Showing posts from January, 2019

Fresh Eyes

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the sturdy steps in our home and the different levels that provide us space and openness. I also appreciate my eyesight and the glasses that help me see better. The "Daily Question" at   a few days ago was: What can I look at with fresh eyes today?  Gratefulness provides vision and clarity that we otherwise miss. A pause is all it takes. Following are a couple of things I recently gave fresh eyes.  The grocery list. Ours starts to look pretty similar from week to week.  What about looking at it as a labor of love? I am buying for my husband and son, for the meals we will share and the ones we will prepare on our own. We have money, stores to shop at, transportation, physical capabilities,  a refrigerator, cupboard space, stove, pots and pans, and more. Fresh eyes fuel gratitude. Our driveway. ...I shovel it, back down it, drive up it, head in and out of the garage. It is a starting point for walks in all kin

This time it's a 12 Pack...Of puzzles, that is

Today I am grateful for faith and the tools I have to carry it with me throughout my day, and for exercises that help keep my core strong. With a cold stretch and some unexpected time off from work, I took my jigsaw puzzle craze to a new level. Last time it was a Six Pack . I bought a 12 pack this time. For just under ten dollars, I will have many hours of relaxation, the right kind of brain exercise, and the type of escape that is free of hangovers with a bonus side of "play."  Play is my focus word for this year. This 12 pack includes four each of 150-, 300-, and 500-piece puzzles. I started with two of the smallest ones. They didn't take long and, at 9 x 7 inches, they were cute.  Now, I have turned to a 500-piece one. I find myself almost craving a few minutes here and there after I have been doing some schoolwork or other necessary tasks. This is a healthy craving, one that returns me to some reasonable sense of sanity. In pausing and looking at the packaging

Only a Report?

Living gratefully today, I give thanks for the many things that keep my family and I safe and comfortable in the midst of a bitter cold spell, and also for the good music the 1970's and 1980's blessed us with. Reading about the recent death of poet Mary Oliver, I came across these words of hers: “Attention without feeling is only a report.” Sometimes a report is all we need, all that is required of a situation. But life, lived to maximum contribution and optimal depth of awe, requires more. Full attention. Pause. Notice. Listen. Feel. Connect. Belong. Absorb. Embrace. Feel it all. The joy and the pain, the faith and the uncertainty, the mundane and the powerful, receive them all with an open heart, mind, and soul. That is attention with feeling. If "attention without feeling is only a report," then gratitude without feeling is only a gesture. Attention is the key to tapping into true gratefulness, the essential action to living gratefully. In a rece

Accurate Weather

Today I am grateful for my trusty parka to keep me warm on bitterly cold days, and for the visible progress that can be made in the simple task of shoveling snow. Maybe you have guessed that we are in the midst of some interesting weather. The weather, and whatever it may be doing, are always of interest to me. I grew up in a farm family full of weather watchers. I think it comes naturally when so much of what you do is impacted by the weather. The weather app that I use on my phone is AccuWeather.  I can access current conditions in a moment. I will check the temperature and conditions before heading out on a run or deciding how many layers I need to put on when I take our dog Oliver out for our morning stroll. I can also access forecasts-hourly, daily, up to 15 days or more, with all sorts of predictions and projections. I take these with a grain of salt. Sure, we have better equipment and technology to forecast, but the weather will still do what the weather will do. Mother Na

Life: A Labor of Love

Living gratefully today, I notice and appreciate the way my chest rises and falls with my breathing, and how I can stretch my limbs to keep my body flexible. With my son Sam's birthday the other day, I was remembering his actual birth day. My husband Darcy and I were talking about the evening prior and what transpired to lead us to the hospital, just a few short hours before Sam was born at 4:52 a.m.  Pregnancy labor. I only experienced it once. Yes, I have forgotten the pain, but not the amazing process that brings a child into the world. It was indeed labor, and a labor of love. Labor. Work. Effort. Anything that is worth having and doing in life requires some. Yet, our modern world wants to sell us convenience, ease, and fast fixes. It is one of the greatest disservices and pitfalls of our current times, if you want my opinion. A strong body requires exercise and some level of discipline in what we eat. Healthy relationships take time to build trust and respect, and take e

Time-keeper or Time-spender?

