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Showing posts from June, 2018

Closing the Loop

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Today I am grateful for our kitchen and the meals we prepare there. I am also grateful for iced coffee and conversation with a friend.

Our college tours took us on a big loop and covered nearly 1200 miles. From Ames, Iowa to Manhattan, Kansas. From Manhattan to Lincoln, Nebraska, then returning home via I-80 and I-35. We closed the loop near Des Moines, Iowa and had a more familiar stretch the last 200 miles or so.

Traveling hundreds of miles and spending four nights in three different hotels can be exhausting, and even with loved ones we start to tire of one another and close quarters. But we hung in there pretty well and I do appreciate that we gave each other the space we needed when we needed it.

Closing the loop and returning home was welcome, as was the gratitude for smooth travels. Closing the loop can refer to communication, or to achieving a goal. It also refers to our food supply in ways.

I appreciated seeing this as we toured one of the agriculture buildings at Kansas State…

Roaming and Touring

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Today I am grateful for safe travels, what we saw and learned about three different universities over the course of three days, and healthy legs to carry us over miles of tours and meetings.

I am even more appreciative now of Sam’s future direction and the fact that he knows what he would like to study and then pursue as a career. He has really known for years, and it just keeps coming into clearer focus. That brings much relief and assurance to his parents. I respect and am impressed by Sam's level of interest and his goals.

Because of his career certainty, and because we had the time to travel now, it made a lot of sense for us to go before his junior year. We are glad we did. Sam would like to study agronomy and have a hands-on, outdoor job in that field. We toured three highly reputable schools in neighboring states--Iowa State, Kansas State, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

We roamed many miles, both highway and the streets, sidewalks, and buildings of college campuses…

Praying the Rosary

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Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Iowa and for time with eight of my 12 siblings and our mom.  And the food...always the food.

I am thinking of families suffering tragic losses and deep grief, and sending them strength. A friend's new daughter-in-law dying of cancer at age 27. My brother-in-law's brother, age 60, dying in a motorcycle crash. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and there was nothing he could have done. So very sad. Both died on the same day--Thursday, June 21, 2018.

That day was just another day for many of us. It is a day others will never forget. Life is precious. Life is fragile.

When I arrived to see my family on Friday morning, I stopped at the nursing home to see Mom first. They were just getting started saying the rosary.  It is prayed daily, and those who are interested gather in one of the larger lobby areas. My mom usually goes, and when I spotted her I sat down and joined the group.

It had been a really long time since I had pr…

More Views, More Eye Openings

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Today I am grateful for time with visiting family and for grapes. 
It's been a few weeks since I have listened to and watched this video, narrated by Brother David Steindl-Rast. It's called "A Grateful Day." It's one that I try to loop back around to more regularly, but have missed lately. I have mentioned and shared it here before, so if it looks familiar, it probably is. 
One of the benefits of my gratitude practice is that it reminds me to not miss the familiar, to not take the familiar for granted. 
Watch. Listen. Absorb. It's just over five minutes long. The words alone are powerful. The pictures alone are moving. When I put them together and add my full attention, I never regret it.

One of the phrases in the video is "It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you--today. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now."
Another is "Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes y…

Relish Surprises, Even the Small Ones

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Today I am grateful for quiet time outside to start my day. I am also grateful for good rest in a comfortable bed.

If you read my blog at all, the name Brother David Steindl-Rast is a name you have heard before. He is my "gratitude guru" if you will. His quote is the perfect blog header for me. "In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."

Recently, this quote from him showed up at gratefulness.org:

"The smallest surprise, received gratefully, yields a harvest of delight." 
These two, also about surprises, are attributed to Brother David too: 
"Surprise is the seed of gratefulness. Become aware of surprises. Relish surprises as life's gifts."

"The greatest surprise is that there is anything at all--that we are here." 

It takes a moment's mindful pause, an open mind and heart, and the surprises become evident. As I gave attention to the present, moving through my d…

Recovery Connections Matter

Today I am grateful for the variety of sounds that I am hearing as I pause to take them in. They are soothing in their own ways. I am also grateful for fingers that work as I type.

In a day's time, it is important that I take actions to preserve ongoing sobriety and recovery. Some of those actions are mine to take alone. Prayers and meditation. Writing in my gratitude journal. But connections with others traveling the same road of physical and emotional sobriety make my day when they come along.

