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Showing posts from 2019

No More Birthdays, Empty Chair

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Living gratefully today, I embrace the sorrow of loss and the joy in love.

Today is my sister Mary Jo's birthday. She would have been 62. It will be two months ago tomorrow that she died of metastatic breast cancer.

August 15, 1957- June 16, 2019. That was the length of Mary Jo's foot race, her earthly existence.

Her presence remains, as vibrant at times as her big smile and her big heart. The threads she wove into my life and the lives of so many are lasting and deep. Sibling threads are especially endearing and indelible.

Grief comes and goes, ebbs and flows, sometimes expected, sometimes unexpected. Sometimes it feels like a churning and a trudging. At other times it feels like an unburdening and a peace. Peace because Mary Jo knows peace from her suffering. And sometimes this range happens within seconds.

I expected the grief to surface and flow today. It is very fresh and intense on this anniversary of her birth, still so close to the time of her death.

This picture captu…

The Liberation in Good Enough

Today I am grateful for a pleasant phone conversation with my Aunt Norma Jean, a run even if it was short, and connecting with others through gratefulness.

Yesterday I wrote about practicing just doing and being "good enough." There is such liberation in this. A freedom. New energy and insights. I have been applying it in different ways in various areas of my life. From cleaning my house, to composing an email, to completing numerous work tasks.

I remind myself of what I wrote yesterday: "This is not slacking, it's sanity." Decades of overdoing and making sure things are better than "good enough" and fighting my inner critic about how I am "not good enough" won't be tossed out just like that.

It will take devoted time, concerted effort. We are making progress though. Freedom grows in tiny increments, and sometimes in "ah-ha!" moments.

One of the beautiful things about "good enough" is the energy it conserves. Energy I…

Condensed Version (Good enough)

Living gratefully today, I connected with the expansive universe by noticing the morning stars. I also give thanks for the recovery connections I have and how they reinvigorate my own recovery work.

As I continue to transform and age, growing up in ways for the first time, I grapple with what overdoing, overwork, and overthinking have all done to me. Some of what I avoided in my busyness I am now facing, and the view is changing. Awe more defined. Vulnerability more genuine.

It is hard work. And it is the best work. "Never good enough" is evolving into "good enough" in many ways that are making a significant difference.

The more personal stuff isn't meant for this public blog, but I can talk about "good enough" here in a way that others who have grappled with "never good enough" and perfectionism and workaholism can all relate to.

How about just doing a task well enough to be done with it and move on? Instead of finding one more thing to add…

Random Thoughts for a Monday

Today I am grateful for the gifts that come from recovery from alcoholism. They are many. I am also grateful for random reasons to pause and appreciate the ordinary.

I am not a regular church-goer, but I went yesterday. Our church's service was outside in the parking lot before we had our annual picnic. The sermon was about the best gifts we receive. I was sitting next to one of mine... my son Sam. And another one, my husband Darcy, was up in front doing his deacon duties. The gift of a healthy family is not a given, it's a treasure.

I appreciated my senses of hearing and touch, as I listened to the passing traffic and felt the cool air on my skin. I seem to be getting some different menopausal symptoms lately, so the coolness was  particularly welcome.

As our small congregation, out of our usual elements and without the louder organ, sang hymns more timidly, I appreciated Sam's meager efforts next to me. At least he was joining in. I was brought back to my youth, standing…

Complaint, Indifference, or Gratitude?

Today I am grateful for my siblings and what connects us, past and present. I am also grateful for the wisdom of "one step at a time" and the many ways it can be applied in my life.

Living gratefully is a choice, and it is one I am committed to. I have no regrets about this. It has been the most transformative action in my life over the last 25 years. The following quote reminds me of my choice:

"May I understand that the choice between complaint, indifference,  and gratitude is mine at every single moment of my life."  Pierre Pradervand
If I apply this idea to the long training run I did yesterday, here is how it could have played out. I could have complained about the rain, my tight quads, the return of some humidity, the locked public bathrooms, and more. The long run would have felt longer, the muscles tighter, the humidity more heavy. 
It would have been pretty difficult to be indifferent to running while I was actually running, but I could have been indifferent…

Inefficient Thinker

Today I am grateful for the cool air that needs the comfort of my favorite sweatshirt and that it tells me my favorite season--fall--is not too far away.

I am also grateful that in a moment of pause yesterday I saw a monarch butterfly and a hummingbird in close proximity to one another and to me, and we were all enjoying our backyard. That brings appreciation for Darcy and his work to keep our yard beautiful and inviting.

Inefficient thinker. I used that phrase the other day and it keeps coming back around. In itself that is not an inefficient thought. It’s a very liberating lesson I keep learning more deeply. Better yet, I keep feeling it more genuinely. Overthinking and overdoing lead to under feeling. I welcome the emotions.

Besides being accurate, "inefficient" isn’t nearly as harsh as what I have been known to say about my enemy brain. Things like "Stupid!" "You should know better." "Don’t you have this figured out yet?"

My mind isn't a…

Long Time, No See

Living gratefully today, I am relishing the cool, pre-dawn air and light.

