Showing posts from October, 2015

Leading, Following, and Snowing

Today I am grateful for my sister Danita and the chance to get to know her better later in our lives. I am the baby sister. She is the oldest sister. Happy Birthday today Danita! I am grateful for safe travels and great support from the other adults involved with our recent school field trip. And I truly appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of the 49 seventh graders who were in our care for three days and two nights. Sort of by default, I was the lead person for this trip. For years, I have chaperoned such trips but never been the lead person. It was added weight, stress, and work over a few months and especially in recent weeks. I was one relieved individual when I left school late yesterday afternoon after sending all the students back home with their parents. After leading on details and planning, I followed many various groups to a wide variety of activities and meals on our trip. I find it best to usually keep 12- and 13-year-olds in front of you so you see what t

Born to Run

Today I am grateful for my marriage to Darcy and the shared passion and persistence we have for our running. "Born to Run" is a good song by Bruce Springsteen as well as a statement applicable to yours truly. I do believe I was born to run. But I also just got done reading Born to Run  by Christopher McDougall, copyright 2009. It was a very interesting and enjoyable read for me. It focused on the many aspects of running, particularly running long distances-really long like 50 or 100 miles. It delved into the running ways of ultrarunners and the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, as well as turning many ideas about the best running shoes upside down. It describes why we literally were born to run, going back to early humans. I found it fascinating. I am one of those runners who feels like as I run longer I get stronger. I have had marathons where I have had a negative split (running the second 13.1 faster than the first 13.1) as evidence. Running for me is less about times

She's Determined

Today I am grateful for the free photos provided from the MDI Marathon. I am also grateful for the steady paycheck my job provides. This is one of my pictures from the marathon. If I had to pick a favorite, this is it. I am in determined motion. That is what it takes to cover 26.2 miles. You probably can't see it, but my Brooks running hat says "Run Happy."  It sure works for this endorphin junkie. The purple band on my wrist says "FOCUS" and I wore it over my ears earlier in the race when it was chillier. Focus is necessary on such a challenging journey, one hill after another.  The purple inspired me as I thought of my brother-in-law Roger, declining with Lewy Body Dementia. I also thought of those I know who have pancreatic cancer. Purple is the color for both LBD and pancreatic cancer awareness. The shirt I am wearing is my finisher shirt from the 2006 Twin Cites Marathon, my fastest. Underneath it is my finisher shirt from the 2009 Kansas C

The Strength in Vulnerability

Today I am grateful that people find me worthy of their trust. I am also grateful for the beautiful sunrise I am witnessing this morning. Vulnerability, on the surface, seems like an undesirable quality. It sounds like a weakness, like defenses that have broken down. One definition is: susceptibility to be wounded or hurt.  Who wants that? That's where most of us stop. Emotional pain, wounded pride, and broken hearts aren't things we tend to seek. Why then do so many of us end up falling into a pattern where that is exactly what we get? My two cents on this topic is that we stopped at only half of the definition of vulnerable. The other half is about being open to new experiences and deeper levels of self-awareness. It is about the strength that stems from letting down our guard instead of keeping the walls up at all costs.  There is true power in vulnerability. Strength comes from what we learn when we let go, when we tear a wall down to see what is on the othe

Outrunning Parkinson's: Michael Westphal

Today I am grateful for the weekend and a break from a busy job. I am also grateful for working arms and legs. I try not to take those working arms and legs for granted. I try not to take life for granted. Those two diseases in my life-alcoholism and cancer-take many lives each day. I am humbled to be here. Humbled and energized. I was also humbled and energized by the words of Michael Westphal. We went to the pasta dinner the night before our marathon last weekend and Michael Westphal was the speaker. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2006. He has more recently returned to running. He had success as a competitive runner, but hadn't run for over 20 years. He has found that running helps reduce his Parkinson's symptoms. Watch an 11-minute video  here  and see his finish at the local marathon he ran last June, in a Boston-qualifying time of 3:33. He needs to closely monitor his medications and he is certainly feeling the various impacts of his disease, but he

