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Showing posts from April, 2018

Breathing: A Startling Occupation

Today I am grateful for the fun of tee ball with our grandson Leo and a family meal shared. I am also grateful to live in a forward-thinking community.

The guiding quote and question from Everyday Gratitude exploration, Day 2 are:

"To live is so startling, it leaves but little room for other occupations."  (Emily Dickinson)
"What worries get crowded out when I awaken to the wonder of life?"
As I let these thoughts simmer throughout my day yesterday, as I let them guide me in simple ways, I came to some realizations. Not necessarily new revelations, but fresh takes on them.

I really liked Emily Dickinson's use of the word "startling."  I need to be startled awake, startled present as I move through the hours of each day. I get in my busy mode, my thinking-what-to-do-next mode, and I am not paying attention very well to the right here, right now. I miss the pleasure of the task I am in, even if it is mundane. I miss the pleasure of being fully alive.

Being…

Healthy Neural Pathways

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Today I am grateful for an early morning run in nature's beauty, friends in recovery, and opportunities to trust and let go of my teenage son Sam to help him mature and have a good sense of independence.

Day 1 of the Everyday Gratitude exploration at gratefulness.org referenced feeling satisfied and asked the question "How am I rich?" For me, it is in the things I mentioned above, and in so much more, including healthy neural pathways. Those pathways are signified in this picture:


Healthy neural pathways have trained my brain and my body to enjoy and seek the habits of exercise and living gratefully. My current gratitude journal and the pen in my hand simply reflect my daily effort to note two things for which I am grateful and to offer prayers and intentions for a few other people currently facing challenges and struggles. 
This healthy pathway has changed my default thought process from the very closed-minded and self-defeating perception that was full of self-pity and…

Another Take on TGIF

Today I am grateful for connections with other people, some brief, others lasting. I am also grateful for my job experience and the many ways I draw on it each day at work.

Today I am thinking about my friends Gene and Claire, brother and sister, who are two of those impactful connections I have made. Gene passed away peacefully yesterday. Rest in peace Gene. Strength and peace to you Claire, and to the rest of Gene's family and friends.

I am also thinking about TGIF.  Thank God it's Friday. Thank God I'm forgiven. The gratefulness I find. I have written about all those here over the years.

As I ran yesterday afternoon, I thought about new takes on TGIF. Add this to the list above:

"This gratefulness isn't finite."
This gratefulness isn't finite. It is not a source that ever gets tapped out. There is always more, because there is always another moment, another pause, that can lead me to more gratefulness. There is always more to learn as I live gratefully…

Eight Days

Today I am grateful for eggs and toast, and for my husband Darcy's predictability.

I am also grateful to the many who have and continue to inspire me to live gratefully. My friend Terrie, who urged me to move beyond the stagnant self-pity that had me stalled out in my early sobriety. Terrie gave me my first gratitude journal and sparked a life-changing transformation in me.

To my regular blog readers. People like Darcy, Steve, Zita, Sheila, Lana, Jenny, Betsy, Mae, Anne, Aileen. When I am uninspired, stuck in ingratitude, you propel me forward.

To my friend and co-worker Kelly. She has joined me in a gratitude challenge with the goal of pushing us through the last weeks of a grueling school year.

Thank you to you all.

And also to gratefulness.org, the website that brings me plenty of regular inspiration and motivation to keep living gratefully. Thanks to founder Brother David Steindl-Rast, and to all who make the website and vision what it is today.

If you are looking for a spark …

Just 30 Seconds

Today I am grateful for conversation with my son Sam and for earlier morning light and longer evening light.

I know it is midweek, but I had plenty of writing fodder created over the weekend. I am still pulling post ideas out. One of my typical weekend tasks is grocery shopping. I don't mind it really, and we have our usual store with our typical weekly items that I know just where to find.

If I feel rushed at the store, it is only if I have something else next and am on a timeframe, or if the store is crowded and I am slowed by other cart traffic.

Usually, I move pretty efficiently through the aisles. I had an extra spring in my step after my latest trip to the store though. Part of it was the Sunday morning quiet that made my shopping go smoothly. Part of it was the brief exchange I had when I was loading my car with my bags.

An older man pulled into a parking spot near mine. As he got out and started walking, he commented on how he liked the color of my car. (It's a darker …

Fleeting Specks

Today I am grateful for oatmeal and peaches, and for the many friends I have in recovery and how we support one another.

On a recent morning, as I walked Oliver in the predawn chill and dark, I noticed the sparkling flecks of frost on the grass just uncovered from last weekend's snowstorm. I love this time of the day and I appreciate that Oliver gives me a reason to get outside early each morning.

