Showing posts from February, 2018

Proud Native Iowan!

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and his reminders to me to stretch after sitting for a time and to not take myself too seriously. Thanks Oliver. I am also grateful for my dad, Arthur, on this day, his birthday. His legacy lives on in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We miss you Dad and we thank you. And speaking of Dad and family, I am a proud native Iowan this morning, in the wake of my home state topping U.S. News and World Report's  list of this year's "Best States."  Read about it here. (Please note Cyclone fans: I am not necessarily partial to the Hawkeyes, but these were the images I found first in my Google search.) I spent my first 33 years as an Iowa resident and I will always be an "Iowa girl" at heart. I am feeling pretty good about my current state of residence too. Minnesota was right behind Iowa at #2. Iowans and our state have been the brunt of many jokes and redneck references, but we don't mind bec


Today I am grateful for our coffee pot and what it delivers for my morning routine. I am also grateful for the bright and mild sunshine I had time to take a walk in after work yesterday afternoon. As I drove home from work before I took that walk,  I realized I was feeling dis couraged, dis illusioned, dis heartened. I am guessing you all have days like that too, related to work or other areas of your life. They aren't fun, and they are draining. My job will leave me feeling this way more often than I prefer, but I also always have a choice. I can choose what I take on and what I let go of in terms of thoughts and emotions. I can remain rational and reasonable and remember what is my part and what is not. I can return to my priorities--family, friends, recovery/faith, running, writing. And interwoven in all of those priorities is a sense of gratefulness. Living gratefully takes practice, takes daily habits. I am very well aware that my years of practice pay dividends back on

What are you? A human being.

Today I am grateful for fresh air, working limbs, food in our refrigerator, and meals shared as a family. I also appreciate that, even in the racially homogenous rural farm country I grew up in, I was shown and taught the dignity of all humans, all living things. And that I was instilled with some level of tolerance and open-mindedness. Not that my parents addressed diversity all that much, but that means they also didn't talk down about others either, regardless of race, beliefs, etc. My mother's well-worn phrase of "If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all" sounds far less trite and far more wise to me in my adulthood than in did in my youth. Our world, our nation, and the grassroots level of our communities are in need of this reminder of human dignity, tolerance, open-mindedness. The reminder that we who share this planet are far more alike than we are different. On Saturday, Darcy and I attended an event to honor our community

A Couple of Thrivers

Today I am grateful for how modern technology connects us in positive ways. I am also grateful for my seven sisters and five brothers and our perspectives on life--both how they are similar and how they are different. The modern technology I appreciate is the kind that allows us to easily share pictures and videos across the miles. Our grandson Aaron reached the milestone of 6 months old yesterday. He lives four hours away with his parents Arthur and Alyssa. So getting treated to pictures like this one and videos of his latest escapades are especially cherished. Aaron is clearly content and thriving. He has a healthy appetite, is reaching more and more physical milestones which will soon make him mobile, and makes baby sounds and laughs in adorable ways. If you want a point of comparison, check out this post from mid-October,  Pondering Life , that shows Aaron at 2 months old.  We miss seeing you regularly Aaron, but we are so thankful you are doing well and that we see

Shaky Flakes

Today I am grateful for overnight oatmeal as a quick and healthy breakfast and for the opportunities I get each day to make a difference in the lives of students, colleagues, and parents. Yesterday I carried with me the idea of existing in a "more tender, shaky kind of place" as suggested by Pema Chodron. It brought me increased awareness, one of the most valuable rewards of pausing mindfully. It brought more compassion to my demeanor and approach. I noticed the tender and shaky sound of a bird singing in late winter. They sound more confident in the spring. I paid attention to the icy walkways under my feet. My steps were more deliberate and slow. I am not one to tempt fate. As the day went on, I had several opportunities to witness and be sensitive to a wide range of feelings other people were expressing and exhibiting. Feelings, in their raw and real state, are some of life's biggest gifts and teachers. And then I went for a run outside after work, just as some

A Tender, Shaky Kind of Place

Today I am grateful for the women in our local breast cancer support group and my comfort level with them. I am also grateful that Darcy is making my breakfast this morning. This is a link to  a post about Pema Chodron  from April of 2015. In it, I write about old habits and fears and working to replace them, ideas in one of Chodron's books. It comes down to openminded kindness really. Toward others, ourselves, the environment that surrounds us. This is a reminder that I need daily. Staying mindfully present with an open heart are the keys to experiencing life fully. She furthers these suggestions in this quote: "Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live." Gray areas for black and white thinkers, for all-or-nothing