Acadia: A God-given Peaceful Place

Today I am grateful for my dad, the life he lived, and the example he set. I am also grateful for ears that hear. Dad died seventeen years ago today. It was a Friday morning. I am thinking of him now and the many ways he blessed many people's lives. I wrote about our Acadia National Park tour guide Roger yesterday. He had plenty of interesting historical tidbits and I always enjoy that. One thing he mentioned is that the meaning of Acadia is "a God-given peaceful place."  A God-given peaceful place: I do believe it fits. I took the picture above near Thunder Hole in the park. The one below was from the top of Cadillac Mountain: Neither Darcy nor I would have been comfortable driving to this high point. Thank you to Roger for getting us there and back. Acadia National Park is stunningly beautiful. I am so grateful we got to visit. But I need God-given peaceful places I can visit more often. Right now I am sitting on our front porch in the early morning chil

A Memorable Tour Guide

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to join 6th graders on a field trip to an 1860's farm on a beautiful fall day. I am also grateful for a celebratory concrete mixer at Culver's. (Marathons are worth celebrating repeatedly.)  When traveling to Maine, we decided to pay for tours to help us better get to know the area we were visiting. We are grateful for both the boat tour we took in Frenchman's Bay near Bar Harbor and the bus tour we took in Acadia National Park. Here I am with our Acadia guide and driver. Roger was quite the talker and a wealth of information. He's a local who has been doing tours for decades. His grandfather helped design and build the numerous bridges in the park. Each time we went over or under one of these bridges, Roger gave two honks of the horn--"Thanks Gramp."  That's the kind of stuff he did throughout the 3 hours we spent on the tour.  Roger clearly had passion and energy (and a practiced routine no doubt) th

Nothing At All

Today I am grateful for post-marathon energy. I am also grateful for the moments I can sit and do nothing. I took this picture after a few minutes of sitting and doing nothing on the porch of the inn we stayed at in Castine, Maine while traveling last week.  It soothes me just to look at it. I do better at sitting and doing nothing when I am away from home and from my job. At both of these places, I keep finding things to do and the list never gets completed. I have to practice hard at pausing and sitting and doing nothing for a few moments both at home and at work. I have made some improvement, but there's still plenty of room for more. Being away from both home and work for a few days gave me helpful reminders of how good it feels to do nothing at all. For those moments in the airports we were in, in the airplanes we were on, in the car, on a boat excursion, enjoying a bus tour, and many majestic Maine scenes, I am truly grateful.


Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Maine and all that we got to experience there. There is much from our trip that I will be writing about over the next days. It is fitting to start with the driving force behind it all--running our 13th marathon. We had decided, since we both turned 50 this year, that a destination marathon was warranted. We had always wanted to go to Maine and thankfully the Mount Desert Island Marathon fit our family's schedule. It was, from start to finish, easily the most scenic of all our marathons. I took about 30 pictures along the course. It was worth the extra time it took to pull over and get my phone out. It seemed only appropriate to take this picture below of the mile marker at Mile 13 to mark our 13th marathon. Besides being the most scenic marathon we have done, we would also have to rank it the hilliest. The views made it worth it, but the last miles were a challenge. Darcy and I ran together for about 16 miles, then

Met UP

Today I am grateful for coffee and quiet. I am also grateful for laughter among recovering friends. Today is the 7th Annual Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Borrowing and revising some of my words from last year's post on MBC Awareness Day: I am deeply grateful to be over seven years out from my breast cancer diagnosis and have NED (no evidence of disease). I don't live in fear, but I also try not to live in denial. Cancer is wily and mysterious. It can come back in anyone at anytime. Today I am thinking of those who are living with what remains my biggest fear: late-stage metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Cancer that remains in the breast is not deadly. Breast cancer that spreads, or metastasizes, to other parts of the body is incurable and is what takes nearly 40,000 lives a year in this country. Some are diagnosed with MBC at the time of their initial diagnosis. Others have NED for years after their initial diagnosis when MBC comes roaring into their lives.It is a v

Awareness or Action?