Pause and just be in this moment for a moment Lisa. This is a good and frequent reminder for me.

I am also so grateful I got to see my college friend Kirsten yesterday. We have remained in touch on and off over the decades, but neither of us could even remember the last time we saw each other in person. Long time, no see.

It was great reconnecting, getting caught up on our families and our own lives. Life has taken us both on twists and turns and then landed us back in the same part of the country. The twists and turns for each of us have often been good and brought joy, but others have been challenging and painful. Some sought after, others unexpected.

Long time, no see. Great to reconnect.

I pondered long time, no see a bit further as I pondered living gratefully this morning. Long time, no see my hands in front of me, writing, composing, working. Pause. Here is a gift I often take for granted.

Long time, no s…

Traffic Issues

Today I am grateful for a healthy perspective on work and an enjoyable time with my friend Betsy last evening.

I hope the healthy perspective prevails into the new school year. And it is always nice to see a good friend.

As I drove to work, and then later to visit Betsy, traffic issues confronted me. Traffic issues will happen, especially in the summer and at the height of road construction season. It reminds me of that often repeated joke around here: There are two seasons in Minnesota--winter and road construction.

Various construction and utility projects are narrowing my options to get to school. Detours can change from day to day. Yesterday, instead of following the marked detour I thought I could find my own way. I couldn't. But I did travel some new streets and I wasn't late for anything anyway.

When I left work for another part of the Cities, I not only hit some road construction, but also rush hour. I appreciated that I had some flexibility with my timeline, that I wa…

Think Lightly

Living gratefully today, I say thank you for a good visit to the dentist yesterday, meaning "See you in six months." Thank you to my efficient hygienist and modern dental technology too.

I am grateful for lunch with my friend Candy, a phone conversation with my friend Sheila, and time with recovery friends yesterday too. Connections matter.

Consider this quote:
"Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world." Miyamoto Musashi
Musashi was a Japanese swordsman and philosopher who lived in the early 1600's. His words certainly still are wise, and entirely applicable, 400 years later.
If you would like regular thought-provoking words about gratefulness, I encourage you to sign up to receive the "Word for the Day" at gratefulness.org.  You will get a daily email. 
Think lightly of myself? I am a heavy, inefficient thinker who gets spun up more often than I would like to admit. I am making progress learning to be a lighter thinker and to throw more weigh…

Grief

Today I am grateful for stability in many forms in my life, and for a willingness to work on the areas where more stability is needed.

I am picking up again that seeming contradiction I wrote about yesterday. Clouds and sun. Joy and pain. If we never knew the joy of love and happiness, we wouldn’t feel the grief and heartaches of loss. And we wouldn’t make it back out of the heaviness of grief.

I went to a memorial service for Janine yesterday afternoon. She was someone I knew from breast cancer support group and the Voices of Hope DVDs project. It would have been her 66th birthday yesterday, but she didn’t make it. The ravages of metastatic breast cancer ended her life, like they ended my sister Mary Jo’s life less than two months ago.

I attended the service with four other women from our support group. Between us, we have over 70 years of survivorship. And still, we just get today. That’s all.

I have watched the Voices of Hope videos again in recent days, after not watching them for…

Joy

Living gratefully today, I appreciate being a mom and a grandma. In these roles, I learn new ways to live and to experience joy.

Have you ever noticed how clouds make a sunrise or sunset more stunning? It’s the same way that grief and sadness allow joy to come at a deeper level.

There has been tragic local and national news the last couple of days. Car crashes. Mass shootings. There are services and visitations to attend because people die of cancer and of complications of old age.

But today it’s about joy. The joy of grandsons.

We got to spend time with both Leo and Aaron yesterday afternoon, and Aaron spent the night.

We found joy in:

-Running through sprinklers.
-Biking like a big boy.
-Swinging with a "whee!"
-Watching a dragonfly, getting closer and closer.
-Enjoying pizza together.
-Cousin helping cousin.
-Picking dandelions.
-Outstretched arms wanting to be picked up.
-Smiles on faces.
-Love in hearts.

What have been some recent experiences of joy in your life?

Hidden in Our Chests

Today I am grateful for my five senses and for the happy memories of summer days in my childhood.

My five senses help me create memories in the here and now and they help me recall memories.

Summer days in my childhood carry some rich memories. The smell of freshly cut hay. The sound of the ball hitting the bat in a game of 500. The taste of Kool-Aid on a hot afternoon. The sight of ripe raspberries ready to be picked. The touch of cool air coming through an open window as we slept.

Memories can hide, and they can be drawn out. Memories can evoke a wide range of emotions and open doors for continued growth. Regardless of our age. Then new memories are shaped with our new perspective.

All of these random thoughts were sparked by this quote from the poet Rumi:

"What is love? Gratitude. What is hidden in our chests? Laughter. What else? Compassion." 
Our physical chests carry the vital organs of our hearts and lungs. Blood and air that nourish us. My chest used to be home to my …

Even Squirrels Have Stories

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the morning's first sip of coffee and the other creatures and critters that share space with us.

