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Showing posts from 2018

Resenting or Resolving

Today I am grateful for my feet and where they carry me, indoors and outdoors. I am also grateful for the winter gear that helps me safely and comfortably move outdoors this time of the year.

Two "R" words are on my mind this morning for my list. Resenting and resolving. Resenting is treacherous territory for those in recovery, and really for anyone who wishes to know peace. If not recognized and released, resentments can lead back to a drink. If not a drink, ongoing pain and a pity party for self. Enough time in that state, and many will look for the soothing substance that used to numb them. Or they will keep blaming others, remain unforgiving, and stay stuck.

Letting go of resentments requires work, some of the hardest work to be done in recovery. Honesty. Fully feeling and accepting. Letting go and moving forward. This won't likely surprise anyone who knows me, but my biggest resentment in life has been directed at ---me, little old imperfect, flawed, selfish me. Ama…

Quality or Quantity

Today I am grateful for good songs and working ears to listen to them. I am also grateful for the different pace to days when on a break from work.

"Q" on this recovery A-Z gratitude list is for quality over quantity. There are times when quantity may count more than quality, but I can't think of a good example now and it certainly is not the case when it comes to recovery from alcoholism and addiction.

Yes, it is important to add up days, weeks, months, and more when it comes to continuous sobriety. It is the only way to learn the lessons of recovery that will allow for lasting health. But if all a person is doing is adding another day of being white-knuckle sober, another day of "I'll show you I can handle this," that is not quality. That is survival, that is existing.

Existing was hard enough when I had escape into the bottle from time to time. Take away the escape and existing becomes more miserable, unless I am healing and constructing the life I never…

Puzzles, by the Six Pack

Today I am grateful for safe travels, pleasant time with extended family, and an enjoyable holiday in our own home.

I have never been one to get too caught up in presents around Christmas time, those I receive and those I give. It is only a part, not the main part, of this holiday. Presence is valued over presents.

Yesterday, though, I got an idea for a present I wanted to get myself and hadn't thought seriously about in years. Too busy. Too little time with too many other projects to work on. Too cluttered in my head and heart. So when I got an urge to do a jigsaw puzzle, I went with it. Selection was limited, so I got a six-pack of puzzles and am well under way with my first 500-piece challenge.

A six pack of puzzles or a twelve pack of beer?  The choice is easy today. The puzzles pull me in for a healthy break from everything else. Tiresome thoughts ad expectations shut down as I zero in on the next piece to be added to a growing picture.

I am looking forward to how many of the…

Obstinate

Today I am grateful for early morning conversation with my husband Darcy and for anticipation of family time and a break from work.

The word of the day on this "A-Z living gratefully in recovery" list is OBSTINATE. It is defined as:
stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so; very difficult to change or overcome. Synonyms include: stubborn, inflexible, bullheaded, self-willed, headstrong, recalcitrant, unmanageable, rigid, unrelenting. 

Alcoholism is an obstinate disease and alcoholics actively using or on a dry drunk are pretty darn obstinate as well. Don't tell me what I should do. I can handle this myself. I'm strong enough. I'm right. I'm wrong. So wrong. 

You get the idea? 

So it is better for me to consider antonyms to obstinate: surrendering, willing, flexible, yielding, cooperative, obedient. These all help me get myself out of the way. They help me stop the mind swirl that only lea…

Never

Today I am grateful for my son Sam and the person he is. I am also grateful for the energy of middle school students nearing a holiday and a break, and that I can meet that energy with my own.

"Never" is one of those absolutes that need to be used carefully. Never say never. If newly sober drunks heard “NEVER drink again” as the key message of recovery, many would probably never give recovery a fair shot. Never drink again?  That doesn't seem feasible in early sobriety, when drinking has been a go-to escape and survival method for too long.

Don't take a drink today? That may be possible. Just for today. And with help and support, ways to get an alcoholic or addict out of their most dangerous place--their own minds.

A "never" I am comfortable using is "never stop working on recovery." Alcoholism is a patient and subtle foe. Daily work for a daily disease.

Don't take a drink today. Do some work in recovery. Let go. Accept. Feel emotions. Reach o…

Magnificence

Today I am grateful for the ease of phone calls and how they keep me connected to family and friends across the miles. I am also grateful for eggnog as coffee creamer during the holiday season.

Magnificence. What a spectacular word, a large word. Glorious. Notable. Wonderful. Striking. It is a word that would have garnered some contempt in my actively alcoholic mind. Magnificence? What do I know about that? When will I ever see it?

The deep and dark pit of alcoholism doesn't let much light in, much less any awe or magnificence.
A most striking feature of quality recovery is that such feelings and experiences as a glorious elation and a notable moment of clarity are possible.

It takes time, effort, and plenty of support from others and a Great Spirit, but climbing out of that dark pit is possible. One of my drinking poems captured this effort prior to recovery. I would get close to the top of the pit, almost ready to throw a leg over and get out.