Some mornings, my mind may be on something else and I notice less of my surroundings. But on most mornings, I try to be tuned in to what I am seeing and hearing, both for some moving meditation time and for our safety.

As I considered the sparkling flecks of frost, I pondered how they would be gone in a few short hours, as the sun rose and the temperature climbed above freezing. I appreciated the glinting ice crystals and the peace and beauty they created, but I looked forward to the warmer temperatures.

I was getting ahead of myself. Mindfulness and gratitude are about enjoying the here…

Smirnoff, Phillips, Camel, Marlboro, and Other Garbage

Today I am grateful for the beautiful weekend weather, plenty of sunshine, time with my friend Dorothy, and a bike ride with Darcy.

I decided to go up and down our street yesterday afternoon to pick up some of the garbage I had been seeing, in honor of Earth Day, the sunshine, my physical capabilities.  Among my finds were an empty little Smirnoff vodka container, two larger Phillips vodka plastic bottles, a Camel cigarette pack, and a Marlboro one too.

Add to that several plastic straws (one of the worst offenders to little critters), crushed pop cans, styrofoam and plastic cups, and more. It was both surprising and sad to see what others had littered.

Maybe some of it was innocent garbage. It blew out of a receptacle on a windy trash day, or fell out of a car accidentally.

But I am guessing most of it was guilty garbage. People being lazy, irresponsible, selfish, careless.

It all reminded me that we each need to do our part, and with billions of us on the planet, each of us does sti…

Wendell Berry and Earth Day 2018

Today I am grateful for planet Earth and the joy I get from being outside in our natural world. I appreciate the beautiful day we had yesterday and the promise of new life and green that is now imminent.

Today is Earth Day 2018. It began in 1970 in the United States, thanks to the efforts of many, including Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. In 1990, it went global. Today, millions of people around the globe take part in activities to mark the day and to continue actions to help preserve our planet.

In ways, we have come a long way since 1970, with creation of the EPA and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Yet, in ways we continue to do significant harm to our fragile home and rush blindly forward in the name of progress.

So Wendell Berry's words are very fitting today:

"The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope."
Berry, now in his 80&…

Gulp, Just Breathe

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and the morning routine he and I share. I am also grateful for warmer weather, melting snow, and running in just shorts and a t-shirt.

As I tried to focus on sipping life yesterday, moment by moment, I found myself gulping from time to time. Too often I end up shorting myself on time to get ready and get out the door for my commute to work. It's not like I get up late. I just have too many other things I do: writing, exercise, emails, walking our dog, maybe some laundry.

Yesterday was one of those mornings. By the time I backed my car out of the driveway, I was gulping, wondering if I would get to work on time for the meeting I facilitate most Thursday mornings. Not too far down the road, I chastised myself for already forgetting to "sip it up."  Then I quickly forgave myself, took a deep and calming breath, and settled in for a more pleasant commute.

A similar pattern played out several times as the day went on; regarding work situ…

Sip It Up

Today I am grateful for opposable thumbs that make so many things possible and easier to do. I am also grateful for smooth-flowing pens.

As I drove to work yesterday morning, I saw this on the license plate of a car I passed: Sip it up. I'm sure there are days that I would miss this, concentrating on other things. Yesterday, I saw it and was intrigued.

I wondered why this vehicle owner has this particular plate. I don't know. I won't know. But I do have some random thoughts of my own:

-Do these people like brewery tours?  Microbreweries have sprung up in lots of places and are quite popular. Part of me laments that I missed this part of the "fun of drinking." Then I remember that pretty much any fun I had while drinking was overshadowed by the problems it caused.

-Speaking of drinking, sip wasn't usually in my vocabulary. Usually I was gulping.

-But I can sip up the day, rather than gulp it up. Slow down. Relish. Savor. Sip.

A random license plate yesterday h…

Watching My Tone

Today I am grateful for an important conversation with an old friend and the reminder of the seriousness of active addiction. I am also grateful for the sunshine that we could relish in yesterday, even as a chance of snow returns today.

I wrote about setting the tone the other day; for a trip, for a day. Setting the tone includes watching my tone. My tone of voice, inflection, expression. I can have a biting tongue, reserved mostly for my family. Those we love the dearest also get the brunt of our ugliness. It's not that ugly that often, but it's certainly still something for me to be tuned into.

And I try to be aware of my tone as I interact with students, parents, colleagues in my work setting. The art of communication includes so much regarding inflection, volume, emphasis. (I fear we are losing this art as we lose face to face communication for more device to device communication. But that's for another discussion.)