Squirrels are one of those critters. They can be pesky, but they are fun to watch. We saw a black one at the University of Nebraska last week. We see white or albino ones fairly regularly in our neighborhood.

Last evening Darcy and I took a walk with our own critter-our dog Oliver.  We watched a white squirrel at play with another squirrel, a typical brown one. The white one took off across the fairway on one of the holes of the golf course we live by. The color contrast made for a fun little show. The other took off after it for a bit and then stopped. It made Darcy and I wonder what the story was. Even squirrels have stories.

Every person and every living thing has a story. By honoring and telling our own stories, we open the door for others to do the same. By honoring all living things, by showing respect and kindness, we take better care of ou…

Two More Taken By Cancer

Today I am grateful for another sunrise to appreciate and for a nice anniversary evening out with Darcy, highlighted by beautiful weather and a swinging bench along the Mississippi.

Damn the devastation of cancer.

On this last Saturday, my high school classmate Randy died of pancreatic cancer. He was 54. Yesterday, Janine, a fellow member of our local breast cancer support group and participant in the "Voices of Hope" DVDs, died of metastatic breast cancer. She was a few days shy of turning 66.

I hadn't kept in touch with Randy over the years, but he was in my thoughts and prayers since I heard about his diagnosis. There is a connection that remains with classmates. Class of 1983 in our hearts.

I hadn't seen Janine recently, but had been getting updates from her Caring Bridge site and from others in our support group. We were both in both Voices of Hope DVDs back in 2010 and 2012. Members of our families joined us in the second DVD. I think of Janine's family now…

A Marriage of Complements and Compliments

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and for the lives we share together, and for our family.

Today Darcy and I celebrate our wedding anniversary--21 years!

Ours has been a marriage of complements. We complement one another well in numerous ways. Such as how we both prefer to keep a clean house and share in the duties to make it so. Both of us make physical fitness a priority and help each other get out the door for early morning training runs.

Both of us understand that a healthy marriage and a strong family take work, consistency, and faith. And laughter and forgiveness are keys, as is appreciation for one another. After 21 years, we also know when to push a point and when to let silence speak, at least better than we used to.

Ours is also a marriage of compliments. Not day in and day out, not sappy. Genuine compliments about how we may have handled a situation at work or with one of our family members. A sincere mention of liking a new haircut or the way a shirt fits. We notice…

Life's Playing Field, Day by Day

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Living gratefully today, I give thanks for safe travels in recent days and reliable vehicles. I also give thanks for the family time and the memories, conversations, and laughs shared.

I am grateful for time having good fun with our grandson Leo yesterday afternoon too.

Darcy, Sam, and I spent well over 25 hours driving and had time in four different states, counting our home state of Minnesota, over the course of eight days. We had our moments (Who doesn't with this much time together in small spaces?), but for the most part we were good travel companions and enjoyed the various scenery and campus experiences we had.

Sam has some big decisions to make in the next months. The biggest in his life so far. He has his options narrowed down and we've done the physical tours and meetings. He'll make the best decision he can at the time, with our guidance and support, and then we'll see how things go. No decision necessary today. The gift of time is a good one here.

We each f…

Be here, or be __________

Living gratefully today, I appreciate a roof over my head and people I love under that roof with me.

A recovery connection recently used the phrase “ be here or be stuck . . .” It resonated with me for a number of reasons, mainly that it is my daily goal: be present. My default has often been to get lost in thought, to replay those thoughts over and over in a loop, to my detriment. To the detriment of my mental and emotional health.

I have come a long way in becoming healthier regarding this, and there is plenty of room for improvement still.

Be right here, right now. Or somewhere else. Be stuck . . . in yesterday, tomorrow, my head, an unidentified emotion.

I know I am not alone in this struggle. I have many conversations with others who find the idea, and the feeling, of presence to be a bit elusive. It is my impetus to practice living gratefully, pursue regular attempts at meditation, attempt to sit down and do nothing other than take in my surroundings from time to time.

Two of my…

Counting Cars, Recounting Memories

Today I am grateful for the refreshing morning air and for safe travels and new experiences.

The other evening, my husband Darcy and I were enjoying the nice weather and the end of a good day on a college visit trip with our son Sam. The view from the hotel patio looked out at, among other things, railroad tracks about 50 yards away.

A train came around the curve, blew its whistle loudly and then proceeded to roll past at a fairly sedate pace. I began to count the cars, mostly tankers, as they passed. It was reminiscent of growing up. Trains were visible from our farm as they went through our little hometown about a mile across the fields.

If a train hit 100 cars or more, it was a big train. The one I just counted the other evening was about 110. Our first home in our current community literally had railroad tracks about 10 yards out our front door. We joked that we lived “on the wrong side of the tracks.”

It was a short line only in town and usually just a few cars, moving really slo…

Another Bench Message

Today I am grateful for playful squirrels I got to enjoy watching, and for time with our inquisitive grandson Leo this morning.

