Showing posts from May, 2018

What's in a name?

Today I am grateful for my job and the people I work with, from young students to experienced veterans. I am also grateful for the steps I can take today. Last evening I had the honor of reading the names of 97 graduates in the 8th grade class at my school.   I have had various duties at 8th grade graduation over the 18 years in my position as Middle School Counselor, but last night was the first time it was my job to properly pronounce and pleasantly pace the reading of names of 97 unique and emerging young men and women. Some I have gotten to know well over the 1, 2, or 3 years I have worked with them. Others I don't know well at all. But I know their names, and I know I care about their days and experience as part of our school. They see me in the halls often and hear me greet them by name often. Don't underestimate the power in these simple gestures, in a school hallway or anywhere. As I practiced ahead of time and then for the real deal last evening, I was struck by

Between the Cracks of Normalcy

Today I am grateful for a helpful conversation with my friend Sheila and for cooler air after a hot and humid stretch. A recent "Word for the Day" at   reads "Gratitude is exultation awaiting between the cracks of normalcy."   (Frederic Potter) What a rich word exultation is. Joy, pleasure, rejoicing, happiness, exuberance, jubilation, delight, glee, exhilaration. We could all use more of that. And there is more, in the little things. We sell ourselves, each other, and our world short when we buy the lie that everyday is mundane, that we need bigger and better to be more satisfied. The exultation is in the little things, the daily gifts, the moments of profound connection with nature, another person, ourselves. So between the cracks of normalcy I found exuberance and joy in things such as: -Cool air on sweaty skin after a good workout -A sip of coffee at the perfect temperature -The light of sunrise and a breeze playing together on

400,000 Gone, I Am Still Here: Marking 10 Years

Today I am grateful for the family time enjoyed over the weekend, working air conditioning, and the opportunities that each day presents us to embrace life fully. Ten years ago today I received the news that the biopsy I had two days prior did indeed test positive for cancer. Two kinds of cancer; ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC). Three surgeries, 4 rounds of chemo, and 8 years on Tamoxifen created plenty of physical and emotional damages and challenges. But I am still here. Physically active and satisfied as I near age 53. Emotionally stable for the most part. Mentally not paralyzed by fear, and somewhat spiritually fit, in large part because of the work I do for ongoing recovery from alcoholism and gratitude practice before, during, and after cancer came along. This is a picture of the words I scrawled in my journal early the next morning, my first morning as someone with cancer: It is hard to fully return to that place filled with de

MCM (a.k.a. 1900)

Today I am grateful for family time and naps. Memorial Day remembrances and ongoing gratitude to those who have served/are serving our country and protected/protect us, especially those who have died defending our freedom over the last 250 years. MCM is 1900 as a Roman numeral. It is the milestone post number I have reached on this blog today. More than six years after I dared to launch my own blog, dared to become a daily published writer, I have celebrated the century mark 19 times. Just like numbers can come in different forms, so do these blog posts. Some are more profound than others. Some are shorter, some are longer. Some thought out, drafted, and revised. Others flow quickly and are done. One thing is for sure. These 1900 posts have affirmed that I am indeed a writer. A real writer. It is said "Real writers really write." I clearly qualify as a real writer and I am proud to be one. An online blog can still take physical form, and this is what I have so far,

Both in One Place

Today I am grateful for the opportunities presented to us as parents, and now grandparents. I am also grateful for time outside this morning with eyes that can see, ears that can hear, skin that can feel. Yesterday afternoon we were treated to some time with both of our grandsons. We get to see Leo, the 3-year old, regularly. He and his mom Emily live here in town. Aaron, at nine months, came to visit for the weekend with his parents Arthur and Alyssa. We miss being able to see Aaron as frequently, and he changes so much at this age. It is nice to see the boys' parents too of course, and to also offer them some free babysitting, a win-win for all. We will be treated to more time with both boys today. They give us such a wonderful reminder to live in the present moment, to be tuned in to our current surroundings, to find wonder in the little things. Our efforts to get the two boys together for a picture weren't successful yesterday, but I did capture each of them here:

Daring Starts Within

Today I am grateful for working air conditioning in this hot and humid stretch. I am also grateful for rest in a comfortable bed, with my husband by my side. Special birthday wishes for my brother Lee! The baby of the family is now 48. Enjoy your day! "For all serious daring starts from within."  Eudora Welty I saw this earlier in the week and started a list of some of the things I have done that I would consider daring, in no particular order. I kept adding to the list and here it is as of now: -running marathons -writing a blog -reciting poetry in front of groups  -choosing not to have breast reconstruction -recovering from alcoholism (saying no to the drink and escape I craved, no to self-destruction) -standing up for myself (and my department) at work -calling myself a writer -committing to daily gratitude practice and sticking to it for over 23 years now  -saying yes to Darcy's marriage proposal (after knowing each other less than 6 mont

Motion Brought Me Here

Today I am grateful for a roof that keeps us dry in a thunderstorm and for an umbrella that keeps me dry when walking Oliver. I am grateful for the rain, which our grass and plants needed. As I thought about yesterday's post and the idea that motion creates emotions, I kept returning to the picture of my parents that was popping up. There's a glitch I haven't figured out as to why it comes up. It is from a previous post. But then again, there can be other reasons why it has been showing up. My mom is on my mind regularly, as her memory declines and her world seems to get smaller and smaller. I pray daily for her peace and comfort. It will be 20 years ago this October that my dad passed away. Both of my parents have also been people in motion, like me. Dad wasn't one to take walks like Mom, but they both actively moved much of their days for decades, working the farm, tending the garden, doing laundry, feeding all of us. Neither of my parents talked much about th

Motion Creates Emotion

Today I am grateful for my physical capabilities and my five senses. I deeply appreciate how together they allow me to take in nature and get fresh air and exercise. Runner's World is a magazine we still receive in print, and each issue gets our attention. We appreciate the variety of coverage, and always find some useful or affirming information. We also come across inspiration from other runners.  One of the publication's regular features is "I'm a Runner" on the back page. It highlights someone known for other reasons, but who is also a runner. The recent edition spotlighted Derek Hough, who I was not familiar with. He is an Emmy-winning dancer and choreographer, known for his work on  Dancing with the Stars  and World of Dance.  In the article, he says he uses this expression a lot: "Motion creates emotion."  I had never heard it put that way before, but it really nails it. And so much of it is positive emotion.  Healthy processing and re

The Work of Choice

Today I am grateful for my joint health and muscle strength and the exercises that help maintain them. I am also grateful for some recliner time this morning and the view I am enjoying. The commencement address given by the senior class president at my nephew's graduation on Sunday was a good effort with a worthwhile message. It was all about perception, about how we choose to look at life and what happens to us. About how we handle life when life isn't going exactly the way we would like it. Somewhere in his speech, this young man mentioned "the work of choice."  That struck me and got me thinking. Yes, choice takes work, effort, risks. We have many choices each and every day, throughout the day. Sometimes choosing to do something is the healthiest route, sometimes choosing not to is healthier. Together these choices define our actions and our thoughts and these create our perceptions. Are we seeing the world as hostile, unfair, tedious?  Or are we seeing the w

Just Keep Going

Today I am grateful for the many safe road miles traveled this weekend and for the excitement and energy of several activities that went on in the last few days. I am especially grateful for all of the family members that were able to gather together at some of these activities. Special congratulations to Brennan, our nephew, on his high school graduation. Also to Brennan and our niece Ellie, and their track team, who all did an outstanding job at Drake Stadium. What a treat to watch in person. Just keep going. I saw many examples of this play out this weekend, in a variety of ways. From my sister Mary Jo, slowed by cancer and treatment, walking up a hill. She paused when needed, then just kept going. She gets up each day and just keeps going. She is feeling better, knowing hope. Just keep going. I saw it at the Iowa high school track and field state meet. From hurdlers who fell and got back up, to injured runners who walked to the finish line to earn team points and finish what