But someone would step on my hands…

Lonely no Longer

Today I am grateful for what healing can bring. It takes work, and it comes in various forms--physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual--but it makes all the difference. I am also grateful for the presence of loved ones and a loving Great Spirit in my life.

Today's word is lonely. A truly dangerous word for alcoholics and addicts. If we are lonely, we drink, we use, we get sicker. Some of us eventually die, alone. Alcoholism is very selfish. It wants all of the person. The disease wants to isolate you and get you to depend only on alcohol.

Then it turns on you. And the loneliness is like none ever experienced. It is piercing and painful and it begs for a drink to ease the discomfort. It continues to beat and batter, and we continue to drink. The isolation and our own sick thinking close us off from hope even more.

One of the many amazing gifts of recovery, and absolutely necessary for ongoing growth and continued sobriety, is gaining a sense of belonging.

I am not alone That is f…

Parting Ways with Body Parts, Ten Years Later

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Today I am grateful for overall health and for this earthly vehicle I reside in, scars and losses and all.

I am taking a break from the A-Z "gratitude in recovery" list to focus on a milestone, an anniversary to mark today.

I have been reflective and emotional in recent days as I approached a milestone in my cancer journey. It was ten years ago today that I woke up with two intact breasts and later that afternoon came out of anesthesia minus them both.

Ten years is worth marking with "then and now" photos. The one on the left was taken just days before my mastectomies on December 17, 2008. The one on the right was taken this weekend, in the same location as the first one, but in a much different place emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. A good place overall. A place rich in gratitude and acceptance.


The white shirt I am wearing shows the flat terrain of my chest clearly. It also happens to be the finisher shirt from the 2009 Kansas City Marathon, w…

A Joke, Seriously

Today I am grateful for the beautiful sunrise this morning and for the beauty of words coming together in my mind and heart.

Okay, so I skipped right over the letter "J" the other day, going from "I" to "K."  Oh well. Good to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes. And this was one that carried no ill effect.

Speaking of laughing, how about a joke for the letter "J"?

How can you tell the difference between a social drinker, a problem drinker, and an alcoholic?
"When a social drinker gets a glass of beer at the bar and there's a fly in it, they take it  back and get a new one. When a problem drinker gets a beer with a fly in it, they take the  fly out and drink the beer.  When an alcoholic gets a beer with a fly in it, they pick  the fly up, shake it, and say "spit it out, spit it out!"

This joke always makes me chuckle, and always gives me pause. For someone who may not understand what alcoholism is like, this may give you a glimpse. …

Kindred

Today I am grateful for my fingers and toes and gloves and socks to keep them warm. I am also grateful for the fellow recovering alcoholics who encourage and enlighten me on this journey.

So when I was pondering "k" words for this A-Z list, I landed on kindred. The people I share recovery with, and them with me, truly are kin to me. We are allied and connected in ways that I am not with my own family and blood relatives.

We come together through our common disease, each battered and beaten by addiction in ways that may differ in detail and depth, but are very similar in patterns and perceptions. We grow together by being honest with ourselves and each other, by changing our actions to help change our thinking.

We laugh together, cry together, watch light bulbs go on for one another. We learn to give and give back. My recovery family includes cherished friends and fellow travelers.

My own family supports me in my recovery as well, and for that I am most grateful. That is espe…

Intuition and Intensity

Today I am grateful for so many abilities and capabilities I take for granted much of the time. Things like being able to breathe, eat, walk, drink, use my hands and fingers. The list goes on. I am also grateful for intuition that I can trust today.

Active alcoholics and addicts don't tend to trust their intuition. Their addiction fools them into trusting their substance of choice more than themselves, at least some of the time.  Healthy hunches, true instinct, good sense are possible in recovery. They take some time to find or find back, but they do come. And they are true gifts.

Another "I" word on my mind is intensity. The intensity of the negative feelings in my active drinking years replaced by the intensity of feelings and thoughts that are actually good, genuine, positive. The pain and self-hatred were intense, captured in the recesses of my mind and in some of the poems I wrote during that time.

The intensity of joy, gratitude, peace, self-acceptance that I can e…

Honesty

Today I am grateful for other people's insights into the human desire and need for stillness. (In this case Pico Iyer and Krista Tippett in an "On Being" podcast.) I am also grateful for the fuller understanding of honesty that I am continuing to learn.

Honesty is an essential and loaded word. Essential to deeper living and more fully realizing our own potential. Loaded because we can be masterful deceivers of our own thoughts and feelings.

Inability to be honest with ourselves can be fatal to alcoholics and addicts, perpetuating use and continuing the downward spiral. There is no cure for addiction, only ongoing recovery/remission or eventual death.

Rigorous honesty helps brings us out of the sick thinking and spiritual malaise that is really, in my opinion, at the heart of this disease. It helps brings us out of the powerless victim mentality into the light of solution-focused living.

