crackers. Birthdays were simple celebrations then, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fa…

"I like your coat."

Today I am grateful for friendly wrestling parents to visit with at matches and for the many flavors and varieties of yogurt available.

We made a stop at the grocery store last evening for a couple of things, and the young woman who rung up my items said "I like your coat."  I said something about liking it too, and that it had convenient pockets. She said she had one like it but had outgrown it. She was looking for a new one like it.

I have been looking for a new coat too, as I have had this one for several years. It's a good quality Columbia jacket and one of my best finds at the now defunct local consignment store. I haven't had any luck finding a suitable replacement, so maybe I will just hang on to this one through another season.

I was thinking about this coat as I arrived home and hung it up in our closet. It joined numerous other jackets, sweatshirts, and coats that we have hanging in there. I arrived at a place of feeling deeply blessed. Blessed by my favori…

Hushed Expectation

Today I am grateful for my sense of smell and my other four senses and what they allow me to experience in my immediate surroundings. I am also grateful for the mindfulness techniques I am encouraged to try.

Here is one suggested by Brother David Steindl-Rast:

"May you grow still enough to hear the stir of a single snowflake in the air, so that  your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation." 
Hearing snowflakes?  I can feel them and see them, but hear them?  I think what Brother David is suggesting is we can hear the silence and appreciate that. And then we may actually hear the smaller, quieter sounds that usually get crowded out.

We got a little light snow last night, so I was out shoveling while the last flakes wrapped up. I paused and listened for the stirring of that single snowflake. I saw the glint of flakes in the streetlight. I felt one gently land on the corner of my eye as I looked up. I heard the silence, even though I also heard the sounds of the trappings …

Don't Get Ahead of, or Behind, Yourself

Today I am grateful for the quietude and stars on an early morning walk with our dog Oliver. I am also grateful for hooded sweatshirts and how cozy I feel in them.

One of the reasons I began intentionally practicing gratitude and why I continue to live gratefully is that I tended to spend too much time in my head. Not a real shocker-but a true realization I need to keep returning to for motivation.

Time in fear, worry, remorse. In other words, time in yesterday or tomorrow. Time in last hour or three hours from now. Time not present and paying attention, right here, right now. It's all about the energy. If I am not focused on the present, I am wasting energy.

The present gets my energy whether I am fully here or not. The past has already gotten my energy. It is done. The future doesn't need my energy yet. So if I am thinking about the past or the future while trying to exist in the present, I am misappropriating my energy. And I am coming to accept as I age that I don't ha…

Who and What I Would Miss . . .

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily yesterday, and for the technology that allows us to see our other grandson Aaron across the miles.

I started my own list yesterday, stemming from what I wrote about in my post, of who and what I would miss if they were no longer here:

-Warm clothes to wear on a bitterly cold day, protecting me from frostbite and the pain of a biting wind.
-Our dog Oliver and his predictable presence in various places around the house throughout the day.
-My husband Darcy and our communication on the mundane things like meals to the heartfelt things like how we feel about our jobs decades into our respective careers.
-A house to clean. It is warm and solid, and full of family stuff and also conveniences. I have floors and carpet to vacuum.
-The rare friends who I trust with anything and everything going on in my life, my head, and my heart. To have one is a huge blessing, to have more than one is deeply humbling. And knowing that they…

The Second Time This Week

Today I am grateful for money with which to buy groceries and cleaning supplies. I am also grateful for a more calm, less frustrating approach to a work task I have currently.

After a midweek post this week about Door Closings, there was a second door that we were sad to see close yesterday. Our local Target store, five minutes from our house, closed the doors for good last night. We made one last stop there yesterday, along with many others who seemed to be doing the same thing.

We won’t go without the items we used to buy at this store, we’ll just have to shop elsewhere. It’s more a sentimental thing. It opened early in 2000, the year that we moved to town. Eighteen years of convenience and quality. Life goes on.

The Empty Shelves I wrote about a couple weeks ago were even fewer and emptier yesterday. This picture says it all:

We took our Target Store for granted most of the time, appreciating it but assuming it would always be there. Am I doing that with people and circumstances in…

Belonging to Nature

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our son Sam, and the opportunity to prepare some breakfast for them. I am also grateful for some writing in my recliner this morning.

It is good timing to come across this quote when it is early February in Minnesota:
"If we belong to the sun and its warmth, to the bud and the sprout, to the miraculous flower,  we also belong to the wind, the naked branch, the cold."
(Fabiana Fondevila)

It hasn't been a terrible winter this year, but it has certainly been typical with the ups and downs of temperature and the snowfalls from nuisance ones to plowable ones. We've had a lot of roller coaster weather this winter, which is frustrating, but also welcome.

I would rather have just a couple days of below zero temperatures rather than a two-week stretch of them. But when the temperature fluctuates say 40-50 degrees in less than 48 hours, it is a bit of a challenge.

Our naked tree branches have been adorned with beautiful snow more than o…

Persistent Prayer

Today I am grateful for coffee mugs with messages and for the food options available to me.

As I drove past one of the churches in town recently, I noticed the sign outside said "Persistent Prayer." It was  referring to this coming Sunday's sermon topic, but perhaps I can write about it a couple days early.

My first thought was how the ideas of "habitual gratitude" and "persistent prayer" complement one another. Persistent gratitude and habitual prayer work just as well really.  If I am not purposeful and consistent in my efforts to live gratefully and to pray regularly, I don't appreciate the peace and positive energy they can create and help me channel.

