Showing posts from September, 2018

Side by Side, By the Fireside

Today I am grateful for a good run on a nice fall day yesterday, the start of colors changing on the trees and vegetation, and for the other recovering people I know and what they bring to my life. I am also very appreciative of the time I spent with my husband Darcy and son Sam sitting on our back patio last evening enjoying the fire in our fire pit and sharing conversation and pizza.  Darcy and Sam were out there for a while before I was too, having the chance to talk, just the two of them. It was all a treat. I enjoy the relaxing nature of watching the fire burn and the flames dance around. It was a cloudy and cool evening, the best kind for a fire. Having the time together, the three of us, to talk about some current events and also to talk about our own lives, is something we do in snippets throughout our days. It was nice yesterday to have a chunk of time together, no hurry, phones out of sight for a time, and to just enjoy one another's company and the random topics th

News Feed

Today I am grateful for the food we have available and those who help bring it to us. I am also grateful that I have choices as I move through my day. One of my choices is how much news I will tune into. This is one area where my choices have shifted in recent years. A former social studies teacher, I always prided myself on having some handle on the important news of the day or week. It has become more difficult, however, to partake of what now is a news feed like none we have had before. "News feed" itself is a newer phrase, referring to continuous transmission of data. We can subscribe to many news feeds from many sources.  They can be interesting, disheartening, informative, downright discouraging. They can be all of these and more. And they also tend to be time suckers. I want factual and basic news, but that is harder and harder to come by. I must pick my news feeds carefully. American culture and society, along with other parts of the world, has become a differen

53 Years and 5 Hours

Today I am grateful for time to sit outside this morning and for fresh perspective in the fresh first hours of a fresh new day. Special thoughts and prayers go out to my sister Mary Jo as she undergoes another round of chemotherapy today. In this digital age, pictures abound and photographers do too. We appreciate those hired to take pictures along our marathon routes. We look forward to seeing how and where we were captured. We like to pick out one photo from each marathon to keep and remind us of that particular event and day. It also serves as motivation to keep going, keep moving, keep physical health high on our priority list. We’ll get an email encouraging us to take a look and purchase, with a free download perhaps thrown in. Often we’ll critique a photo for capturing us at the wrong time, mid-stride, a little off kilter, not flattering. Yet, we usually get some we like, like these two from Sunday:   (Paul D Manke Photography) Darcy is nearing the finish and I am 

Off to a Good Start

Today I am grateful for spiritual connections and conversations, and for a head massage from my husband Darcy. I am also grateful for my sense of hearing and for two songs that helped me get the marathon off to a good start on Sunday. As hundreds of runners funneled through corrals and crossed the starting line, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" was blasting out of large speakers. Some Journey for the journey ahead. There is something pretty special about the energy at the start of a race. We were running right into the sun as it came up as well. I felt pulled along by the collective energy, drawn to the light of the sun and also struck by the brightness of it. It was most fitting that right around mile 2, as we passed a church, a number of the congregation were at the curb, songbooks in hand, singing "How Great Thou Art" as we ran by. I had just been thinking about that hymn a few days earlier and had listened to it on YouTube. It is one of my favori

Some Humor and Some Seriousness

Today I am grateful for rest and perspective only gained with some patience and an open mind and heart. Yesterday I was exhausted on several levels. Physically, from running 26.2 miles on Sunday. Mentally, for the same reason. Emotionally, because I was feeling a range of emotions from the experience itself and post-run. Spiritually, because grace and gratitude get tested by large questions like "why and why not?" Today, after more rest and time to let everything about this latest marathon soak in and settle, I am back to grace and gratitude. Deeply appreciating that Darcy and I made it to the start line together, and each of us finished on our own terms. Our health and our marriage are priorities in our lives and we honor them both with our shared marathon experiences. I went out too fast in the early miles and paid for it in the later miles. Experienced or not, it's easy to get caught up in the fresh air, the endorphins, the crowds of people. I never doubted I wou