It takes hard work. It takes the help and support of others. And their honesty with u…

Grandiose

Today I am grateful for the awe of stars in the morning sky and how that sense of awe helps me feel connected to a wider universe.

Grandiose is the "g" word on my mind today. It can be defined in a variety of ways. Excessively grand and ambitious. Bold. Overambitious. High-flown. They all fit. I especially like high-flown. It fits the elusive feeling I sought with each drink I took.

Alcoholics and addicts are grandiose in our thinking, especially when we are using. It may not last long, but it's a powerful grandiosity when it hits. It usually hit me a few hours into my drinking and not long before I bottomed out or passed out or blacked out, or all three.

My drinking days were well before cell phones and social media, and I am most grateful for that for a variety of reasons. But I was known to pick up the phone and call a few select people when I was in that grandiose mindset, late at night.

I had it all figured out and I wanted to talk about it. "It" was perha…

Forms of Freedom

Today I am grateful for my grandmother's holiday cookie recipes and the enjoyment of making them with my family yesterday. I am also grateful for pauses in my day, to be present and pay attention.

I used to think freedom came in a bottle or a can. Escape into alcohol and intoxication. Freedom from my loneliness, fears, limitations, and inhibitions. Freedom from the reality that I existed in but that fell short of what I wanted. Freedom to let go and be more social. Freedom to pursue what my shy self may not have been able to.

I looked forward to this escape, this freedom. But somewhere in there, before I even left high school, it turned on me and enslaved me. The freedom became necessity. The escape became more of a prison. We fought for a few years, alcohol and I. There were times I thought I might have the upper hand, but I was only fooling myself.

With defeat and surrender, with lower lows, I became more teachable, more open to the idea that my drinking was not the answer. It w…

Experience and Effervescence

Today I am grateful for a pleasant day experiencing the holiday spirit yesterday. It started with a chilly but satisfying run with Darcy and included a little gift-wrapping, holiday letter sending, time taking in the holiday decorations and lighting at the Mall of America, and classic holiday TV viewing.

I am also grateful for what my life's experience has taught me. Drinking experience didn't make me a better drinker, it made me more obviously a problem drinker. In my drinking days, my experience was literally showing me the progression of disease. Some of that I could only figure out in hindsight.

Some became obvious in the deeper pain I was feeling and trying to numb, more concerns in my own heart and more raised by others who care about me.

Experiencing anguish and turmoil helped me reach a point of surrender and seeking help. I wouldn't be in recovery today if I hadn't been in that dark spot then.

Another "e" word came to mind as I considered alcohol: ef…

Discipline Directed at this Disease

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Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and how he joyfully takes off running sometimes. (Though this morning he may have just wanted to get back in the house out of the cold.) I am also grateful for good actors in good TV shows. (In this case I am referring to "Mom.")

As far as diseases go, I do believe I am powerless over alcohol, but I do have some say in whether or not my alcoholism is active or in remission. Active alcoholism or active recovery? I can influence which is active with my choices, thoughts, and actions. But I need help too. Plenty of it.

It takes daily discipline directed at the disease, and daily guidance and direction from recovery friends, spiritual advisors, the Great Spirit in my life. And also from those closest to me who aren't on this recovery path, but who support me on mine.

Day in and day out diligence and vigilance. Practices. Prayers. Exercises of the mind and soul. Spiritual growth. Writing. Working. Sharing. Serving.

It is different in way…

A Clear Head, Clarity, and Thankful Contemplation

Today I am grateful for the soothing color and glow of our Christmas tree lights, and for the opportunities to say thank you to others at work.

Sobriety starts with getting a clear head. No more drinking and no more hangovers. I had many tough hangovers physically. I would sometimes force myself out for a run to sweat out the residuals. I treated the physical symptoms as the price to pay for the escape and "freedom" I got.

Recovery takes more than just a clear head though. It takes clarity of thoughts and feelings as well as spiritual clarity... the ideas that I am not alone, that I need help. When I do daily work for my daily disease, moments of clarity come. Not every day, but they come. And they are my best teachers, teaching me what I need to know for ongoing recovery. Surrender. Acceptance. Hard work. Humility. Feeling fully. Patience. Gratitude.

Moments of clarity can touch me to my core, to my very soul. It is when I truly know that recovery works, that right actions …

From Beer and Binges to Just Being

Today I am grateful for sweat and endorphins to help center my mind and body to start my day. I am also grateful for some morning conversation with my husband Darcy.

Beer. It was my drink of choice. Cheap for a high school and then college student. I pretty much would drink anything with alcohol in it, but beer was the most readily available so it was my go-to. It also fit the way I liked to drink. Once I started, it was continuous and in significant quantities. That wouldn't have gone well with more highly concentrated alcoholic beverages.

Pause. Plenty of gratitude that I didn't succumb to alcohol poisoning. There were certainly times I could have.