Today I am grateful for the ease of flipping a switch to get electric light, and all those who made that ease possible. Think about it. In an instant, a room can go from dark to light. Very convenient for those of us who are blessed with electricity. I don't have to spend time lighting a candle or refilling an oil lamp, much less making the candle or lamp. We have many time-saving devices in our modern world. Some are most appreciated, many fully taken for granted. Others may be detrimental to us, eroding our sense of interdependence and our work ethic. We'll save that discussion for another day. Today the question is: Am I a time-keeper or a time-spender? Some of both, but I hope spending quality time doing contributory things wins out over just keeping time. Keeping time is an empty endeavor. Spending time living fully builds a life where we add up love and memories that may take place in moments and days, but can't be measured in such terms. To spend time well,

The Significance of 17

Today I am grateful for marriage, motherhood, and our son Sam. Happy 17th Birthday Sam! With his permission, here is a picture of him (taken by my sister Ann) at about 3 1/2 years of age, sitting on one of the tractors at my family's farm. It is one of his favorite places to go. He took to the farm right away and that interest only deepened and grew. It's a fitting picture, and his mom likes to see that little child. It helps me keep it all in perspective. Wistful. Bittersweet. Proud. Worried. Unconditional love. Amazing grace. Excited. Potential. They all fit. The year ahead will be filled with things like the ACT test in a few weeks, AP tests in May, senior pictures, college applications, and the start of his final year of high school and senior football season. He is just around the corner to being 18 and adult things like being able to vote and registering with Selective Service. Just for today, he is my son Sam celebrating a birthday. I love you dearly Sam and

Running Time

Living gratefully today, I am taking time to do what is important to me, including writing and enjoying morning coffee. More thoughts on the timing devices that came up the other day.  I know there are plenty of high-tech devices to use on my many runs, but I use a simple (and cheap) wrist watch that has a stopwatch mode. Functional, not fancy. I like to know how long I have been running and usually go for round numbers and 5-minute increments. There isn't much difference in my legs and lungs between running 59 minutes and 10 seconds or running one hour. In my head though, there is a difference. One hour seems like more of an accomplishment. Running is one place I can be particular and picky about time. When I am training and trying to push myself, having some sense of what my minutes-per-mile pace is can be helpful. When I am doing tempo runs, it matters to know if I have been running faster for 4 minutes or 6. I appreciate time updates out on the course when I am running

R.I.P. Mary Oliver, Poet

Today I am grateful for the beauty of fresh snow on reed grass and for the poetry others have shared with the world. One such poet, Mary Oliver, died last week at age 83. I have become more familiar with her poetry in recent years and really appreciate it. She has over 20 collections/books in print and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and a National Book Award in 1992. Though criticized by some as writing poetry that lacked depth, she has been compared to Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickinson. Pretty good company there. As a reader myself, I believe she captures very well our significant connections to nature and the profound simplicity of human emotions and existence, when stripped to the core, to what matters most. These words from her poem "The Summer Day" are always meaningful to me: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" In "When Death Comes," she wrote: When it's over, I want to say: all m

Time Devices

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the convenient ways of tracking time that are available to me, and more importantly the worthwhile activities with which to spend that time. Today, there are so many easy ways to check the time. Too many probably. Phones, computers, digital clocks, microwaves and stoves, vehicle screens, and smart watches to name a few. What about the old-fashioned wall clocks and wrist watches? The conveniences are nice, and we have numerous time-telling devices throughout our home. I find myself often checking the time, because I have somewhere to be, or I want to know how much time I have left to get various tasks done. Am I a slave to time?  In ways, yes. I often short myself on time to get ready to go to work or elsewhere, and end up feeling rushed or running late. Worthwhile things took me longer, including writing posts here. Yet, I get pulled into things that become time-suckers. Checking email or Facebook. Clicking on that link to read a quick articl