Running and Walking with Heart: Marathons and Cancers #6

Today I am grateful for shelter from storms, literally and figuratively. I am also grateful for all the gifts and experiences running has brought to my life. I am thinking of my dear friend Sheila, her husband Dave, and their friends and family who will be doing the "Out of the Darkness" walk tomorrow morning for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They will be walking in memory of their daughter Carli who died by suicide on April 4, 2017. I am walking with you in spirit Sheila and carrying you in my heart as I do every day. Breast cancer is also part of the shared history and enduring friendship Sheila and I have. She is a BC survivor too; facing her diagnosis, surgeries, and treatment in 2011. When Darcy and I ran the Sioux Falls Marathon on 9/11/2011, emotions ran high. I was thinking of Sheila, of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, of running the streets of the city where Darcy and I got married and lived for two years. We also met our future daughter-in-law Al

Rain, Wind, and Hills: Marathons and Cancers #5

Today I am grateful for a good night's rest and a safe and comfortable home to have it in. I am also grateful for the writing process and the reflecting I am doing this week. In 2010, Darcy and I ran the Fargo Marathon, again finishing side by side. We started out in rain and finished in windy and warm conditions as we ran into the Fargo Dome. It was a spring marathon and we decided to take the fall off from marathoning that year. Unfortunately, cancer didn't take it off.   Mary Jo was diagnosed with a primary lung cancer in June and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. Part of her lower right lung was removed and doctors were optimistic. The chemo was added insurance. By the time 2012 rolled around, I was a little nervous. There had been cancer diagnoses among my sisters and I in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. A pattern was developing. Thankfully, 2012 came and went cancer-free, as did the next several years. Years of survivorship added up, as did ongoing gratitude. Darcy an

Marathons and Cancers #4

Today I am grateful for the inquisitive nature of young children, from toddlers to teens. I am also grateful for the writing process and how it helps me. I thought about these words after I composed them for my post yesterday: "Nothing would replace my God-given pair, so I might as well use the pairs I was left with--my arms and legs, my eyes, ears, lungs." There is substantial gratitude in those words. One can live a full life minus breasts. I am not less of a woman, just a woman less her breasts. I am fortunate the cancer in my body was in my breast and not a vital organ. That doesn't minimize the loss, it keeps it in perspective. As we considered which marathon to run in the fall of 2009, Kansas City caught our eye for two reasons. One was that it was within driving distance. The other factor was the clincher for me. It was scheduled for October 17. The number 17 had gained significance in my cancer journey. My first surgery, a lumpectomy and sentinel node biop

Marathons and Cancers #3

Today I am grateful for the peace in silence and for cooler temperatures and needed precipitation. After the WhistleStop Marathon, Darcy and I decided to continue marathoning. In 2006, we decided to keep it local and run the Twin Cities Marathon in October. Cancer decided to make another appearance too. This time, it was my sister Mary Jo, diagnosed with breast cancer in August. By the time we ran Marathon #3, she was done with surgery and taking oral medication for treatment. The sense of security initially smashed with Zita's diagnosis was further smashed. Who would be next? Somewhere in this time I also had an abnormal mammogram. It isn't entirely unusual to get called back for another look after a mammogram, but it hadn't happened to me before. I got the all-clear relief, and also continued motivation to stay healthy and active. The Twin Cities Marathon was my fastest to that point, and still is. I trained hard and ran hard, cramping up and having to walk a full

Marathons and Cancers #2

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to be a wife, parent, grandparent, sister, daughter, aunt, friend. Each of these roles and more enrich my life and teach me so much. After the Chicago Marathon, I was hooked. I wanted to keep running marathons, and so did Darcy. With Sam being a toddler, we decided to each run different ones the next year. Darcy ran the Des Moines Marathon and I ran the WhistleStop in Ashland, WI. My sister Zita, recovered from treatment and moving on from her cancer diagnosis, set her sights on finishing this one. Her prognosis was good, and the rest of the sisters went about doing the follow-up we felt we needed to do. I had had a baseline mammogram at 35, before I got pregnant. Now, I would do a yearly mammogram and I also got better at self-exams. Breast cancer was now a part of our family history, but so is running. My sister Ruth also decided to join us there for her second one, and two friends and high school classmates, Beth and Melissa, signed on

Marathons and Cancers: Post #1

Today I am grateful for enjoyable family time last evening, including a game of Phase 10. I am also grateful for the anticipation of our next marathon. This year's marathon week is here. Next Sunday morning, Darcy and I will be heading to the starting line of another 26.2 journey. That in itself is a deep blessing. Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately, and during many of the previous marathons I have run. As I focus my blog posts this week on the marathon experience, several are inexorably woven with the cancer that has impacted my family and I head on. Our first marathon was the Chicago Marathon in 2004. I have told the story often of my niece Katie and her husband Danny getting the ball rolling on the idea of running Chicago. It was their anniversary celebration plan. It was a lifelong dream of mine, still unrealized. Things fell into place. Katie and Danny, their friend Kate, Darcy and I, and my sisters Ruth and Zita were making plans and starting training that spring

Can you hear that?