Now, in today's culture, there is such a trend of microbreweries. The community we live in has a new brewery downtown. Even in the rural area where I grew up, Winneshiek County, Iowa, there are three breweries. One is already internationally known.

Part of me is a bit jealous of this and the popularity of trying all these brew…

A is for Acceptance

Today I am grateful for the HIIT routine my niece Katie provided me years ago. I bring it out in the winter months. I am also grateful that my body is able to complete the exercises, though a little rusty to start out with.

A is for Acceptance. Acceptance that I have a disease, not a weak will. That is where it starts. The disease itself wants me to fight and deny the disease idea and blame myself for just being a weak fool. I did that for years. As far as the disease was concerned, it worked. I kept drinking, kept going back to it each time I quit.

It took many types of trial and error, many close calls, hard knocks, and more to help me become open to the idea that I have a disease and I need help. It took significant pain, self-hatred, the depths of despair. Other people also played key roles in getting me to seek help. Deep gratitude to these integral people--people with names like Sheila, Deb, Sarah, Leonice.

A is for acceptance. That is where it starts. And never really finishes.…

A New A-Z List Focusing on the A-Word

Today I am grateful for the safety of my sister Aileen, her husband John and stepson Peter and all impacted by Friday's earthquake in Anchorage. I am also grateful for people who step up in so many ways in so many different situations.

Aileen had just flown out of the Anchorage airport not long before the earthquake. I consider what it must have been like in that 30-40 seconds for those who experienced the quake. It is not unusual for Alaskans to feel some of the many quakes they get each year, but this one had to be pretty scary.

A few seconds can be life-changing, or just a few more seconds going by unnoticed. Sometimes life happens to us, sometimes we make it happen.

I have been pondering an A-Z gratitude list for my blog for a while, going back and forth on whether or not to do one. It was Aug./Sept. of last year when I last did one. They are enjoyable and give me focus to my posts for a few weeks when they otherwise tend to be random.

There's nothing wrong with random, an…

A Thank You for My Feet

Today I am grateful for the listeners in my life, their patience and acceptance. I am also grateful for snow to brighten the drab landscape of late fall.

And I am grateful for my feet, taken for granted regularly by me and the rest of my body. Two feet. Ten toes. Two heels. Two arches. One bunion. They aren't pretty or perfect either, but they sure are handy for many of life's activities.

Kicking up fresh snow in playful fashion in the early morning.

Shoveling some of that same snow.

Applying the brakes and accelerator in my car.

Stability and balance.

Helping scoot my office chair in and out.

A thank you for my feet today. Heading into my day, one step at a time.

A Ring at a Time

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy's safe travels on a recent business trip and for snow boots and snow shovels.

One way to approach gratefulness is to look for it in activities that we do regularly. Giving thanks for teeth, toothpaste, and running water while we brush our teeth. Giving thanks for the washer and dryer, loved ones, and electricity while we fold the family's laundry.

One of the things I do pretty much every day is put on my rings and take them off. All six of them.
I am grateful for each of my fingers and for each of the rings and their meaning. Four are gifts from my husband.

I never wore rings until Darcy proposed to me when I was 32. My rings include my engagement/wedding ring and two other diamonds. One is a chocolate diamond for a girl who loves chocolate. The other symbolizes family in more ways than one. There is a Black Hills gold ring from Darcy, a native South Dakotan, also signifying 10 years of recovery.

Another ring was acquired for $15 at a l…

Pause. Linger. Dawdle. Tarry.

Today I am grateful for the ability to get in and out of bed by myself, and for those who helped bring the milk I put on my cereal this morning to me.

The word tarry has stuck on my mind the last couple of days. Living gratefully has to be intentional for me, and requires actions and thoughts that foster gratefulness. It is not drudgery though. Far from it.

So I paused, lingered, dawdled, tarried, and created this list of appreciation:

-shadows and light playing together
-a bite of pizza
-a large American flag waving in a moderate breeze
-my feet on the ground, firm and stable
-lingering over making my lunch and the conveniences that helped
-pausing to appreciate what trust looks and feels like
-a sip of coffee sweetened with a little almond milk
-the beautiful sparkles created by streetlights, moonlight, and frost on leaves
-sitting down and feeling relief for tired feet
-a pleasant and lengthier-than-usual phone conversation with my sister
-dawdling in a stretch pose after a challen…

It Keeps You Runnin'

Today I am grateful for several ways to connect with loved ones across the miles. And for reminders that the person who gets in my way the most is me.

I am a music lover and it's not unusual for a song to come to mind for one reason or another. The other day, on my 4th run in 4 days, it was the Doobie Brothers' song It Keeps You Runnin'.  I exercise for many reasons, and this weekend one reason was to try to keep pace with my eating.

The eating won, but I still got my usual rewards--endorphins, a clearer head, a body thanking me in more ways than one, writing ideas, and that overall good feeling post-workout. I sang the refrain a few times as I made my way through my hour of one stride at a time. Then, yesterday it came on the radio on my commute to work.

