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Showing posts from 2019

Goodbye . . .

Today I am grateful for my recovery friends and the genuine life stories and laughter we share. I am grateful for this day of sobriety. I begin my recovery fresh each day.

In ways, this is a break from the A-Z list I am moving through, but it really is about perspective, so I guess it is still a "P" word.

Today is the last day of 2019, and the last day of the decade that began on January 1, 2010. Reflecting on this past year, what emerges are the tears. I cried more tears this year than ever before. They were tears of sorrow, pain, regret, loss, fear, lack. And also tears of catharsis, joy, connections, comfort, worthiness.

The tears flowed, helping me get unstuck from midlife mire. They brought clarity and direction for the day ahead, the year ahead. I say thank you to each one that fell. Tears of gratitude.Tremendous transformation through tears, time, and effort.

Reflecting on this last decade, what emerges are images of my son Sam. Nearly eight years old as the decade be…

Fully PRESENT

Living gratefully today, I notice the smell and taste of some seasonal eggnog and the feel of coolness on my skin after a workout.

I have a couple other "P" words in line for posts for my A-Z list, but this morning the word that is speaking to me is PRESENT.  Being right here, right now. Staying in the moment. Focusing on my breathing, in and out, inhale, exhale. Checking into thoughts and feelings without latching on to either. Just acknowledging.

Readers, there's a reason this topic of presence, attending to now, keeps showing up here. To continue writing about it, really writing of any kind, is action that brings me fully into the current time.

Being fully present is simple, but not easy. It is an ongoing challenge for me, but a challenge that I embrace and keep working on. It matters. A ton. As Dr. Shauna Shapiro heard from a monk when she needed, and was ready, to hear:  "What we practice grows stronger."  

Practice presence and it comes more naturally. It…

Options

Today I am grateful for the family treasures I have kept over the years, and for the space to store them and keep them safe. I also appreciate the guidance that early morning meditation provided me to start this day.

A second "O" word of challenge has been sitting on my brain the last couple of weeks, and I am a little fired up about it this morning. Here I go with OPTIONS. Excuse me, but I need to make room for my soapbox. . .

What the heck is going on with all the options facing us in the grocery stores of the developed world?
Do we need that many different flavors and kinds of chips to consider before we purchase one?  Is it necessary to have dozens of different cereals in the cereal aisle?  We didn't go hungry growing up with Wheaties, Cheerios, 40% Bran Flakes, and Chex.

Sure it's nice to be able to customize shoes, cars, furniture and to select a color combination from a variety of options. It feels a little exorbitant to me though. There's a real first-wor…

Optic Issues

Living gratefully today, I appreciate city services like water and sewer, and garbage pickup too. I give thanks for electricity and indoor plumbing, which I usually just take for granted.

I also take my eyesight for granted. Sure, I have some OPTIC issues, but I have the blessing of opening my eyes each morning and seeing the world around me. I had 20/20 vision until I hit my mid-twenties and have been wearing glasses ever since.

I don't mind wearing glasses and usually like the look they give me. My correction isn't significant and contacts aren't something I care to try. I could still manage to do the important tasks in front of me without my glasses, but feel funny without them. I have progressive lenses now, with three levels for close reading, near, and distant.

Everyone in my own family has optic issues. Darcy wears glasses, Sam wears contacts, Arthur has worn both, Emily has glasses. We appreciate our vision insurance, access to quality comprehensive eye exams, and …

Nature

Today I am grateful for the positive ways our phones can connect us, and for the fun games that can be played with a few dice.

NATURE is the word of focus for today. The challenges that nature and the environment face because of all the world's development and advancement are daunting. There are wonderful things about that development, and there are horrible things. Pollution. Erosion. Global warming. Less water.

Less respect for and less connection to our natural world also seem to be stemming from this high level of technology and convenience that so many of us have at our fingertips. This is only my opinion, but I have witnessed it in many ways. We humans seem to have an audacity that convinces us that we will figure out these pressing environmental issues, find more renewable energy sources, be able to continue our high level of consumption (and waste).

