Showing posts from September, 2017

Walking in Memory, Running to Honor

Today I am grateful for sleeping in (my version anyway) and for the early morning light as it changes. Today my friend Sheila, her husband Dave, her two sisters, and many others will be doing an "Out of the Darkness" Walk for suicide prevention in Hammond, Indiana, near Chicago. They are supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention . Many other walks are taking place this month for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. They are walking in memory of their daughter and niece, Carli, who died by suicide on April 4. Today would have also been the birthday of Sheila's mom Nell. I believe Carli and her grandma will be present in their own way at the walk, especially in the hearts and minds of their loved ones. Across the miles, I will wear the same button today that those walking in Carli's memory will be wearing: These are words from Carli's obituary: "Despite the best efforts of her family, teachers, and professionals, Carli lost her

Heavy on the Gratefulness

Today I am grateful for laughter shared with others and for a good breakfast of oatmeal and blueberries. There is always plenty of gratitude to be found around marathon time, and there are a couple of reasons this marathon is even weightier in the gratitude department.  The last time we registered to run the Twin Cities Marathon was in early 2008. We signed up in late winter, months before a curve ball came our way. That curve ball was my breast cancer diagnosis. I was undergoing chemotherapy and unable to run that October's event. I very much appreciated the few miles I could do between surgeries and treatments, but there would be no marathon that fall.   Nine years later, I am healthy, able-bodied, with NED (no evidence of disease). I have run more marathons post-cancer (9) than I did before my diagnosis (5). It is still strange for me to think that I ran at least one, and likely several marathons, with cancer in my right breast. I ran the Brookings Marathon in early

A Picture Repeated, Mistakes Not

Today I am grateful for a few minutes to pause and meditate this morning. I am also grateful for the values my parents instilled in my siblings and I as children. This will be the first time Darcy and I are running a marathon for the second time. The first time we ran the Twin Cities Marathon was in 2006, our third overall. We were 41 and had trained hard and set time goals faster than our previous ones. I was wondering if I had a sub-4:00 marathon time in me, and I did speed and tempo training (my version of them anyway) to better help me shoot for that goal. It was a warm day on October 1, 2006, though the first miles of the marathon were still cool. I came in under two hours for the first 13.1 and felt like my goal of a sub-four hour marathon was possible. Then I bonked. I had gone out too fast. I was probably dehydrated and I cramped up (which felt like chest pains really and scared me a bit). I walked a full mile between miles 20 and 21, then was able to resume running/walki

The Footfalls of Gratitude and Fortitude

Today I am grateful for my abilities to read and write and for those who first taught me to do both. As I consider heading to the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, it helps to have the experience of 14 previous marathons behind me. It also helps to consider what can be done stride by stride, mile by mile. There have been tough stretches on training runs and in some of our previous marathons, but I have never been let down by the simple power of one step in front of the other, one footfall followed by another. Even if there may be pain or exhaustion or difficult emotions involved. Fortitude moves me forward. It is a life lesson well applied to all other areas of my life, day after day. (Though I also could work on stopping to rest more too.) One of my favorite websites for encouragement to live gratefully is . In early 2013, they held a contest as follow-up to the release of Brother David Steindl-Rast's latest book 99 Blessings . Read abou

Easily Pleased

Today I am grateful for cooler weather and some rain for our lawn and gardens. I am also grateful for the people who share their recovery wit and wisdom with me and others. This short quote says plenty in nine words: "The key to knowing joy is being easily pleased."    (Mark Nepo) We live in a society and culture that tells us we can buy things to please us. That we can find the perfect person to marry and please us. That we are entitled to a good life. Yet, if we spend all of our time looking outside ourselves for what pleases us, we will be frustrated at the least and addicted at the most. I think Mark Nepo is asking us to return to ourselves and the simple joys of just being, the joys in the present moment. We can appreciate others and how they help us know peace and contentment, but if we can't find that peace and contentment within, we are hard pressed to consistently find it elsewhere. This may sound contradictory, but for me to know peace within, and

Marathon Week!