Itis from 1976 and was written by Michael McDonald. It is also, fittingly, part of the Forrest Gump movie soundtrack. If you listen to more than the refrain, it seems that it is also about someone running from their feel…

Tarry a Little

Today I am grateful for electricity and lights that help me see my way around in the dark hours of the day. I am also grateful for my ability to read and the people who first taught me how.

As I go back to work after a holiday and a few days off, heading into the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas that can be busier than usual, these words are welcome:

"All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy." (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Actually, I am not one to get too caught up in all of the holiday hustle and bustle, or at least the parts that tend to stress people out. I enjoy some aspects of the season and make time for them. Doing some holiday baking with family recipes. Writing my annual holiday letter and getting it sent out via snail mail. Sitting in the warm glow of holiday lights and our tree.

We keep gifts reasonable in both volume and cost. We try not to over-schedule ourselves and we try to keep our priorities straight. Like any time of the …

Sharing Gratitude Via Shared A-Z Lists

Today I am grateful for our local community and the downtown holiday events we have enjoyed the last few days. I am also grateful for the power in gratefulness shared among family and friends.

In advance of Thanksgiving Day, two recovery friends and I were working our way through a shared A-Z list, thanks to a social media platform called Marco Polo. I started with the first letters of the alphabet, and then we each took turns until we had worked our way to Z. Being busy with the holiday and our own families, it took us a few days of back and forth.

We laughed and smiled, we got all serious at times. Wisdom and hope were shared. We grew some gratefulness and continued our already-strong connections, these two friends and I. Good, quality fun and simply profound. I decided to branch out and do some more A-Z lists with others in recovery too, using texting as the avenue.

I added in-person A-Z lists with my son Sam and then my husband Darcy, each time as we were going for a short car rid…

Giving Thanks for a Pleasant Day of Thanks

Today I am grateful for time off from work and the respite in that. I am also grateful for time on our front patio to start this day, chilly but enjoyable.

It seems fitting to follow-up Thanksgiving Day with a gratitude list about it.

Here goes. I am grateful for:

-being able to run in our local "Gobble Gait" and help raise money for a good cause
-the community we live in and the spirit of giving that is evident here
-the ability to run and push myself, arms, legs, lungs, to a faster finishing time than last year
-time with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily and being able to FaceTime with our other grandson
        Aaron and his parents Arthur and Alyssa
-Leo's pleasure in riding his bike around in circles in our garage, and then he and I playing a little
        indoor baseball too
-a delicious meal that all 5 of us helped prepare, but mostly Darcy, and that his turkey and gravy both
        turned out very well
-an evening walk with Darcy after a heavy meal
-hearing g…

Life Changing, Changing Lives

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Today I am grateful for the bike ride Darcy and I were able to take and enjoy yesterday, despite the cold, clouds, snowflakes, hills. It was all those and sore body parts that made us appreciate it all the more. I am also grateful for the song "Kind and Generous" by Natalie Merchant, a fitting listen for today.

Happy Thanksgiving fellow Americans! Happy day of giving thanks. That's a message for more than one day in more than one country. It makes more of a difference when it is an everyday effort on each day. Or at least an occasional effort on some days here and there.

Please don’t wait until November or Thanksgiving Day. A life changing opportunity is lost in the waiting and resisting. Some days the practice may seem mundane. And on other days, the impact will be profound and the realization will be genuine. Today is a gift. The presents in the present are anything but minor.

It’s beyond saying thank you to others who help us, or expressing gratitude for the things we…

Love or hate? Gratitude or self-pity?

Today I am grateful for recliner time this morning, a walk with Darcy last evening, and for electricity which makes it so much easier to do so many things.

A few days ago some recovery friends and I were talking about gratitude. It's a regular topic this time of the year, but also throughout the year. We were also talking about control issues. All people have some control issues. It's human nature. They are a slippery slope for people in recovery though, and can lead us back to drinking if we aren't careful.

I control my attitude and actions, my own input and output. I don't control you or the outcomes. So I should spend my energy focusing on my own effort and attitude.

I have a choice each day, each hour. Healthy thoughts and actions and seeking guidance from a trusted Great Spirit and trusted friends and family. The last year has brought new challenges. Being in my fifties has brought new challenges. These call for new levels of acceptance, tolerance, love.

I wrote a…

What if the world does tilt?

Today I am grateful for the glow of holiday lights in our home and sitting here enjoying them for a few moments with my husband Darcy and our grandson Leo. I am also grateful for my eyesight.

Yesterday's post was about not taking things for granted, bowing before the mystery of the abundance we are graced to receive. But some days are the tough ones in our lives. Losses happen.

          What if the world does tilt?
               What good is living gratefully then?
                    Does that negate the mystery of life?

What good is living gratefully when the losses come? It allows moving through the loss with some dignity. It brings energy when we feel totally depleted by what life has handed us. It honors whoever or whatever was lost by acknowledging that they made a difference.