Who is the "we" though?  Are you doing your part to reduce, reuse, recycle?  Are you doing your part to care for ou…

Holiday Spirits

Living gratefully today, I am noticing the beautiful peace and playfulness of holiday lights. I am paying attention to the calm in my heart, a deeper and more meaningful calm.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the holiday. Merry day to all.
Holiday spirits take many forms. They are the childhood memories of a toboggan full of gifts, a dollhouse I really wanted, a decade of the rosary said as a family before any gifts were opened.
They are also the memories of my son Sam's childhood Christmas mornings. Cookies left out for Santa. Early rising to see what awaits. Hours spent with Thomas the Tank Engine and Star Wars Legos.
When this recovering alcoholic hears the word "spirits" I also think about the alcohol-laced spirits that I indulged in on holidays and so many other days. There was always a reason to celebrate, a pain to ease. The gift I used to think alcohol was became a curse, and a wicked one at that.
And especially this holiday season, the grief and loss of life t…

Metastasis

Today I am grateful for thoughtful gifts from others and that I have people in my life to whom I can give thoughtful gifts.

I may struggle with memory at times, but there is one word burned into me that I am not likely to forget...METASTASIS. Metastasis: the spread of a disease-producing agency (such as cancer cells) from the initial or primary site of disease to another part of the body. Plural: Metastases.

I feel a special compassion for those facing the death and absence of a loved one for the first time through this holiday season. That includes my brother-in-law Clay and his daughters Whitney and Rena and their families. That includes my siblings and I. Our sister Mary Jo died in June of breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones, and lungs, and likely her brain near the end of her life.

I think especially of Mary Jo and Clay's seven grandchildren who will only have memories of their Nana this holiday. How will they honor her? My family and I honored her memory the othe…

Memory Loss

Today I am grateful for safe travels for many of us over the weekend, for time with my extended family, for beautiful weather, and numerous pauses to appreciate some amazing sunrises and sunsets across the rolling hills of northeast Iowa.

Back to this A-Z list of challenges and catalysts and it is the letter "M" today. MEMORY loss has my mom on my mind first. As her dementia progresses, her memory plays more tricks on her. She was confusing her children with her siblings recently. And yet, she can recount an earlier memory with some accuracy.

I have no expectations of who and what Mom will remember anymore. It is still unsettling and emotional to see it and hear it play out though. It is a different kind of grief and loss. She has some remaining comprehension that she is comprehending less and less. How must that feel to her?  It brings a gentle compassion to my heart, and that is a catalyst to more kindness and gentleness.

Life is precious. Life is fragile. And my mom and I…

Lack

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Living gratefully today, I appreciate my eyesight and the wonders I get to witness. I give thanks for my hearing and the voices and laughter of loved ones.

LACK. Lack. LACK. There have been big and little lacks in my life. It started in my childhood. Lack of comfort. Lack of guidance. Primarily when it came to my emotional learning and growth. I need to state and honor this lack because it impacted me significantly.

Yet, I want to also clearly state and honor that my childhood had fullness and depth to it that shaped me in healthy and meaningful ways. It took me nearly fifty years, but I am coming to better terms with how this lack has interfered in my life. With that has come healing and forgiveness.

There are characteristics that I have often had in short supply as an alcoholic in recovery. Lack of tolerance. Lack of acceptance. Lack of understanding. I continue to learn and grow with the help of Great Spirit and the help of many supportive people.

I don't consider myself a mate…

Knowledge

Today I am grateful for the stars in the night sky and that they remind me of the power beyond myself. I am also grateful for holiday traditions.

KNOWLEDGE as a challenge? For me it can be. Especially self-knowledge. I have spent far too much time gaining what I thought was good self-knowledge. Hmm...wrong! All that time and thought energy put into "figuring it out" more often gets me more confused and stuck.

Think less. Feel more. Then the thoughts become clarified, and actions and boundaries more healthy. I can't do this without help. Left alone, I simply default to thinking too much. Great Spirit guides me. Meditation helps. Talking to trusted people in my life is productive. Gratitude practice energizes.

We live in the information age, inundated with facts and news 24/7 if we choose. Information and knowledge are not the same thing, but they are related. And the information about what we are doing to ourselves, one another, and our planet is often negative. It is dis…

Jealous, Judgmental, and Jaded

Living gratefully today, I appreciate holiday music favorites and indoor plumbing.

Returning to the A-Z list of challenges (a.k.a. silver linings), the letter "J" awaits.

I would like to think that I am not a JEALOUS sort, but I am. It's not one of my most glaring issues, but it flares up at times. It may be material in nature, like a bigger house with the kitchen and master suite I dream of having. Or it may be circumstances such as the flexibility and finances to be able to not work or work less than full-time.