Today I am grateful for a nice weather weekend and I am grateful for what I have learned as a breast cancer patient and budding advocate. October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month since 1985. Until breast cancer hit close to home, with my sister Zita's diagnosis in 2004, I hadn't paid all that much attention to it. Then my sister Mary Jo was diagnosed in 2006, and I was diagnosed in 2008. I had become more aware of breast cancer than I cared to. It is with deep gratitude that I can report my sisters and I are all plugging along well (and Mary Jo is five years out from a primary lung cancer diagnosis as well).  So are my dear friends Sheila, Jenny, and many others who I only got to know because of our shared BC journeys. My sisters' diagnoses certainly impacted me, but only after my own diagnosis and experiences did I really start to take a different look at pink ribbons and such. I have done a lot of reading and writing on the subject of breast cancer aw

Marathon Memories

Today I am grateful for each marathon I have had the opportunity to run. I am also grateful for a beautiful fall day yesterday for yard work and errands. Part of the fun of pre-marathon time is remembering previous marathon experiences. Each marathon of the 12 we have run holds many memories for both my husband Darcy and I. Of those 12, 11 have found us together at the starting line. We have finished three side by side. Two of the most powerful and emotional marathon experiences were our first-Chicago in 2004. (It just so happens that today is this year's Chicago Marathon.)  And Kansas City in 2009, our first marathon after my cancer diagnosis. The quality of the pictures below may not be the best (pictures of pictures) but the quality of memories they beckon is top-notch indeed. The picture above is after the Chicago Marathon. We posed for a picture adorning our medals. My niece Katie and her husband Danny are on the left. Then it's Darcy and I and my sister Ruth.

Of Marathons, BC, and Big Toes

Today I am grateful for some good rest and for peanut butter and jelly on toast. October is a month I have always appreciated because it is in the heart of my favorite season of fall. It is also the month in which my dad died, so I think of him.   And I also think of marathons and breast cancer awareness. My husband Darcy and I have run more of our marathons in this month than any other.  There are several reasons why it is a popular time for a 26.2 running event. There's a good chance the weather will be neither too hot nor too cold. And it allows for ample training time in daylight hours in the previous months.  I love the excitement and anticipation in the weeks and days before the marathon, and this year we are heading to a destination we have always wanted to visit, which adds to the excitement. It is also already the 10th of the month some call "Pinktober" because of the flood of pink in the name of breast cancer awareness. All I seem to have become m

Deep Channels in a Wide River

Today I am grateful for the support and help of coworkers. I am also grateful for recovery and survivorship. Ongoing recovery from alcoholism and continuing survivorship post-cancer diagnosis are deep and strong channels in a wide river of gratitude that flows through my heart and soul. (That is unless I block the flow with overthinking, overdoing, or oversized ego.) Two diseases that kill people every day are part of my story. Yet, I get to keep telling my story. Grace and humility abound when I put it in that light.  Without sobriety and daily recovery from the powerful disease of addiction, I would probably not have survived these last decades. I was on a self-destructive path and picking up dangerous speed on the downhills. Then a breast cancer diagnosis at age 42 shook me to the core and pretty much shattered the sense of security I had felt regarding my youth and health. Invasive but early stage, cancer took my breasts and plenty more, but left me with a good progn

Daily Tonic

Today I am grateful for my daily gratitude journal and that I never run out of things for which I am grateful. Gratitude practice is indeed my daily tonic. This quote captures it. "A lack of a daily tonic of gratitude results in an anemic soul, which, in turn, contributes to a physical sense of listlessness. A grateful soul, on the other hand, is vibrant and animated and so permeates your body with zest and with an enjoyment of a life littered with gifts."  (Edward Hays) An anemic soul sounds like a real downer. I prefer some zest and enjoyment.  Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. Onward! 

A Poem Worth a Second Look

Today I am grateful for the enthusiasm and energy of young people. I am also grateful for my favorite sweatshirts. Some of you may have seen this poem already. It went viral on social media over the summer. Read more about that  here .  I am slow on the viral things though, and say thanks to a fellow writer in the local writing group who emailed it to the group. It was written by New York high school student Chanie Gorkin for a class assignment to write about "the worst day ever."  It's quite a writing marvel, and her mom said it took her about an hour to create. Read it all the way through. It speaks for itself. Thank you Chanie Gorkin for this poem! Thank you Great Spirit, God, Higher Power for the many gifts to appreciate in my life today. The change in perspective that being grateful can bring to my life has proven itself over and over. It works, it really does.