Some I seek out, some seek me out. It might be email connections, or a text or video message. It might be people in my neighborhood...a friend who lives a street over, waving on his way past our house. Or my friend down the street. I'll stop by for a hug and a visit in her backyard when I see her out. Or I will walk a few minutes to another recovery friend's house, then we will walk and talk together.

Recovery connections matter. But I also very much appreciate the support I get fo…

Simple Solutions

Today I am grateful for umbrellas, washers and dryers, sturdy stairs, and my five senses.

Yesterday brought simple solutions to two household issues we had. One had been around for several months, the other surfaced in the last couple of weeks. Neither was crucial to the daily operations or safety of our home, but both mattered enough to pursue solutions.

One had to do with replacing a security plate for our front screen door. It had broken, the second one to do so since we got the door a few years ago. By fluke, we had gotten a replacement part last time fairly easily. This time, we tried stops at several home/hardware stores and one online order that ended up being the wrong size.

Finally, we went right to the source, the door manufacturer. I had to wait on hold on the phone for 20 minutes, but did some writing while I waited. A helpful customer service representative helped me place an order that will only set us back $10. The time, gas, and energy we put into finding a replacement…

Good Stewards

Today I am grateful for a new stretch of trail and a bridge just opened on our local trail system. I am also grateful for my sense of sight and the lush green colors I can see this time of the year.

Back in April, some voluntary garbage duty on Earth Day helped me step up my environmental stewardship efforts. Reducing, reusing, recycling have all been things I do, but I am trying to do them more.

Reflecting on my conversation with Cathy Novelli from Listening for America last week, the idea of stewardship came up again and has stayed on my mind. Stewardship of our finite resources; human, natural, capital, labor, production, space.

I am reminded that I need to pay attention and do my part, that we all do, because as Chief Seattle said "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as "the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care."  That certainly…

A Devoted and Tenacious Father

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Today I am grateful for a cooling morning breeze to give us a little break on a sultry day. I am also grateful to my dad and the father and grandfather he was. I  miss him and I strive to honor his legacy and memory.

I have been observing, in action, my husband Darcy as a father for over twenty years now. He was already father to Arthur, now 27, and Emily, now 23, when I first met him. I have been impressed with so much of what I have watched and witnessed in Darcy as a father, and in our partnership as parents to our son Sam, now 16.

He is both devoted and tenacious. He is unwavering in his love for his children and the effort that he gives to supporting them in a wide variety of ways. We don't always agree on everything when it comes to parenting, but we share the priorities of instilling and exemplifying crucial values and in being genuine in our love and support.

This is a recent picture of Darcy and his three children. Some of you have seen it, but it is worth seeing again. I…

Waiting Out the Rain

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Today I am grateful for clarity that comes when least expected, for rest and a good book to pull me in, and for my running partner, my husband Darcy.

I often don't post on Saturday mornings because we are heading out for a long training run. But this was the view from our front patio just a few minutes ago:


A steady rain and some thunder and lightning have us waiting it out for awhile. I appreciate the roof over our heads and the weather radar that helps us plan our next steps. And the gift of time. We have a few things that we hope to do today, but we aren't on a tight timeline.
It was already very warm and humid before the rain, so an earlier start wouldn't have been a cooler one anyway.
Waiting out the rain. Ridin' the Storm Out to use the title of an REO Speedwagon song I loved back in the day. And it fits as I continue to ride out this early fifties, midlife angst I sometimes feel pelted by. Sometimes I pelt myself relentlessly. Sometimes life brings unexpected an…

First It Gives, Then It Takes

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Today I am grateful for a little time with our grandson Leo to start my day. His energy is contagious. I am also grateful for the peace there is in silence.

First it gives, then it takes. What am I writing about? Addiction. Alcohol. Opioids. Food. Gambling. Meth. Nicotine. The list goes on and on, and on. The pain, devastation, and death go on and on, and on.

First it gives us, the addicts and alcoholics, the high, the escape, the relief we are seeking. That may work for a time, and the shift may be subtle, but then it starts to take. It takes our time, money, relationships, our very hearts and souls. And if recovery and sobriety aren't sought, it is most often fatal or very effective at shortening life and destroying the quality of it.