Today I am grateful for our son Sam's school and his dedicated and enthusiastic teachers we met last evening. I am also grateful that Sam is a hard-working and conscientious student. Happy Birthday wishes to my sister Leonice and my brother Neal. They aren't twins, they just share a birthday. When you have a lot of children, coincidences like that can happen. Enjoy your day you two! One of my regular avenues of channeling gratitude is through my five senses. Try it. Pick one and focus on what it is bringing you in this moment, or maybe what it brought you at your most recent meal or on a walk you took. Our working senses are something we often take for granted. I know I do. My sense of hearing is one I have been focused on the last few days. Can you hear that? Here are some of the sounds I have appreciated lately: -Our dog Oliver eating, and the jingle of his collar as we take our walks. -The audible stop our new dryer gives us so I can save some wrinkles. -The qu

Clearing Away the Day's Debris

Today I am grateful for time with our grandson Leo and for a bike ride in the cooler part of the day. The phrase "the day's debris" from yesterday's post resurfaced yesterday afternoon on my commute home from work. I was tired from broken sleep, getting up earlier than usual, and a full day at work, complete with plenty of interactions that drained me. Draining doesn't mean they were negative interactions, but in the role of helper and communicator, draining goes with the territory. Many good things happened and new connections were made. Some parts of the day fed frustration and increased stress though. So the day's debris was cluttering my mind as I drove home. One of my mindfulness practices is to begin the first few minutes of both ends of my commute in silence. No radio on. Just the quiet car, some road noise, and the sound of the breeze if the windows are open. That quiet after a full day and mind swirl is a good start on clearing away the day

Content with Life's Contents?

Today I am grateful for my working limbs and the run that my husband Darcy and I shared after work yesterday. Running is such a good way to release the day's debris. As I considered the word contentment yesterday, I thought about the other use of the word "content."  The items inside something. The contents of a container, a box, a life. Am I content with the contents of my life? That can be a loaded question and the "yes" I give to that question now might be a "not so sure"at some point today. Rare would be the person who always answers that question yes. I do know what keeps me leaning more toward the yes response more of the time: living gratefully, seeking to discover the gratefulness here for the picking. The smile on a child's face. The breeze on a warm day. Our grandson on video across the miles. Good running shoes. Fresh tomatoes. Conversation about the day and a writing assignment shared by our son. Our dog Oliver's ongoing excit


Today I am grateful for recovery friends and their genuine honesty. I am also grateful for the young people I get to work with and the energy they have. Last evening, a close recovery friend and I were talking about being content with life, how we actually know what that feels like. We found contentment after being at dis-ease for years, and drinking to dull the sharp and painful edges of our feelings and thoughts. We have known contentment and lost it, time and again, in recovery. It is the nature of our disease. The good news is we know where to find it back, how to return to some peace and serenity. Being content with our lives and ourselves are gifts beyond measure, gifts that once seemed impossible to understand or attain. Getting physically sober was just the first step in finding contentment. Wreckage needed to be cleared away. Emotions needed to be fully felt. Consequences needed to be faced. A new life, free of dangerous thinking and drinking, needed to be built. Dai

The Bunny Thing To Do

Today I am grateful for the continuing pleasant weather and time to enjoy being out in it. I am also grateful for the taste and texture of grapes. A week ago today, some family members and I were putting on hundreds of miles for our return trip home after a visit to Colorado. One of the moments collected on that visit involved a few minutes with a young rabbit. The little bunny was at the sculpture park, enjoying a meal of greenery near one of the sculptures. The park is set up with plenty of green and natural space, so the bunny had plenty of options. I watched the little one munch away for five minutes or so. The bunny did his/her thing, nonplussed by me or others who made their way past. I was tempted to take a picture, but reminded myself to just be. In. The. Moment. Like the bunny. Doing what comes naturally. Breathe. Take in my surroundings. Feel nature. The young rabbit eventually scampered away into the taller grass, and I rejoined my family. I am visualizing that bun