Big City

Today I am grateful for songs that come through my ears but reach my whole body. I am also grateful for letting go and resting instead of continuing to push. You saw "Big City" coming didn't you, after Monday's "Bright Lights" post? New York City is by far the largest city in the United States, with over 8.5 million residents. The entire metropolitan area around NYC has over 20 million people, with roughly 1 in 16 Americans living in this urban area. The mind-boggling part is that neither NYC or the metro area hit the list of the 10 largest cities in the world. Tokyo, Japan tops that list with over 24 million people, and 34 million in its metropolitan area.  I will stick to my small community and appreciate being just a short distance from wide open farm land. One of the most captivating things to me during my brief visit to New York City was the view of the skyline. Here is Lower Manhattan from our ferry as we headed to Ellis Island on Saturday:

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today I am grateful for my working limbs and senses. And I am especially grateful for my mom today as she celebrates her 87th birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! This card fits. Understated, not about the glitz and glam. Flowers and green, two things you have always appreciated tending and viewing.  As I ponder these working limbs and senses of mine, I consider how yours are on the decline. Your arthritic hands get more gnarled and bent. Your balance gets more questionable. Your eyes and ears still work, but nothing like they used to. Happy Birthday Mom. How does it feel to be 87?  How does it feel to celebrate your first birthday in the nursing home? Mixed emotions? That is what I am feeling for you from my vantage point as your youngest daughter and #11 of 13. Happy Birthday Mom! Your brood of 13 has expanded to a family that numbers will over 100 now. You have many well wishes coming your way on this day. I am grateful for your general overall health and that your new

Bright Lights

Today I am grateful for safe travels and the chance to experience New York City for the first time. I am also grateful for my fellow chaperones and the students who helped me see things through different perspectives. A special thank you to our lead teacher Judy and all the work she puts in to plan and lead this trip, and to my fellow chaperones Kelley, Ben, Mallory, Jess, and Mitch. New York City and the surrounding area is an amazing place and has so much to see and take in. It was overwhelming at times, and one thing that struck me was the light. Lots of light. The lights of the skyline from the 86th floor observation deck at the Empire State Building on our first night, with One World Trade Center in the middle: Or some of the multitude of bright and flashing lights that make Times Square both a beacon and a trap for travelers, shoppers, and locals and visitors alike who want to experience the true hustle and bustle of NYC: From my window seat on our return fligh

Twenty Years of Valentine's Days

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our love, our marriage, our lives together. I am also grateful for the ways I have been able to move from self-hatred to self-love. Last year's post  Mr. Valentine  summed up things pretty well regarding my thoughts and feelings toward my Valentine. And  Happy Valentine's Day  was my first  February 14 post on  Habitual Gratitude five years ago. Today's post is about Darcy and I marking twenty years of Valentine's Days together with a little stroll down memory lane to the first Valentine's Day that we shared, back in 1998. We met in early November of 1997, while living two hours apart and in two different states. Before long, we were spending our weekends together. It just so happened that Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday that year, so we got to spend it together. We got dressed up and went out to eat at a nice Italian place in Sioux Falls. I wore a new outfit that Darcy gave me, and we both wore the smiles and


Today I am grateful for our grandsons and the perspective they give us. I am also grateful for the REST I had last night. I stopped and went to bed earlier than usual, and it helped. Like my friend Betsy and her focus word of REST, JOY is the word my friend Jill brought to a recent conversation. In coming off of a tough year in 2017 that saw much pain and many challenges for people I care about, and also brought me some job-related stress as well as minor, but noticeable, physical health issues, JOY is a good reminder, a good focus. Some random thoughts on JOY: *"Don't squeeze the joy out." Each day, each hour provides joy for the taking. Notice it. * Joylets, as my sister Aileen calls them, can be as simple as the smell of fresh air or seeing the stars in the sky. *The joy in forgiveness is real. Whether forgiving others, being forgiven by them, or forgiving ourselves, there is joy in the unburdening and the compassion needed to forgive. *The joy in a bite