Today I am grateful for the truth spoken by my husband. I am also grateful for my sense of hearing and the music I am enjoying at this moment. We have arrived at our marathon week for this year. This Sunday, October 1, Darcy and I will head to the starting line with thousands of other runners for the Twin Cities Marathon. Each year, I get an excitement and anticipation as the marathon nears, and the last few days especially so. If I didn't get excited, I would have to consider why I am doing another 26.2 mile challenging trek. That hasn't happened yet. We have had a good training season and the weather was especially cooperative on most of our long training runs. That is very helpful. Really tough 20-milers aren't as motivational as less tough ones. We ran two organized half marathons and were pleased with both. We have done what we can to prepare our legs and the rest of our bodies for the physical aspects. Experience helps us prepare mentally, emotionally, and spi

Early Fall

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our marriage, and the time and effort we both give to keeping it healthy and happy.  I have also been really grateful for the comfort of air conditioning in recent days.  We have had unseasonably hot and humid conditions this last week, so I totally missed the fact that fall had officially arrived. I love the changing seasons overall, and appreciate that my life spent living in the upper Midwest has always come with a variety of weather.  There is something to look forward to for each season and something I am ready to say goodbye to for the current season. Fall would have to be my favorite. Cool, crisp air after heat and humidity. The variety of colors. Smells and sounds that herald the end of the growing season.  This picture was taken yesterday morning, a quick stop on our run. It is one of my favorite places to watch the changing seasons unfold. Near the Mississippi River and accessible only by trail, the fall colors are al

A Grateful Day--Please Watch This Stunning Video

Today I am grateful for the sounds of other people's voices, voices that soothe me and remind me I am loved. I am also grateful for the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast. Brother David's soothing voice speaks throughout  A Grateful Day  video here. It is a video that is beautiful in every sense of the word. You may have seen an earlier version of this video. This is a brand new version, just released yesterday for World Gratitude Day. It is 5 minutes long and I encourage you to take those minutes sometime today to sit and give full attention and all of your senses to this stunning piece. Share it with family, friends, coworkers. Watch it again. Below are some lines pulled from the first minute or so of the video. Pick one and focus on it today. Or carry them all with you. Enjoy this day for the gift that it is. "It's not just another day. It is the one day that is given to you. Today." "The only appropriate response is gratefulness." &

World Gratitude Day is Today, Every Day

Today I am grateful for the valuable lessons I have learned as I try to live each day gratefully. I am also grateful for the convenience of cereal for breakfast and all who helped make that possible for me. Today is World Gratitude Day. It's been around as long as I have, but I had never heard of it until two years ago. Here  is a post I wrote about it then. A date to focus on gratitude can be a good starting point, and if you're fortunate, maybe it will become a habit. That is what happened to me. I started keeping a gratitude journal at the suggestion of my good friend and spiritual advisor Terrie. I wasn't feeling all that grateful when I started, but slowly that changed. It has made all the difference in my life, as I continue to live gratefully, to share gratitude, to train my mind to look for the good, rather than the downside. Changing our perceptions truly can change our world. I am not a big fan of this special day or that special day. If it's important

Kneel Down

Today I am grateful for connections with others in recovery that help me keep doing the daily work I need to do. I am also grateful for the team of teachers I get to work closely with at school. This quote about kneeling down caught my attention because it is something I try to do daily: "A desire to kneel down sometimes pulses through my body, or rather it is as if my body has been meant and made for the act of kneeling. Sometimes, in moments of  deep gratitude, kneeling down becomes an overwhelming urge, head deeply bowed, hands before my face." ( Etty Hillesum) I can't really say the urge to kneel down pulls at me this strongly, at least not most days. But I have learned the value of kneeling down to pray, to give thanks, to take a quiet moment. I find it humbling and comforting. It reminds me I am neither alone, nor in charge of the world.  Here is a post titled "Practice"  that I wrote in March of 2015 that also talks about the humbling a