I saw another good message on a bench along a trail the other day. This bench is about a mile from our house, on a stretch of trail we pass many times, on foot and on our bikes. Because it is close to home, we don't typically stop there. I had never read the memorial plaque on this one.

So the other day I decided to stop. I love this portion of our city's trail system. It is one of my favorite places to watch the seasons come and go. This bench also affords a nice view of the minor river that goes through our city. Not the Mississippi across town, but the Vermillion. The sound of the river flowing by is also a welcome treat from this vantage point.

Taking a moment to read the plaque, I saw that it was dedicated to a local couple who "loved the great outdoors." It closed with this quote:

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.&…

Hitched to the Universe

Living gratefully, I am enjoying beautiful music and the view of clouds clearing after an earlier thunderstorm. I am also grateful for the women I got to spend time with last night at BC support group.

On Sunday, I wrote about being open to the universe. Then, I came across this quote:

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."  (John Muir)

I went forward with this thought and considered how very true it is. Here are just a few examples:
*Our breaths and the air we take in, part of the Earth's atmosphere.

*A person and the parents who made that life possible, and it starts with a few cells.

*The pilot of a plane and the passengers on that plane, brought there by innovation.

*When I pet our dog Oliver we both feel the warmth and love; living beings connecting.

*Enjoying the smell of freshly mowed grass, those who were mowing it, and the grass growing because of the rain that nourishes the soil it is in.

*My legs chur…

No Hands, No Breasts

Today I am grateful for my siblings and for the play of dew on the grass with the sunlight this morning.

The other day I was biking and thinking about being playful. "Play" is my focus word for the year, given to me randomly by a friend each new year for the last few years. I knew it would be a stretch for me and it has been. Lighten up Lisa! I can be and I am playful. I have a sense of humor that is appreciated by others and myself. But playful is not a word I would use to describe myself.

I explored this lighter-hearted concept on my bike recently. Sometimes I will swerve from one side of the path to the other in playful fashion. Sometimes I ride with no hands on the handlebars...whee! I appreciate that I can still balance myself for a nice stretch. (As long as the stretch is flat and straight.)

Balance. Balance the present with our previous experiences. Today's date, July 17, sticks in my memory. July 17, 2008 was the date of the first surgery to address the cancer in…

Double the Awe

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Today I am grateful for rest, rainbows, and recovery.

Last evening, after a day of oppressive heat and humidity, a thunderstorm went through and offered some relief. As the clouds cleared after the storm and we neared dusk, we were treated to rainbows. A double rainbow was visible at times, and is barely visible in this first picture.


The time of day, the sun's angle, and Great Spirit collaborated to bring deeper color than is usual, and the awesome show lasted for more than 20 minutes. I stood out in our driveway and took it in. As usual with nature's awe, my phone camera can't capture it all. It is not meant to. Such things are meant to be experienced. Darcy and Sam stepped out for a view, but I stayed out.

At one point, as I stood near the road looking up, a woman driving by slowed down and rolled her window down. We didn't know each other, but we were sharing this view. She said "There are two aren't there?"  I said "Yes, and they are amazing.&qu…

2200

Living gratefully today, I appreciate sweet cherries and our dog Oliver.

Today's blog post is #2200. I never would have guessed I would be at this over seven years already. I am frequently inspired with post ideas from what I hear and read as I move through my days. Or just daily life happenings, and little things noted and noticed. At other times, the inspiration is profound and beyond the ordinary stuff of life.

I celebrate #2200 with a list of 22 things that have been learned and reinforced from
blogging hundreds of posts:

1. "Real writers really write." I am a real writer. I no longer hold back on describing myself as one.
2. When the words flow and I am clicking on all cylinders, it is an awesome feeling.
3. This flow doesn't happen every day, but it happens regularly enough that I believe in it.
4. The discipline of regular morning writing frees me for other pursuits in my day, writing and other.
5. Whether someone else reads a post or not, it has mattered.
6. …

Open to the Universe

Today I am grateful for the laughs an old movie provided last evening and for time with friends and acquaintances from connections we have in our community through recovery and through Sam's football team.

My goal each day, to put it in short form, is to stay out of my own way. When I am overthinking and overdoing, my typical state, I am under feeling. I am impeding my own efforts to live in the present.

When I am not paying attention, I miss plenty of messages from the Universe, plenty of meaningful connections between the world, the people and other living beings in it, and I. Connections that take place on more than one sensory level.

Paying attention and just being in the moment, I capture experiences, emotions, and what the Universe is emitting to simple beings like me.

Here are a few things I noted in recent days:

-A long yellow light and no line at the Post Office just when I needed to gain some time.

-The charge at that USPS stop came to $34.50, the same amount of the fine…

A Welcoming Bench

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Living gratefully today, I am experiencing a sense of peace and also enjoying watching two squirrels playfully chase each other. 
Happy Anniversary to my stepson Arthur and his wife Alyssa! Have a special day :-) 
I noticed this bench as I ran on a stretch of trail near Arthur and Alyssa's house last week. Darcy and I also took walks with our grandson Aaron riding in his stroller. It is a nice stretch of trail because it highlights nature, the song of birds prevails, and there are shaded areas most welcome on warm and humid mornings.
I rarely sit at benches along trails. I am usually just running or biking past. I didn't sit at this one in the picture below either, but the plaque caught my eye as I ran past. It says "Here Comes the Sun." It's a more creative message as far as memorial bench plaques go. 

