Showing posts from April, 2019

Different Terms, Deeper Gratitude

Today I am grateful for pain as teacher, and for the healthy break and relaxation of Wordscapes, a game I play on my phone. (And to my son Sam for telling me about it.) To start this post I bring in some of the words I finished with yesterday: There's a flip side to coming to terms though. How do we come to terms with our talents, our gifts, the right kind of power, the purposes we have been put here to carry out? Just as it is so important to identify and face our defects and shortcomings, our self-sabotage, it is as vital to celebrate our personal strengths and our boundless capacity to be who we are meant to be. Here are some of my talents and purposes: *I am a runner. Maybe not as fast, but certainly as far. The beauty is in the endorphins and the outdoor time, and the ways my body, heart, soul, and mind appreciate the activity. *I am a writer. It first saved me, then paved the way. It continues to pave the way, and I'm not done yet. When I run out of inspiratio

Coming to Terms

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the conversations I had with three of my sisters yesterday and the taste of blueberries in my cereal this morning. "Coming to terms."  A gradual accepting. Enduring or tolerating. It is most often used in reference to painful and difficult circumstances, situations, events, people.  There is probably always something we are each working to comes to terms with in our own lives. It applies to me in numerous ways at this present time. Coming to terms with the fact that my sister is dying of metastatic breast cancer, that my mom is progressing into dementia, that I can no longer run like I did when I was 30 or 40. Coming to terms with career complacency as well as cynicism and frustration. Coming to terms with my own shortcomings, regrets. It takes hard work to accept, endure, move forward. I am willing to do the work, but I don't always do it the most effectively. I sidetrack and sabotage myself. I impede the process and sometime

Vigilance Against the Vultures and Clowns

Today I am grateful for progress that comes in many forms, and for coworkers and the ways we support one another professionally as well as personally. I also fully appreciate the time I spend around other recovering alcoholics and the wisdom and grace shared. One of my friends recently gave some fitting terms and images to my overthinking, overactive alcoholic mind. He used these phrases: "The vulture on the headboard" and "There are plenty of clowns in my head and I can't tell the difference between the good ones and the bad ones." Yep, I can relate. Real well. The vultures and clowns that carry the evil of addiction remain nearby, lurking regardless of how long someone has been clean and sober. They are pesky on a good day and downright poisonous on a bad day. That vulture becomes human-sized if fed the thoughts it likes to devour. The evil clowns can become more sadistic when provoked. And for some reason, the alcoholics and addicts I know, myself inclu

Last Breath

Living gratefully today, I am embracing the brisk morning air and also the emotions I woke up with, both the welcome and the less welcome. One breath at a time. I succeeded at experiencing them a few times yesterday, but I would have to admit that nearly 23,000 of my breaths went unnoticed on a conscious level. Such is the nature of humans and our bodies. Such is the nature of me, a thinker more than a feeler. I am working hard to find more of a balance between the two. And then I considered my last breath. As in the last breath before I die. Will I know it is coming? Will I welcome it peacefully? Or will it be sudden, unexpected, painful, too soon? Tough questions, but good ones to ask ourselves to bring perspective to our moments and days.  Many people are made uncomfortable by such questions, including me to a degree. The faith I have fostered and the spiritual growth I continue to experience help me go to the deep questions with more of an open mind and heart. And less fe

One Breath at a Time

Today I am grateful for birdsong and bananas. One breath at a time. One moment at a time. That is how our lives unfold. But I often miss that simplicity and ease, caught up in the next moment or thought or action instead. I am reminded of the powerful phrase:  "What we practice grows stronger." So I am practicing tuning into my breathing. Pausing to actively participate in my next breath, rather than ignore it like I so often do. Each breath brings in life-giving oxygen, which allows me to do whatever it is I am doing. It is important to honor our breathing, which we do on average 23,000 times a day. Even honoring a few of them is a powerful endeavor. I am back to practicing some guided meditation, which most often includes some aspect of paying attention to our own breathing. I struggle at this practice, and seek the help of guided audio to help me stay focused. It does help calm me and give me more presence, so I slog along and try not to be too hard on myself for

A Loving Silence

Today I am grateful for sweat and endorphins, for their cleansing and energizing properties. I am also grateful for the written word. Consider these words:  "A loving silence often has far more power to heal and  to connect than the most well-intentioned words."  (Rachel Naomi Remen) I practiced a loving silence as I sat with my mom the other day. For so long, I had many thoughts, and honestly plenty of judgments too, as I watched or listened to Mom. Now, the best I can do, should do, is love and accept her. I have always loved her. She's my mom. But this loving silence is newer, more meaningful, unconditional. I practice loving silence as I think about my sister Mary Jo, across the miles. And across the chasm of cancer. I pause, pray for her, send energy to her. She deals with nausea, pain, restlessness, the weight of terminal illness. She draws an inner strength and hopefully feels the support of so many of us around her. It is hard to give words to

