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Showing posts from July, 2018

July Birthdays and Silver Linings

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Today I am grateful for a bike ride with Darcy in the cool air this morning, and for a pleasant visit with my friends Candy and Claire yesterday.

This is Candy and Claire with me in the picture below. We have a few years of living experience between us and nearly ten years of friendship. Three women who would most likely have not crossed paths in any other way than the way we did.


Life is funny that way. It puts people in our lives and provides connections that help comfort and heal. There has been more laughter than tears in our times together over these years, but it is the serious topic of breast cancer that provided our first meeting. We met at the local breast cancer support group. 
Candy and Claire now co-facilitate the group. I get there less often these days, but we remain friends, BC buddies. We share grief and loss in support group and beyond. Claire's brother Gene, also a friend of mine, passed away this spring. Candy's mom died a few weeks ago. 
They listen as I ta…

Grateful by Choice

Today I am grateful for the lessons in humility that come our way, and the wisdom some other women in recovery shared with me on the topic recently. I also appreciate that choosing to be grateful is something I want to do today.

This quote got me thinking about such a choice:

"Gratefulness is a setting of the heart, one that I can choose like a wavelength on the radio."  Susan Mazrolle
Wavelength is a word we hear less today. Setting has become more common, what with all the settings on our devices that we can change or need to update. Either word works here though. Where am I positioning my mindset as I start my day and then move through the minutes and hours?

Here is a piece written by Susan Mazrolle, the first line of which is the quote above, and found on gratefulness.org

Setting the Heart to Gratefulness

I really appreciated these words from the reading:

"Gratefulness can’t make pain go away. And maybe it’s not meant to. It can’t erase sorrow. Sorrows and joys are par…

"The Exquisite Beauty of Now"

Today I am grateful for breakfast, conversation, and a walk with my friend Jenny. I am also grateful that my sister Mary Jo only had to spend one night in the hospital.

With busy schedules and families, Jenny and I aren't able to get together as often as we would like, so I really appreciated when it worked out yesterday. Ten years ago this month, the two of us were in the thick of all things cancer, after I was diagnosed in late May and she in late June. We had our first surgeries and a few weeks to get used to being a cancer patient and all that comes with it.

We each had supportive husbands, families, and friends, but it was such a silver lining to have one another. Uncharted territory is a little less scary when a fellow traveler is with you living a similar reality of appointments, decisions, research, devastating days, hopeful days.

By the next summer, we were honoring our writing souls, shared experience, and friendship by writing a book together. Though still in manuscript…

Questions and Answers

Today I am grateful for the soothing sound of water in fountains and for strength exercises to help my joints. I also appreciated more fun time with our grandson Leo yesterday.

As a recovering alcoholic, you will hear me talk about (or read here) about my mind being my enemy some of the time, and my thinking being as much my problem as any drinking ever was.

Part of that overthinking and overanalyzing has to do with spinning and swirling questions around. Why? Why did this happen? Why didn't this happen? Why?

"Why?" ends up being a very lonely question much of the time, especially with life's toughest questions. If I keep looking for an answer, an explanation, to figure it out, I continue to isolate myself from the real solution-which is often to simply stop asking why and start moving forward doing the next right thing.

Right actions like being kind and gentle with others and myself. Forgiving myself and others for being our human and emotion-laden selves. Think of …

Heaviness

Today I am grateful for early morning conversation and coffee with my husband Darcy, and for time with our grandson Leo at our local community celebration.

It was fun to park the car, walk hand in hand with Leo in the middle, and take in the sights and sounds of the small carnival that had been set up along the river.  The three of us enjoyed a little kiddie ride together, after Leo gave a thumbs down to a couple of other rides that looked "too scary."

I appreciated that time yesterday afternoon. But the word on my mind this morning is heaviness. It has been lurking more recently. My sister's advanced cancer diagnosis and my mom's declining health are significant reasons for that heaviness. There are other concerns and worries for people I care about, as well as some of my own emotional sorting out to do.

This type of heaviness doesn't come and go easily. It needs to be sat with and given time, talked about, written about. The emotions need to be fully acknowledg…

It’s the Season for Physicals

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Today I am grateful for the comfort in signs the Universe sends in its mysterious ways. I am also grateful for my friend Sheila and our phone conversations.

Summer is the season for physicals around our house. Working in schools and having more time in the summer, Sam and I have typically gotten ours in the summer. And now Oliver is thrown in there as well. Sam's was just this Wednesday, yesterday was Oliver's, and mine is in a few weeks. So far so good, no surprises.

