Showing posts from November, 2016

Real Generosity

Today I am grateful for Sam's involvement in wrestling and for the strong program we have here. I am also grateful to coffee growers. The other day I wrote about generous attention and giving it to the present. This quote furthers that idea: "Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present."  (Albert Camus) I hadn't really thought about it that way before. By giving our attention to now, we are better preparing for and creating the kind of future we want. Mindfulness keeps our priorities straight, our passions strong, our relationships healthy. Mindful presence, for me made more possible through regular gratitude practice, makes it more likely for me to have the energy and focus to not only do what needs to be done, but also keep pursuing my long-term goals and dreams. I will seek a generous dose of ongoing presence today. 

Feeding the Right Fire

Today I am grateful for the soft glow of Christmas tree lights and for our dog Oliver and the predictable ways he has. Though I regularly practice and write about gratitude, there are days and moments when I am tired and discouraged and I wonder if it all matters. "It" being lots of things like my writing pursuits, gratitude practice, daily work on recovery from alcoholism. It's part of being human and for me it is usually short-lived. I believe it is important to acknowledge these lows and call them out. That seems to help them subside rather than deepen. On a recent run, or moving meditation as it is for me as well, I threw out a question in my head, hoping for a little clarity. It came in the form of this line-- keep feeding the right fire Lisa. Feeding the right fire is to keep running and writing, to keep practicing gratitude and recovery, to love those nearest and dearest to me to the best of my ability. Stoking the flames of this fire warms my heart and soul.

Slumber Party

Today I am grateful for my job and the people I get to work with there, adults and students alike. I am also grateful for the worker in the local ice cream shop who dished up some ice cream for Darcy and I to enjoy last evening. As I focused on giving generous attention to the present yesterday, one person and moment I was able to give generous attention to was our grandson Leo. Actually, it was more than a moment and more like an hour that we napped together. Here he is as he is coming awake: I slept some too, but also thoroughly enjoyed listening to his breathing, looking at his little fingers and the smooth skin on his hands, feeling his warmth as he rested on my shoulder and side. What a treat! Then we bundled up and ran around outside for awhile with Grandpa Darcy and then Uncle Sam, chasing balls, playing peek-a-boo, watching Oliver tear around the backyard, and picking up a few sticks. It was the kind of afternoon I needed. Generous attention to what matters most--f

Generous Attention

Today I am grateful for the musicians and singers who provide me with beautiful music to listen to. I am also grateful for those who decorated the Mall of America for the holidays. Our visit to the mall yesterday wasn't about shopping. It was about checking out the new addition and taking in the holiday decorations. There were beautiful trees, many strands of lights, giant ornaments. There were also hundreds of other people, each with their own story and their own reasons for being at the Mall of America on a Saturday afternoon. We didn't stay long, Sam, Darcy, and I. But I did my best to pay attention to the sights and sounds while I was there. That is what life is all about, what gratitude practice is at the core: paying attention. I am not always very good at paying attention. I get busy in my head and miss things. I start thinking about a response when I should simply be listening. Some days, it seems I am racing headlong through a never-ending list of things to get

The Easy Way

Today I am grateful for time with my friends Jenny and Jill yesterday. I am also grateful for those who share their wisdom in recovery. I am taking the easy way out today. Sometimes taking the easy way out isn't the best idea. Like continuing to drink because it was a familiar escape, even when I knew it was hurting me and I was getting sicker. But taking the easy way out on a blog post is okay when I am short on time and low on energy. Here  is a link to my most recent post on my second blog, Late Bloomer and Slow Learner . It is about one of my life's messengers-Brother David Steindl-Rast. If you want to get any of my posts on either blog in an easy way, be sure to sign up for emails. It's easy to sign up and then each time I post, you receive an email. On this blog you'll find this option near the top right. On Late Bloomer and Slow Learner , the option is in the lower right as you scroll down the page. A shameless plug for followers I know. Guilty. But al

100 Times a Day

Today I am grateful for this present moment and the beautiful song I am listening to with ears that can hear well and a heart that feels the range of emotions the song brings. (It is Allison Crowe's live version of  Hallelujah .) It is Thanksgiving Day in America. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Every day is a day for giving thanks. If you wish you put more focus on gratefulness in your own life, if you are looking to incorporate gratitude practice into your routine, make today the day you begin. We blink over 25,000 times a day. Our hearts beat over 100,000 times a day. Consider Albert Einstein's words: A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors  of other people living and dead  and that I must exert myself in order to give in the  full measure I have received and am still receiving. I also wrote about this quote earlier in my blogging days. Read it  here . The first thoughts that come to my mind this morning as I rea