Passwords, Buttons, and Whatever Else it Takes

Today I am grateful for morning patio time and for people to support me in sobriety and recovery. You may have picked up that I am prone to overdoing and overthinking. I have to practice pausing and I have to practice slowing down. It doesn't come naturally or easily to me and my little old brain. It is one of the reasons why habitual practice of gratitude has been so helpful to me. So I am willing to do whatever it takes. Do a daily gratitude journal day after day, year after year. Create blog posts day after day, year after year. Write gratitude letters and thank yous. Dozens of them. These efforts pay wonderful dividends. When it comes to practicing pausing and slowing down, I have tried many things. Some work better than others. Two things that are minor but effective have to do with passwords and buttons. If you are like me, you have more passwords for various devices and accounts than you care to have. I could let the computer or phone remember my passwords, but I ch

Throwback Monday

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the good sermon he gave yesterday in his role as deacon at our church. I am also grateful that our grandson Leo knows us. I am bucking the social media trend a bit here, but as far as I know I won't get in trouble for it. How about an old photo for a Throwback Monday instead of a Thursday? This photo was posted on Facebook by a classmate of mine the other day (not a Thursday either): Wow! What a good-looking bunch of eager learners. I believe this is our 3rd grade picture, but both my 1st grade and 3rd grade teachers are in it. Other classmates jumped in and, I believe, correctly identified all of us. I wouldn't have been able to do that on my own, though I would have gotten most of them right. I am one of the several with our mouths open . . . "Cheese!" perhaps? You will find me next to my third grade teacher Mrs. Becker, on the opposite end of the back row from my friend Brenda and my first grade teacher

A Run Illuminated

Today I am grateful for my physical capabilities, for air to breathe, and food to eat.  My husband Darcy and I are just two weeks out from our next marathon, so yesterday's long run of 15 miles or so was a "shorter" long run. From here, we will taper and rest our legs. The excitement and anticipation build for me with each day we get closer. It's partly about traveling to new places to run, but it is also largely about the run itself. Marathoning is in our blood and our hearts. We look forward to new scenery for marathon #13, but we enjoy nature's beauty on our runs in and near our community too. I paused to take this picture on our run yesterday. The long human shadows visible are those of Darcy and I.  As the sun illuminated the trail ahead of us, running illuminates my life in so many ways. It is one of the greatest blessings and joys in my life. It has brought me out of dark times and dark moments over and over again. It has brought me out o

Back Where You Belong

Today I am grateful for the chance to be of service to others. I am also grateful for recovery and the second chances we all get in many ways. Yesterday on my way to work I heard a song by 38 Special that I have always liked. It is titled "Back Where You Belong."  You can listen to it  here . It came out in 1983, when I was a senior in high school.  It's a love song of sorts, and a catchy tune.  The title is catchy too. Back where you belong. That is how I felt yesterday after a rocky day on Thursday. My mindset was back where it belonged. My priorities were back where they belonged. My hormone levels were back where they belonged. The rest of my day just further helped me get back to that better place, that place where grace and peace can be found. The school I work at gave students the day off yesterday and faculty and staff went to various sites and did service work. I really appreciated the group of people I worked with.  At a domestic abuse shelter near

Oh the joy . . .

Today I am grateful for a new day, a fresh start. I am grateful for air to breathe, a roof over my head, and clothes to wear. I wasn't feeling all that grateful yesterday. Oh the joy . . . of hormonal fluctuations.  I was "a bubble off of plumb" and just a wee bit edgy and irritable. My mental acuity was dull at best for much of the day. The joys of menopausal times. And then I think about other women who have had breast cancer who never made it to menopause, or were forced into early menopause because of surgeries and/or treatment. Life is good. Hormonal fluctuations and all. Life is a gift. Oh the joy!  Of a new day, a fresh start, a more even keel.

Its Own Blessing

Today I am grateful for Darcy's safe business travel and for time with our grandson Leo and his emerging personality. The "Word for the Day" from yesterday was: "There are many things to be grateful "for" but, as I ripen with the seasons of life, the many reasons blend into a sacred mystery. And, most deeply, I realize that living gratefully is its own blessing."  (Michael Mahoney) I appreciate the words used by Michael Mahoney. How fortunate we are to be here, ripening with the seasons of life. Some never get the opportunity to ripen. A sacred mystery. Let me live in the curiosity and wonder of that mystery. With faith and fortitude.   Living gratefully is its own blessing. It doesn't mean everything is going my way and all is right with the world. It does mean that right here, right now I have much to be thankful for.  That energizes and motivates me. Onward!