It can be hard to maintain good habits, to be persistent and keep doing what we know is best for us, what we should be doing. Let's cut ourselves some slack. Let's find a middle ground. We may falter on some days, but on other days we are clicking on all cylinders. Practice makes progress…

Door Closings

Today I am grateful for taking a simple task mindful moment by mindful moment this morning. I am also grateful for the years of shopping and many good finds I made at our local consignment store.

I learned less than two weeks ago that the store I just mentioned was closing, and that yesterday, 1/31, would be the last day for the store. So I made a point to get there. I wrote a little thank you note to the owner and brought her some chocolates.

We were on a first-name basis after all these years, well over 15, of me shopping there. We don’t really know each other well, but I know her well enough to know that I appreciated her business and her friendly and helpful way whenever we crossed paths.

Clearly I am not the only one who appreciated the store. As we spoke, another long-time customer came in for one last look around. And as I left, two more women came in, one with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Cheryl and her store made a difference.

Times have changed. Doors close. People move…

Another Favorite Revisited

Today I am grateful for the beauty of fresh snow on the trees and a car I feel safe driving in. I am also grateful for the reminders of the simple and profound reminders to live gratefully.

One such reminder is another of my favorite quotes about gratitude. This one is from Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha. I have it in my memory and it comes around from time to time. It follows here:

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick,  at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful."
So often, in my selfish way of thinking, I spend too much time ruminating on what is not going my way, on an unrealistic and growing list of expectations, on what I wish I had. That way of thinking crowds out what I DO have in this moment, in this day.

These are words I wrote in one of my earlier posts, as I reflected on this same quote:


Puffing Up or Building Up?

Today I am grateful for the moment I took to appreciate the moon and stars in the early morning sky, and for the warm house I returned to after being out in the cold.

As I wrote about spiritual beings in yesterday's post, I thought about how I consider myself far more spiritual than religious. I don't attend church services as regularly as some, but when I do I seek to approach the service with an open mind and an appreciation for the time to reflect. I like the music and singing at times, and I support my husband Darcy's involvement and commitment to our church.

That is a better approach than the one I had in my teens--often hungover, Sundays would find me tuned out as soon as the sermon started, probably dreaming about the cold Mountain Dew I was going to get after church for my cotton mouth.

An open, and sober, mind can go a long way at church and anywhere.

As I tuned in on this most recent Sunday, I heard this line in one of the readings:

"Knowledge puffs up, but l…

The Enormity of Our Spiritual Existence

Today I am grateful for family and friends in my life and the love we share. I am also grateful for
an ever-evolving spiritual existence.

As I continue to ponder the idea of life's enormity, our souls and our spiritual existence come to mind. Trying to exist productively on this earthly plane seems a real challenge at times. This physical existence is made easier and more meaningful if I have some sense of mental and emotional balance as well. Health is far more than a physical aspect.

And the three realms of physical, mental, and emotional health are more strongly connected, more vibrant overall, when I work to engage the fourth realm of wellness-the realm of our spiritual existence. In ways it takes work. In other ways it only takes faith, willingness, and paying attention.

As a human, a physical being taking up a small portion of space on this planet, I am really pretty inconsequential, anything but enormous. Yet, as a spiritual being, I know no bounds. It's a bit of a loft…

The Enormity of Life

Today I am grateful for the sound of birds singing again after some quieter months, for a quiet and restful day yesterday, and for a good run outside in the fresh air.

Yesterday I was also struck by the deep level of gratitude I have for daily recovery from alcoholism and the people and Great Spirit who show me how it can be done.

Sometimes it hits me. This enormity of life. The enormity of gratefulness I find and feel when I simply pay attention. When I acknowledge the gift it is to awaken to a new day and go live it.

Sometimes it hits me. After a week like the last few days have been. Nature is bigger than us. The unexpected can happen and be scary. Two diseases that kill people every day are part of my story, and yet I am here plugging along. The people I love are my priority.

Sometimes it hits me. The enormity of the task of living a life of recovery. Not that it has to be difficult. I make it more difficult than it needs to be. There are simple things I can do every day, that I t…

A Writer's Gallant Effort

Today I am grateful for solid rest last night for my family and I, after an exhausting few days. I am also grateful to be sitting in my recliner welcoming the sunrise this morning.

I will often see a phrase or get an idea for a blog post and then start a draft. Another idea may come up, or something else happens in the day ahead and a new idea takes precedence. Some drafts have piled up over the last months and year and I have challenged myself to revisit them randomly and see where they take me.

It's a writer's challenge. Be open to where an idea and the words that come will take me. So here is today's draft that will be brought to fruition, a quote from Brother David Steindl-Rast:

"Gratefulness is the gallantry of a heart ready to rise to the  opportunity a given moment offers." 
A gallant effort. Some days just getting out of bed, or heading to work, can be a gallant effort, depending on our physical and emotional state. Gallantry is often used to describe brave…

More Hope than Fear

Today I am grateful that Darcy is feeling better and for good medical care and insurance. I am also grateful that Sam passed his road test and is now a licensed driver, and that I have faith in him and for him.

Living gratefully gives me the gift of clarifying and deepening my emotions. All of them. The pleasant and the painful. Honestly, I believe you can only fully embrace the pleasant if you have also allowed the painful to be felt.

Our emotions are a key way humans stand out compared to other animals and living things. We have such a range and variety. Some days and weeks the range and depth are not wide.

At other times though, just a few hours or days can bring wide swings. These last few days have been just that for me.

The fullest range has played out over the last couple of days. In a nutshell, the positive was Sam's 16th birthday, celebrating the person he is and the love I have for him, him becoming a licensed driver and taking his first solo trip last evening, to his sc…