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Showing posts from January, 2018

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…

Sixteen Already?

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Today I am grateful for my son Sam and my husband Darcy and the team we are as we raise him together.

Today is Sam’s 16th birthday. I am left wondering how he could possibly be 16 already. He was around 4 in this picture:


I love our smiles on a summer day. There have been no buzz cuts in recent years. No trips to the local water park either. He surpassed his dad and I in height years ago now, and his facial hair can make him look older than he is.

His birthdays always bring mixed emotions for me, but overall joy that I get to experience motherhood and parenting. Bittersweet fits because the time goes so fast. Proud fits because he is a kind young man who makes good choices and has future direction and goals. He is his own person and I so appreciate that his sense of self is pretty solid.

It is the time in his life when we as parents have to do more stepping back and letting go. He takes his road test tomorrow to become a licensed driver. Talk about letting go. Part of me is ready and…

The Storms of Winter

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Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and for raspberries and oatmeal.

Yesterday we got to experience one of my favorite weather events--a snowstorm.  I don't like driving in them, but I like walking and shoveling out in them. And I like checking the forecast and the list of cancellations and late starts. I am still like a kid that way--hoping for a snow day.

Sam's school closed for the day and I decided to stay home as well. My school ended up closing early too. By the afternoon we already had several inches on the ground and then it snowed harder than I have seen it snow in a long time. We were getting a couple of inches an hour for a time. We probably ended up with a foot or so.

It is a reminder of both the power and the beauty of nature. Here are a couple of pictures I took just outside of our house. Winter wonderland indeed!



And reminders of how fortunate I am to be able to walk and to shovel. It was a heavy and wet snow, tougher to shovel in ways, but easier in others…

The Way the Ball Bounces

Today I am grateful for arms and legs that work and allow me to do so many different things. I am also grateful for the way others in recovery from alcoholism share their recovery wisdom with me.

Acceptance is an important component of ongoing recovery, and of daily life for us all. I control my own attitude and actions. The rest is a process of accepting life on life's terms. More acceptance means wiser thoughts and actions on my part. Less acceptance means more struggle and frustration for me as I fight a losing battle against things I can't change.

The Minnesota Vikings playoff game yesterday against the Philadelphia Eagles was a good lesson in acceptance. After a solid and successful opening drive for the Vikes, not much went well for them and they lost 38-7.

A good sports-themed phrase for acceptance is "That's the way the ball bounces."  It didn't bounce the Vikings way much at all in the game. The Eagles got a piece of a pass that led to an interceptio…

Post #1800

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Today I am grateful for safe travels for family members in recent days, for milder weather and clearer roads and sidewalks, and for enjoying a well-made movie-"The Post"-with my husband Darcy last evening.

Two of those travelers were my sisters Zita and Ruth. They came up to watch Sam and his team wrestle on Friday evening and then spent the night. We had a nice visit, like we always do. As the Midwest contingent of the eight Holthaus sisters, I appreciate the times when the three of us can get together. I wish all eight of us could be together more often. Thanks for making the trip up Zita and Ruth! I appreciate it.

Today is a special day among my many blogging days. Today's post is #1800. It's fun to mark another century milestone. First, with a visual:

And then with a list:
18 reasons to keep blogging:
1. The ideas keep coming.
2. I have some faithful readers.
3. Ease of being is a goal I aspire to. Writing helps me maintain some contentment.
4. It gives me a regular o…

Muddy Waters Clear

Today I am grateful for the awe stemming from the beautiful way frost sparkled on the trail this morning as I walked Oliver. I am also grateful for things falling into place for Sam and I last evening as we did some errands.

Add my health to the list today, and every day. As I walked into the cancer center I am a patient at yesterday for my annual check up, I once again felt the fullness of the deep gratitude I feel to be here, alive, well. Coming up on 10 years since my diagnosis, I try not to take my health for granted. I get a strong reminder each time I walk into “Cancerland.”

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu provided us with many profound quotes. A well-known one is "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." As a runner, writer, and recovering alcoholic, those words have always resonated with me.
Here is another Lao Tzu quote that I was less familiar with:
"Who is it that can make muddy water clear? No one.  But left to stand, it will gradually cl…

Empty Shelves

Today I am grateful for rest and comfort after a full and tiring day. I am also grateful for opportunities to be surprised in any given day. Paying attention leads to surprises.