Today I am grateful for laughter, a clean house, and a cheap car wash. Our vehicles were all pretty dirty after several rounds of snow, up and down temperatures, and road spray. It got to where I just needed to get some of the grime off my car and feel like my windows were at least providing me full visibility. So for the cost of one automatic car wash, I took each of our three vehicles to the old-fashioned do-it-yourself wash. No sense spending too much, because it won't last long anyway. Besides, I enjoyed the chance to do this for the family vehicles as my way of pitching in yesterday morning. By the afternoon, I took time for another run outside. I appreciated a honk and a wave from my son Sam as he drove by me when I was out running. It's nice to be acknowledged by a newly-licensed driver. I had a full and busy day for other reasons yesterday too, but went to bed early and slept pretty well. I got some rest. My friend Betsy has been focusing on the word REST, and

Nothing But Blue Sky

Today I am grateful for a nice dinner out with my husband Darcy last evening and for good luck finding some needed items when I was shopping. Itching for both a run and some fresh air, I layered up yesterday morning and headed out in the near-zero temperatures. It was a most welcome run. I retuned home invigorated, and also a little frosty. It was a beautiful, clear blue sky morning. It got me thinking about the "nothing but blue sky" cliche we hear. Below is a bona fide picture of nothing but blue sky. I took it after my run, standing in our driveway. Blue has long been my favorite color. Yesterday's early morning sky was a deeper blue that became a little hazier and some light clouds moved in as the day went on. Some days the blue sky remains from dawn to dusk, and some days we don't see blue at all. I don't kid myself that it will be "nothing but blue skies from now on."  But I do appreciate the blue when I see it, and like I had to do yest

Some Graham Crackers and a Memory

Today I am grateful for my ears and ability to hear, for my eyes and ability to see, for clean air to breathe, and on a simpler note, for graham crackers. Graham crackers are an old standby. I may forget about them for months and then go on a stretch where I eat them for months. My boys and I are on a roll these days. We always have a box on hand and we’ll all enjoy some as a go-to snack. They can help me calm a sweet craving without feeling like I really blew it, like a pint of ice cream would. I like them with peanut butter or just plain. But I especially like them with milk, and will dip them in the milk for the full experience. Graham crackers. Tasty. Simple. Affordable. Effective. A good food to keep available in our house. There’s another way to enjoy graham crackers that is a little more decadent--with frosting. Pleasant childhood memories come up when I think about frosted graham crackers. Birthdays were simple celebrations then, and there's nothing wrong with that. I

"I like your coat."

Today I am grateful for friendly wrestling parents to visit with at matches and for the many flavors and varieties of yogurt available. We made a stop at the grocery store last evening for a couple of things, and the young woman who rung up my items said "I like your coat."  I said something about liking it too, and that it had convenient pockets. She said she had one like it but had outgrown it. She was looking for a new one like it. I have been looking for a new coat too, as I have had this one for several years. It's a good quality Columbia jacket and one of my best finds at the now defunct local consignment store. I haven't had any luck finding a suitable replacement, so maybe I will just hang on to this one through another season. I was thinking about this coat as I arrived home and hung it up in our closet. It joined numerous other jackets, sweatshirts, and coats that we have hanging in there. I arrived at a place of feeling deeply blessed. Blessed by my f

Hushed Expectation

Today I am grateful for my sense of smell and my other four senses and what they allow me to experience in my immediate surroundings. I am also grateful for the mindfulness techniques I am encouraged to try. Here is one suggested by Brother David Steindl-Rast: "May you grow still enough to hear the stir of a single snowflake in the air, so that  your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation."  Hearing snowflakes?  I can feel them and see them, but hear them?  I think what Brother David is suggesting is we can hear the silence and appreciate that. And then we may actually hear the smaller, quieter sounds that usually get crowded out. We got a little light snow last night, so I was out shoveling while the last flakes wrapped up. I paused and listened for the stirring of that single snowflake. I saw the glint of flakes in the streetlight. I felt one gently land on the corner of my eye as I looked up. I heard the silence, even though I also heard the sounds of

Don't Get Ahead of, or Behind, Yourself

Today I am grateful for the quietude and stars on an early morning walk with our dog Oliver. I am also grateful for hooded sweatshirts and how cozy I feel in them. One of the reasons I began intentionally practicing gratitude and why I continue to live gratefully is that I tended to spend too much time in my head. Not a real shocker-but a true realization I need to keep returning to for motivation. Time in fear, worry, remorse. In other words, time in yesterday or tomorrow. Time in last hour or three hours from now. Time not present and paying attention, right here, right now. It's all about the energy. If I am not focused on the present, I am wasting energy. The present gets my energy whether I am fully here or not. The past has already gotten my energy. It is done. The future doesn't need my energy yet. So if I am thinking about the past or the future while trying to exist in the present, I am misappropriating my energy. And I am coming to accept as I age that I don'

Who and What I Would Miss . . .