Raving About Giving Thanks

Today I am grateful for all of Sam's current teachers and for good parent-teacher conferences last evening. Yesterday I ranted. Today I rave. Rave about the immeasurable difference regular gratitude practice has made in my life for over two decades. It wasn't necessarily a quick sell, but I am a firm believer now.  A brooding and ruminating pessimist as a child, adolescent, and young adult, I was one of those scoffers I mentioned yesterday. Picking up alcohol at a young age didn't help my perceptions of self and surrounding world. Slowly and surely, keeping a gratitude journal helped me shift my default thinking mode from a negative, energy-zapping stream to a more positive and productive stream. Our brains learn to see more of what we teach it to look for. Reteaching is possible. Default modes can change. My brain and I could be Exhibit A in that discussion. I now have many actions, including this blog, which help me stay on track and provide regular dividends of

Ranting About Giving Thanks

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy for putting up our Christmas tree and holiday lights for us. I am grateful to enjoy these soft lights sitting next to him this morning. But I also have a bone to pick today. Not with my husband. With this whole idea of focusing on gratitude in November and around Thanksgiving. Allow a brief rant from me. I would be the first to say some gratitude is better than no gratitude. Like exercise and eating right, however, if we want the benefits of gratefulness, we must apply the effort regularly. If I only focus on gratitude this time of the year I will be in big trouble. There is too much other time for the negativity and self-pity to creep back in and take over. Granted, we come by this naturally. In earlier times as humans, we had to try to stay alive by being on the lookout for harm and dangerous creatures. As neuropsycholgist Dr. Rick Hanson says in his book Buddha's Brain , "Our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and Te

Blazing New Trails

Today I am grateful for the brothers-and sisters-in law who add much to our family. (Good to connect with you yesterday Bob!) I am also grateful for all of those who made the newest stretch of running/biking trail in our area possible.  The new portion is part of a growing trail system in and around our community and we really appreciate seeing the expansion. We also savor the views of our beautiful river country that these various miles afford us.  This is one of two bridges on the 4-mile stretch of new trail Darcy and I traversed for the first time on Saturday. We did the whole stretch and turned around and went back so we got a good view of all the work that went in to bringing this to fruition. This project took over a year and a half and more than 8 million dollars to complete. Rock had to be blasted, bridges engineered and built, trees cleared, and much, much more. Now, a beautiful stretch of trail is available to thousands of people. What about the projects

Ice Cream: The New Beer

Today I am grateful for morning quiet after a couple windy days. I am also grateful for the ease of electricity and those who make it possible. There has never been a picture of a beer on this blog before and don't expect to see one again any time soon. I was feeling both a little punchy and a little light-hearted as I took this picture. My ice cream. My husband Darcy's beer.  I took the picture Friday evening. It's not unusual for me to get a little twinge of "wish I could have a cold one" on a Friday evening. I spent many, many Friday evenings in my drinking days doing plenty of imbibing. I had always racked up plenty of reasons throughout the week to justify some escape via alcohol. Sometimes I still get a little ticked off when I hear people talking about their glass of wine or a drink after a busy week. Normal drinkers have this luxury. I don't. And by the way, I will never understand normal drinkers. A couple beers and then you're do

Independent Joy

Today I am grateful for the garbage haulers who come each week to pick up our trash and recycling. I am also grateful to those who work to get the food to the grocery stores that I can then conveniently buy there. After writing about things like hills and valleys on my other blog and overcoming suffering on this blog this week, this quote from my favorite Benedictine monk sort of tied it all together: "Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens." Br. David Steindl-Rast      There will be ups and downs in life, triumphs and struggles, highs and lows. But even in the midst of the toughest times, joy is possible. And even in the midst of the best of times, joy can be forgotten. So that leaves the present moment as the key to finding joy. Regardless of outcome, joy can be landed on in any given moment if we pay attention and look here and now. This joy has nothing to do with material goods or circumstances, it has everything to do with how we

That's a Late Bloomer!

Today I am grateful for my fellow BC sisters at our local breast cancer support group and for the laughter shared amidst serious business. The picture below is a clematis along the fence line in our backyard. The picture was taken yesterday--November 16. Now, that's what I call a late bloomer! It has been a very odd fall here weather-wise. The kind of odd that I have fully appreciated and that had me running in shorts and short sleeves pretty recently. The kind where I can have the windows down in my car on my commute home and enjoy the fresh air without freezing. The kind that doesn't come along every year. (If it did, I would be worried about what that means for our global climate.) These blooms are not the full blooms of spring and summer, and the greenery on the rest of the plant is mostly gone. But it is a blossoming flower in November, late in the season. It's tenacious and has some nice color. I'm a late bloomer too. Tenacious. Healthy glow on my