JUDGMENTAL? Guilty here. As my sister Aileen says, if speed judging were an Olympic sport I would have a really good chance of making the team. My wrong-sized ego is constantly judging and getting all self-righteous about how smart and efficient it is and apparently other people aren't. I reserve the harshest judgment for myself, but have made good progress in lovingkindness, compassion, and forgiveness more recently. It is taking hard work, but it is the be…

Back Around to Breathing

Today  I am grateful for safe travels, family time, and future direction for our son Sam. I am also grateful for the breathing that helps ground me in the present moment.

Before I go back to the A-Z list I am working on, I want to go back to breathing. It's not that I stopped breathing, obviously. Rather, I forget to pay attention to it. I stop tuning in to the calming and guiding force that it can be. We all do this forgetting, this lack of presence. Much of the time.

My theory is that this lack of attention to our breathing is compounding plenty of other things going on in our current society and culture. Fast-paced and too often frenzied, we go too fast in our minds and multi-tasking for too long and we end up exhausted at the least. We also end up mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and/or physically sick.

So back to the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Pause on the in-breath and then inhale peace. Pause on the out-breath and then exhale tension. Try it. A few times. A few mor…

Taking a Break

Today I am grateful to more readily recognize peace when I experience it, and for the simple fun in giving our dog Oliver a doggy treat.

It's time for a break from my A-Z  challenges list again, and I will be taking a blog break for a few days.

How about a simple gratitude list for now?

1. Clean sheets
2. A bed to put them on
3. My husband Darcy sleeping beside me
4. Smooth writing pens
5. Knowing how to write
6. Postage stamps and snail mail
7. Trained professionals in medical and other fields
8. Gloves
9. Stocking caps that fit just right

What is on your gratitude list today?

The "Big I"

Today I am grateful for people who share their gratitude and insights, and of the range of human experience and wisdom that show themselves in connections, conversations, and common ground.

Moving along in this alphabetical saunter through some of life's challenges, the letter "I" lands me right in the lap of "The Big I." And this is not the lap of luxury. This is the lap of interference. A recovery friend of mine likes to use this term, this reference to "The Big I."  It's more of the ego trip I wrote about a few posts ago.

"The Big I" impedes my progress and interferes with a healthy sense of self. It makes problems out of nothing, then makes them bigger problems. It stifles clarity and misguides until I am stranded on a dead-end road wondering how I got there.

"The Big I" used to be invisible to me, allowing it to run rampant and pick up steam. It is no longer invisible, though it can be ignored or denied until enough pain a…

Of Hearts: Bypasses and Attacks

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the low-impact exercise of biking and that we have a stationary bike that will help me through the winter months. I am also grateful for recovery connections in my life.

The HEART challenges I am writing about today weren't mine, they were my father's. Since I turned 54 earlier this year, I have thought more than once that 54 is the age my father was when he needed quadruple bypass surgery. That was in 1978, and that was when they opened your whole chest up. The diagonal scar ran the length of his chest. Something just hit me that I hadn't thought about before. My dad and I both had/have scars on our chests from diseases that can kill--heart disease and breast cancer.

Back in 1978, they called it arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Dad's was discovered somewhat fortuitously, when he was bitten by a sow with a new litter of piglets. The bite didn't heal. Tests were conducted. Clogged arteries discovered.

The surgery w…

Of Hearts: Murmurs

Today I am grateful for beating hearts and smiling faces. I appreciate the healthy beating of my own heart.

Returning to my A-Z list of challenges and catalysts, I arrive at the letter "h" and I think of HEART.
The heart is a vital organ. And heart means so much more than a body part too. Today it's about the body part.

When I was 5 and my brother Artie about 4, we both had rheumatic fever. I don't recall being all that sick, but I know that I was. Artie was even more sick. I remember a swollen and sore ankle. A heart murmur was detected, and for the next five years Artie and I took penicillin and the rest of the family was cautious when anyone got sick. We were vulnerable to more serious heart damage.

We also had to make an annual trip to University Hospitals in Iowa City for testing and appointments. Things like getting an EKG were a challenge for shy and inhibited Lisa. I was also challenged by the size of the hospital, the things I needed to have done to me (whic…

A Nod to 2300

Today, as I pause in gratefulness, I say thank you for my sense of hearing and the songs loaded with sentiment and feelings that are helping me start my day with emotional awareness. I say thank you to the songwriters, musicians, and technology that made the songs possible.

A deep sense of gratitude for this blog fills me this morning as well. A tradition of noting the milestone was started when I reached my first 100 posts. I have reached 23 century marks as of today, publishing post #2300 when this one is done.