Some suggestions and things to keep an eye on, but shouldn't we be doing that anyway, vigilant to changes in our own health, or that of our children and pets?

Sam's is called a well-child check. Oliver's is called a senior wellness exam. Such nice names. I was looking at a chart on the wall at the vet's office and based on Oliver's weight and age he is 60 in dog years and considered a senior. Three years from now he will enter the geriatric category.

He's a little less hyper than he used …

Progression

Today I am grateful for my eyesight and hearing and how they allow me to take in the world around me, and I am grateful for the family and friends in my world, near and far.

Yesterday I noticed some less obvious beauties:
*Insects making their way in the world...buzzing around in the sun or crawling on the ground or my arm...there are way more of them than us. (An estimated 10 quintillion alive at this moment).
*Running with my shadow leading the way. It is often there, but I often miss it.
*Hearing our dog Oliver's collar and tags clink on his food bowl as he eats, signaling a typical day and a healthy dog.

Today's post title is the word progression. It is one of those words that can be the bearer of good news. "The progression of your pregnancy is normal." "Your child's progression in the area of math is outstanding. " "Her progression to CEO is deserved."

Or it can be the bearer of bad news. "The progression of fear in an area hit by a…

Beauty Sought, Beauty Found

Today I am grateful for the power of writing and the strength of muscles after training them.

I ended yesterday's post with these words: "Perhaps each of us can only hope for this; some beauty in today. Cancer or no cancer, today is all any of us get. Live it fully, whatever that may mean to you."

Looking for beauty since I wrote those words, I found it in:

-cooler and drier air delivered on a gentle breeze
-my son's warm smile as I shared a memory from ten years ago
-a work-related phone call that went just the way the parties on each end hoped it would
-the fun of windows down and radio cranked, driving down the road
-a good morning kiss shared with my husband, even after thousands have preceded this one
-a phone conversation and connecting with my sister Mary Jo
-the sunshine playing across the grass in our yard

Beauty is found when searched for with open heart and mind, and with the appreciation of all five of my working senses.

Let's see what beauty we can e…

First Surgery, First Parentheses

Today I am grateful for some moments of curiosity, like wondering how one plant can have so many different colors in it. I am also grateful for recovery and the people who support me in it.

I am thinking about my sister Mary Jo today and every day. My worst fear is her reality-metastatic breast cancer (MBC). There is a heaviness to any cancer diagnosis, but the weight of MBC seems a crushing one. There is no fairness here, but there is continued hope for peace and comfort, both physically and emotionally, for Mary Jo and all with MBC.

Mary Jo's diagnosis earlier this year, nearly 12 years after her initial early-stage BC diagnosis, has put my own BC experience on my mind more as well.

Ten years ago today, on a Thursday morning, Darcy and I headed to United Hospital in St. Paul for the first of what would end up being three surgeries to address cancer in my right breast. It brought  an end to a tough stretch and marked the beginning of another.

Though less sharp in my memory, I st…

Boundless Curiosity

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Today I am grateful for safe travels and family time this weekend. I am also grateful for cooler and less humid air to enjoy.

It’s a joy to spend time with each of our grandsons. Aaron and his parents Arthur and Alyssa live over four hours away, so weeks go by between visits. We see videos and FaceTime with them, but you can’t beat being together. He is almost 11 months old and at what I consider a very fun age. He is crawling, pulling himself up, full of energy and boundless curiosity.

There is never a dull moment in Aaron's world. He can be having good fun with plastic cups and cardboard tubes, enjoying his meal, making faces, listening to a book, taking off at a fast crawl for the next thing that has grabbed his attention. He loves going for walks too, and Darcy and I appreciated taking him for several this weekend.

Boundless curiosity. A smile for the cat. Surprise at the noise he just made himself. A reminder to the sometimes cynical and jaded adults blessed to be around him.…

Graham Crackers on Hand

Today I am grateful for my hair and the way the gray blends in. I am also grateful for the simple things in life.

Sending birthday greetings today to my sister Aileen! Happy Birthday!

Sometimes it is refreshing to just write about a simple topic. Take graham crackers for instance. I wrote about them in this post earlier this year. My boys and I are still on a roll, we pretty much always have some on hand. Our grandson Leo has taken a liking to them as well. Milk and crackers for a quick and less caloric dessert works for me when needed.

They also remind me of my mom. She has a temperamental stomach these days and always has a stash of graham crackers in one of her drawers in her room at the nursing home. When I sit down to have some crackers and milk, I often think of Mom and wonder how she is doing in this moment.