Changing Stories and Perceptions

Today I am grateful for trustworthy friends and shared laughter. I am also grateful for the wisdom that  we can draw on from years of experience--whether it be work, marriage, life. As I continue to reflect on 1700 blog posts and what the experience of this blog has taught me and shown me, this quote bears repeating: "Change the story and  you change perception; change perception and you change the world." Jean Houston My story and perceptions were comprised of narrow-minded self-pity and inhibitions for the first two decades of my life. Both started to change when I got sober at age 24. If I hadn't stopped drinking, my story could have been cut short. It was the grace of a Great Spirit that helped me survive excessive drinking, drunk driving, and depressed thinking.  Sobriety was a start, but the perception changing has taken longer. Recovery practices help in many ways, and one of the most effective practices has been gratitude practice, living gratefully

17 Seventeens for 1700 Posts

Today I am grateful for all the parks and playgrounds in our community and time to spend with our grandson Leo at some of them yesterday. When I hit publish on this post in a few minutes, it will mark post #1700 for "Habitual Gratitude." It has become an enjoyable tradition for me to mark each century mark here. It is also a reminder of how taking a leap of faith into the blogosphere in late March of 2012 has led to deeper gratitude and a more humbled and satisfied writer. In honor of my 1700th post, here are 17 seventeens. When I think of the number 17, the first thing that comes to mind is my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008.  I will start there. 1. My first surgery, a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, took place on July 17, 2008, after weeks of waiting and fear. These were some of the toughest weeks of my life. 2. On July 23, after that first surgery, I wrote out 17 thank you notes to family and friends who had offered me kindnesses in many ways. I didn't pla

Stormy Weather and a Word Wrap-Up, Courtesy of Aileen

Today I am grateful for cooler air and less humidity after a warm week. I am also grateful for the thousands of words available for us to use, from simple and mundane to profound and unique. Twice yesterday we nearly missed getting rained on. On our early morning run, and later at the park with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily. I think about all the people impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. How some got spared and some got hit really hard. Life is like that. Narrow misses, direct hits, glancing blows, and staggering upheavals. All the more reason to appreciate the calm that can be had in the present moment.  My A-Z trip through some emotionally-laden words was enjoyable and thought-provoking. My sister Aileen and I were just talking about it yesterday. How words are fun to play with, explore in our writings, and some just roll off the tongue in their own special way-words like flummoxed and xenodochial. So as I took my journey, the writer in her took this poetic journey:

TGIF Revisited

Today I am grateful for my hands and fingers and feet and toes. They all work and they all help me plenty throughout my day. There is something to be said for a Friday after a full week of work and meetings and games and school open house. TGIF. Fridays definitely have a different feel and I appreciate that. TGIF can also be the "Thank God I'm forgiven" that I wrote about in this post  four years ago. And I am adding a new TGIF to the mix:  The Gratefulness I Find when I look for it.  What we practice becomes stronger.  We can literally train our brains to become better at finding the gratitude in a day. My training continues. It's a marathon, not a sprint. I am enjoying the view, step by step. 

Unbroken Gratitude

Today I am grateful for my marriage to Darcy, our home together, and our growing family. I am grateful that our new grandson Aaron is eating and sleeping well. It all sure makes him adorable. Special birthday wishes today to my brother Neal and my sister Leonice. Enjoy your special day you two! They were born on the same day seven years apart. What are the odds? I guess higher when there are 13 of you. Leonice is done with her 6 rounds of chemotherapy and will be starting radiation in the coming weeks. I remember my first birthday after my cancer diagnosis. Talk about mixed emotions! Thinking of you. My emotional journey through the alphabet has come to an end, but I am still wrapping it up in ways. On the day I wrote about "yucky," I had some yucky moments. Emotional, hormonal, edgy, the wrong kind of zippy. But the next day was a new day, as they happen to be, and I felt better. One of the unpleasant things that happened that yucky day was dropping and breaking the co


Today I am grateful for an easy breakfast of overnight oatmeal and fruit. I am also grateful for God's sense of humor (though often not right away). Let's wrap up the A-Z list of feelings with another fun word: zippy . Full of zip, very quick or speedy, strikingly fresh, lively, appealing in style. As a writer, I appreciate the word and I feel zippy on a good writing day. The words come, the sentences take shape, the purpose clarifies. Hopefully the reader feels it too after reading my words. Some of my runs are zippy, during and after the run itself. I am not talking speed here, I am referring to feeling fully alive and energized. Zippy. If I am honest, I do admit that I can be zippy as a driver. Sometimes I do speed, and I have been caught at it more than once. It's a good way to practice slowing down and mindfulness-being an obedient and respectful driver taking reasonable time to get from point A to point B. And though I don't consider myself very fashiona