It's an inviting message, a welcoming message to greet the new day, greet the fresh light. Below is a picture of today's sun arriving.  Here comes the su…

Red Road and Great Spirit

Living gratefully today, I feel cooler air on my skin, see the sun's shadows, and hear the garbage trucks in the neighborhood. My five senses bring me the world.

Speaking of the world, I make daily efforts and do regular practices to connect with this world, a Higher Power of my own understanding, myself, and others. I have been using the term Great Spirit more often to refer to this higher power concept. It is a term more often used by Native Americans and to me is all-encompassing and expansive, welcoming me to explore further.

The book 365 Days of Walking the Red Road: The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day by Terri Jean is a book of daily readings that I have incorporated into my repertoire of prayer and meditation books. I pick one or two books to read from most days and always find meaning and direction in what I read.

The reading for yesterday was:

"When a man does a piece of work which is admired by all we say that it is wonderful;  but when we s…

The Tree Stands Alone

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Today I am grateful for the plush beauty and current blossoms in our backyard. I am also grateful for the wisdom and gratitude practices others share.

The tree in the pictures below was part of the view we enjoyed on the back deck of what we came to call "the ranch" or the "country house" on our recent trip to Colorado for my sister Mary Jo's celebration of life. My husband Darcy and I stayed there along with several other family members. The space and splendor were well worth the bumpy ride to get there.

We noticed this tree right away. The pictures don't do it justice entirely. It stood apart. It stood strong. There was something majestic and intriguing about it. It changed as the light changed. It pulled my attention to it every time I sat out on that deck, alone or with others.


Grief shifts and changes. The concern and worry for Mary Jo the last months, the last year and more, are replaced by a deeper sense of loss, and yet some peace as well. Like the …

Cleaning the Gutters

Today I am grateful for indoor plumbing and refrigerators, two things I regularly take for granted.

Last evening I assisted my husband Darcy with the task of cleaning the gutters. I did the work on the ground and he was up on our roof. Our teamwork went pretty smoothly, and we could clearly see our progress, both in the gutters and as the downspouts cleared out.

I even "enjoyed" the cold water sprays I got from time to time. It's an annual job we try to take care of as far as house maintenance goes. Now it's done until next summer.

As we took care of this type of gutter cleaning, a different kind of gutter cleaning came to mind. The kind that I would sometimes help with in the barn on our dairy farm growing up. If you haven't caught up with me yet, the job involved scoop shovels and a manure spreader. Yesterday's wispy and wistful becomes "get a whiff of that!"

Clogged and full gutters, regardless of what may be clogging and filling them, need to be…

Wispy and Wistful

Living gratefully, I have noticed the minutae of life in recent days. And I have grasped at a deeper level that these seemingly trivial and brief details are anything but trivial and brief. They carry significant and lasting meaning.

I was watching some clouds pass by as I rode down the road with my family the other day. The word "wispy" came to mind. Feathery and light clouds, a freeing feeling.

Then the word "wistful"came to mind. I was experiencing wistful feelings as life moves forward for us but not my sister. Wistful is defined by words such as longing, yearning, and nostalgic. Sounds a lot like grief too doesn't it?

Other wispy and wistful moments in recent days included:

*Waves of water rolling to shore along Lake Michigan.

*Time with our grandson Aaron and his quickly changing curiosity.

*My recent birthday and how quickly the years pass, how much I appreciate another birthday.

*Feeling the loss knowing no birthday phone call or card was coming from M…

Active Participant/Rocky Mountain Road Trip

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Today I am grateful for the awe-inspiring beauty of the Rocky Mountains and for time. Time to feel and heal.

Though I did plenty of observing on our recent trip, I was also an active participant.

Along with four of my siblings, I eulogized Mary Jo at the service held for her. My closing words included: "In my opinion, cancer didn't win. It broke her body, but it didn't break her spirit. That vibrant spirit lives on."

I participated in a ride up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park with several other family members. It had been years since we had gone this far into the park, this far up the road. It was amazing. I have forgotten how exhilarating and stunning the view and the drive are. Thank you to my brother Neal for safely navigating our vehicle both up and down the mountains.

As our time together wound down, I also joined several family members in a game of Zilch. It's a fun dice game sure to bring surprises, playful ribbing, and laughter. It never …

Active Observer/Layers

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Living gratefully today, I appreciate the range and depth of human emotions. I also give thanks for new memories made, even under some sorrowful circumstances.

On our recent trip to attend my sister Mary Jo's celebration of life service, and to spend time together as a family, I tried to be an active observer. Listening. Watching. Taking in. Feeling. Writing. Experiencing.

I can deepen the experience and tap into more genuine feelings when I observe and absorb instead of always thinking and doing. We are a large and varied crew and there is often plenty of moving and talking going on at the same time. Observing can sometimes be more insightful than participating.