Acknowledging and appreciating the simple gifts in life. From graham crackers to morning coffee to pens and paper to write with. It can bring a needed break from the more c…

An Intriguing Read

Today I am grateful for a good tempo run this morning and for sweat. It feels good to sweat when exercising hard and dressed accordingly.

Happy Anniversary today to my stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa! Have a special day! Five years goes fast. Grateful to have both of you in my life.

Summer usually means more time for me to read. I appreciate books that are informative and also provoke me a little. Provoking some disagreement can be a good thing when it stems from words on a page.

Getting new information, or learning about people's views that are different from mine actually affirm my own stance, or give me a broader perspective than I would have otherwise had. I recently read Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, by Johann Hari and published in 2015.

His approach in this book was compelling and kept me reading. He wove historical data with the very human stories of people caught up in this war on drugs over the last 100 years or so.

I agree with the a…

Remembering a Tough Stretch

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Today I am grateful for the quiet peace I found on my early morning run and the lessons I learn when my mind and heart are open.

Thinking of Mary Jo today as she awaits the results of yesterday's scan. Such waiting is so hard in these and many circumstances. None of us can make it easier for the other, besides offering distractions and support.

Ten years ago on my birthday I wrote a poem titled "Happy F’in Birthday." It summed up the bundle of fear, nerves, and impatience I was at that time. The curve ball of cancer had thrown me a strike.

I was in the midst of one of the toughest stretches of my life—the 6 weeks between a confirmed diagnosis of breast cancer on May 29 and the first surgery to address it on July 17.


There were appointments with a surgeon and oncologist. There was a PET/CT scan and genetic testing. There was waiting, wondering, research, many conversations, and a truckload of fear of the unknown. Had the cancer spread? Is it a good idea to run when you kn…

Look Up

Today I am grateful for the quiet I am currently surrounded by and for oatmeal and fruit as a simple breakfast.

This morning, I am especially sending kind and gentle thoughts and energy to my sister Mary Jo. She has a PET scan today that will give some indications as to the effectiveness of the drug combination she has been on as the first treatment regimen to counter the metastatic breast cancer in her body. I am anxious for her and what the scan will reveal. I am not in her shoes, but she's in my heart today and every day.

Look up. Two short words that can have a variety of meanings, many goals. Let's consider a few.

Look up at the awe-inspiring sky. Whether it be daylight and the endless blue on a clear day, or nighttime and the way the moon and light clouds create a masterpiece. As Brother David Steindl-Rast reminds us: "Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky."  It is humbling to see our place in the world with the sky as our backdrop.

Look up from your ph…

Think Less Harshly

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Today I am grateful for the true friends I am blessed with and for what writing has taught me.

As I gave focus to living in the now and seeking to feel more fully and think less harshly in recent days, I recalled some of my own harshest thinking and writing. I lived in this inhospitable place in my head for several years when I was an active alcoholic and in early recovery. I still visit there, but I don't pack a suitcase and I try not to stay long.

My enemy brain plots against me regularly, and especially when I let my guard down. This enemy brain is my alcoholic mind, minus the alcohol. Alcohol is a symptom of the true problem, I believe, for alcoholics. The true problem is the way I think when I am full of fear and ego. When I don't have spiritual fitness.

The writing that poured out of me at that time in my life was truly life-saving. If it hadn't come out, I may not have survived. Here is an example, a poem titled "Self-Hate."  I wrote it when I was twenty y…

A Little Deformed, A Lot Determined

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Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and morning time together to share coffee. I am also grateful for what running has brought and continues to bring to our lives.

After a difficult and depleting long training run last Saturday, a real challenge in the heat and humidity, yesterday's was one both Darcy and I felt very satisfied about. We enjoyed a stretch of trail that was fairly quiet and offered good immersion in nature as well as some welcome shade for several miles.

We ran about 16 miles over the course of three hours, a good distance for this point in our training season. I felt strong and surprisingly energetic, even at the end. It affirmed for me the weight loss I have maintained and the varied training I have been doing in recent weeks. It also got Darcy back on track with his goals and I am grateful for that.

These were my feet after the run, happy to be done and enjoying a little freedom:


My right foot is a little deformed because of a bunion and the beginnings of ca…

5 x 3 for 53

Today I am grateful for being able to witness this morning's sunrise, and for the soothing sounds of our patio fountain and the morning birds.