Starting Lines and Finishing Lines

Today I am grateful for my morning coffee, and for excitement and anticipation for some upcoming events. Starting lines and finishing lines are on my mind today. I am thinking about track and field meets and the start and finish lines that are the source of much energy and excitement. Our niece and nephew will be running at the Iowa State Track and Field Meet at the storied Drake Stadium in Des Moines over this weekend.  Wishing them and their teammates the best of luck and a wonderful experience. Then there are the numerous marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks and other road races I have started and finished. Joining 40,000 at the start of the Chicago Marathon was amazing, as was crossing that first marathon finish line. Running has meant so much to me for 40 years. It is a deep source of blessings and one of the best ways I live gratefully. Onward, a stride at a time! There are other start and finish lines, more figurative in ways. It is nearly ten years ago that I hit the star

About Those Windows

Today I am grateful for the peace that comes in silence. I am also grateful for the colorful and sweet smelling blossoms we are being treated to on neighborhood trees. I thought about my window to the world yesterday as a busy day unfolded. What do we do when a car or room gets stuffy and uncomfortable? We open a window or two and let in some fresh air. I need to do the same in my mind. Pause. Stop the swirling brain. Open the view back up to fully take in the present moment and the task in front of me. That is all. I thought about how nice it was to need sunglasses on a bright day bursting with fresh green leaves and those colorful blossoms. The sunglasses allowed me a better, and safer view of the road in front of me, of runners at a track meet, and also of the river as I sat and talked with a recovery friend. Today awaits, like a nice view from a spacious picture window. I am appreciating that fully right now as I sit on our patio, enjoying the sights and sounds of early mor

Window Treatments

Today I am grateful for the ways people in recovery share a common language and a common hope. And for my sense of hearing, and the comfort of typical morning sounds I hear now. I am also grateful for the various window treatments in our home. We have ones that are easy to close, others that are a little harder to get to. We have retractable blinds that give us a full window when we want it, and full closure when we want that. I appreciate blinds and curtains as I wind down a day and darkness descends. Privacy feels safe, our house feels secure. And as a new day begins, I welcome the day and the new light by opening what I closed the night before. This all brought thoughts of window treatments and how they could also mean how I am treating the view as seen from the window of my perception. Is my view closed or open? Am I seeing what is in front of me, or am I trapped in the drawn shades in the corners of my mind? Opening and closing shades and curtains takes some effort. Keepin

Symbols Gone, Nurturing Continues

Today I am grateful for the lively and soothing outdoor spaces my husband Darcy creates on our front and back patios, and that I have had time in recent days to enjoy both areas. As I reflected on Mother's Day yesterday, and allowed myself the luxury of time to soak in the tub, I noticed something I don't notice every day anymore. My breasts are gone. Sure, I notice on a subconscious level, as I get dressed and add my prosthetics to the day's outfit for work. Yet, many days go by where I may not have a conscious thought or twinge about being flat-chested and breastless. "I am not less of a woman, just a woman less her breasts."  These are my original words, written in the early years after my mastectomies, and I am proud of them.  They are true for this woman and she's the only one I speak for. Motherhood and breasts go together. I so appreciate that I had the opportunity to breastfeed Sam for about 8 months after he was born. That was high on the list

From One Mother to Another

Today I am grateful for all that my own mom has taught me and continues to teach me in her own humble way. I am grateful for twenty years as stepmom to Arthur and Emily and 16 years as mom to Sam. Few things have taught me more about life than these two ongoing stints have. Special thoughts and prayers today for those mothers on both ends of the spectrum of motherhood. From those pregnant with their first child, to those grieving the loss of a child. Here are Sam and I, for our annual Mother's Day picture that I require of him and that he humors me with. What's with the hair flips we both have going on? How did he go from an infant weighing less than 5 pounds to a young man nearly a head taller than his mama? How quickly the years go, and how I both look forward to and dread two years from now when he will be closing in on his high school graduation and preparing to head off to college.  I am proud of Sam, appreciative of the parenting job Darcy and I have share

TGIF That girl/guy is fast!