Today is a low-key milestone. Nothing catchy. Nothing notable number-wise. Just a nod to a writing milestone, and then continuing what got me here...living gratefully and writing gratefully a post at a time, a day at a time

"Only the disciplined are free" is a quote attributed to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who lived over 2300 years ago. (Okay, so there is something notable number-wise.)  Writing "Habitual Gratitude" posts for well over seven years no…

Gravity

Today I am grateful for the feel of my fingers on the keyboard of my computer as I compose these words. I am also grateful for my ability to read and write that I learned at a young age.

There's one more ""G" word I wish to throw into the mix of the A-Z challenges and catalysts. That word is GRAVITY.  I think first about my elderly mom, as she becomes more unsteady and unstable. I have worried for years that gravity would pull her down in an unfortunate fall.

Thankfully, she uses a walker and lives in a nursing home now. The risk of a fall is always present though. I wonder if it contributes to her anxiousness?  Gravity and falls have led many elderly people into what becomes their death spiral. Mom's fragility has made me more aware of my own, as have some of the aches and pains of my aging body.

I am not as confident as I used to be, and use more caution, when the lighting is poor, the surface uneven or slippery, the stairs darkened. Caution is warranted, and …

Grind and Gravel

Today I am grateful for the laughter shared between recovering people, and for chocolate in its many variations.

Not being able to land on just one “G” word, I am going to take a shot at two of them with my writing efforts in this post.

GRIND. The daily routine. The parts about our home and work lives that most seem like drudgery. The complacency that can come with a length of sobriety. Many of these things are necessary, or at least recommended (i.e. doing laundry at home or attending a work meeting, staying sober, etc.), but we may not have the best perspective about it. If all we do is grind and regrind, it can get pretty discouraging and uninspired.

We all feel this grind at times. My goal is to not stay stuck in it, and I find that living gratefully sure helps the mundane and repetitive seem less so. Laundry again? Balled up socks, again? OR: I have family to do laundry for. We can afford a variety of seasonally appropriate garments. And that washer and dryer of our own and elect…

Forgiveness

In a grateful pause, I notice the comforting sounds of my home and the people (and one dog) in it. I appreciate the idea of self-care and how I can apply it throughout my day.

The first "f" word yesterday leads to the second one today: FORGIVENESS. Fear, mostly of the irrational variety, tends to lead me to think, say, and do things for which I later need forgiveness, mostly of the self-forgiveness variety.

There are times forgiving others has been warranted, and certainly many times when I have been the one who needed to be forgiven by others. But for me, the forgiveness I need the most and often lack is the forgiveness of self.

Feeding resentments toward others and myself, berating myself for my shortcomings, these are not kind or beneficial endeavors. Fear and wrong sized-ego block gratitude and grace and faith. They prevent me from fully embracing the best stuff of life. And by stuff I don't mean material goods. I mean connections, relationships, goals, Nature, recov…

FEAR fear

Today I am grateful for the stars in the morning sky, a precursor to the coming sunshine. I am also grateful for the laughs that our dog Oliver brings us.

There are some powerful "f" words out there. I am going to give this letter two separate posts. The two words on my mind and heart each need their own say. The first is FEAR.

Big FEAR. Little fear. Healthy fear. Unhealthy fear. We all experience it. We all have it. Like stress, some fear is normal. I fear gaining too much weight, so I try to monitor what I eat. I fear forgetting the stock-up items we need, so I write them on a list. If I leave it at that, it's a fairly rational fear.

If I fuel my fears with wrong-sized ego, selfish motives, lack of faith, then they tend to become irrational and energy-sucking. Fear can rob us of gratefulness, joy, and presence. It can rob us of confidence and direction.

I strive to "Face fear with faith." Faith is the catalyst. Faith reminds me that I don't ever have to b…

Of Egos and What We Eat

Living gratefully today, I enjoyed coffee and breakfast with my husband Darcy earlier. I also appreciate the emotional awareness I am gaining and the guided meditations that help bring this awareness.

EGO is an "e" word that has given me some real challenges over the years. For a long time I misunderstood ego. It is defined as a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. We all have an ego. It is part of who we are.

I mistakenly defined it as someone who thought too highly of themselves, and that certainly was not me. I was missing what I have come to know as "right-sized ego." Thinking too little of oneself, and conversely, thinking too much of oneself, are each damaging and detrimental. My "wrong-sized" ego was a combination of feeling pretty worthless much of the time, but spending just as much time in my head ruminating on that self-hatred, a.k.a. thinking of myself too much.