I get frequent reminders of the pain and devastation of addiction, and frankly I need such reminders. Some days and weeks it comes up more though, and this was one of those weeks. Hearing about another young adult dying of a drug overdose. Talking …

Listening for America

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Today I am grateful for unique opportunities and conversations. I am also grateful for the many avenues which I have to honor the process of living gratefully and sharing some of those avenues with others.

Thank you to my friend Liz who helped bring an opportunity my way yesterday. I appreciated seeing Liz, meeting her friend Cathy, having an interesting and engaging conversation, and also being able to share my community's natural beauty with them on a pleasant June day.

As a former Under Secretary of State in the Obama administration, and a Vice President at Apple Inc., Cathy has a wealth of experience and knowledge in the area of international trade. She is currently the president of the non-partisan organization Listening for America.  A key part of their purpose reads:

We are having conversations with Americans from all walks of life about their views  of and experiences with international trade and globalization.


And this blog post written by Cathy further explains the goal o…

Generosity

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Today I am grateful for the cool, calm, and peace of our backyard in the early morning. And for the many ways the generosity of this world shows itself.

I am also grateful for our son Sam's growing independence. He took himself for a much-needed haircut yesterday. Driver's license, vehicle, cash in wallet; he had what he needed. I appreciate that Sam is a more generous saver than spender of the money he earns.

Here is this morning's generosity, courtesy of Mother Nature:


The lush green leaves. The expansive blue sky beyond. The gracious sunlight.
Generosity takes many forms. A friend's listening and understanding. A spouse's small deeds. A fellow recovering alcoholic sharing experiences and hope. One's own open mind, heart, and soul allowing the full potential of this day to emerge. 
Generosity and gratitude complement one another so well. Without one, the other suffers. With both together, there is more of each. 
As I move into my day, I start the gratitude fl…

Faucets and Drains

Today I am grateful for morning birdsong, and the ease of a quick breakfast of overnight oatmeal.

After a mishap with our washing machine yesterday morning, I was reminded of how nice it is to have working drains, and for that matter running water, washing machines, and electricity. These are all things I tend to take for granted, until something goes awry.

Our home has four levels. All total, we have six faucets and drains that regularly get used. Yesterday, I appreciated the seventh drain in the basement that comes in handy when water overflows. In the summer time, two outdoor faucets/spigots get regularly used as well.

Clean water. Safe water. Convenient water. Working faucets and drains. A well-built home with a stable roof. All blessings.

Sometimes drains empty fast and I barely notice. At other times, it may be a slow process and some patience is required. But it is in that patience that I can choose to pause and look around the room I am in and appreciate what is there. Appreci…

Decisions, Then Patience

Today I am grateful for drains that work and hill repeats I can run to challenge my aging body.

In another conversation with a recovering friend the other day, he was talking about a rough few moments with family. Too many people, tired, and with varying expectations. It led to some reactions, to some decisions. Some were helpful, some were not.

Decisions. We face them every day, throughout the day. There are so many that we often make them almost unconsciously. What to eat. What to wear. When to brake. When to accelerate. Many decisions are fairly inconsequential, but taken together through the course of the day, they can alter how well, or not well, our day and our attitude unfold.

Other decisions carry significant weight. They may be mulled over, discussed, written about for days, weeks, months. Maybe it is a large purchase like a home or vehicle. Maybe it is about a relationship. Maybe it is about career direction or change.

These weightier decisions are the ones we shouldn't …

Broken People Helping Broken People

Today I am grateful for a good training run with Darcy yesterday and a good novel to immerse myself in for a mind break.

I also have ongoing gratitude for fellow recovering alcoholics who support me in my recovery. I was talking with some of them recently and someone mentioned how we are all broken people. Not just alcoholics and addicts, but all of us.

Broken people. None of us is perfect, none of us have been left unscathed by life, by circumstances dealt to us, and choices we have made and continue to make ourselves.

I appreciate the open discussion of our humanness when among others working to stay sober, to clear the wreckage left by years of using and abusing, years of beating ourselves up. We keep things real and that really helps. Because we have common ground and shared emotions, we also have trust and a safe place to share.

I am blessed with others in my life who aren't alcoholics or addicts, but are just as real and just as safe to share with.