Today I am grateful for my sense of taste and the way my first cup of coffee tasted smooth and warm this morning. I am also grateful for fellow recovery friends to help me stay out of my own head. Yucky . Anyone feeling yucky today?  Unpleasant. Disagreeable. Sometimes I feel yucky myself. Often my own choices got me there. Maybe too much sugar or too much food in general. Maybe not enough sleep, or not showering soon enough after a run. Yucky isn't pleasant, but it is usually short-lived. Sometimes things can look yucky. Eeewww! Being a farm girl who saw and smelled a wide variety of pleasant and unpleasant things on the farm, I am not overly sensitive to yucky looking or smelling things, but I also don't go looking for them. I can get yucky in my head too, though I usually use words like overthinking or overanalyzing or spinning. It all amounts to the same--leaving me unpleasant and disagreeable to the people I am around. My family gets the brunt of my yuckiness and lov


Today I am grateful for my five senses and that they all work. I am also grateful for motivation to be healthy. I considered just passing by the letter "x" on my way to wrapping up my A-Z list of words about feelings, but that really isn't fair. And I always end up intrigued to learn something new, even if it is a word I may have never used before or will rarely use again. So when I came across xenodochial , I thought to myself here's a word we need right now. Xenodochial means to be friendly to strangers. This is not flying in the face of the "don't talk to strangers" that we emphasize to our young children for their safety. This is about the other humans walking this human path on this earth that we come into contact with each day. Some may have familiar faces. Some we have never seen before. But they are all people worthy of simple kindness and respect.  A smile and hello go a long way. We have become more fearful and isolated in ways, even as


Today I am grateful for safe travels and a return home for my husband Darcy and for a good night's sleep after a very full week. Worried seems like a fitting feeling today as so many wait, wonder, and worry about the impact of Hurricane Irma. Irma has already left behind huge devastation and taken numerous lives. Recovery from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath continue. Wildfires burn in several areas in the western United States. Worrying about fires and hurricanes is legitimate worry. It's necessary worry. If people weren't worried, they wouldn't get themselves and loved ones out of harm's way. They wouldn't pitch in and help others more directly affected. The people who are living out these very real situations and circumstances are in my thoughts and prayers as I sit on my patio on a pleasant morning with a gentle breeze. The power of nature and the lack of power of humans is a humbling reminder of our frailty, but also our resilience. There's a


Today I am grateful for the human capacity to help one another. I receive so much from others in so many ways. I am grateful for the opportunities I will have today to give back. V is for vibrant . There are many ways to define vibrant. Full of energy, enthusiastic, bright, bold, passionate are just a few. Vibrant seems to be a word more often applied to colors and sounds that it is to human emotions, but they go together don't they? I am an introvert, so I don't see myself as outwardly showing my enthusiasm and energy. Yet, I think others would describe me as positive and upbeat, so it does come through. The key is to feed our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies so that the vibrancy emerges. Doing what I love makes me feel vibrant and fully alive. Out on a run. As the lines of a poem flow freely out of my head on to paper or screen. Taking the hand of our little grandsons. Living gratefully feeds all of the things I need to feed to feel bold and passionate about starting


Today I am grateful for the energy within the walls of a school, and the people who feed that energy.  I am also grateful for a good cup of coffee this morning. Understood . I believe we all desire to feel understood. Validated. Heard. Feeling understood connects us to others, creates lasting bonds, brings comfort. In order to understand, we need to listen. We cannot be heard if we aren't listened to. We cannot hear others, truly hear them, unless we are giving them our full attention. Both ears. Our eyes. Our mind. Our heart. Only then, do we really take in their words and the other nonverbal that also speak to us in deeper ways than words alone can. Humans were built to listen to one another, but I am concerned how our world today, especially in our age of advanced technology and multiple non-human screens, seems to lack listening skills. I am guilty of this like anyone else, but I try to be in tune to it. Put the phone down. Look up from the computer screen. Stop thinkin