Does loss negate the mystery of life? I believe it strengthens it, reminding us how precious and fragile life is. We don't tend to go looking for losses, but no one is immune to them.

If we nurtu…

Bow Before the Mystery

Today I am grateful for a replenishing weekend and being able to have phone conversations with all seven of my sisters over the weekend too. I am also grateful for sunshine and a good run yesterday.

I practice gratitude daily, but this time of the year I read and hear more about it. People are discussing it and showing it. Any practice and expression of gratitude is better than none, but to limit it to a month or a day is unfortunate. It would be like exercising a day or a month a year. The benefits wouldn't amount to much.

I know that I am not typical in my approach to this idea of gratitude, living gratefully. I also know that I am motivated and inspired to bring the idea of regular gratitude practice to those around me and those I can reach through other avenues such as this blog.

One place to start this idea of mindful gratitude is to focus on what we haven't lost. We spend too much time and energy focusing on what we think we need or want, and end up overlooking what is a…

Another Room, Another Ten

Today I am grateful for family time together last evening, a couple of short naps yesterday, phone conversations with several of my siblings and my mom, and the enjoyable show "Newsies" put on by a very talented group of cast, crew and directors at my school.

Friday's post about ten things to be grateful for in a room in our home resonated with others. It was still on my mind yesterday morning when I set out to exercise indoors after a light snowfall kept me from heading outdoors for fear of icy conditions.

So here's another ten for another room in our house--our laundry/exercise room:

1. The water heater and the comfort of a warm shower.
2. The boiler that helps heat our house on cold days.
3. The washer that cleans smelly workout clothes.
4. The dryer that makes the ironing board (also in this room) mostly unnecessary.
5. Racks and hangers to put clothes on for drying, saving energy, and helping clothes last longer.
6. The free Nordic Track I acquired years ago tha…

In this room . . .

Today I am grateful for the warm and stable house we live in, how we have made it into a home for our family, and for the tangible items of convenience and comfort here.

Here's an easy gratitude practice to try. Step into a room in your home, pause, look around, use your 10 fingers to go through a gratitude list of things you appreciate in and about that room.

Here's mine as I sit in our family room:

-the family pictures that surround me
-pictures of our dog Oliver and his actual presence on the floor near me
-this computer and a good WiFi connection
-the headphones that help me appreciate a good listen
-my gratitude journal which has a place in this space when not in use
-recovery books for reading and referencing
-a comfortable recliner and couch I can enjoy
-the TV that brings me football games and shows like "Mom"
-morning peace and quiet I take time for in this room in particular
-writing and writing inspiration that transpire in the chair I am sitting in right …

An Ongoing Challenge

Today I am grateful for pictures of people, now deceased, who have made a difference in my life. The pictures bring back the fondness and the connections. I am also grateful for our local garbage haulers.

Consider this quote: "When we are no longer able to change a situation, 
we are challenged to change ourselves." (Viktor Frankl)

Frankl couldn't change that he was a prisoner in WWII concentration camps. Deplorable conditions, constant fear and hunger, no escape but likely death. I have faced nothing near this level of challenge. Yet, we all face difficulties and it isn't a contest. Being human is a real series of trials and tribulation, a journey of joys and awe.

There is little I can actually change. I often forget that and have to be reminded by several slaps from the hard knocks of life. But the little I can change makes all the difference. My effort, attitude, and actions.

I have many ways each day, through proper focus of effort, an attitude of gratefulness, and…

Running Mindlessly

Today I am grateful for clarity in my priorities and for time to converse with my husband Darcy this morning.

I usually consider running to be a mindfulness activity. A time of moving meditation, reflection, writing inspiration. I needed to reconsider this idea on a recent run though.

I was enjoying the exercise and fresh air, but my mind was racing from one thing to another. Another idea for a blog post. The plans for the day ahead. Work remnants and reminders. People on my mind for a variety of reasons and concerns. My runs save me because they help me clear my head of at least some of the clutter, but . . .

It became more about a full mind than mindfulness. I was forgetting to just be in the moment, in the run. I wasn't fully taking in the present, the next stride and breath. Immersed in thought rather than my amazing feet, knees, lungs, heart. Watching the stretch of sidewalk or trail in front of me. Tuning in to sights, sounds, smells that I may otherwise miss. Emptying the e…

The Blessings of Freedom

Today I am grateful for warm clothes on cold mornings and for kind gestures from my son Sam (helping make dinner) and husband Darcy (a head massage) after an exhausting work day yesterday.

In honor of the celebration of Veteran's Day, I took time to consider some of the many blessings of freedom that I enjoy. Freedom others fought for, died for, and continue to protect today. Freedom is not a given. Many do not experience it to the degree that I get to. Some really never know it.

With these freedoms come rights, and with rights come responsibilities. Let us not forget that.