I treasured a few minutes of sitting in a nearby room and eavesdropping on eight family members playing a raucous game of euchre. I was journaling and listening. The laughter and the playful banter felt so healing and so needed after Jo's service and all the emotions that have been swirling around in recent months and…

Burst into NOW

Today I am grateful for precious memories and precious new moments that await. I am also grateful for new experiences.

It is a difficult time and I feel a vulnerability that I have not felt before. Yet, being vulnerable is a key to transformation. I can embrace the grief I feel while at the same time experience the joy of the love my family shares. I can cry tears of loss and sadness, while smiling at pictures that capture fond memories and healthy faces.

This could be a time prone to regretting the past or fearing the future too. Mixed emotions often lead to ruminating and then missing the present moment. So I appreciate these words from Brother David Steindl-Rast:

"At any moment the fully present mind can shatter time and burst into now." 
And I appreciated the rhythmic stride of our dog Oliver and the jingle-jangle of his collar and tags as we walked this morning. I love that dog and he loves my family and I unconditionally.
I gave thanks for the simple convenience and com…

More Than Just a Number (a.k.a. Cancer Kills People)

Living gratefully today, I appreciate my husband Darcy and son Sam, as well as early morning quiet.

I have known many people who have died of cancer, but most were just acquaintances or someone else’s relative. Two of my dad's sisters died of cancer, my aunts Rita and Rosella, who I never had the chance to know well. They died at 57 and 63. Ironically, Rosella, who was Mary Jo's godmother, also died of breast cancer.

I have thrown out statistics at various times in my writing, to emphasize my point or to raise awareness.

My sister Mary Jo, who died a week ago from metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is now one of the 40,000 that will be counted as casualties of MBC in 2019. That number looks and feels so much different with my sister’s smiling face looking back at me in a photo from her healthy days.

Cancer is a horrible disease. It wracks and ravages bodies and it breaks hearts. It creates pain and suffering. It cuts lives short. I hate cancer and what it does.

My sister is so muc…

Capture Moments

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Living gratefully today, I appreciate the connections I continue to make with others in so many different ways in these first days since my sister Mary Jo's death.

It is a bittersweet day for her daughter Rena, on this her 30th birthday, and for her husband Clay and many others as they mark the first anniversary of the motorcycle accident that killed his brother Jahn.
Such pain and loss.

Dead. Killed. So final. And yet, the sun came up again today. This photo I took this morning captured a moment that was never before and never will be again:


Just like there will never be another person just like Mary Jo, or Jahn, or any other loved one you and I are calling to our own minds and hearts. Yet, it is likely that all of us will wake up again tomorrow with the opportunity to capture moments of grace, goodness, and gratitude. 
At first thought, grief doesn't fit in the same sentence as grace, goodness, and gratitude.  On second thought though, with willingness and surrender, grief c…

Grace and Goodness

Today I am grateful for the hummingbird that graced me with a brief show in our yard this morning.
I am also grateful for connections that transcend understanding.

As I grieve the finality of my sister Mary Jo's life on earth, I am reminded of her presence in many ways. Pictures of a younger, smiling, healthy big sister. Her voice message wishing me a happy birthday last summer, saved on my phone. The vivid memory of holding her hands as I said my goodbyes to her.

I treasure the connections, the memories, her presence that I can still feel. It is all painful and new, but it is also grace and goodness.

Connections of grace and goodness. Look for some today. Create some more.

Okoboji Fountains

Today I am grateful for the kindness of others, for gratefulness shared among fellow humans, and for in-person conversation with my friend Betsy. I don't get to see her often and really appreciated our time together last evening.

On our travels last week we went through a place near and dear to my heart. The Spirit Lake-Okoboji-Spencer area of northwest Iowa was my home from 1992-1998. It is where my recovery was truly launched, even though I arrived there three years sober.

A raging workaholic and dry drunk at the time, I knew some things needed to change or I would drink again. I embraced recovery and got connected to others on the same path. It made all the difference then and continues to make all the difference now.

I also made good friends in the school and community where I taught. I started graduate school while there. I met my husband Darcy in Okoboji. It is one of those places that holds far more pleasant memories than difficult ones for me on this life's journey.

So…

Alive with Tears

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Living gratefully today, I appreciate the love and support of family and friends, and a patient and loving Higher Power, at a most difficult time.

My sister Mary Jo, age 61, died of metastatic breast cancer on the morning of June 16, Father's Day 2019.  I take some comfort in believing Dad helped Mary Jo reach a place of peace. She has known so much pain, fear, and suffering. She now has the peace I prayed for her to have for so long.
She is survived by her husband Clay, daughters Whitney and Rena, two sons-in-law and seven grandchildren. 
And I have an emptiness. A gaping hole that I haven't experienced before. I have been grieving for Mary Jo for a long time, as her cancer progressed and her physical health weakened. This is a new and different feeling of loss. 
I posted this picture below in April of 2018, after my seven sisters and I spent some precious time together in Colorado. 