Overcoming Suffering

Today I am grateful for a sunset run with Darcy yesterday and for writing ideas that keep coming. I have always respected Helen Keller's outlook on life. She overcame obstacles and didn't get mired in the muck of self-pity. Both blind and deaf, she saw and heard life at different levels better than many of us with all senses intact could. Simply considering how she took in the world around her helps me slow down and really notice what I am seeing and hearing.  Here is one of her many quotes that I appreciate: "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." If the mosaic I wrote about yesterday only had stones of trials and tribulations, or just stones of triumphs and treasures, the picture created would be dull, lacking the vivid colors of life fully lived. And like it or not, life fully lived will include suffering. We can't avoid it or run from it. That only leads to deeper suffering.   But we also don't


Today I am grateful for coffee and clementines.  I am also grateful for energy to get up and head into a new day, even when I may feel tired or a little disheartened. I heard the word mosaic the other day and it stuck in my thoughts. Beautiful mosaics are created a stone or tile at a time. The entire pattern may already be a vision in the mind of the artist, or it may take shape and come together in unexpected ways. Either way, it is art, created with patience and persistence. And a creative mind. One stone or tile by itself may carry little meaning, but as part of a mosaic it becomes vital. The mosaic would be incomplete without it. Our lives are mosaics, built day by day, experience by experience. We may have goals of what shape our life's mosaic will take, and we can influence it some. Yet, we aren't even providing all the tiles and stones. Many are provided for us. Some bring color, others bring contrast or texture.  And the mortar is pretty much out of our hands,

My Hometown

Today I am grateful for safe travels, time with family, beautiful weather and a new day ahead. Yesterday morning I went for a run, leaving from my mom's place a couple miles from town. Town being my hometown of Ossian, Iowa. I ran into town, down streets, and past homes and businesses. I could tell you who lived in a number of the houses, currently or previously. I could point out what had changed on our main street-which also happens to be U.S. Highway 52-and what had stayed the same. Ossian, a community of about 800, is ever-evolving. As I ran past Carey's Park, I paused to take this picture. The log cabin to the back right in the photo and the top of the grain elevator in the back left have been around longer than I have. The picnic shelter and veteran's memorial are newer, as is the digital sign welcoming us all. It seemed a fitting photo of Ossian, past and present. I am grateful for my hometown. It is surprisingly vibrant and tenacious. I am grateful my f


Today I am grateful for all veterans, past and present, and their service to our country. I am also grateful for our English language and the many wonderful words contained in it. I fully appreciate the following quote, especially the word uncynical. Uncynical. Not pessimistic. Optimistic. "Strive to be uncynical, to be a hope-giving force, to be a steward of substance." Maria Popova  This week has provided ample fodder for cynicism. The election alone was loaded with it. Add to that a low turnout at an event I helped organize and some work cynicism stemming from the state of parenthood today. A draining pessimism was evident. Enter the hope-giving force. A new day. Perspective. They both help. And to be the best steward of substance, simply find the substance in this moment and draw energy from it. That is mindful gratitude. Pause and look for the substance and it is easily found. Air to breathe. Sounds to hear. People to love. Food to eat. Worthwhile task

19 for 19

Today I am grateful for coffee, bananas, and life experience to help bring perspective. Yesterday I had the number 19 on my mind for 19 years since I met Darcy and for the significance of the 19th amendment on a significant election day. So why not a gratitude list of 19?  Here we go: 1. Darcy and our family 2. The home we have, going beyond the four walls 3. Friends in recovery 4. Faith in God/Great Spirit 5. Freedoms enjoyed as an American citizen 6. Almonds for a healthy and hearty snack 7. The professionalism of my colleagues 8. Refreshing peppermint mints 9. Storage space to keep areas tidy 10. Laughter, deep and true 11. The vacillating human energy in a school 12. Being able to vote 13. Polling place volunteers 14. Carry-out pizza 15. My siblings and mom 16. My extended family 17. Being a parent and stepparent 18. Being a grandparent 19. Running with our grandson Leo And here we go into this day, new and interesting. 