Moon Setting, Sun Rising

Today I am grateful for the new green we are seeing in the grass and the buds on trees beginning to emerge. I am also grateful for time to write yesterday, always a good way for me to spend time.  On Good Friday, I had an opportunity to take in the morning horizon in a way this "city dweller" typically is unable to. I had an unobstructed view of both the moon setting and the sun rising, which I believe happens around full moon phase. I took these two pictures from the driveway of our family farm just after 6:30 in the morning. The moon is somewhat visible in the first picture, as is my shadow. I had to use a tree to cut the brightness of the morning sun in the second picture.  I had traveled without my own family, who had other commitments. My brother Artie, the lone inhabitant of the house here since our mom went into the nursing home almost two years ago, had left earlier for his job at a neighbor's dairy farm. Rare have been the times I have been here

Fresh Air as Medication

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the fresh air my husband Darcy and I enjoyed this morning on our patio, and the brief thunderstorm that also reminded us of nature's power.  I am also grateful for nice weather, safe travels, and enjoyable family time over the last few days. Fitting to give gratitude for nature today, Earth Day. Am I doing my part to honor, protect, preserve our precious natural environment? I try. I could do more, but I do plenty and will continue. If we each do our part, even in small ways. it makes a difference. Not to mention, it is our responsibility, nicely summarized in these words from Chief Seattle: "Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints."   When it comes to memories, my mom's are slipping away. I visited her the other day and enjoyed the time we spent together. I simply try to appreciate being with her and feeling her presence, this person who helped create me, carried me, raised me. I don't expect much of a con

Crosses to Bear

Living gratefully today, I am watching clouds pass and tree limbs sway in the breeze. I feel pulled along by the clouds, reminded that I am part of a wider, larger world. It is Easter week. Growing up Catholic, I participated in many of the rituals and services that make up Lent and Easter. One of them was the "Stations of the Cross."  It is now often referred to as "The Way of the Cross."  The journey Jesus took and the journeys we each take have burdens, crosses to bear. I went to our church last evening and took a few minutes to do the 14 stations. I was reminded of how so much in life is about letting go and forgiving. Letting go. Forgiving. What are my crosses to bear? What are yours? I think about my large family, my 12 siblings and I. Being raised in that setting was a cross to bear. There's no way that all 13 of us could get our emotional needs met. That has played out in sometimes problematic ways for each of us over the years. Yet, we are all h

Third Chance

Today I am grateful for the beautiful weather we enjoyed yesterday, and for the opportunities to share gratitudes and discussions of living gratefully with many people in a variety of ways. Yesterday's second chance post has led to today's third chance post. After my own cancer diagnosis nearly 11 years ago, I did plenty of writing, processing, feeling. Those all continue, but are less intense in ways, at least regarding my own cancer experience. One of the things I wrote about at that time was how getting through cancer was giving me a third chance at living life fully. Our first chance is being born, my second chance was surviving my active alcoholism and beginning the ongoing process of recovery. Post-cancer, following surgeries and treatment, has become my third chance. Cancer was a catalyst. The experiences of many appointments, chemo, mastectomies, uncertainties, fears, physical exhaustion like none I had known, drugs and side effects, and much more catalyzed my des

A Short and Random Rant

Living gratefully today, I am savoring the sound of Billy Joel's voice and music in my ears, and also the feel of my feet on the floor, on stable ground. So, I am driving home yesterday and I look at the computer screen in my car and it tells me the song playing is by .38 Special, titled "Second Chance" and is from 1989. My first thought is .38 Special is the name of a gun too, but I always think first of the rock band whose music I really enjoy. Should I be bothered that the group name is also a gun name? It never really crossed my mind in my youth. It didn't make me violent, I wasn't offended or bothered. It was just a name they must have had some reason for calling themselves. No big deal. Enjoy the music! The song title of "Second Chance" followed by the year 1989 brought me right away to the second chance at life that recovery from alcoholism has given me. My recovery started in 1989 and continues today, one day at a time. One hour at a time w

Papa and Gigi Time

Today I am grateful for time with our grandsons and their parents in recent days. I am also grateful that ongoing efforts tend to yield ongoing results when talking about most things worth doing. Our grandson Leo, age 4, was overnight with us to close out last week and then we visited our other grandson Aaron, age 19 months, over the weekend. It was so nice to see them both and spend time enjoying their presence. Leo likes playing with the farm set and some of his uncles’ old toys at our house. He gets a kick out of helping with chores when he visits us and I get a kick out of figuring out things he can do. Like feeding Oliver or putting pillows back on the bed. Darcy and I, a.k.a. Papa and Gigi, enjoyed a pleasant walk around the neighborhood with Aaron when we arrived for our visit. I also got to walk around the grocery store with him while his parents shopped early Sunday morning. As I practice writing haiku, here is one about that experience: Curiosity A broom fascinates p