I also am grateful to join the ranks of the 53-year-olds of the world today, including my husband Darcy who appreciates that we will be the same age again for the next nine months or so. I celebrate birthdays because I am grateful to be alive. Many of you have heard my little quips already:
     -better older than deader
          -beats the alternative
               -age is a frame of mind
                    -living life fully rather than partially dying
                        -more birthdays please!
As long as I believe these, I want to get up and get out of bed each day and pursue the opportunities presented in the present.

To honor this day, a gratitude 5 x 3. Three things I am grateful for as I mark this day, and five reasons why for each:

1. All of these years of life experience.

a. From my youth—learning to share and work hard, app…

The Next Generation of Catch

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Today I am grateful for a relaxing holiday, a couple pleasant phone conversations, and for time with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily.

Just the other day, as I picked up a bunch of sticks and branches after a strong wind moved through, I moved around our backyard. I started thinking about the many times my son Sam and I played catch in that backyard; football, baseball, frisbee.

Now that he is 16, those games of catch are mostly a thing of the past. Playing catch is a fond memory that runs through my life, from my own childhood, to now.

So I appreciated last evening when Sam and Leo were tossing the ball around:


The next generation enjoying a little catch. Life's simple joys. Shared together and appreciated. 
Let's all look for simple joys in our lives today. 

Proud and doing my part?

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Today I am grateful for my homeland, safety, and freedoms. I am grateful for all those who have served our country in many capacities over our 242-year history.

It’s the 4th of July, celebrated as the birthday of my native country--the United States of America. It is the only home I have known, and I have only left it twice for brief stints in and over Canada . . . for a couple hours 23 years ago when traveling in northern Minnesota and flying to Alaska seven years ago.

I am a proud American and a grateful one, but a concerned one as well. There have been changes, shifts, and declines in unity and patriotism, increases in divisiveness and unfriendly banter.

I won't be doing any naming and blaming here, and the only finger I am pointing is the one I am pointing at myself. Am I doing my part?

Am I joining in community discussions on substantive issues? Am I casting my vote in elections from local level to national? Am I listening to others with tolerance, especially those I may di…

Feel More Fully

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Today I am grateful for citronella candles and purple flowers. I am also grateful for the range of emotions I am able to identify and experience more fully.

Some emotions are difficult, painful, challenging. Health fears, the fragility of life, loss and grief, beating ourselves up for our human shortcomings. I have many other people on my mind this morning, feeling compassion for their losses and sending them strength.

Elderly parents dying. A young woman taken by cancer. A sudden death in an accident. Another diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. The anxiety of an upcoming scan for my sister with metastatic breast cancer. The ongoing grief of parents who lost a child to suicide. There can be a heaviness to life at times.

Yet, the range of emotions also includes joy, awe, release from worry, acknowledging grace freely given. Some of these I noted recently:
*my arms churning on hill repeats as I pushed my body and it responded well
*voices of loved ones, in the same room or through the phon…

Living in the Now

Today I am grateful for being able to sleep with our windows open last night and for a gentle breeze this morning. I am also grateful that I have right here, right now to begin a new day.

Living in the now. My goal. My challenge. Isn't it for all of us? It is often the topic of my writing and one of the things my recovery friends and I discuss regularly. We don't have the corner on it for sure. The culture and society we live in today seems to make it more difficult for us all to stay present.

There is so much coming at us in so many ways. It is easy to get caught up in time-suckers like our various technological gadgets or social media. We can easily get pulled into comparing and judging, or into fears, worries, anxieties. Marketing and advertising make the latest "must have" item or "must do" adventure seem so appealing.

Those are traps I try to avoid. It comes down to choices and actions. I would rather take an early morning run and breathe in fresh air,…

Recovery Energy

Today I am grateful for cooler, less humid air and time to enjoy it on our back patio. I am also grateful for the energy I have as I head into this day.

Energy has been on my mind, it often is these days. It is an important lesson I have learned slowly. Where do I want to put my energy? What depletes my energy? What gives me more?  It's rather obvious really, but sometimes the most obvious things are the toughest to grasp and apply.

I feel pretty good about my energy level at my age. Age is a number, but more importantly it's a frame of mind. The number doesn't dictate my energy level, my mindset does. And my mindset is heavily influenced by these factors: exercise, living gratefully, practicing mindfulness, writing, ongoing recovery from alcoholism, and spending time with people who nourish my heart and soul.

The energy I draw from recovery on a daily basis is substantial, as long as I am doing my job. A big part of that is being around others in recovery. In person is gr…