Open Heart Vulnerability

Today I am grateful that my son Sam's wisdom teeth extraction went smoothly and that his recovery is too. I am also grateful for an enjoyable dinner and movie with my husband Darcy last night. The movie we saw was "The Upside" and it was my kind of movie. Depth and range of emotions and a hopeful ending. Depth and range of feelings. They are the sustenance of our emotional lives, just as food and exercise nourish our bodies. It takes an open heart and a fair measure of vulnerability to be receptive to the emotions that will flow in the midst of the vacillations that a life fully lived will deliver. Lately, there have been numerous deaths that have been in my awareness. Two more were added in recent days. My cousin's funeral is today in another state. A kind and warm woman I used to work with many years ago died late last week. They were both within days or weeks of turning 68. My cousin shared a birthday with my dad. My former co-worker's birthday would ha

Notice Beauty

Living gratefully today, I feel the simple beauty in a good morning kiss shared with my husband. I feel it also in the brisk winter air that hits my face when I step outside. Beauty is felt as much as it is seen. I am wishing my sister Ann a happy and special milestone birthday today. Happy Birthday Ann!  I will keep the milestone between us who know it. Ann is #7 in the 13 siblings. She is the most middle of those in the middle of this brood. In the free 8-day practice I am participating in through , one of the focus phrases has been "notice beauty." Here are a couple of things I have noticed: *The way an old picture and the faces of family members can spark fresh love. This morning, it is a nearly 10-year-old photo of my 12 siblings and I with Mom, taken at a nephew's wedding. It is the last time all 13 of us were in the same place at the same time. I look forward to the next time we are all together, but I know that life may not afford us that, o

Common Ground

Living gratefully today, I appreciate that humans have far more in common with one another than we have differences. The differences may make news headlines, but the common ground makes connections. A special thank you to those who joined for the first Rivertown Gratefulness Gathering last evening. It was so nice to be part of this experience and to join old friends and new ones in this endeavor to delve deeper into living gratefully and what it means. Talk about common ground. It is human nature to take much for granted. It is human nature to second guess ourselves at times. These can keep people complacent and disconnected.  Those of us who joined one another last night had courage and conviction to get out of our warm homes and spend some time together. We shared common ground and mutual respect. I know I grew from the discussion. I hope they did too.  Living gratefully is a great way to build connections within ourselves and with nature and a Great Spirit, and also with othe

Be Ready

Living gratefully today, I am noticing the enticing aroma of my morning coffee and the reassuring sound of our boiler kicking in to maintain a comfortable heat in our home. My thoughts and prayers continue for those in my school community and others who are facing loss, grief, challenging times, uncertainty. Be ready. That is all I need to do today. Be ready to do the next thing, take the next step. Be ready for the unexpected, because it will happen. It is part of every day and sometimes the best part. Be ready, with open mind and heart, a seeking spirit, and calm emotions.  Can I maintain that all day?  Probably not. Something will come along to get me spun up or pull my energy off track. But here's the good news. I can return to ready. A pause in mindful gratitude. A moment to feel my feet on solid surface, grounded. Be ready to be amazed. As the "Angel of Grace" says: "Each moment is an opportunity to reveal a miracle." And miracles abound, from th

Feed Every Corner

Living gratefully in this moment, I am aware of my eyes and their ability to see, my hands and their ability to move and type, my lungs and their capacity to breathe in and out. "Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life."   Rumi This quote, just fourteen words total, carries much more depth than it does length. Embracing a sense of awe, pausing in mindful presence, drawing on gratefulness for the current gifts I am enjoying, does warm me, hearten me. Much as the coat I had on and the walk I just took with our dog. I believe that gratefulness is always possible. I believe that full attention to the present can't help but reveal amazing treasures and insights. Around every corner, grace and humility wait. Even the dark corners, especially the dark corners. Gratefulness illuminates the next step and soothes the pain, helping us see our way out and move in the right direction. At the most difficult, trying times, when deep despair