My hand is the one with the green bracelet. From there, clockwise and in age order are Ruth, …

Uplift as Gift

Today I am grateful for the sweetness of blueberries and the way the morning sun plays off of the trees and grass in our yard.  I am also grateful for park time with our grandson Leo.

This is a recent quote from "Word for the Day" at www.gratefulness.org :

Make a gift of your life and lift all . . . by being kind, considerate, forgiving,  and compassionate at all times, in all places, and under all conditions,  with everyone as well as yourself. This is the greatest gift anyone can give. (David R. Hawkins) 
I don't know what Dr. Hawkins was thinking when he wrote this, but my first thought when I read it was "impossible!"  I am too human to achieve this ideal. And then it hit me. That's the point. That's why the quote struck me. No one is perfect. Do the best you can with what you have today.
It is a good target to aim for. More kindness, consideration, compassion and forgiveness that I might have otherwise missed showing. These lead to more patience and to…

Transplants

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Living gratefully today, I appreciate the calming practice of morning meditation and my renewed commitment to it. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver as he sits and watches me now.

The picture of the beautiful blooming irises below are the result of a transplant. They are from my mother-in-law Marlene's previous home--a home that is now gone, moved out of the way for a road construction project. Darcy transplanted these irises in our backyard.

It took a couple of years for them to reach this full glory, but we sure have enjoyed them in recent days. So much in nature and in our own lives requires patience and time. Many things are not meant to be rushed, yet our society and culture are increasing speed in unhealthy ways.

So I think about these transplanted irises, and I think about Darcy and I transplanting to Minnesota 19 years ago and the many wonderful gifts that have come to our family and our lives since. There have been plenty of challenges too, but we have love of family, …

Of Waterfalls, Ruins, and Restlessness

Today I am grateful for working appliances, like our washer and dryer. I am also grateful for laughter just when you need it, laughter to affirm our humanness and our connections.

I took off for a bike ride yesterday morning with several things on my mind. No surprise there. I often have several things on my mind. Biking, running, walking all help me sort through those various things. Like other healthy practices I do, some days I am more tuned into the actual practice and other days I am more going through the motions.

That is the beauty of habits and discipline though. They become instilled in my routine and I make time for them. Some days that will be all it is: putting the time in to practice. On other days, clarity may come through loud and clear. And on other days, deep emotion may bubble up and out.

What does any of this have to do with the title of today's post?  On that bike ride yesterday, I paused at the beautiful waterfall I most often go right by, having passed it hun…

Joy Unfolds and Buffers

Today I am grateful that my two drinks of choice are water and coffee, in that order. I am also grateful for the brief visit by a hummingbird that my husband Darcy and I just enjoyed.

The potential to experience joy is always available to me, to you. Even at the toughest times. It simply requires an open heart and mind, a pause. I say simply, but we both know it isn't always easy to do.

I was visiting with some fellow recovering folks and one of them brought up the several joys she had noticed just that morning. Pauses and surrendering had opened the door to these gifts.

Shortly after, I was walking in our beautiful river town, down along the Mississippi. The weather was shifting, which was fine with me. It had been hot and humid for a couple days and now the breeze was up and clouds and rain were moving through.

I stood and watched a barge go by. I noticed the rolling waves of the river. I was buffeted by the increasing winds, but also buffered by the pure joy of that cool breez…

Soft Music and Some "D" Words

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the conversations I had with my sisters Ann and Aileen yesterday and the movie "Rocketman " that Darcy and I enjoyed last evening at our local theater.

I have soft music, Elton John songs, and some "d" words on my mind and heart this morning.

My brother-in-law Clay, my sister Mary Jo's husband, has been playing soft music for her. She likes it and it's calming. She also likes Van Morrison, Elton John, CCR and plenty of others. Ann lives near Jo and can visit a couple times a week. Aileen lives farther away from Jo than I do.

I appreciate Ann's first-hand accounts of her recent visits with Jo and Clay, and my sister Danita's as well. Aileen and I discussed how hard it is to be far away from our dying sister at this time. It brings a detachment that can be okay at times, but right now I would rather be able to participate in and be a witness to this very difficult and very profound time in Mary Jo's life.

Feel…

More Memories: Shooting Hoops

Today I am grateful for the fragrant smells of late spring and early summer that I enjoyed on this morning's walk I shared with our dog Oliver. I can't name all of the sources of the fragrances, but I can sure appreciate them.

The other night after I mowed some lawn and he helped Papa pull some weeds, our grandson Leo and I went over to the nearby park to shoot some hoops. It was just the two of us, two balls, and those touchy, bouncy rims with somewhat tattered nets that you most often find at park courts.

We took turns shooting, chasing after the balls, chatting a little. We definitely missed far more than we made, but we both had the satisfaction of a couple of "swooshes" at least.

It evoked more pleasant childhood memories for me, just like the mowing had. I spent many hours shooting hoops both indoors and outdoors at home growing up. We played countless games of "H-O-R-S-E" and I spent many more hours working on my shot. It paid off. I was a fairly suc…

Memories: Mowing Lawn

Today I am grateful for cool morning air and quiet.  I am also grateful for the disciplines in my life that help set me free.