Today I am grateful for the stunning and colorful sunrise this morning, and the sport of track and field and what it means to my family. I am not going to lie, today's TGIF is definitely about "Thank God it's Friday." The month of May can get rather grueling for those of us who work in schools. The kids' energy gets higher as the adults' energy tries to hang on for the final stretch. A Friday in mid-May, and the weekend that follows it, are both very much welcomed. But there's yet another twist to TGIF. Today it also means "That girl/guy is fast!" That girl is my niece Ellie and that guy is my nephew Brennan, among numerous other members of their high school track team. They both run at my alma mater, where I had a fairly successful career. I also coached the girls' track team there for three years back in the late 1980's. Other family members have also had good success there, including our niece Katie who was part of a state champi

Stepping Out and Stopping

Today I am grateful for the trees filling out and bursting with green. I am also grateful for the wisdom others share in so many genuine ways. Tara Brach-psychologist, meditation teacher, and author-offers this wisdom: "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."   Those of you who know me, know that I can easily get caught up in the busyness, the endless pursuits of one task after another. Living gratefully, seeking a deeper spiritual existence, have helped me step out, stop, appreciate the moment more. As I stepped outside this morning, here is what wisdom came my way: *I paused to listen to the birds, and I realized that they know their pace. They sing naturally and with a rhythm and grace, not bothered by any other agenda, or any clock but Nature's. *I stopped on my walk with Oliver to gaze at the beautiful moon and a few clouds rollin

Meditation Path

Today I am grateful for some spring rain and the clarity of the priorities in my life. Pray Avenue yesterday. Meditation Path today. The two go hand in hand, this prayer and meditation. The best description of these two I have heard is this:   "Prayer is talking to God.  Meditation is listening." I called myself a moving meditator in a recent post. Running. Walking. Stairs. They all take me to places both physical and spiritual. I tend to sort emotions out and find clarity sooner when I move, especially outdoors. I guess it is easier for me to listen to a Higher Power if I am feeling grounded to the solid earth, and out in nature. Meditation is also about seeking, slowing down, and the listening aspect. Always the listening. If I am not listening, there is much that is missed. And I won't even know I missed it. Listening is hard for me at times. Not when I am listening to others, more when I am listening to myself, for guidance. Living gratefully allows me to bet

Pray Avenue

Today I am grateful for time, taken in small increments. I am also grateful for the regular emails I share with my sisters Danita and Aileen, and for signs of all kinds. Somewhere between Owen and Abbotsford, Wisconsin, on Highway 29, there is a sign for a road called Pray Ave. I have seen it on previous trips. This time I am moved to write about it. I appreciate that Darcy and Sam did the driving this weekend, so I could write and get back to some projects that have been set aside for months. And so I could notice and ponder signs like the one for Pray Ave. My idea of what prayer is and how to engage in it continue to evolve. I have come a long way from the praying of my Catholic upbringing, and I have also returned to it. Prayer to me isn't about a location as much as it is about a mindset. It isn't as much about my physical stance as it is about where my heart is. The words matter, but not as much as the sincerity and humility in them do. My own Pray Avenue is a da

Wandering with Wonder

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend, time with family, and beautiful weather. Special birthday wishes today to my stepson Arthur and our dog Oliver. Arthur is 27 and Oliver is 10. I met Arthur when he was 6 and Oliver at two months old. They both bring so many blessings to our lives. Everyday Gratitude: Day 8 was Saturday.  I had time to ponder these for the  last couple of days: “Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.” (Antonio Machado) “What path am I creating that others might follow?” We were treated to time with our grandson Aaron this weekend. Learning from a young child includes watching them wander. Aaron wanders around his play area, by rolling and turning, and plays with a toy and then another one grabs his attention and he wanders over to it. No timeline or agenda, other than curiosity. I was walking around with him and we stopped by a window in their house. His eyes got wide and intent on the blue sky, the changing li