Here are some blessings of freedom I can list:

-having the right to vote and being able to feel safe in going to our local polling place
-traveling freely in my community, metro area, state, and country
-being a woman with equal opportunities as men
-feeling safe enough to go outside and enjoy nature
-not having to worry about stepping on landmines
-not fearing family members will be taken from me because of t…

A Sunrise Over Sioux Falls

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend and a nice visit with Darcy's family. I am also grateful for mobility,  exercise, and sweat.

A special thank you today to all veterans, past and present. I too often take your dedication and sacrifice for granted. I will strive to honor the blessings of freedom today.

Sioux Falls has a special place in my heart and always will. It is where Darcy and I got married and lived for the first couple years of married life. We enjoy going back to visit his family, our long runs on the trail system, and many shopping and eating options.

In the 18 years since we moved, we have also seen a lot of new growth and construction in Sioux Falls. It always amazes us at how quickly areas that were farm fields are now developed. That has pros and cons, but I will save that discussion for another time.

I took a run Saturday, on a brisk morning with the wind chill near zero. I was given the opportunity to take in the sunrise on the edge of an ever-expan…

Validated and Affirmed

Today I am grateful for the poems of Rumi and for warm milk on cereal. Yes, warm milk.

In recent days I have had the blessing to have my living gratefully practices affirmed and validated by four different co-workers on four different occasions. Two of them were within minutes of each other.
Validated. Affirmed. Genuinely.

I need no further proof that living gratefully makes all the difference in my life. It has been proven over and over in these last two decades, in significant and minor ways. What I could use more of is ongoing inspiration to take this practice to a newer level, to keep seeking growth, and sharing insights.

My co-workers each did me a big favor in their brief interaction with me. They let me know that my efforts to live gratefully have also impacted them, reminded them, inspired them. They shared their energy with me, the energy that living gratefully creates.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Validated. Affirmed. Inspired. Enthused.

I will be taking a blog break ov…

"Fortune favors the bold."

Today I am grateful for a comfortable bed in which to rest, and for the pictures we have around our home, reminding me of the loved ones I cherish.

"Fortune favors the bold" 
This is another quote from Bohemian Rhapsody. Jim Beach, the band's manager, said it in a conversation among band members and promoters. Beach is a lawyer, turned rock band manager, and still manages Queen today.

When we hear the word fortune, we may first think financial. Maybe that is what Beach meant, maybe not. I have a feeling he was talking about a wider sort of fortune, not just the financial kind.

Consider the fortune that comes from living gratefully. Awe and wonder. Peace and serenity. Compassion and connection. Deepening faith and spirituality.  Energy and enthusiasm for life.

It takes bold courage to just get out of bed and face a new set of hours some days. It takes boldness to look in the face of all the disillusioning negativity in the world and say "gratefulness wins when I look …

Short on time, not gratitude

Today I am grateful for the feeling I have today about being a voting citizen and for the tasty combination of peanut butter and bananas.

I am short on time this morning, but not on gratitude, so here's little start on that gratitude:

Today I am grateful for:

-the crisp morning air and breathing it in to connect me with nature and my Higher Power
-the same can be said for seeing the light snow cover this morning
-consistently working WiFi
-a laugh with my husband Darcy
-election results that I can appreciate
-being able to greet my son Sam and wish him a good day
-our dog Oliver

There it is. A start on today's gratitude. Onward!

Waking Up and Awake

Today I am grateful for the democratic process I get to participate in today, and for the nice season-ending football banquet we enjoyed last evening.

The other day, in conversation with some recovering friends, one was talking about waking up and another brought up the word awake. Thank you for two valuable reminders.

Waking up is a source of gratitude in and of itself. Not everyone gets another day. Waking up with a day ahead, full of opportunity and awe, is a gift. Will I cherish it or spoil it?

There is awake, and there is AWAKE. Am I fully awake and fully alive? That takes practice and pausing. It continues to be a work in progress in my life.

Today is Election Day in the United States. Am I fully awake to the gifts our democracy brings? Am I fully awake to my responsibility as a citizen in a democratic system?

I plan to vote. I plan to stay AWAKE today. How about you?

The Story and the Music of Queen

Today I am grateful for the daily opportunities I have to expand my recovery from alcoholism and my spiritual growth. I am also grateful for the people in recovery who share their wisdom and hope with me.

Now, back to the movie we saw Saturday night. Darcy and I saw previews for Bohemian Rhapsody this summer and knew it was one we would want to see. We grew up enjoying the music of Queen. We knew if nothing else we would enjoy the music.

We got much more than great music though. It follows the band from their early days through their incredible performance at Live Aid in 1985. There is literally so much behind the music that we never know, and in being shown it we have a deeper connection to the music and the musicians.

Freddie Mercury is the central figure, but I felt the movie did a good job of highlighting all band members, their relationships with one another, and those who supported them along the way. There were many lines in the movie that were poignant, humorous, fitting.  I e…

20 Smiles

Today I am grateful for a good run yesterday morning and a pleasant day of yard work, a few errands, followed by a movie.

