Showing posts from November, 2015

Moment in Time

Today I am grateful for rest, writing inspiration, and enjoying watching the Iowa Hawkeye football team win their 12th straight game. Go Hawks! Since Arthur's close call the other night, I have pondered how many close calls we all have. A matter of seconds or minutes, inches or feet, can make all the difference in situations that can either turn out really good or really bad. Yesterday I was on the way into our local health care clinic with my son Sam. He had a really sore throat and slight temperature, so we thought it best to get a strep test (thankfully negative). As we walked toward the entrance, I noticed a man on the sidewalk to my left. He slowed, appeared unsteady and put his arms out to his sides. I was already moving toward him, asking him if he needed help, and was able to help break his fall and steady him against a tree. Sam and I held him up as a couple just arriving got out of their van. The man came to help us and the woman went inside the clinic to get he

Gobble, Gobble

Today I am grateful for an opportunity to both get a run in and help out a worthy community organization yesterday morning. I am also grateful for a friendly little game of Yahtzee with Darcy and Sam. I always think of my dad when we play Yahtzee. It was a game he really enjoyed and we played it often when I went home to visit. I was also, not surprisingly, thinking about turkeys and "gobble, gobble." The run we did is called "Gobble Gait" and conditions were balmy compared to last year. It was well below-zero with a brisk wind last year. Yesterday it was still warm enough to rain. The organizers were able to announce before the run that they had surpassed the $1,000,000 fundraising mark this year, after starting small about 18 years ago. The event benefits our local family service. Great job to all who help carry out this wonderful Thanksgiving morning tradition! The rain turned to snow and the snow gobbled up the grass in our yard as Darcy and I enjoyed a

The Greatest Surprise

Today I am grateful for so many family members and friends who have nurtured little old me in so many ways over the years. A recent "Word for the Day" at was from one of my favorite writers on the topic of gratitude-Brother David Steindl-Rast. Here it is: "The greatest surprise is that there is anything at all--that we are here."  It seemed like a fitting quote to use on a day like Thanksgiving. Or on any day really. Being present in a body that we didn't create ourselves, though we have something to do with the maintenance of our earthly vehicle. An amazing body that has hundreds and thousands of working parts we were given just because we were born human. To awaken, open my eyes and see. To command my legs to move over to the side of the bed and help get me up and they do. These are incredible feats of engineering and design. Shouldn't that surprise me at least some of the time? And then there is the greatest surprise

Persistence Pays-In Exact Proportion

Today I am grateful for a warm enough morning to enjoy our front patio and a cup of coffee with my husband Darcy.  I am also grateful for a nice conversation with my son Sam. This quote below makes me smile, both on my face and in my heart. Years with no results? I can't say I have ever experienced that. Persistence and perseverance are results in and of themselves. "Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result,  one day a light that is in  exact proportion to them will flood the soul."  (Simone Weil) I know discouragement. I know "why bother?" and "does it really matter?"  But I also know flooding of the soul with such a deep sense of awakening, a deep sense of grace. My soul. The human soul. If I hadn't gained a healthier perception of myself, if I hadn't known a little peace from my self-defeating thoughts, maybe I would have given up. But it didn't take long into my gratitude prac

Heart to Hand

Today I am grateful for the wisdom I hear from others in recovery. I am also grateful to be a writer. I have been doing less pen to paper writing for blog drafts and column ideas in recent months. I have the Blogger app on my phone and a free app that allows me to word process some document drafts on my phone as well. Part of me appreciates the time I save. But another part of me is saddened by this trend. Writing saved my life in my younger years. It allowed toxic emotions a way out before they did me in or I did myself in. Pen to paper. Taking the physical action of writing with pen in hand on the paper in front of me gives more credibility to what comes out, and gives more freedom when released from my mind. Heart to hand. Writing continues to enhance my life and help me embrace it more. In recent years, there has been more keyboarding on a computer or finger-pecking on my phone. It is not pen to paper, but it is still heart to hand. I do look for ways to keep the pen in han

Putting Out Fires or Starting Them?

Today I am grateful for the soothing quiet of early morning and for time with our grandson Leo over the weekend. I was pondering the idea of "putting out fires" recently as I thought about the busy pace of my job. Some days it does seem like it is about putting out fires, one after the other. The kind of fires you don't want to let burn, the kind that are best contained when small. The fires may have to do with students, parents, teachers, or any combination thereof. But then I thought about how educating our young is supposed to be about starting fires. Fires of curiosity and motivation. Fires that need to be nurtured and protected until there is enough fuel to keep them burning strong on their own. It seems a bit contradictory, all this talk of fires. But it really is the stuff of life. Positive or negative. Productive or nonproductive. Helpful or hindering. Warming us up or causing us to run from the heat. Which kind of fire will I feed today?