That local Target store I mentioned yesterday is closing permanently in a couple weeks. We were sure bummed to hear that, preferring Target in many ways over other options. It's five minutes from our house. It's familiar. We know what to find where. It's closing. Permanently.

Yes, we will have other options close by, and more Target stores a few miles to the north or west. But it won't be the same or as convenient. In the whole scheme of things, a first-world problem for sure.

Yet, there is a sadness as we walk into the store and see the growing open spaces and empty shelves. Empty shelves that won't be replenished or restocked. It makes me think about random things like my mom's memory and how parts of it are empty shelves while others remain full. Or how we all have dreams we have put…

Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

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Today I am grateful for lamplight and peanut butter and jelly on toast. I am also grateful for a phone conversation with my brother Artie. 
A few days ago, I went into our local Target to look for a couple things I needed. I found those things, and also something else I wasn't looking for--this message on a shirt:


I was booking it through the infant and toddler section as a shortcut to the checkout lanes when these words on a little shirt caught my attention. Clearly the words aren't meant for the tiny wearer of this size of shirt, but for the people around the tiny person.
Tiny people, also known as babies, are a great place to start when looking for wonder. Pretty much everything about them brings a sense of wonder, from their little fingers and toes to their smiles and cries. 
Then we get older, we understand more, we experience more. Some of that is good, some of it is difficult. We may forget to be curious, forget to pause and appreciate the snow falling or a loved one l…

Shoveling Through

Today I am grateful for my physical and mental capabilities, a much-needed nap yesterday afternoon, and the job I get to go to today.

We have had a pattern of bitterly cold weather for a few days, a brief warming which then brings snow, and a plunge back to the cold. That has given me opportunities to bundle up and be grateful for my warm clothing and boots. It has also given me the chance to get out and shovel snow.

I enjoy shoveling snow. I always have. It is partly because I like clean driveways and sidewalks, and that means less wet mess brought inside. But it is in large part because I appreciate being outside in the elements and being physically able to do the task at hand. I also enjoy tasks where I can easily see the progress I am making.

I wrote about this in an essay titled "The Philosophy of Shoveling the Driveway" which made it into The Des Moines Register in February of 2011. Read it in this post from February of 2013.

Sometimes snow is light and easy to shovel.…

Skol Vikings!

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Today I am grateful for the courageous efforts and sacrifices made by Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others in the move to bring racial equality to this country. I am also grateful for the values our parents instilled in my siblings and I when it came to the worth and dignity of all living things.

Besides honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. today, many of us are also honoring the Minnesota Vikings after their amazing playoff win yesterday, literally as time ran out at the end of the game. It was great to have the opportunity to get to the game with Darcy. It was the first playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium and it was historical.

We aren't the most die-hard fans, but we are Vikings fans and we are proud of our local team, relishing being in the stadium for the crazy finish, and hoping for a first-ever home team playing in the Super Bowl.



I have always enjoyed watching pro football. Sunday afternoons and I go way back to players like Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Walter Payton and…

The Irony of Memory

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Today I am grateful for a slower-paced perspective on my day and a wrestling tournament yesterday. It allowed me to better experience the minutes and hours, and to be kinder and gentler to myself and those around me. Thank you Darcy for doing the driving too.

I am also grateful for each conversation I have with my mom. I had a phone conversation with her Friday afternoon that was longer than our conversations typically are. I appreciated that. There is heightened awareness for me that each conversation could be our last one.

This is truly the case with any conversation with anyone, but more in the forefront with Mom. She is nearly 87 and her health, hearing, and memory are declining. As sometimes happens, she couldn’t remember what she had said minutes earlier, but with clarity that could be trusted, she told of her high school days.