Today I am grateful for friends I trust and who listen. I am also grateful for the ways in which Darcy and I connect and communicate. Today's word is tolerant . Accepting. Open. Willing. For me, being tolerant has to start with myself. I have been more intolerant to myself than anyone else over the years. Can you relate? The work I do in daily recovery from alcoholism, and my efforts to live gratefully help a great deal in making me more tolerant of myself and the world around me. But it must extend beyond me. Am I open to different opinions and ideas? Am I open to hearing from someone I don't especially agree with or feel comfortable with? Am I willing to let go of preconceived notions and see what happens? Our society needs more tolerance, our world needs it. There is so much fear feeding the intolerance and hatred. What are we so afraid of? We are all human and we have more in common than we don't. Acts of kindness, or at least simple acceptance and quiet, c


Today I am grateful for time with recovery friends and for the gift of a new day. Today's word is satisfied . It means contented or pleased. Those sound like healthy feelings to attain. In my active alcoholism and early sobriety, I suffered from perpetual dissatisfaction. I was never enough--whatever the standard I was comparing myself to or expecting of myself. Life was never what I hoped, my reflection in the mirror was far from satisfying, and on and on. I still have bouts of dissatisfaction, but they don't last. Instead, they serve as an emotional barometer telling me I could use some acceptance, patience, gratitude, a break. It seems that satisfied has become a word that is expected by many in many ways. Satisfaction guaranteed. Keep the customer satisfied. In our society today, some have moved beyond simply being content or pleased. They have become demanding and feel entitled. They want the satisfaction without the effort. And they are each of us in some ways. T


Today I am grateful for the conversations I have had with siblings in recent days and for the recovery from alcoholism that is available to me a day at a time. I took my last drink of alcohol on September 3, 1989. Just a couple beers. Just. Those same beers had been my best friend and most formidable foe for 10 years. The next day began long-term sobriety that continues to this day, day by day. It has made all the difference. It is one of my deepest sources of gratitude. It is what motivates me to write, run, love, give back. I was born on July 6, 1965. I was given a second chance at life beginning September 4, 1989. A second chance after many nights that could have ended all chances, ended my life. A second chance after feeling deep despair and that there was no way out. A second chance I have tried to honor, day by day. Recovery is not a given. Daily effort for a daily disease. Complacency can be dangerous. Late bloomer and slow learner that I am, it took time for key messages


Today I am grateful for the variety of words I get to create with and around. I am also grateful for the pleasant weather yesterday for Darcy and I to do our last 20-mile training run before our marathon. Even after that long run, I am feeling replenished today. Renewed. Recharged. Restored. There are many people and activities in my life that replenish me each day. Running, writing, and living gratefully take some energy, but restore far more energy than they take. Within each of these activities, I become absorbed in the present. Being full of fear and worrying about the past or the future drains me. Feeding my body, mind, heart, and soul in the present moment with footfall after footfall, word after word, grateful pause after grateful pause, sustains me. The love and support I experience and feel from many family members and friends, the laughter and the tears we share, the conversations we engage in, are also very replenishing. I am blessed with many people who help me recha


Today I am grateful for the changing light as dawn arrives, and for the few minutes I can enjoy this change as I sit on our front patio. Happy birthday wishes to my friend and co-worker Kelly today. Welcome to your forties! Today I choose quiet . Is quiet a feeling?  I believe so. Quiet can be experienced and felt. It can be absorbed and appreciated. Quiet is an important part of my day. At least I strive to make it so. I usually get good doses of quiet in the early mornings and that helps set the tone for my day. But quiet can be elusive and fleeting, so I continue to seek it throughout my day. When I remember. That is when quiet as a feeling is helpful. If I am feeling frazzled and overthinking, I am not quiet. If I want to return to calm quiet, I need to pause, to refocus. It can still be noisy and busy around me. Most importantly, I pause to quiet my own self, mind, heart, soul. I may pause in a brief prayer. Or take a mindful minute to breathe in and breathe out. Or lite