Anne Frank: No Need to Wait

Today I am grateful for the good staff inservice we had yesterday. It was thought-provoking and prompts new actions in me. I am also grateful, and honored, to be a trusted listener for others. Day 7 Everyday Gratitude offers these words from Anne Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment  before starting to improve the world."  Let us not forget that Anne Frank died in a Nazi concentration camp months before she turned 16, and just weeks before the British liberated the camp where she died of typhus. She wrote lengthy diary entries to help pass the time while her family spent two years in hiding from the Nazis. What wisdom. What loss. What a gift she gave the world posthumously. She improved her family's hiding space with her writing, improved her will to live, and she gave us a well-told biographical story that has become timeless.  She didn't wait. She didn't wait for the war to end. She didn't wait for freedom. She

What Makes Me Come Alive?

Today I am grateful for my sense of hearing and the music I can enjoy because of it. I am also grateful for two gatherings I attended yesterday. One was a funeral for a friend. The other was a staff recognition dinner for my school. It all fits nicely with Everyday Gratitude Day 6: Don't Ask What the World Needs . . . "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." (Howard Thurman) " What makes me come alive?"  This list for me is long and fulfilling. It has some familiar regulars. It also has new experiences and the curiosity and exhilaration that come with them. The things that come to mind right now include: *writing      *running        *meaningful conversations       *being out in nature      *recovery      *meaningful relationships     *productive and collegial work      *spiritual exploration *the flow of words      *intimacy in

Day 5: Acts of Love, Works of Peace

Today I am grateful for books that are put to good use and worn out from it. I am also grateful for the many steps I took yesterday, some alone, some side by side with students, friends, and others. Day 5 of Everyday Gratitude practice offers: "Every act of love is a work of peace, no matter how small."   (Saint Mother Theresa) "What small act of love can I offer today?" Some of the other wisdom offered included: "No kindness ever wasted." "No action without a ripple effect." " . . . help nourish the heart of the world." It was a wonderful focus to carry with me yesterday, and one to carry in the forefront every day. I can if I don't let life's distractions crowd it out. Some of the acts of love, works of peace from my day: *getting coffee for my husband Darcy as he started his work day early *fresh water and a belly rub for our dog Oliver *making sure the shorts my son Sam needed were clean and dry *hol

Day 4: Beauty Out of Ugliness

Today I am grateful for rest and rain. The rest washed away my negativity and the rain washed away more of the winter grime. Day 4 of Everyday Gratitude at  focused on the beauty that can come out of desolation and despair, or just typical daily drudgery. The guiding quote and question kept slipping my mind yesterday, until I went for my run after work: "Though you may not be able to change it, you can handle an ugly situation beautifully."  Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan   "What situation is offering me the opportunity to handle it beautifully?  As I considered this, I thought first of other people and what they are going through. People like my friends Sheila and Dave. People like my sister Mary Jo. And several others. Grace and dignity. Raw human emotions. There is a deep beauty in it all, a genuineness derived no other way. Ugly doesn't win. It took me until during my run to get some clarity on how this might apply to me currently.

A Larger Landscape

Today I am grateful for the calming breeze and gently shifting clouds as I presently enjoy some outdoor time. I am also grateful for the more sane pace at work. The focus that the 8-day Everyday Gratitude exploration is helping bring to my thoughts and feelings is also appreciated. I don't want to become complacent in gratitude, rote in referencing the same things in the same ways. I want to delve deeper, discover richer meaning. Here is one way it is working. Instead of mindlessly rushing through some of my morning tasks, as will happen at least some of the time, I am relishing those tasks as my true job. My true job is to be fully present to whatever I am doing in this moment. Whether it is composing this blog post. Preparing my lunch. Taking a shower. Each becomes a richer experience when I stay present in them, and that is the essence of living gratefully. Day 3's quote is from Sarah Ban Breathnach: "While we cry ourselves to sleep, gratitude waits patiently