Living gratefully, I paused and relished in the mild winter air and approaching daylight as I walked our dog Oliver this morning. I have pioneers on my mind for several reasons today. For starters, Pioneers happens to be the mascot of the school I work at. Sadly, current and former staff in this school community have been hit with several losses lately. From cancer deaths to peaceful old-age passings, from devastating diseases taking loved ones, to the sudden death of a retired colleague, it has been a wave of grief and heaviness. We gather together to remember. We pray, reflect, send strength to the families and friends of those who have left their earthly vehicles behind. This community of Pioneers is steadfast in the support it offers at times like these. Secondly, I am thinking about the pioneering event Darcy and I attended yesterday morning. It was the first-ever Gratefulness Gathering for us, just days before I will host the first one in our local community. Thank you to t

Letters and Words, Strides and Miles

Today I am grateful for the work connections I have made over the years and for the many, many genuinely good people that exist in this world. Several members of my school/work community, past and present, have been hit by loss recently. I will be attending the funeral today for a retired colleague who died suddenly at age 73. Life is precious, life is fragile. Today is a gift. I just moved through an A-Z gratitude list, my sixth one on this blog, focusing on alcoholism and recovery. It is nice to have the alphabet to give me some direction. It is also amazing to have the alphabet, just 26 letters, create hundreds and thousands of words. Those words have now helped me create hundreds and thousands of blog posts, poems, and so much more. And I don't think I had made this connection before, though it seems obvious now. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and just over 26 miles in a full marathon. Two of the most transformative, reflective, and healthy practices in my life are


Today I am grateful for sweat and how it cleanses. I am not much of a crier, so my cleansing comes more from sweat. I am also grateful for work connections that remain strong over the years. "Z" is for zany. Amusingly unconventional. Eccentric. Zany may have described some of the things some of us did under the influence of alcohol.  Maybe we got some laughs and made some memories--but they didn't stay zany in a funny way, they moved into dangerous, risky territory. Being zany in recovery is genuinely amusing and fueled by the right things-love of self and life, recovery of health and some humility. Among my recovery friends, I will share hearty and heartfelt laughter. Laughter let loose after being buried in pain and misery. It's music to my ears and music to my soul. For people like me, alcoholics and addicts, it's a zany thing to be able to laugh at oneself in a loving and kind way. It feels unconventional to us at first. We may be an eccentric bunch,


Today I am grateful for my sense of touch and the range of temperatures my skin feels, from the cozy warmth of my sweatshirt to the biting cold of a January morning. I am also grateful for the poetry of other poets. "Yes" is only three short letters, yet there is a lot of significance packed into those three letters. Yes, I am an alcoholic. Yes, I always will be. Yes, there is a way out. I have committed many prayers, affirmations, one-liners, mantras, and such to memory in my years of recovery. They are go-to tools to keep my brain and my heart in a healthier place. In early recovery, this was one such phrase: "I say yes to life, love, happiness, peace, and serenity. I say yes to today." I had to repeat it over and over, and over time. I didn't regularly know what all of those felt like. I didn't fully grasp that I was capable of experiencing them. Sometimes even all at the same time. Today, this frame still runs through my mind at times and I t

"X" marks the spot

Today I am grateful for bananas, blueberries, and oatmeal. I am also grateful to all the people who helped bring those foods to my breakfast. "X" can be a bit of a challenge on these A-Z lists, but I have been considering "X" marks the spot the last few days. Places where I drank and the places I have known and worked on recovery. They are both numerous. I did most of my drinking in northeast Iowa. I'll leave the details out, but those places included gravel roads, vehicles, farm fields, historical locations, houses with absent parents, and eventually the more "civilized" places like local bars. "X" marked the spot of laughs and good memories with good friends, but also of a progressive illness that had me in a steel grip. More places became marked with despair and blackouts, with hangovers, with the concern and sometimes disgust of others. My recovery also began in northeast Iowa. When I return to my home area, the recovery places li