Seasons Change, Ice Forms

Today I am grateful to have a house to clean, and for the way that house feels with the soft glow of our Christmas tree lights and other holiday decorations. We have had a really pleasant fall, with mild temperatures. Though some of the Midwest got dumped on with significant snow to start the weekend, we missed it. I am okay with that that for now, though I do enjoy snow when I don't have to drive in it. Both Darcy and I appreciated clear trails and roads on our run yesterday morning. It was colder and more layers were required, but it was manageable. We got to see some of nature's interesting creations that form when seasons change. The picture below is along the shores of the Mississippi River. I stopped to take it during our run.  It took more than cold to create these icicles. It took wind to produce the waves that lapped up against the branch. It seemed fitting that these icicles look like a row of teeth, because that wind did have a bite to it.

Sleeping In

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to sleep in and for a warm bed and my husband Darcy next to me. I am also grateful that our son Sam enjoyed his 8th grade trip to an environmental learning center in southern Minnesota. He was gone for three days and two nights. Though a young man of few words, he had a good time and has answered all of my questions so far. Thank you to all the adults who helped make the trip possible and helped carry it out. (I know what that takes.) I am guessing that Sam will not be the only one sleeping in this morning after that trip. During the week, I typically will get six to seven hours of sleep a night. I can manage on that fairly well, though I know more would be better. By Friday night of a work week, I am usually wiped out. I was dozing off in the recliner by 7:30 last night. I was trying to start a blog post, but the dozing kept winning.  I went to bed and didn't get up for good until almost 6:00 a.m. For a variety of reasons, I haven

A Run at Dusk

Today I am grateful for the people I work most closely with-my department. And I am grateful for the nice visit with our recent department retiree Mary Jo. I was determined to go for a run yesterday after work. The weather had turned colder and it was windy, but I couldn't wait to get out there. Running is my escape, my release. It is my grounding, my connection to nature. Running and sanity go together for me. So do running and gratitude, running and endorphins, running and head clearing. I got a later start on my run than I anticipated, so some of it was in the dark. Before it got dark though, I was treated to a beautiful sunset. There was clearing on the horizon and the sunset was a vibrant red. It was worth it. Stride by stride, I ran off the stress and strain of the day. I enjoyed running with Oliver for the first mile or so. Then, I enjoyed running with my radio and some good music. A run at any time is a blessing in my life. A run at dusk was a treat last evening.

Getting on with Life

Today I am grateful for my sense of touch and feeling the wind and colder air on my skin as I walked our dog Oliver this morning. I am grateful for morning quiet. I have felt thwarted, off-beat, drained, and discouraged in recent days. But I still got up each morning and proceeded to do my best. I proceeded to apply gratitude to my circumstances and found energy to pick myself up. I felt better at times, worse at others. But I got on with life. That is my plan for today as well. Getting on with life can be as simple as making the adjustment to colder temperatures outside by putting on a hat and gloves. Getting on with life minus my breasts took some time to adjust to, but it now falls into this simple category most of the time too. Or it can be so very difficult. . . I think each day about my sister Danita and how she must now get on with life after her husband Roger's death. I think about those reeling from the terrorist attacks in Paris and what getting on with life might f

Drained and Discouraged

Today I am grateful for positive thoughts and new energy to face the day ahead. I am also grateful for laughter, courtesy of a couple episodes of "The Big Bang Theory." I began this post late yesterday afternoon after a draining and discouraging day of work. Writing as an outlet. The story of my life. Helping me write my way to a healthier place. The blessing of being in a profession like school counselor for a few years (this is year #18 for me) is that you know some days will be like this. That is also the curse. Even though you know tougher days are part of the deal, they still are tough. A comment here. A situation there. A meeting here. Another meeting there. Another comment. Another situation. I put the work day behind me and had a more relaxing evening. Drained and discouraged were put to bed. Today is indeed a new day. 