A soft, patient, and gentle tone can go a long way in…

A Little Training Goes a Long Way

Today I am grateful for my five senses and how they help me experience and savor the little things in life. I am also grateful for clear skies and stars this morning after several gray days.

We have an option at work to participate in CPR and AED training, and some various dates to pick from. With plenty of snow on the ground and cold temperatures, I figured staying after school yesterday was as good of a time as any.

I can't tell you how long it has been since I had either of these trainings. Several years ago for sure. So long ago that the CPR procedure has changed and AEDs are more readily available in many places. I have walked past some for so many years that I don't even see them.

Within 45 minutes, I felt like I had some idea of what to do if I witnessed someone collapse or came upon someone who was non-responsive. I am out and about a lot. I work in a school that has around 1,000 people in and out on a given day. I have loved ones at home and that I visit. You never kn…

Cleanse the Spirit

Today I am grateful for a reconnecting conversation with my friend Linda. I am also grateful for a little indoor game of "catch" with our energetic grandson Leo yesterday.

And another one worth mentioning is my deep gratitude for sobriety, for recovery from alcoholism. I cannot afford to ever take sobriety for granted, to take recovery lightly. Sobriety is just a beginning. Not drinking tends to be the difficult part early in recovery. Living life on life's terms is the more challenging, ongoing effort.

In a recent conversation with some others in recovery, the phrase "cleanse the spirit" came up. I have been physically sober, alcohol-free, for many years now. If I have a craving for alcohol, it comes and goes quickly. But I still suffer from alcoholism as a spiritual malady. Spiritual maladies need spiritual healing.

That is the recovery journey I remain on. Deepening my faith in and my connection to a Great Spirit, a power greater than myself. It's both a…

Embracing a Snowstorm

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Today I am grateful for my working arms and legs and the opportunities to use them. I am also grateful for the first cup of coffee of the day, in my recliner, with Darcy in his.

We have a choice each day. Embrace it or complain about it. This weekend we had a choice to embrace a late-season snowstorm or complain about it. My energy is better served and my demeanor more positive when I choose to embrace a day and a snowstorm rather than complain.

As humans, though, we are most likely to do some of both. So let me get some of my complaints out of the way first:

-The storm forced us to change our weekend plans to visit my stepson Arthur, his wife Alyssa and our grandson Aaron. That was a big disappointment.
-The snow that was almost entirely gone is now piled high again. It will be weeks before we see green grass. Another big disappointment.
-The weather interfered with my running plans for the weekend.

There was plenty to embrace though. Including:

-The varied nature of the storm and pr…

Setting the Tone

Today I am grateful for a warm and secure house in the midst of a late spring snowstorm. I am also grateful for a nice birthday for my husband Darcy.

A week ago, my sister Ruth and I were heading to the airport for our trip to Colorado to connect with our other six sisters. We flew economy class and didn't have seats together. I am usually not someone who talks too much to a stranger sitting next to me on a plane, but I was open to the idea last week.

The man who sat next to me had caught my eye earlier when we were waiting at our gate. He was sharing a charging station with us and his looks reminded me of an older version of my brother-in-law Roger.

As we settled in to our seats, we did strike up a conversation, this stranger and I. It was fun to learn that he had proposed to his wife just two weeks after they met. They made it 48 years together before she died of complications from MS. It was sad to hear about her decline and the challenges he faced as her caregiver.

He was flyi…

Birthday Wishes

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Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy; our health, our marriage, our family. I am also grateful for my job.

Today is Darcy's 53rd birthday. He is about three months older than me. It was a good year in 1965.
We are looking forward to a good next year as well.

 I have some birthday wishes for Darcy today:

-an enjoyable day off and time to himself
-a pleasant family meal together later
-another piece of birthday cake (we started early and made a cake last evening)
-a good run
-a nap

And for Darcy this next year:

-continuing good health and physical capabilities
-more job satisfaction and less job stress
-time with our children, grandchildren, and extended family
-plenty of patio time this summer
-contentment with middle age

I will add this one, with a smile but also sincerity:

-that his wife keeps her opinion to herself more, unless it is requested

And this one truly is a wish I can do nothing about except wish:

-that the major winter storm coming doesn't give us the brunt of…

Immersed in Sisterhood

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Today I am grateful for safe travels and time with my seven sisters. We shared lodging, food, conversation, card games, laughter, tears. We shared precious time together.

We are eight different women with varied personalities, perspectives, and perceptions. And yet, we have much in common, much that unifies us and our five brothers as siblings. We have shared history and separate histories.