Today I am grateful for the time off I had from work, but also for the job I get to return to and the people there. I am also grateful for early morning quiet. Today's word is "wicked."  "Wicked"  has been referenced more in recent years as the hit Broadway musical than as a word defined in ways such as: -evil or morally wrong -intended to or capable of harming someone or something -mean, vile, nasty, harsh, formidable, unpleasant, troublesome, detestable Alcoholism is a wicked disease, definitely capable of harming someone and those around that someone. It can lead people to do wrong, to think evil and hating thoughts about oneself. Alcoholism is a disease that takes people to dark places, dark actions, and eventual death. It is indeed formidable and harsh. Unpleasant is too nice of a term for how I felt and thought some of the time. Recovery isn't an exact opposite of active addiction, but it's certainly on the other side of the continuum of


Today I am grateful for an enjoyable meal in good company, and for recovering people who bring laughter and honest sharing to our time together. Void. That is what I felt in my very being, even before I began drinking. An emptiness. A vacancy. There was something missing that I couldn't put my finger on. When I put my hands on a drink though and consumed enough, the emptiness was filled for a time. The pain of the void was dulled. But it never left and was larger and more fully felt the morning after. It grew for years, becoming like a gaping wound. It is what makes sobriety, early recovery, untenable for some. The void pulls us back in. Or we fill it with something else that becomes just as unhealthy. In my early recovery, I became a raging workaholic. I made some recovery connections, fragile and tenuous, hanging on by a thread. I thought sobriety should be enough. It was too easy, as a single young person, fully immersed in my new career as a teacher and coach, to become f

U is for Under . . .

Today I am grateful for the way the frost sparkled on the trail in the street light as I walked our dog Oliver this morning, and that I am able to see, walk, be safe outside in the early morning. Special birthday wishes today to my stepdaughter Emily! Happy 24th and have a special day! Oh how quickly the years have gone since I met you on your 3rd birthday. "U" is for under. .. First, I was under the influence of alcohol and the effects it brought. Then I was under the covers in denial and white knuckle sobriety. And eventually, I started to get an understanding of the disease of alcoholism and the hold it had on me in my active drinking days, as well as the hold it still has on my thinking. Alcoholism manifests as an emotional and mental disease as much as it does a physical one. I haven't physically taken a drink for quite a few days, but I regularly still pick up alcoholic thinking. Understanding the disease is vitally important to ongoing recovery. That doesn&#


Today I am grateful for the beautiful waning crescent moon this morning and for the simple pleasure of putting puzzle pieces together to create a picture. "T" is for Taken. The many taken by alcohol and addiction. People with names like Steve, Sean, Bob, Cathy, Amy, Al, Terry, Bailey, Chris . . . People with family and friends left shattered and futures cut short.  Some I have known personally. Others I did not, but I know what took them. I could have been taken out many times. I could have taken out someone else with my dangerous choices and risky behavior. My slow suicide could have reached completion. "But for the grace of God, there go I."  Given a chance at recovery, I get the gift of today. I strive to not take either for granted, to walk the walk that buffers me from the throes of addiction. That's it. A short post in remembrance of those taken. Long on reminders to do recovery work.


Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and the enjoyable time with my stepson Arthur, his wife Alyssa and our grandson Aaron. I am grateful for the curiosity, joy, and energy that Aaron exudes. As I return to my A-Z list, for the letter “s” I revisit thoughts of summer on this chilly winter morning. For me, the drinking milestone of getting sick (a.k.a. throwing up) for the first time was marked in July of 1981. I won a bet and some beer, and lost my cookies later. I didn’t get sick often, but hangovers pretty much became a given. Later in my drinking career, there were a few times I made myself throw up at the end of a night of drinking, knowing I would feel better in the morning. The other summer thought I am having brings in the song “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. It was popular in 1984 and that was indeed a cruel summer for me. I turned 19 that July and my drinking was progressing, the downward spiral picking up speed. I knew in my heart that I had a problem. Bu