The challenge of my unhealthy ego got me drinking as a teen with …

Depression

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Today I am grateful for jigsaw puzzles--the literal and the figurative--that come together with patience and an open mind. I am also grateful for the recovery connections I have. They mean so much and help me in such significant ways.

DEPRESSION is a dangerous and damaging mental illness. Left untreated, it can be deadly. Depressed people die by suicide. Depressed people overdose on alcohol and other drugs. Depressed people forget to take care of themselves and may have more physical illnesses as well. That's some of the bad news.

My heart aches for those I personally know who have been impacted by their own or someone else's challenges with depression.  My heart especially aches for those who have had loved ones die by suicide. My generation of my family, and the next one following, have known and continue to know the toll of depression. We are all still here, and there is hope.

Hope. The good news is that depression is treatable and effective ongoing results often come to th…

Cancer

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Today I am grateful for concerted family effort to prepare, enjoy, and clean up after a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, and for some sledding fun with our grandson Leo.

Returning to the A-Z list of challenges, C is for CANCER. Six letters that have wreaked so much havoc on my sisters and I. Six years ago, we were holding steady in survivorship. Six months ago, my sister Mary Jo was in her final weeks of life.

Eleven years ago, I was recovering from my fourth and final round of chemotherapy and preparing for my third and final surgery--bilateral mastectomy.

Challenges showed themselves in many ways throughout those months. One of the most challenging times was the several-week period between my confirmed diagnosis on May 29, 2008 and my first surgery--lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy--on July 17. There is nothing easy about knowing you have cancer in your body and having to wait several weeks for the next big step. I took uptight to a new level.

It was a challenge to undergo chemo and …

Thanksgiving Litany

Living gratefully today, I am humbled by the abundance of meaningful connections and inspired goals that I am blessed to have.

I attended Thanksgiving eve services at our church last evening, with my husband Darcy and son Sam.  To be honest, I was tired and went a little begrudgingly. It ended up being just what I needed and more.

During the service we did a Thanksgiving litany. It is from the Episcopal "Book of Common Prayer."
Here are some of the things for which we gave thanks:

    beauty and wonder of creation
        earth, sky and sea
            daily food
               homes and families
            friends
        minds to think
    hearts to love
        hands to serve
            health and strength to work
                leisure to rest and play
            for the brave and courageous
        truth, liberty, and justice

A litany of gratitudes builds on itself. A litany of lacks tears us down.

The words "grateful devotion" showed up in a hymn as well.…

"B" Words Abound

Today I am grateful for warm boots and other winter gear, and the physical capability to shovel some fresh snow greeting us this morning.

An abundance of "B" words are calling to be written about. Yesterday's alcoholism is today's torturous BLACKOUT. Drinkers in a blackout are still awake and functioning (albeit not very well) and this can go on for hours. There is just no recollection of it the next day, hence the anguish of wondering what was said and done, and what was seen and heard by others. Blackouts are a clear sign of problem drinking and they were a common symptom for me.

BLIND SPOTS are those things about ourselves that hinder us but that we don't even see, or at the very least we lack understanding. We all have them. One of my significant blind spots has always been my selfishness and self-centeredness. I am still working on this one, though substantial progress and awareness have come. In my younger days, I thought "How can I be selfish? I have …

A is for Alcoholism

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Today I am grateful I survived my years of active alcoholism, and I am grateful that I understand that recovery from alcoholism is a daily endeavor.

This A-Z list of challenges starts with ALCOHOLISM. There are things that served as catalysts for my drinking... curiosity was typical, wanting to escape myself and the reality I had created in my own head, less typical. Initially I was having fun, and I certainly appreciated the release of emotions, long pent up, that came. It didn't take long for this line to ring true though: "The chains of alcohol are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." I wasn't even 16 yet.

My drinking spanned ten years, and progressed significantly in that time. I was a blackout drinker, and before I was done I had increased then deceased tolerance, brief periods of paranoia, and many attempts to quit on my own. My behavior was high-risk and my drinking dangerous. My self-hate and lack of self-care and compassion deepened w…

Challenges as Catalysts: A New A-Z List

Living gratefully today, I am noticing what happens when a key light bulb burns out and we have no replacement on hand. There are other sources of light and I appreciate that.

Sources of light take many forms and serve many functions. If you have read even a few of my posts, you hopefully concluded that this is not a "gratitude as glossing over" practice. This is a "gleaning gratitude in the good and the god-awful times" practice. Living gratefully does not give me immunity from challenges, but it definitely gives me energy and guidance to move through them.

