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Showing posts from March, 2018

The Ruthless Furnace of the World

Today I am grateful for quiet moments in a quiet house, and the awe of the morning sky.
On the Christian calendar today is Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a day that carries a heaviness, a sadness, grief. I recall the somber church services of the Good Fridays of my youth. 
I am thinking about the people in my life who are today carrying the weight of significant burdens, the weight of serious physical and mental health challenges, the weight of declining in old age, the weight of grief and loss, the weight of addiction. 
So this quote, from poet Jack Gilbert, seemed fitting:
"We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the  ruthless furnace of the world." 
We all have our crosses to bear. We can all help lessen and lighten the burden of others. And we are better able to carry our own weight and help others with theirs when we "accept our gladness."  When we honor today for the gift it is. When we appreciate the loves in our liv…

A Running 3 x 3

Today I am grateful for my first bike ride of the year, and for the motivation to eat healthy and keep a few pounds off. I am grateful for the ways grace and gratitude show up in my days, when I am paying attention.

I haven't done a 3 x 3 lately, so how about a running one now?  Try it yourself on anything you want. It helps further explore and deepen gratefulness. Pick anything or anyone, list 3 reasons why you are grateful for that person, thing, or situation. You can stop there. Or you can put three more things under each of your first three. Like me, you may just find that
3 x 3 > 9.

Running

1. Being able to be outside.
      a. Enjoying the fresh air.
      b. Listening to the birds as their numbers and songs grow this time of the year.
      c. Running past a brown and gray hillside, knowing that in a few weeks it will be green and alive.

2. A clearer head.
     a. I don't run with a radio anymore. I prefer to be alone with my thought process.
     b. Welcoming the t…

The Big C

Today I am grateful for modern medicine and the options people have for help when sick or injured. I am also grateful that the sun is out this morning and there is hope in the light it brings.

Cancer. Damn cancer. On a good day, it only lurks in the far recesses of my mind. My scars are a familiar part of me. My health is never taken for granted. I try to have healthy habits and take life-sustaining actions each day.

But cancer is very wily, very mysterious. Evil. Our own cells turning on us, sometimes taking parts of us, sometimes taking all. It is non-discriminatory and nobody asks for it. It can happen in anyone and it is not fair in any way, shape, or form.

It spreads fear and dread, just like it spreads abnormal cells and creates tumors. Each day around the world, people face new diagnoses, surgeries, treatment, and death at the hands of cancer.

Recently, it has moved from the recesses of my mind to the front again, loud and glaring. Last year, my sister Leonice faced a cancer di…

2 Dates + Practice = Exponential Growth

Today I am grateful for long-time recovery friends and our shared experiences. I am also grateful for a different pace to my days while on a break from work.

There are two dates that loom especially large in my gratitude practice: February 12, 1995 and March 27, 2012. The first date signifies the inaugural entry in my inaugural gratitude journal. That was thirteen journals and 23 years ago.  The second marks the launch of this blog, six years ago today, and over 1,850 posts ago.

Thank you to my friend Terrie for giving me my first gratitude journal and urging me to try the  practice of gratefulness as a way to temper my propensity for ego-driven self-pity. Thank you to my sister Danita for a random email that gave me the name for this blog and the impetus to take the leap into the blogosphere.

Between the journals and this blog, that is a lot of gratitude practice. I prefer to call it living gratefully. It took practice to start living it. Plenty of practice. Both my daily gratitude j…

Slow Melt

Today I am grateful for music and words that spark memories, and for the old photo album Sam and I were looking at together yesterday. Such sharing between generations is so important.

In our part of the world, we had fairly substantial snowfall this winter, and it piled up rather than melting much in between the times we got dumped on. There was even a dusting of snow overnight last night. It likely isn't the last we will see this season yet either.

We have seen melting in recent weeks, but it has definitely been a slow melt. There is more grass, trail, road, etc. showing, but it is taking time emerging.

Patience is required, but not always easy to come by. It's a good lesson in acceptance and letting go. Spring, green grass, leaves on trees; these are all worth waiting for. From the standpoint of less flooding and erosion, as well as better moisture absorption into the soil, a slow melt is also desirable and beneficial.

A slow melt can be healthier for our mental and emotion…

Just Stop

Today I am grateful for laughter and fun with recovery friends and for forgiveness of self and others.

On Friday I was considering the value of "just keep going." Today I am focusing on "just stop."  There is a time and a place for both, and sometimes I get them mixed up. I may keep going when it is best to stop. I may stop when I should have just kept going.

At other times, though, I get it right. I keep going and make it through a tough moment, day, or time in my life. Or I stop and regroup, get some heathy perspective back, and proceed in better fashion. This is the story of our lives. Knowing when to push and when to step back. Knowing when to let go and surrender, when to embrace and overcome.

I don't always get it right. I never will. At least I am better able to catch myself when I am in the wrong mode, or catch myself sooner anyway. Less damage done. Less frustration. Less wasted energy. Fewer precious moments or gifts missed.

Some recent lessons on &qu…

Just Keep Going

Today I am grateful for phone conversations with my sisters Mary Jo and Leonice yesterday, and for an early morning run today. One footfall at a time, I just kept going.

Just keep going. I was thinking about some people in my life facing current challenges. Serious health issues. Ongoing grief. Just keep going. The late miles of a marathon are a good place to apply this as well.

My first full-time teaching job, at age 23, was a bit of a blur for the first year. I got the job just weeks before school started. I had three or four different courses to prepare for during the year. I worked very hard to stay ahead in my lesson plans and having materials ready.  This was before computers and even readily available copy machines. I made many copies on a ditto machine.

I also did some coaching. I worked a lot. Long hours. I was tired. A lot. I got a callous on my finger from writing so many notes. I lacked confidence in my teaching ability. I was in my last year of drinking too.

Living in the…

Gratitude by Subtraction

Today I am grateful for perspective sought and gained simply by pausing in the early morning quiet to look at the sky and remember I am but a small part of a significant universe. And gratitude for the humility that comes, allowing me the opportunities to make a difference in the ways I can today.

I am always looking for new ways to practice gratitude and here is one I came across at gratefulness.org:

Try this: subtract a person, or an event, or some other aspect of your life. Then make a list of what you would miss or be without if that person wasn't in your life, or that event hadn't taken place, or that aspect didn't exist. Everything you list next then becomes a source of gratitude.

When I consider this exercise and my husband Darcy, the list is long. There are the obvious things. Some are fairly universal among spouses, while others are personal and unique, meant only for husband and wife. In the middle is one I will share here:

Darcy's support during my cancer di…

Season Opener

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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

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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

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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

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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…