Last evening I shared in the lawn mowing duties with my son Sam. I have always enjoyed mowing lawn, but have done less of it the last few years as Sam has been our primary mower. As I mowed yesterday, I reminisced about mowing our large yard growing up on the farm.

We always had push mowers and several pushers to share the work. We divided up our yard surrounding the house and in back of the house into several "plots" and we each took one or two. I am sure there were arguments over who got to mow what areas, some being easier and obstacle-free compared to others, but I don't recall too much fighting. I think my siblings and I in general liked this chore and the progress we could make in short time.

In my mind's eye, I can picture a young Lisa pushing one of those mowers on the side of the house near the chicken coop and the basketball hoop, ne…

Harmonious Connections

Living gratefully today I appreciate citronella candles and yogurt. Simple.

I also appreciate completing nineteen years at my current school and the pleasant 8th grade graduation event last evening. So many students, parents, colleagues have touched and enriched my life in so many ways this year and every year.

In my heart and in my prayers today I am holding up many others. Those impacted by suicide, cancer, violence. Those facing health challenges and awaiting procedures and results. Not so simple.

I was thinking about one of the questions I posed in yesterday's post: Am I a fountain of gratefulness or fear? Both will flow, but which is stronger? If I face fear with faith, it is less paralyzing that way. Gratefulness is a catalyst. Profound.

Living gratefully yesterday, I looked for harmonious connections and I found some. I shared harmony with fellow drivers by following the rules of the road. Sharing harmony with nature is as easy as letting an insect do its job instead of squ…

Water Towers with a Message

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Today I am grateful for safe travels for my loved ones and I this weekend and for the joy of family celebrations to bring us together.  I appreciated time with dear friends to start the weekend and with dear family to finish it.

On my travels home yesterday, these two water towers got me to stop and take pictures. I drive through these two southeastern Minnesota towns on my way to and from my family in northeast Iowa. I stayed longer than my husband and son, so I was traveling home by myself.

As I drove through Harmony, I thought about how harmony is a goal to aspire to. It is my personal aspiration in my own heart and mind. It is what I wish to share and create with those I care about, though I know my words and actions aren't always harmonious. It is a good watch word.

And it is certainly a goal that I can strive for in my wider interactions at work, in my community, as a citizen of my nation and this planet. Harmony comes easier when we try easier.


A few miles down the road, I …

An Intersection

Living gratefully today, I choose to appreciate the sour grapes of life, of the literal and figurative varieties. They remind me that if life and food were always sweet, we wouldn't be as healthy as we are with a variety of emotions and dietary intake.

A quote to ponder today: 
"We need to get out of our own way and let the beauty that is us 
intersect with the beauty that is the entire world." 
(Jon Kabat-Zinn) 
Get out of my own way?  Oh how I struggle with that at times. I can be a fairly major obstacle for myself, and that means I impede those around me in ways too. I plow through intersections that I should have proceeded through with caution.
We all do it, so let's not be too hard on ourselves or one another. But let's not sit in our over-sized egos and selfish thinking and wallow there either. 
Let's smile and say hello. Let's laugh at ourselves. Let's appreciate the pesky bugs that this time of the year brings. Let's reach out to others fac…

A Meditation 3 x 3

Today I am grateful for cucumbers and peaches, fresh with the first, frozen with the second. I feel good eating vegetables and fruits. My body appreciates it.

Today's post is a 3 x 3 on meditation. I have been an on-again, off-again meditator for years. I will have a good stretch, feel the benefits, then slowly slip away from it. It is of real value to me and I strive to incorporate it into my daily practices, much like living gratefully.

In recent weeks, I have done just that. Not daily, but at least regular practice of meditation. Here are some of the ways it helps me.

1. Physical and mental benefits
    a. an increased sense of calm
    b. the feeling of restfulness it brings, regardless of the amount of sleep I have or have not gotten.
    c. more mentally alert, less "foggy"

2. Emotional benefits
   a. that same increased sense of calm and patience
   b. more awareness of my emotions and their range
   c. welcoming the feelings and moving through them

3. Guided medi…

A Day Remembered, A Disease Never Forgotten

Today I am grateful for the doctors, technicians, and support crews who helped diagnose my breast cancer 11 years ago. I am also grateful for songs that hold special meaning for me.

May 29, 2008. A day I have written about many times. A memory etched in my mind. A rundown parking lot now home to a HyVee grocery store. A stretch of road I traverse each day I go to and from work. My doctor's words coming through my phone, somewhat expected, still shocking.  This after an anxious couple days of waiting after a MR-guided biopsy of a "suspicious area" in my right breast.

A biopsy that came a month after a "normal" mammogram. It's the stuff of stories and powerful writing. It feels different, much more sinister, today than it did some of these last eleven years. My diagnosis was Stage I, early stage, and surgeries showed no evidence of advancement of the disease. That could change though, like it did for my sister Mary Jo, who now is ravaged by and dying of meta…