I trust genuine people sha…

"When I quit walking..."

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Today I am grateful for the hope and opportunity that arrives with a new day. I am also grateful for friends who listen.

Last weekend  when I was visiting my mom in the nursing home, we were walking and she said:

"When I quit walking, I’m not here anymore." 
I had written about this in a recent post. Still, her words struck me. Her walks up and down the halls of the nursing home, and outside around the perimeter of the building when my brother or some other visitor can take her out, are good physical exercise for her aging body.
That alone would be healthy and helpful, but there is more. These walks are for Mom's overall wellness. Her emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well. I am the same way. In motion, on a walk or run, I more fully take in my surrounding world. I more completely process the pressing thoughts and feelings on my mind and in my heart. I more readily sense the presence of a Great Spirit and other guiding forces. I feel better.
Here is a fitting pi…

More! Please . . .

Today I am grateful for a walk and talk with my friend Dorothy and for clean air to breathe and enjoy being out in.

Our grandson Leo and I have found our favorite activity for this summer. We have a bottle of the bubble-making solution and a mid-sized bubble wand that creates some pretty good bubbles. I blow the bubbles. He chases them. And at times we both watch one or two float up out of reach.

He chased down many a bubble for the few minutes we played. And he would run back asking for more, please! At three, he is a bundle of energy best channeled with activity. And at nearly 53, I am a bundle of energy wrapped in a different sort of package.

Leo's delight lifted my late-day spirits and helped clear a mind filled with the day's work and thoughts. When a bubble rose out of his reach, we would both watch it for as long as we could. Some floated over our neighbor's house, even above the trees.

Oh, to float away, light and airy. I can send fears, worries, obsessive thoughts…

A Meaningful Stretch of Road

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Today I am grateful for a morning run and the first sip of my morning coffee.

Amidst the meaningful conversations, hugs, tears, and laughter this weekend, there was also a meaningful stretch of road my husband Darcy and I ran down on Sunday morning. It is a stretch that looms large in my life‘s journey, but it had been many years since I covered it on foot or by car.

It is a gravel road on the edge of town in Calmar, Iowa. It is where I was living in 1989, a second-year teacher, a coach, and an active alcoholic.


I took a walk on this road on Labor Day that year, September 4. Several things had come together to bring me to this point: years of drinking, a particularly bad drunk a few weeks prior, a friend sending me a letter in a book, my sister sharing her concerns. 
This was after other friends had expressed concern along the way, after some minor legal consequences a couple of times, many blackouts and regrets, many failed attempts to quit on my own. After struggling with who I saw …

Across The Room, Not Across The Miles

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Today I am grateful for a full and meaningful weekend filled with time together with special people. I am also grateful for safe travels, laughter, tears. 
This is my friend Sheila and I on Saturday evening. The last time I saw Sheila in person before this weekend was when we said our goodbyes a few hours after her daughter Carli's funeral. Carli died by suicide at age 14 on April 4, 2017. Sheila came very close to losing her husband Dave that day too. 

Sheila and I have spoken regularly since that tragic day. Every few days we are talking on the phone, or sending some text messages back and forth. We have spent many hours in conversation over the last 14 months. You can't beat being together in person though. It meant so much to us to be in the same room, instead of hundreds of miles apart. 
I very much appreciated that my husband Darcy was able to join Sheila and Dave for part of the weekend as well. The many conversations that took place among various individuals and small…

30 years here, 35 years there

Today I am grateful for good music inspiring me and cool morning air enjoyed on our patio.

Thirty years here. My 30th year in education, ten as a high school social studies teacher and now 20 as a school counselor, is just winding down. Those 30 years have had many challenges, but many more rewards. I don't know how I amassed 30 years so quickly. A day at a time I guess.

Thirty-five years there. As the school year winds down, the weekend is winding up. It will include time with old friends, dear friends. Friends I graduated from high school with a mere 35 years ago. There have been many milestones, anniversaries, joys, and too many losses and sorrows in those 35 years for this group that will gather.

Undoubtedly, there will be both laughter and tears. Conversation and silence. Food and drink. There will be cherished time together, new memories made. A moment at a time.

I will be taking a blog break for a few days. See you next week!

This day awaits. The weekend awaits. A moment at…