Birthday Wishes

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, and our marriage, our family, our shared lives. Darcy turns 54 today. He’s about three months older than me, and also often wiser as well. When we met at age 32, we had 64 years of life experience between us, and it hadn't all been rosy for either of us. We brought many blessings to our relationship for sure, but we also brought challenges, difficulties, and tough memories. We have each added 21 years of life experience, another 42 years between us. The blessings have grown exponentially. Some challenges, difficulties and tough memories have come along too, but our marriage has helped us though them individually and collectively. I sat down to do a gratitude list for Darcy for his birthday. A list of 54 things I am grateful for about him. I didn't do it all at once, I carried it with me yesterday and kept adding to it. The gratitude flowed and it didn't take that long to go from what I put for #1: his honesty and what I put fo

Fascinated by Weather and by Haiku

Living gratefully today, I consider the joy of spending time with our grandsons and I also consider the value in short periods of meditative practice. We enjoyed time with our grandson Leo last evening. I am also trying to return to a more consistent practice of meditation. Though brief, I have already found it helpful. I had extra time to do other things I enjoy yesterday...some writing, some baking, a nap, time with recovery friends. All because of a spring storm that led to a snow day from school. It was fascinating to watch the weather unfold at times. There was heavy snow, wind-driven sleet, lightning, rain, high winds, branches down. Wacky as only these spring storms can be. It was also a day where I tried a new writing activity. Maybe not new, but certainly nothing I had done in a long time. I read about haiku, read some written by others, went outside to shovel, and found myself inspired to write some of my own: Sleet pummeled me Wind stretched a sign's limits


Living gratefully today, I savored my breakfast a bite at a time and paused to appreciate Mother Nature's handiwork. That handiwork allowed me to capture this photo in today's predawn: Heavy, wet snow sticking to tree branches, roadways, trail and everything else it landed on. The streetlight's glow drew me to walk towards this scene. Heavy snow will lead to some heavy lifting and shoveling later. Sam will be available to help too, because we both have a snow day from school.  Darcy's commute will be safe because he works in his home office. Family lightens the heavy loads.  Heavy clouds are promising more precipitation though. And there's the heavy emotions that come with thoughts of my sister Mary Jo's advanced cancer and our mom's advancing memory loss. There is heavy emotional work going on in my mid-50's and it sometimes weighs me down. Like the snow though, I work to clear the clutter of thoughts and feelings. A shovel full at a ti


Today I am grateful for indoor plumbing and outdoor lighting. My recent posts have carried titles like "Forget and Just Be" and "Doing."  I am prone to doing too much, so let's focus this post on the art of "Being." And it truly is an art I have yet to master. I like the use of the word "flow" here. Go with the flow. Enter into flow and be fully present. When in a state of flow, attention is only on the moment and task at hand. I know how that can feel, but I would like to know it more. I would like to be able to bring flow easier. So I start with a little writing flow:   Being present               Intentional                        Just being              Doing nothing    Meditation time              Writing time                     Coherence                         Flow                            Full attention                    Listening with ears             Pausing      Listening with heart           Su

Some Drumming and Some Debris

Today I am grateful for our son Sam and the ways he applies himself as a student, athlete, son, friend, contributor. Congrats on your induction into the National Honor Society last evening. I am also grateful to the NHS Advisors at his school and all they do to support students. Yesterday was a warm, sunny, and breezy day. I stopped down by the Mississippi River on my way home to do some writing and to enjoy the elements. The floodwaters are receding and here is some of the debris left behind:  I was struck by the sheer size of these branches and the power of the current and water that brought them here. They leave a mess to be cleaned up. It left me with questions to consider. Where am I leaving debris?  What do I need to clean up? What is my part and what isn't? As I pulled in to a parking spot, a man carrying a drum walked past and took a seat on the nearest bench. He began to drum as I began to do some writing. I really appreciated that timing made it possible


Today I am grateful for conversations with family and friends over the weekend, in person and across the miles. I am also grateful for my sense of hearing. "Forget and just be." I am continuing to ponder yesterday's post topic. As my sister Danita pointed out recently, we are a family of doers. Like Mom and Dad, we are hard workers and proud of this work ethic they set as the example and instilled in each of us. We are aging and slowing down some. Health issues are causing more limitations. But we remain doers and we have "to do" and "done" lists that might make others tired just looking at them. Heck, I get tired just looking at mine sometimes. But there is a price to pay, and sometimes a heavy one. I will "do" when I should just "be." Overdoing. Thinking too much. Doing too much. Not stopping until enough is done. But "enough" is a moving target and I am the one who keeps moving it. Continuing to do when I should