In my years of gratitude practice, I have learned these truths: Gratitude is always possible. Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. Granted, I may not see the silver lining in a challenge right away, but the rainbow always shows up after a storm. It may not show up on my timeline. It shows itself when I have become willing and humbled.

One of the biggest challenges in my life, and for my sisters and family,…

Soaking Up the Sun

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Living gratefully today, I appreciate the beautiful sliver of the moon that greeted Oliver and I on our morning walk, and the oatmeal Darcy and I shared for breakfast.

On Friday, we saw the sun more than we had for several days. Yesterday, it was out in even fuller glory. Gray day after gray day, compounded by shorter daylight, and I really started to miss the light and energy that the sun brings. It is easy to sense the same in others as well; at work, at home, and just out and about.

Sunshine not only brightens the sky and all it touches, it brightens the human spirit. So yesterday here are some of the ways I soaked up the sun:

*My friend Jill and I found the sunniest spot to sit in at the coffee shop. Good to see you Jill!

*Though it impeded my sight as I drove, I said thank you to the sun and appreciated having to put my sunglasses on. Besides, I like how I look in my shades. :-)

*As I rode with my son Sam and husband Darcy, I savored the warmth of the sunshine before the vehicle&…

Transient

Today I am grateful for the warm glow from our Christmas tree and other holiday decorations. It is one of my favorite things about this time of the year. I am grateful for some family time yesterday afternoon; with Darcy, Sam, and I spending time together decorating.

We like to enjoy our tree and the other holiday ambience for a few weeks, so it was time to put things up. Not unexpected, that endeavor as well as some other sorting and cleaning I have done in recent days brought up some fresh grief. I thought about my sister Mary Jo as I came across the last birthday card she sent me, in the summer of 2018.  I looked at pictures gathered over the last couple of years, and listened to songs that remind me of her, of family, of earlier times. 
I thought about her husband Clay and their family as we decorated yesterday, an intact family. What will these holidays be like for them? What will be the most difficult? How will they honor their wife, mother, grandmother this Christmas, the first…

Divine Nudges and Slaps

With gratefulness as my focus in this moment, I relish writing time and morning quiet.

Great Spirit. The Universe. Higher Power. God. Whatever you call the power source beyond human, but known by humans in the form of faith and grace, that is the Divine. Divine is defined as God-like, sacred, providence.

In a recent conversation l was in, we were talking about deceased loved ones and how it might be helpful if they could deliver some “divine slaps” to some of us earthly beings. If not a slap, maybe at least a nudge. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought?

And then I thought some more. I have been the fortunate recipient of many Divine taps, nudges, and a few slaps. (Because I am a slow learner who gets stuck in my own density of thought.)

Divine nudges and slaps can come from many sources. Not just the spiritual presence of our loved ones.  I am sure I have missed many a message. Today, though, I am open and aware and ready to receive. For all of this and more, I am deeply grateful.

Yesterda…

2 x 4, Gratefully and Proverbially

With gratitude in my heart at this moment, I give thanks for my marriage to Darcy and for our son Sam. I give thanks for my stepchildren Arthur and Emily and their families too, including Alyssa, Aaron, and Leo.

Darcy and Sam. That gives me the idea for a 2 x 4 > 8.

I am grateful for:

1. Darcy
a. because he loves me for all I am and all I am not
b. he rolls with my hormonal changes and challenges
c. because he manages our finances/bills
d. he shows me how to regain perspective when I have lost it

2. Sam
a. because he gives me the opportunity to learn through his eyes
b. time we spend in conversation always warms my heart, for his insights and calm
c. because I find joy in making a meal with him and then eating as a family
d. I know he is ready for the next steps in his life, even when I am not sure I am

I love my family, immediate and extended. It can get messy at times, but they are always here for me.
I feel the love and support. I treasure this sense of togetherness and our futu…

Misty Memories

Today I am grateful for people who understand alcoholism and who understand me. I am also grateful for reminders to slow down; physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Misty water-colored memories yesterday had me thinking of my Dad and my sister Mary Jo, and other losses in my life. Grief is about far more than loss through death. Life can be considered a series of losses. We lose what once was and who we once were, to become who and what we are today. The losses and gains are inextricably woven together.

So as I listened to "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" yet again,I heard the words "and misty memories of days gone by" in a new way. This is a song from the Bee Gees that I have always liked. It is also one of the songs that Mary Jo's family chose to have playing during the slide show at her memorial service. Pictures of her life, her family, her story crossing the screen, and many feelings crossing my heart. The song holds more meaning and emotion for me than …

The Way We Were

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Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend, time in conversation with family members, and events to celebrate. I also appreciate chance meetings with old friends and faithful readers of this blog.