Exercise Our Rights, and Our Civility

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our marriage and our lives together with our family. We met nineteen years ago today and my life has changed in so many positive ways. Thank you Darcy! Today is Election Day in America. It has been an unprecedented election season and I won't be commenting on it all. I choose to focus on the excitement of living in a democracy and having the opportunity to exercise my right to vote, I also choose to note the historical nature of this election. There are women alive today, born before 1920 and the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote, who will have the opportunity to vote for a woman for president. If that doesn't strike you as historical, consider it again for a couple minutes. And I wrap up this post with a poem from my sister Aileen. She has done it again with a writing that is right on the mark. Check out her blog "Poetic License: Poetry and Commentary on Current Events" here .  Following i

This Fortune? Comfort Zones

Today I am grateful for my sense of hearing and the many sounds that bring me joy and peace. I am also grateful for the nice weather this weekend and enjoying time outside. I had one last fortune cookie on hand for this morning's post. It was a fun way to approach a few blog posts, mix things up a bit, and to practice writing "on demand." This fortune reads: "Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort."  Amen to that! I need to reach a place of comfort first to feel confident and relaxed enough to fully experience whatever it is that is going on or that I am doing. That alone expands my thoughts and emotions in positive, healthy ways.   But if I get too comfortable in that zone, I get complacent. Things get stagnant and growth stops. Fun stops. Things become more like drudgery or duty.  So pushing beyond my comfort zones may not always be what I want to do, but I know it will help and I will learn more about myself, others, and o

You are all beautiful. Don't ever forget that.

Today I am grateful for a nice visit with my friend Betsy last evening and for our community's downtown improvements. Friday night Darcy and I went to see Culture Club at Treasure Island Casino. Coming of age in the 80's, we both appreciated the group's music. I didn't know what to make of Boy George then, but I know I liked his songs. After seeing him perform live and sharing some conversation with the audience the other night, I appreciate that, like me, he has gained wisdom and insight over the last 30 years. He commented that the group is an oxymoron; making happy-sad music. The human experience is a range of emotions. It has to be. We wouldn't learn or appreciate anything if it were any other way. I am grateful for his musical talent and that of the others who joined him on stage-I counted 12 total. Talented musicians and soulful singers. Here is a more recent image of the main group members: They played all the hits I was hoping to hear, with Karma

And the Third Fortune Says . . .

Today I am grateful for mild November weather and a bike ride yesterday with Darcy. I am also grateful for my eyesight. I've got another fortune cookie and I just opened it. The fortune reads: "Be receptive to new ideas from all fronts." Keep an open mind and a right-sized ego. Those new ideas may come from others, or they may even come from my own mind. From all fronts. An idea or inspiration may come from a place or person least expected. If I am paying attention, and not judging, I am often surprised by what transpires.  The more mindfully present I am, the more my head and heart are open to possibility. Open because they aren't cluttered with overthinking or overanalyzing. They each find peace in pauses and feel the emotion of the here and now. What a gift! Receptive. Able to receive. I can't do this life as a solo act. I need others and a Great Spirit to guide me. I am grateful for all who make a difference in my life. I am deeply blessed

Fortune #2: The Art of Relationship

Today I am grateful for a good first cup of morning coffee and for my job and years of experience there that help me keep perspective. I just tore open my second fortune cookie and here's what I saw: "The art of relationship is all in appreciation."  What a nice set of words to ponder this morning. To ponder as I sit by my husband in our recliners. To ponder as I gear up for another day of work with students and colleagues. To ponder as I look in the mirror. Then the realization strikes. Each day, throughout my day, I am in relationship with everything and everyone I encounter. If I look for the good, I will find it. If I look for things to complain about, I will find them too. A sense of appreciation and awe will lead me to the good, and lead me to a healthier perspective. This is the heart of gratitude practice. It works if I work at it. 

Writing Fortunes

Today I am grateful for the many ways writing enhances my life and my level of gratitude. I am also grateful that this blog has given me much writing practice. Speaking of writing practice, we got some Chinese take out food the other day and got some fortune cookies. I got the idea to do a little on demand writing with them.  Today, I will grab a cookie, open it, read the fortune, and start writing. So here goes . . . today's fortune is: "Do not desire what you do not need."   I have what I need and much more. My basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are met with much convenience and many comforts. I have a fulfilling marriage, family and friends, a job that is both rewarding and challenging. I run and write for fun and for health.  I would like to think I am not all that materialistic, but it is a reminder to keep it simple and to also be a good steward of our earthly resources. There may be gadgets and gizmos to make life even easier for me, but ea

Saints and Seconds

Today I am grateful for morning coffee and songs that honor others and their lives. "Keep it simple" is a good phrase for me to carry through my day.  I can start with this post. Today is All Saints' Day in the Catholic church and some other churches. I work at a Catholic school and we will have a mass today. I appreciate that more now than I did growing up. Then, it was just a day I had to go to church. Now, it is a day to remember family and others who have died. I am especially thinking of my brother-in-law Roger. He died one year ago today, from early onset Lewy Body Dementia. And I am thinking of my dad, and Darcy's grandparents.  Such thoughts remind me to appreciate those living and breathing loved ones I share my life with.  Let go of petty frustrations and remember what and who really matters. Seconds. That is what our lives are comprised of, and sooner or later we all have our last earthly seconds. Seconds are all it takes to stop and breathe and re