More on the movie tomorrow. On one of my errands, a woman in front of me at the checkout was talking to the cashier and as they wrapped up she said something friendly like "have a good day and keep smiling."  She went on to tell us that her goal is to get twenty people to smile each day. The cashier and I both smiled and I said "Well, you just got two right here."

She walked out and headed into the rest of her day. What a nice goal. What a simple way to make a difference. I finished my other errands, spreading some smiles on the way. Sincere smiles are easy, effective, a win-win. And they are universal.

Regardless of the language we speak, the color of our skin, our religious affiliation, where we live on this planet; we all understand the meaning of and emotions that come with a smile. Our increasingly divided, less tolerant, and more judgmenta…

More than just a towel . . .

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and the morning walks he and I take together. I am also grateful for the variety of towels I have at my disposal.

I was folding some laundry a little earlier and realized that towels would be a good topic for today's post. There are many reasons why and here are just a few:

*we have hand, dish, bath, and paper towels that we use daily
*a washer and dryer to get the cloth ones clean and fresh
*not to mention indoor plumbing and detergent
*garbage bags and garbage haulers to take away the paper towels
*we have hot water to enjoy a shower before using a bath towel
*I have hands and fingers that work, so I can dirty them and need a towel
*when we wear out the towels we have, we have money to get more

Pretty much any random item in our home could become the topic of a gratitude list.
This one today also helped take my mind off of some thoughts that had already gotten enough
of my energy. Add that to the list.

A special shout out to our son Sam and…

There's Today and There's Three Years Gone

Today I am grateful for the nice Halloween evening Darcy and I shared, the lovely weather, and a nice downtown event in our community.

I feel tired this morning, from a lack of sleep and from a draining time at work. This is when I can find it harder to live gratefully, and when I most need the positive energy and healthy perspective it brings me. So I appreciate the habits I have that help me move through such times.

And I return to what matters most. It's not my job. It's my family and friends, faith and recovery, running and writing. Today is the third anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law Roger, from early onset Lewy body dementia.

My sister Danita, his wife, celebrated her birthday yesterday and marks this sad anniversary today.
New babies are on the way in our family. My mom has advancing dementia. My sister Mary Jo has advanced cancer. This is how life goes.

Read more about Roger and the precious and fragile nature of life in these two posts:

A Wide Embrace and &…

Costume or Real Life?

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Today I am grateful for the pause I took this morning to watch "A Grateful Day" "and listen to a couple of songs that bring me peace. I am also grateful for my sister Danita and the relationship we have today.

Happy Birthday Danita! Do some special things to celebrate special you :-)

Happy Halloween to those of you who take part in it. We'll save the history lessons and commentary on commercialism for some other time. Let's keep it light and have a little fun today. The school I work at really gets into this day and there will be plenty of fun and costumes.

I got the idea for my "costume" a few weeks ago and ordered a couple things. It's a simple costume, but it fits me and what I am about.

Here are the key pieces:



A t-shirt and a button. Pause. Breathe. I will try to live this mindful moment today, moment by moment. I hope to share pauses and some deep breaths with students and staff too. Simple costume with a significant reminder.

A Cup of Coffee and Reaching Incrementally

Today I am grateful for prayer as a source of comfort and strength, and for the variety of prayers I have incorporated into my mindfulness and meditation practices.

I am also grateful for a cup of coffee to enjoy this morning. Let's just say I have gotten pretty used to some daily grind to help me face the daily grind. Gratefulness abounds, even when considering a simple cup of coffee.

Here's a short list of gratitudes regarding my basic, no frills, morning coffee:

*clean and convenient water to get a pot of coffee started
*money that allowed me to purchase coffee grown and packaged by others
*the percolator we like to use and electricity to power it
*a mug from a friend to remind me of recovery and letting go
*working arms to reach that mug on a higher shelf in our kitchen

Working arms. As I considered them today, I was reminded of the weeks post-mastectomy when that wasn't the case. Just after surgery, I couldn't lift my arms much at all. As I healed, had some physic…

"Last on the Grass"

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Today I am grateful for family visitors over the weekend and a beautiful walk at dusk last evening with Darcy.

Thank you to my brother Lee and his wife Terri for coming to visit and being here for Sam's team's playoff game on Saturday night. It was a win for us and we are on to the section final game Friday night!  It was also a historic game on the field that has been home to Raiders football for over eighty years.

It was the last game played on the grass. It is being replaced with turf. I thought about that as I soaked and scrubbed Sam's dirty uniform yesterday morning. There's something I can appreciate about real dirt on a football uniform. And there's also something I won't miss next year.

Todd Field at McNamara Stadium started out as a limestone quarry and city dump. Part of the stone walls and seating were constructed as a WPA project in the 1930's. There was even a tunnel under the busy nearby highway for years, allowing safety for those coming from…