We were shaped by our upbringing, in both positive and challenging ways. We were raised in the same house, but not always in the same ways. Ranging in age from me at 52 to my oldest sister Danita at 65, we have all had the opportunity to age and grow more wise in those years.

Our age may show more in physical ways, but we are beautiful and amazing way beyond skin deep.

I am still unpacking my luggage and my emotions from our recent time together. I so appreciate that things fell into place and that we spent four days in one another's company. The impetus was my sister Mary Jo's metastatic b…

With Kind Attention

Today I am grateful for my mom, seven sisters, five brothers, and their extended families. I am also grateful for laughter shared with my husband and son.

The kind attention referenced in yesterday's post is something that takes practice. There are many things in a day that will try to pull us away from it. Not that we want it to, it just happens.

I ended yesterday's post with these words: "What will I see today as I travel life's highway, as I slow down in the carefree lane? I attempted to practice kind attention as I moved through the minutes and hours of my day. Here are some of my observations:

-The wind: instead of cursing it and the unusual April chill it brought, I reminded myself that this wind will bring warmer weather too, and then a cooling breeze when it gets too hot.

-A pencil: The feel and sound of a pencil writing on paper. It definitely is a different writing experience compared to my usual pen.

-Light-hearted joking with students and colleagues and a …

Carefree highway? One lane at least?

Today I am grateful for coffee mugs from friends and special trips. Just using them brings me reminders of appreciation. I am also grateful for running water, a luxury for so many.

My play list as I drove home from work yesterday included one good song after another. ELO's "Telephone Line." Pat Benatar's "Fire and Ice." Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone." Bob Seger's "Against the Wind." Gordon Lightfoot's "Carefree Highway." Not a bad stretch of random songs.

As I listened, I absorbed the energy of the music, music from my era. Music that I appreciate.  "Carefree Highway" struck me. What if there really was a carefree highway?  My road doesn't feel too carefree on most days, both the literal road I commute on and the figurative road of life.

There is much of concern going on in the world, and with people I care about. My brain is often too full of worries, far from carefree.

Maybe that carefree highway d…

Elephant Skin and Other Good Advice

Today I am grateful for the music of Linda Ronstadt and many other artists from the 1970's. I am also grateful for what gets through when my mind is open and listening.

I work at a faith-based school and we celebrated Easter Mass yesterday. In his sermon, the celebrant talked about the words of wisdom his father would often say to him as a teen.  "Work hard. Have the skin of an elephant. Don't take yourself too seriously."

Sound advice for any and all of us. Good wisdom to apply in any and all circumstances.

I believe we could all use thicker skin. Mine has thickened with recovery and age. The society we live in, the cultural landscape surrounding us, seems to have created an overly sensitive, minimally tolerant bunch of adults. This is my opinion. You can disagree and I will hear you out. Hear me out.

Yes, people and this world can be disrespectful, mean, unfair. That will never go away. And some personal affronts need to be confronted, for sure. But many things we …

365 Days, 1000 Nights

Today I am grateful for time with both of our grandsons last evening, one in person and one over the phone. I am also very grateful for sustaining no injury when I slipped and fell in the parking lot at work yesterday morning.

"It's 365 days and 1000 nights." I have heard this said about the first year of sobriety. It can certainly be challenging, especially getting through those times when an alcoholic usually drank. I wasn't a daily drinker, but I was a daily thinker when it came to alcoholism. I spent as much time thinking about drinking as I did actually drinking.

During that first year of sobriety, that meant even more time to think, and having to learn more healthy and effective ways to turn the brain off. There were indeed long nights, long minutes some days. That's why "one day at a time" is so important.

This "365 days and 1000 nights" can be applied to many circumstances and situations we find ourselves in. I am thinking especially t…

My prayer is...

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend, time with my extended family, and for my job.

These beautiful words were seeking to be written about today:

“My prayer is, let me be a blessing to someone or something today.” (Jean Houston)
If I am fully awake, paying attention in the present moment, and keeping my heart open, I know there will be opportunities for me to be a blessing in someone else's day. 
These words also remind me to continue prayers in my heart, and to send them out to others.
Some of my prayers today:
-Peace and comfort for my mom. -That Afinitor is soon added to the Aromasin my sister Mary Jo has already started on and that this combo targeted therapy begins to effectively counter the metastatic breast cancer in her body. -Strength and hope to sustain my friends Sheila and Dave through a most difficult first anniversary. -Each of us seeking to do our part to show love and tolerance to our fellow humans, reducing contention and division.

What are your prayer…