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily yesterday, and for the technology that allows us to see our other grandson Aaron across the miles. I started my own list yesterday, stemming from what I wrote about in my post , of who and what I would miss if they were no longer here: -Warm clothes to wear on a bitterly cold day, protecting me from frostbite and the pain of a biting wind. -Our dog Oliver and his predictable presence in various places around the house throughout the day. -My husband Darcy and our communication on the mundane things like meals to the heartfelt things like how we feel about our jobs decades into our respective careers. -A house to clean. It is warm and solid, and full of family stuff and also conveniences. I have floors and carpet to vacuum. -The rare friends who I trust with anything and everything going on in my life, my head, and my heart. To have one is a huge blessing, to have more than one is deeply humbling. And knowing t

The Second Time This Week

Today I am grateful for money with which to buy groceries and cleaning supplies. I am also grateful for a more calm, less frustrating approach to a work task I have currently. After a midweek post this week about  Door Closings , there was a second door that we were sad to see close yesterday. Our local Target store, five minutes from our house, closed the doors for good last night. We made one last stop there yesterday, along with many others who seemed to be doing the same thing. We won’t go without the items we used to buy at this store, we’ll just have to shop elsewhere. It’s more a sentimental thing. It opened early in 2000, the year that we moved to town. Eighteen years of convenience and quality. Life goes on. The  Empty Shelves  I wrote about a couple weeks ago were even fewer and emptier yesterday. This picture says it all: We took our Target Store for granted most of the time, appreciating it but assuming it would always be there. Am I doing that with people and

Belonging to Nature

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our son Sam, and the opportunity to prepare some breakfast for them. I am also grateful for some writing in my recliner this morning. It is good timing to come across this quote when it is early February in Minnesota: "If we belong to the sun and its warmth, to the bud and the sprout, to the miraculous flower,  we also belong to the wind, the naked branch, the cold." (Fabiana Fondevila) It hasn't been a terrible winter this year, but it has certainly been typical with the ups and downs of temperature and the snowfalls from nuisance ones to plowable ones. We've had a lot of roller coaster weather this winter, which is frustrating, but also welcome. I would rather have just a couple days of below zero temperatures rather than a two-week stretch of them. But when the temperature fluctuates say 40-50 degrees in less than 48 hours, it is a bit of a challenge. Our naked tree branches have been adorned with beau

Persistent Prayer

Today I am grateful for coffee mugs with messages and for the food options available to me. As I drove past one of the churches in town recently, I noticed the sign outside said "Persistent Prayer." It was  referring to this coming Sunday's sermon topic, but perhaps I can write about it a couple days early. My first thought was how the ideas of "habitual gratitude" and "persistent prayer" complement one another. Persistent gratitude and habitual prayer work just as well really.  If I am not purposeful and consistent in my efforts to live gratefully and to pray regularly, I don't appreciate the peace and positive energy they can create and help me channel. It can be hard to maintain good habits, to be persistent and keep doing what we know is best for us, what we should be doing. Let's cut ourselves some slack. Let's find a middle ground. We may falter on some days, but on other days we are clicking on all cylinders. Practice makes pro

Door Closings

Today I am grateful for taking a simple task mindful moment by mindful moment this morning. I am also grateful for the years of shopping and many good finds I made at our local consignment store. I learned less than two weeks ago that the store I just mentioned was closing, and that yesterday, 1/31, would be the last day for the store. So I made a point to get there. I wrote a little thank you note to the owner and brought her some chocolates. We were on a first-name basis after all these years, well over 15, of me shopping there. We don’t really know each other well, but I know her well enough to know that I appreciated her business and her friendly and helpful way whenever we crossed paths. Clearly I am not the only one who appreciated the store. As we spoke, another long-time customer came in for one last look around. And as I left, two more women came in, one with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Cheryl and her store made a difference. Times have changed. Doors close. Peop