Complicated, Yet Simple

Today I am grateful for the beautiful early September weather we are being treated to, and ample time outside to enjoy it. I am also grateful for a successful long training run yesterday, our last before our next marathon. On that long training run, as Darcy and I conversed, he used the phrase "complicated, yet simple." He was referencing me, his wife of twenty years. I don't even remember what we were talking about at that time, but I know we shared a laugh about it. The phrase stuck with me as the miles racked up. I am indeed complicated, yet simple. So is much of life. I tend to add the complications, with my overactive thought processes. Nature, pauses, gratefulness and the like tend to help return me to the simplicity and peace. Nature is complicated, yet simple. I am in awe of the connections and processes that bring us the beauty of all seasons, the growth and pruning that occur on a timeline directed by Mother Nature.  It is good to ponder the complex system


Today I am grateful for rest and mobility. I am very grateful that my sister Mary Jo received good news yesterday. The chemo is having an impact on her cancer and she will continue with two more treatments, one of which she had yesterday. Then they will take another scan and see where things are at. Such is the approach with metastatic breast cancer. Incremental hope and progress. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers Mary Jo and Clay as you move through these next difficult days post-chemo. On our recent trip, I came across the word "amore" in two places. One was the sculpture below at Benson Sculpture Park, aptly named "Amore" with the frog creating a heart with its "hands". The other was home decor at our Airbnb. Amore is Italian for love. Love is all you need. Love is all there is. I definitely felt the love and support of family as we gathered last weekend. I am blessed to feel it each day from my own family and friends, from a loving Gre

The Comfort of Experience

Today I am grateful for the beautiful moon in the morning sky and my job and dedicated colleagues. Last evening was our annual Back to School Night. Parents come for meetings and to go through their child's schedule and meet teachers. It is a nice evening; a good way to welcome new families ad welcome back returning families. It is one of the many times I appreciate my 18 years of experience at this school. From as basic as I know where pretty much every room is so I can help others find it, to having confidence to speak frankly to parents in my role as their son or daughter's counselor. I know who to ask for help on most questions, and where to find what is needed. Yet, appreciate that each year is new, people leave and arrive, and there's always more to learn. Exchanging pleasantries with parents I have seen for years as their various children have moved through, and meeting brand new parents who are just learning about our wonderful school, are highlights of last


Today I am grateful for my brother-in-law Bob and the driving he did on our recent travels. It is nice to be the passenger. Thanks Bob! And for the time I got to spend with my older brother Morry, something we haven't had enough of over the years. Thanks Morry! And thanks to my sister Ruth, always a reliable and pleasant travel companion. Thanks Ruth! I also appreciate the rainbow I enjoyed for several minutes on my drive yesterday morning, and for the reminder that I am part of a much larger world, an amazing universe. My sister Mary Jo had a scan yesterday and has a doctor appointment tomorrow where she will hear the results. Talk about loaded with emotions. Anxious must be one of many. I know it is for me, and I am just one of her support people. Waiting is so hard. The time is loaded with the weight of wondering, the burden of upcoming decisions. I took this picture Sunday evening, with Mary Jo and Morry nearby. Mary Jo was sitting down near the garage where we had gath

29 Years Young

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and the gift of time with family I don't get to see very often. It was meaningful and special time together. More on my travels and that family time coming soon. Today is a day to celebrate recovery. It is the anniversary of the day my own recovery from alcoholism began in 1989. A day of deep gratitude and thoughtful reflection. It is a day that may never have come if not for friends, family, recovery connections, and the grace and guidance of a loving Great Spirit. My sincere thank you to all who make my daily recovery a road I want to keep traveling. I am thinking about 29 years young today. If I hadn't gotten sober, I wouldn't be feeling 53, but much older probably, if I was even still alive. The healthy body, mind, and spirit I have most days would have been further shattered over the years. I would be an empty, unhealthy shell. Instead, I am continuing to grow and learn, to recover and construct a better lif