Today I am grateful for the wisdom and support I get from others in recovery. I am also grateful for professional challenges that help me learn and grow. The word syncopation has been milling around in my head since my Aunt Helen used it. She was playing the piano for a few of us and it was a real treat. She used this word which, if I had ever heard it before, I certainly didn't know what it meant. Musically speaking, syncopation is unexpected rhythms which make some or all of a piece of music off-beat. It is stressing the weak beats instead of the strong beats. It seems like it would be more of a challenge to play, but lends itself to beautiful sounds nonetheless. I think that is what Helen was getting at. In broader terms, syncopation can mean a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm. In that sense, life is rife with syncopation at times. And it can throw us off a beat or a few. But it can also lead to new music we never knew we had in us. I find that i

From Thwarted to Thwarting

Today I am grateful for time to write and to be able to relax and watch a football game. (Go Vikings!) Yesterday I felt thwarted in my attempts to have a peacefully productive morning. It was frustrating and made more frustrating by this lovely mind I have that starts spinning. Our computer was running slow when I needed it to be fast so I could get a few things done on it before turning my attention to cleaning the house. I looked again for a writing my sister did that I wanted to share with a friend. Again, I couldn't find it. Our dog Oliver was underfoot and I almost tripped on him a couple of times. I was falling behind in my plan for the day and getting a wee bit resentful about it. And yet my lovely mind kept finding more to add to my to-do list. It wasn't even 8:00 a.m. I was almost thwarted and robbed of the joy available. Then I remembered that this lovely mind could be tempered. I went for a run on a beautiful late fall day and it calmed me and my mind. The

Four Mats and Twelve Teams

Today I am grateful for air to breathe and a relaxing recliner to sit in (and often fall asleep in). Four mats and 12 teams = a loud gym and lots of wrestling matches. Sam's wrestling team competed in a duals tournament yesterday. His team took second and Sam did well; winning his first match by forfeit and then pinning his next 3 opponents. It gets a little busy and noisy, but it is exciting and intense in good ways too. You see the effort on the part of wrestlers during individual matches. You see and hear the encouragement and support from teammates and coaches. You witness true sportsmanship in numerous ways. Darcy and I are still learning about how scoring works and the various techniques used by wrestlers, but we know far more than we used to. We continue to appreciate Sam's involvement in wrestling. He is just in his third year, but he enjoys it and is motivated to work hard and improve. He has come a long way since beginning. We are thankful to the coaching s

On the Move

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo last night and for the wonder of child development. Leo was with his uncle Sam and I for a time while his mom Emily and grandpa Darcy did some errands.  We see him pretty regularly, but it always amazes me what he is up to. He hasn't quite gotten the crawling down, but it is interesting to watch him work on it. He can certainly get himself from point A to point B in a variety of twisting, turning, and rolling ways. You can just see the determination and then the sense of accomplishment on his face. He is a strong little boy and likes to stand up. I predict he will walk early. He takes little steps with help. He seems to really enjoy standing and then he likes to bounce his legs up and down. Leo on the move is a fun creature to watch. I love his facial expressions and the jabbering he will sometimes do. I think of the wonder of being on the move as Darcy and I get ready to head out on a run.  And the wonder of the wrestli

Stop Planning and Plotting

Today I am grateful for my friend Julie and our visit yesterday. I am also grateful for recovery friends who reach out to me and to whom I can reach out.  Today's "Word for the Day" on is: "Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the  rational mind, and all its planning and plotting."  (Regina Sara Ryan) My rational mind is a busy place, but not always a productive place. There is a significant difference.  Too much planning and plotting going on in there means less peace and pleasure in my hours and days. Instantly stopping that overactive beast of a mind is indeed a good thing. Pure and true. That is what pausing in mindful gratitude in this moment is. Pure presence and true appreciation for right here, right now and the opportunity to live.  My mind has a way of starting up the planning and plotting again, but a break from it, even a brief one, is effective in bringing p

It's All Relative

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo last evening and for a better pace at work. Yesterday it was relatives and friends I wrote about. Today it is that well-worn phrase "It's all relative." It all depends on how you look at things. We each have our unique perceptions and perspective. All I know is that I used to hate myself and what I saw and felt looking back at me in the mirror. Many things and many supportive people have helped change that for me. Recovery from alcoholism and a better relationship with a God/Higher Power have been crucial in my transforming view of self and surrounding world. If I had to point to just one thing that stands out in my journey of self-acceptance, in this excursion to find a better view of myself and the world around me, it would be how gratitude practice has changed how I look at things, at myself, at you, at the rest of the world. It's all relative. And the relatively simple practice of gratitude is actua

Relatives and Friends

Today I am grateful for safe travels and time with family. A special thank you today, on Veterans Day, to all of those who have served our country in both times of war and peacetime. Our niece Linley and her new husband Jess had a beautiful day on Saturday. From the weather, to the ceremony, to the celebration that followed, it was a lovely and loving wedding day. I saw many in my large and growing family that I wrote about last week. It was also nice to see my friend Beth and friends of my siblings that I have known over the years. The wedding and celebration were full of relatives. Both sides of Linley's family are big. Jess' family is much smaller, but they sure are friendly and welcoming. Relatives and friends. Blessings and memories. Here is a picture of 9 of my siblings and I with our mom at the wedding: Our three sisters who weren't able to make it were with us in thought and spirit. A week that began with such sadness with the death of our