She had seen the obituary of a classmate. The second one who had died recently. She went on to talk about her own pride in having gone to and completed h…

Parents Night

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Today I am grateful for the reassuring sound of our hot water heat coming on and for the ease in which I can go up and down steps. 
I am also grateful today for the wrestling program our son Sam has been part of since he was in the 6th grade. He is now a sophomore and on the Junior Varsity squad. Last evening was parents night, so we were acknowledged and introduced. 
Here's a picture of Darcy, Sam, and I from  last night:


Sam is closing in on his 16th birthday, getting a full-fledged license, more freedom and more choices. It is an emotional time for his parents, I think especially his mama. I love being a mom, I appreciate the approach Darcy and I partner on, I love Sam for the person he is and the person he is becoming. These are pivotal years for child and parents. And they are passing quickly. I savor moments like this one above. 
That's my emotional rant for now. In closing, a big thank you to the Hastings wrestling program, especially the coaches who impress us with wh…

Sharing It Forward

Today I am grateful for the soft light of lamps in the early mornings and for those who make the ease of electricity possible in our homes and elsewhere.

I took the idea of sharing gratitude forward, from my most recent post, into my day yesterday. Just taking it with me helped me to be more present and aware of what I had to be grateful for. It also gave me opportunities to put gratitude in action.

Smiles, good mornings, a helping hand with a task, a thank you to a stranger who held a door were all part of my day. So were laughs shared with my department colleagues and chocolates shared by one of them too. And a conversation with a young woman pursuing her own career in school counseling reminding me of why I pursued it and what twenty years of experience have taught me.

A random song on the radio connected me with a dear friend who is often in my thoughts and prayers. A visit to the podiatrist gave me the chance to assist an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Later, as I drove away from…

Accidentally Paying It Forward

Today I am grateful for a run after work yesterday with Darcy, and for a car to wash and a nearby car wash.

With the warmer weather, it's a good time to get one coat of grime and grit off the car before the next round comes. I was determined to get my car washed yesterday because I was tired of the dirty windows. I appreciated the remaining energy I summoned, even after a full day.

We have a coin-operated car wash less than a mile from us, so I went there. I was loaded with enough quarters and a few extras. I set the extras on a ledge near where I needed them. This car wash is cleaner and warmer than many, so I enjoyed the process of seeing the deeper blue color return to my car.

When I got home I realized I had left 4 quarters on the ledge. Oh well, the next person who came in probably appreciated them. I can live without the four quarters. It raised thoughts though of those who have no money, no car to wash, no home to return to. Whenever I can pause in my day to notice what I d…

Peaceful River or Raging Rapids

Today I am grateful for a January "heat wave" locally and for the conversations I had with my friend Sheila yesterday.

The other day some recovery friends and I were talking about peaceful rivers vs. riding the rapids of life. We are talking about the peace or chaos we create in our own minds--the place where our disease truly rests. The alcohol is gone, but the "ism" is still there.

The "ism" is impacted by the circumstances and events of our lives, which may or may not be chaotic at the time, but more impacted by our thought processes. Left to their own devices, our alcoholic minds are adept at obsessing, overthinking, magnifying the negative and the fear, and becoming quite self-centered.

Such thinking crowds out sane and rational thoughts. Such thinking destroys the peace we strive for and instead creates the treacherous rapids of a racing mind. We used to quiet that mind with our drink or substance of choice.

In recovery, our job is to quiet the mind…

Playing and Helping

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Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo over the weekend, warmer weather, and fruits and vegetables that I have always liked.

Leo spent the night with us Saturday into Sunday. Here is a picture of him sitting in his little rocker and enjoying the company of our dog Oliver.


Did you notice the Spiderman socks?  Cute. He is a bundle of energy much of the time, and that is a good thing. I try to help him channel it by getting his help in the ways I can. He likes to feed Oliver when it's time. He knows how to turn the humidifiers on and off for me, and to tell when the humidifier is full when we are refilling them.  He helped me unload the dishwasher. And we pulled a chair up to the sink so he could get close to the action of washing dishes the old-fashioned way too. 
He spent plenty of time playing with his farm and car toys too, hanging out with the guys. Darcy read to him and he hung out watching a movie with his Uncle Sam too. 
It is a lesson in mindfulness to have a lit…

For the Love of Running

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and the relationships we have with him, individually and collectively. I am also grateful for a run outside yesterday.