Congratulations again to my brother Linus and his wife Elaine on their 40th wedding anniversary!

We drove home yesterday in a light rain and mist for part of our trip. I was thinking about the visit we had just had with my mom before we got on the road. As her eyesight worsens, she talks about things looking a little foggy. She asks if we see it too . . .  that fog?

And these words from the song The Way We Were came to my mind: “misty water-colored memories of the way we were.” It is a sad and reflective song if you want to listen to it in a live version here. My memories of the way life was, the way Mom was before aging and dementia deepened, are both uplifting and burdensome.

As I looked at a family photo from a wedding day forty years ago, I saw all 12 of my siblings and I, ou…

A Mindful Moment Here, A Mindful Moment There

Today I am grateful for a return to more mild temperatures. (It's all relative folks!) I am also appreciating the comfortable shoes I can pick to wear each day.

Living gratefully and practicing mindfulness go hand in hand. To pause in gratefulness is to also pause in the present moment. Aware and attending to what is right here, right now.  Hand in hand, but not easy. Not for me anyway. I practice. Practice makes progress possible.

So I have intentionally been practicing some mindful moments this morning, including:

-slowing down to eat part of my breakfast, considering where it came from
-being in tune to the flow of my smooth-writing pen across the paper as I journaled
-fully sensing that milder air as I went outside to walk Oliver
-pausing to feel my warmed-up muscles relaxing again after some exercises

Now, that was pretty simple. I will intentionally take some more mindful moments today and revel in what I experience. I invite you to do the same.

I will be taking a blog break…

Thank you Nature

Today I am grateful for the genuine sharing of gratefulness that others model for me. I am also grateful for the unceasing wonders of the natural world; which is to say our world. 
A few of us were discussing Nature and all it gives us last evening. We talked about our part in protecting and preserving it. That starts by being present in the moment, to the gifts it bestows. Air to breathe. Sustenance. Marvelous colors. Amazing light changes. A blade of grass. A grain of sand. 
That presence brings a reverence. We wrote thank you notes to Nature last evening. Mine was a thank you to Nature for always being a source of spiritual strength for me. Even in my darkest times, even when I could barely see past my own pain, even when a hangover was especially torturous (emotionally as well as physically), Nature has never let me down. 
It brings a sense of belonging to a larger whole. It brings a sense of "I am not alone." Nature gets me out of myself and my own head, allowing transf…

For A Day, For a Week

Today I am grateful for the unsettling times that become the transformative times. I am also grateful for the various teachers who are sent my way in a day. This morning, our dog Oliver has been one; reminding me to lighten up.

For a day. Recovery comes in increments of one day at a time. One hour at a time when most deeply tested. Emotional sobriety is my priority these days. Physical sobriety is "easier" now, but not taken for granted.

When I do the daily work needed for emotional sobriety, I don't do it alone. I have help of the human and beyond human varieties. When I do the work, I don't feel alone or lonely. That makes all the difference. Loneliness and terminal uniqueness are dangerous.

For a week. My son Sam participated in an extra credit opportunity for his College Psychology class this past week. He turned in his phone last Monday and got it back yesterday. No phone for a week. He had computer access and he used my phone to check his social media a few tim…

Warming Up From the Inside

Living gratefully today, I say a heartfelt thank you to all currently serving in our military, and all who served in the centuries and decades past. I embrace the freedom and security they won and continue to protect.

I braved some chilly temperatures yesterday afternoon to take a brisk bike ride around our beautiful city. Properly layered and attired, I was well-prepared, but the wind still went through me as I started out. Pedaling along, I began to warm up from the inside. The movement and exertion generated body heat and I was cozy and comfortable temperature-wise. It was a pleasant feeling.

Warming up from the inside. It happens in times of grief and emotional struggles too. I shut myself off in ways--fear, selfishness, ego, and more. I distance myself from Great Spirit and block the efforts of others who are offering comfort and wisdom. Sometimes it takes strenuous and vulnerable toil to get me out of the way,  allowing the heat source to start getting through. I thaw out and ca…

Onward! Onward.

Today I am grateful for a house and working heat to protect my family and I from the cold. It is one of the things I am reminded of as the seasons change, and something I tend to take for granted. I don't always enjoy the cold, but it has rarely been a threat to my safety like it is for the homeless and others.