Large and Growing

Today I am grateful for my family-the one I was born in to. I appreciate what that experience has brought to my life and my own family. Large and growing. That's my family of origin. What started with the marriage of my mother and father in 1950, now numbers over 100 and continues to grow. A new member joins the clan this weekend when my niece Linley marries Jess. There are some things that you definitely don't want to have large and growing-like flood waters, forest fires, and cancerous tumors. A large and growing family is a gift in many ways though. We celebrate the joys with one another, like weddings. And we support each other through the losses and the grief some have had to face, like the recent death of our brother-in-law Roger. We have created many memories and shared much laughter, conversation, and food among other things. It is a gift that comes with challenges too. It is hard to know everyone the way I wish I could. It is hard to get conversations in at gat

What's in Your Frame?

Today I am grateful for my working senses, especially my sense of hearing this morning. Consider this quote: "We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny, but what we put into it is ours."  (Dag Hammarskjold) I am thinking of my sister Danita this morning. The frame of her destiny included her husband Roger getting early onset Lewy body dementia. He died early this week, after years of decline. It has got to be one of the toughest experiences someone I love and care about has had to go through. A most difficult card to be dealt. But Danita has shown much grace and strength as she helped Roger maintain dignity and peace. And Roger showed her how to be present in the here and now. It was all he knew in these last months and years. When I frame life in the here and now, mindfully present, I put better things into it. I handle things like alcoholism, a flat chest, cancer fear, a stressful job, and life's curve balls better. I find more joy a

Stepping Out and Stopping

Today I am grateful for mild weather and for the marriage my husband Darcy and I share. I am sitting on my front porch on November 4 enjoying 55 degree weather with a projected high near 70 degrees today. It will soon end, but let's enjoy it while we can. Enjoy life each day. Don't take yourself too seriously! I am very prone to that at times. Thinking of my sister Danita and the overwhelming grief she must be experiencing, I am reminded of what really matters. Finding peace in this moment matters. And it allows me to head into the next moment and into my day. I am busy this morning with a full day ahead, but pausing is a priority. It needs to be a priority for someone like me who overdoes and overthinks. This quote from Tara Brach tells me the same: "Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering we can make to our spirit."  Our spirits deserve these beautiful offerings. St

Never Again

Today I am grateful for the support that my sister Danita has and for the life of my brother-in-law Roger. Yesterday I got home from work, went up and down some stairs, made a quick change of clothes, and then headed out for a bike ride on a beautiful fall day. I rode in honor of my brother-in-law Roger. Roger was an avid biker and hiker. But he hadn't been able to do either in recent years. Lewy body dementia was taking over a man who was once very fit and active as well as conversational and witty. His decline was inevitable, as was his death. Roger died late Sunday. Not only will he never hike or bike again, he will never draw a breath again.  Never again. So final. So heartbreaking for his wife, my sister Danita, and others close to him who witnessed his decline and deepening dementia.  The list of "never agains" just kept growing as Roger's dementia progressed. Consider today what you would miss most on your list of "never agains"


Today I am grateful for my family and for easy ways to stay connected, like texts and emails. I am also grateful to be reminded of my life's priorities. Family. Friends. Recovery and faith. Running. Writing. Those are my priorities. Yes, my job is important too. But it doesn't crack the top 5. To start my day with prayer and gratitude practice helps get me off on the right foot. Without recovery from alcoholism, I would lose family, friends, the desire to write, and the ability to run. Keep it simple. Focus on what matters most. When I put my energy to my priorities first, the rest seems to take care of itself in better fashion. I think it has to do with the perception and perspective created.

Shared Duties and Memories

Today I am grateful for rest yesterday and how very adorable our grandson Leo was in his little monkey costume for Halloween. I also want to say a big thank you to the chaperones from my school who joined me in the job of overseeing 49 seventh graders for the three days and two nights of our trip. Pete, Sarah, and Stephanie all teach middle school students. They all brought unique and complementary experiences and demeanors to the group. We very much appreciated being joined by Liz, who has retired from teaching but enjoys this kind of trip enough that she was willing to come along and help us out. (It wasn't easy to round up the needed chaperones. I can't imagine why . . . nearly 200 miles from home, sleeping in dorm-style rooms for two nights, and always on the alert for that wonderful 7th grade energy that can all of a sudden take a concerning turn.) It was great to spend time with Liz, a good friend I have worked closely with for years. We miss her in our school. The