Forget and Just Be

Living gratefully today, I am enjoying a weather discussion with my husband Darcy over our morning coffee. I am also enjoying the sound of birds and the view of passing clouds through our front window. The " Word for the Day" at  often resonates with me, including this recent one: "In an age where there is much talk about "being yourself," I reserve to myself  the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being somebody else."  (Thomas Merton) I think I could use some of that forgetting to be myself. I try too hard, do and think too much on a pretty regular basis. If "too" is in front of much, I need to pause and dial down. Forget and just be.  As I sat here writing, a squirrel came into my view, running across the electrical lines along the road in front of our house. That squirrel was just being a squirrel as it scurried along 20 feet above the ground. 

Road Signs

Today I am grateful for the laughter to be found in any day, even the heavy ones. And I am grateful for a few moments to sit and do nothing and remind myself what that feels like. I feel like writing about road signs today. No deeper meaning. No emotional analysis. Just road signs. The kind that help us find where we are going and help all drivers and passengers stay safer on roadways. Those roadways range from quiet neighborhood streets to multi-lane interstate highways, from gravel roads to tollways. I appreciate stop signs, warnings for upcoming curves, indications of how many miles before we get where we are going. What would happen in urban areas if there were no stoplights? What would happen in rural areas if there were no "T" intersection signs? But there I go, starting to analyze. Road signs are a good thing. Leave it at that and have a good day!

Perspective Shifters

Today I am grateful for the opportunities to thank others for their efforts. I am also grateful for how a little shift in perspective can make a significant shift in energy and emotions. We had our carpets cleaned this week and had some furniture moved for a couple of days. There were chairs where there aren't usually chairs. So I sat in one and saw a view of my home and outside that I don't typically get. A little shift in vantage point brought a freshness to something as mundane as our refrigerator and the view out our front window that I have seen thousands of times. Perspective shifters come in all shapes and sizes, lengths and breadths. Today I am thinking about my dear friend Sheila and her family. Two years ago today, her daughter Carli died by suicide at age 14. Sheila and I have shared many conversations since then and I have witnessed and heard the perspective shift that a grieving mother makes as she moves forward. I am thinking about my sister Mary Jo and th

The Diagnoses that Bind

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the street lights and vehicle headlights that light our way in the dark hours.  Living gratefully yesterday, I paused to stand under the sky and take in a rainbow on my run. We got a brief squall of wind-driven rain and sleet before it passed and the rainbow emerged. All of that on just a 2-mile run.  Today my sister Mary Jo begins ten rounds of radiation on her right femur and hip area to hopefully relieve the pain of bone metastases in those areas. I pray that she experiences some of that pain relief sooner than later.  Last week on our visit, my sister Zita and I joined Mary Jo for an appointment with her oncologist. It was very meaningful for me to see the medical facilities she goes to and to meet the oncologist she has had all these years, since her original diagnosis in 2006. I have never been to someone else's oncologist appointment before. It's different when the patient isn't you.  There is a tree in this canc

Stand Under the Sky

Today I am grateful for the kindness of others and for the opportunity to give back in ways that matter. I am also grateful for the natural world. It is such a source of peace and awe for me, a regular energy supply for my days. And a deep source of faith and spirituality.  So this quote fits today's post: "When life feels too big to handle,  go outside.  Everything looks smaller when  you're standing under the sky." (L.R. Knost) There are heavy and hard things playing out in the world, with people I care about, in my own corner too. Cancer. Anniversaries of unimaginable losses. Fear. Worry. Grief. And yet, these heavy and hard things are as much a part of life as the joy, the light, the love. I am shown this gamut of emotion and experience when I step outside. Darkness fades and light comes each day. Dead leaves and grass give way to new buds and blades. Someone's last breath of fresh air is countered with someone else's first breath. 

The Other Sisters

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the functionality of my opposable thumbs and all they allow me to grasp and do. I am also grateful for reminders to look for the good in others, myself, the world. My sisters have been on my mind a lot lately, and they always are, but the sisters I am writing about today are my mom and my Aunt Helen. Several attempts to reach my mom by phone in recent days had been unsuccessful. She is out walking, socializing, taking part in activities, maybe resting. These are all good things. I was about to try again yesterday morning, just seconds away from dialing her number, when my phone rang. It was my Aunt Helen, my mom’s younger and only surviving sister. I very much appreciate my connection with my aunt, and the connection she has with my mom. I will drop a letter in the mail to her from time to time. We'll share phone conversations like we did yesterday. And when I head home to see my family, sometimes it works out for us to get together then