It has been bitterly cold here the last couple of weeks and we've also had "nuisance" snow to keep roads and trails a bit treacherous at times. That has kept me indoors for more of my exercise. I will run outside in almost anything though, so I ventured out in the cold a couple of times this week.

One of those times was yesterday afternoon. I appreciate that I have the right attire so I can layer for warmth and then keep my hands and face warm enough. It takes some time to get ready, but it is well worth it when I start down the road or trail. It was just 20 minutes yesterday, but it was sure refreshing.

For the love of running, I bundle up. For the love of running, I get up early many Saturdays throughout the year to do training runs. For the love of running, I strength train and invest in quality shoes. For the lo…

Changing Themes

Today I am grateful for each room in our home, for both function and the comfort it provides. I am also grateful for walks out in the fresh, though quite cold, air.

If you are a regular reader, you will notice a new look to my blog today. It's good to mix it up from time to time, and I honestly couldn't tell you how long it has been since I changed the look. I am a believer in the strength of the words being the most important blog component. Still, it doesn't hurt to change colors, format, etc.

Blue is a favorite color of mine, and the water and beach are a nice contrast from the frigid and white world outside my windows today.

It just takes a few clicks of keyboard buttons and some previews. For me, it also always takes a leap of faith. I am a creature of habit. I knew just what to find where on my old theme. The new theme has some things I will need to get used to.

It is a good feeling though to see the changes, to have been able to figure out the essential aspects so I…

Choosing One's Attitude

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and his mom, my stepdaughter Emily. I am also
grateful for indoor plumbing, something I almost always take for granted.

Happy Birthday today to Emily! She is a good mom to Leo and working hard in many ways. She impresses me with her efforts, not always seen in young people these days.

Another quote that is really at the basis of my motivation to live gratefully is this one by Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist.

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."  (from his book Man's Search for Meaning)
It is a quote worth revisiting often. Most of us have never experienced the extreme deprivation and hor…

In a Moment or Two

Today I am grateful for the understanding of technology use that I have today.  It is still limited, but it is growing. I am also grateful for my five senses and that they are all in working order.

In the next hours after writing yesterday’s post, and closing with these words "Fully experience today. See what you notice in this next moment, then the next," I intentionally made note of some moments I would typically just let cruise right on by. It takes intention and pauses to fully experience a moment.

Here are some of the things I fully experienced:

-the satisfaction of the quick fix of a loose knob on a door I use often (just took a little tightening by hand and it was once again securely in place)

-the feel of warm water running over my head and neck in the shower

-the simple pleasure and feeling of running a brush through my freshly-shampooed hair

-savoring the taste of a green apple and the crunch of celery

-the satisfaction of putting a box of pictures away after finis…

Fully Experience

Today I am grateful for a run outside yesterday and the right attire for the conditions. I am 
also grateful for the memories evoked by looking at photos. 

I just started reading Brother David Steindl-Rast's latest book, titled i am through you so i. It is a unique approach to an autobiography. I discovered his writing and his life’s work several years ago and the pivotal quote that is my blog header. These words are the truth I keep returning to and my motivation to live gratefully. 

"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful,  but gratefulness that makes us happy."   

The happiness referred to here is more a peace and contentment. Not the happy face of today's culture which tends to be both elusive to catch and fleeting when it happens. Today's quest for happiness is literally making people sick. That is why Brother David's message is so important. 

I try to read, watch, and listen to books, videos, podcasts, etc. that include him.…

Spiritual Infusion

Today I am grateful for my eyesight and the glasses I wear that make it even better. I am also grateful for a new day and a new year. I am thinking about the many people, some I knew personally some I did not, who were here to start 2017 but not to finish it.

This first post of 2018 is providing some random thoughts as a new day and a new year get underway.

"The way you come to fully appreciate the infusion of the Spirit is to more and more come fully into the moment, where this moment is enough."  (Ram Dass)
This moment is enough. This moment is all there is. This is the state of contentment and presence that I strive for. I am sometimes successful, and I appreciate that. Progress not perfection. Practice makes progress possible. Living gratefully and practicing habitual gratitude are continual infusions of spirit. 
The Great Spirit I seek and have faith in never lets me down.  When I pause to consider blessings, they are always there, right in front of me in this space and …