As I sit here in my cozy home, snuggly warm in one of my favorite sweatshirts and sipping hot coffee, I ponder the word onward. Onward--so as to make progress, going further rather than coming to a halt or an end, moving forward, in a continuing forward direction.

I don't know when I started this, but I will sometimes end blog posts and social media comments and notes to others with an "Onward!"  I find it hopeful and motivating. Onward with an exclamation point carries an energy and a pep I appreciate. Onward!

Even when uncertain, or tired, or discouraged, onward is still possible. Sometimes it can just be an onward minus the exclamation point. Sometimes the…

Gratefulness is not Complacency

Today I am grateful for laughter with colleagues and a healthy "I don't care" attitude about some things I used to care far too much about.

Living gratefully is not something that we all come by easily. Remember, our brains are hardwired to look for danger, for negative threats. We have to do some retraining and change our default. The good news is, at any age, our brain can learn new things, new neural pathways can be created.

So it can take some work. That's a challenge at times. Another challenge for some is the idea that if I am grateful for what I already have, then I become complacent and stop striving for a better life, stop working for more good, more for which to be grateful.

Personally, that has not been the case for me at all. Gratefulness creates anything but complacency in me. My complacency tended to have me stuck in difficult emotions, overthinking, unhealthy ego, overdoing. All the stuff that holds me back.

Living gratefully moves me forward. It creat…

Where Did This Come From?

Living gratefully today, "good enough" sounds healthy. So does oatmeal and fruit.

Where did this come from? As in November.  It seems like it arrived when I wasn't looking.  Wasn't it just last week when my 11 surviving siblings and I, along with other family members, sang our sister Mary Jo home on the deck of a Colorado country house?

Wasn't it just yesterday that my son Sam's team opened their football season with a victory on the new turf and updated stadium of their home field?

Time. Fleeting and eternal. Moments missed and monumental.

Where did this come from? As in today.  I couldn't tell you exactly, but I know it is a gift.

Today I will experience the time passing, the moments as they ease by, as some will, and fly by as others will. Today. That's all.

Go Out on a Limb

Today I am grateful for a celebration of our son Sam and his senior teammates at a pleasant football banquet last night. Sam's high school football career has closed out, but the impact it has on him will remain. Thank you to all who contribute to this solid and meaningful football program!

Words to consider today:

"Why not go out on a limb?  Isn't that where the fruit is?"  (Frank Scully) 
There are many ways to go out on a limb. Some are more advisable than others. It was advised, through pain and alcoholism, that I go out on a limb with my perception of self and surrounding world. My thinking process was naturally rooted in negativity and self-pity in my youth and early adulthood. If I wanted to change and recover, this thinking process would be the starting point and the ongoing work.

We alcoholics sometimes joke that we don't have a drinking problem, we have a thinking problem. It's really not funny though. It's deadly serious.

Practicing gratitude is …

Everything or Nothing, Faith or Doubt

Today I am grateful for phone conversations with my friends Linda and Sheila yesterday. One helped start my day, the other to wind it down. I am also grateful for a bike ride with Darcy and some progress for Sam on college scholarship applications.

I was thinking about the Albert Einstein quote about either seeing nothing as a miracle, or everything as a miracle. Here is the full quote: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." 

I considered that as I undertook the simple task of making coffee. Water from a faucet. Clean water at my convenience. Plenty of coffee. Money to buy it. A store nearby that stocks it. A percolator coffee pot made from steel and plastic parts. Steel mills. Steel workers. Iron mines. Electrical outlets in the wall to power the coffee pot and the lights I used to see my way at a dark time of the day.

A few minutes later, a cup to safely hold the hot, fresh brew. A l…

Who Moved?

Living gratefully today, I soaked up the warmth of a sweatshirt fresh out of the dryer and a moment of silence between myself and my Higher Power.

Higher Power. Great Spirit. God. Those are the names I most often use when referring to my own concept and understanding of a power beyond human. Call yours whatever you would like. Let's not get hung up on names. Let's keep reaching out to that power for support, energy, grace, and opportunities to serve.

I will say this about names for higher entities. If the one you are currently using, or the one you were raised with, doesn't click for you, if it is more an obstacle than an opening; please find a name that does resonate with you. It is simply about placing faith, trust, and hope in more than our human selves. (My opinion, my blog.)

There are numerous things I appreciate about the faith of my upbringing. And I have found far more to appreciate about this idea of a higher force at work in my life the last three decades since I…