Showing posts from November, 2019


Today I am grateful for jigsaw puzzles--the literal and the figurative--that come together with patience and an open mind. I am also grateful for the recovery connections I have. They mean so much and help me in such significant ways. DEPRESSION is a dangerous and damaging mental illness. Left untreated, it can be deadly. Depressed people die by suicide. Depressed people overdose on alcohol and other drugs. Depressed people forget to take care of themselves and may have more physical illnesses as well. That's some of the bad news. My heart aches for those I personally know who have been impacted by their own or someone else's challenges with depression.  My heart especially aches for those who have had loved ones die by suicide. My generation of my family, and the next one following, have known and continue to know the toll of depression. We are all still here, and there is hope. Hope. The good news is that depression is treatable and effective ongoing results often come


Today I am grateful for concerted family effort to prepare, enjoy, and clean up after a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, and for some sledding fun with our grandson Leo. Returning to the A-Z list of challenges, C is for CANCER. Six letters that have wreaked so much havoc on my sisters and I. Six years ago, we were holding steady in survivorship. Six months ago, my sister Mary Jo was in her final weeks of life. Eleven years ago, I was recovering from my fourth and final round of chemotherapy and preparing for my third and final surgery--bilateral mastectomy. Challenges showed themselves in many ways throughout those months. One of the most challenging times was the several-week period between my confirmed diagnosis on May 29, 2008 and my first surgery--lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy--on July 17. There is nothing easy about knowing you have cancer in your body and having to wait several weeks for the next big step. I took uptight to a new level. It was a challenge to undergo che

Thanksgiving Litany

Living gratefully today, I am humbled by the abundance of meaningful connections and inspired goals that I am blessed to have. I attended Thanksgiving eve services at our church last evening, with my husband Darcy and son Sam.  To be honest, I was tired and went a little begrudgingly. It ended up being just what I needed and more. During the service we did a Thanksgiving litany. It is from the Episcopal "Book of Common Prayer." Here are some of the things for which we gave thanks:     beauty and wonder of creation         earth, sky and sea             daily food                homes and families             friends         minds to think     hearts to love         hands to serve             health and strength to work                 leisure to rest and play             for the brave and courageous         truth, liberty, and justice A litany of gratitudes builds on itself. A litany of lacks tears us down. The words "grateful devotion" showed

"B" Words Abound

Today I am grateful for warm boots and other winter gear, and the physical capability to shovel some fresh snow greeting us this morning. An abundance of "B" words are calling to be written about. Yesterday's alcoholism is today's torturous BLACKOUT. Drinkers in a blackout are still awake and functioning (albeit not very well) and this can go on for hours. There is just no recollection of it the next day, hence the anguish of wondering what was said and done, and what was seen and heard by others. Blackouts are a clear sign of problem drinking and they were a common symptom for me. BLIND SPOTS are those things about ourselves that hinder us but that we don't even see, or at the very least we lack understanding. We all have them. One of my significant blind spots has always been my selfishness and self-centeredness. I am still working on this one, though substantial progress and awareness have come. In my younger days, I thought "How can I be selfish? I ha

A is for Alcoholism

Today I am grateful I survived my years of active alcoholism, and I am grateful that I understand that recovery from alcoholism is a daily endeavor. This A-Z list of challenges starts with ALCOHOLISM. There are things that served as catalysts for my drinking... curiosity was typical, wanting to escape myself and the reality I had created in my own head, less typical. Initially I was having fun, and I certainly appreciated the release of emotions, long pent up, that came. It didn't take long for this line to ring true though: "The chains of alcohol are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." I wasn't even 16 yet. My drinking spanned ten years, and progressed significantly in that time. I was a blackout drinker, and before I was done I had increased then deceased tolerance, brief periods of paranoia, and many attempts to quit on my own. My behavior was high-risk and my drinking dangerous. My self-hate and lack of self-care and compassion deepene

Challenges as Catalysts: A New A-Z List

Living gratefully today, I am noticing what happens when a key light bulb burns out and we have no replacement on hand. There are other sources of light and I appreciate that. Sources of light take many forms and serve many functions. If you have read even a few of my posts, you hopefully concluded that this is not a "gratitude as glossing over" practice. This is a "gleaning gratitude in the good and the god-awful times" practice. Living gratefully does not give me immunity from challenges, but it definitely gives me energy and guidance to move through them. In my years of gratitude practice, I have learned these truths: Gratitude is always possible. Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. Granted, I may not see the silver lining in a challenge right away, but the rainbow always shows up after a storm. It may not show up on my timeline. It shows itself when I have become willing and humbled. One of the biggest challenges in my life, and for my sisters and

Soaking Up the Sun

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the beautiful sliver of the moon that greeted Oliver and I on our morning walk, and the oatmeal Darcy and I shared for breakfast. On Friday, we saw the sun more than we had for several days. Yesterday, it was out in even fuller glory. Gray day after gray day, compounded by shorter daylight, and I really started to miss the light and energy that the sun brings. It is easy to sense the same in others as well; at work, at home, and just out and about. Sunshine not only brightens the sky and all it touches, it brightens the human spirit. So yesterday here are some of the ways I soaked up the sun: *My friend Jill and I found the sunniest spot to sit in at the coffee shop. Good to see you Jill! *Though it impeded my sight as I drove, I said thank you to the sun and appreciated having to put my sunglasses on. Besides, I like how I look in my shades. :-) *As I rode with my son Sam and husband Darcy, I savored the warmth of the sunshine before the


Today I am grateful for the warm glow from our Christmas tree and other holiday decorations. It is one of my favorite things about this time of the year. I am grateful for some family time yesterday afternoon; with Darcy, Sam, and I spending time together decorating. We like to enjoy our tree and the other holiday ambience for a few weeks, so it was time to put things up. Not unexpected, that endeavor as well as some other sorting and cleaning I have done in recent days brought up some fresh grief. I thought about my sister Mary Jo as I came across the last birthday card she sent me, in the summer of 2018.  I looked at pictures gathered over the last couple of years, and listened to songs that remind me of her, of family, of earlier times.  I thought about her husband Clay and their family as we decorated yesterday, an intact family. What will these holidays be like for them? What will be the most difficult? How will they honor their wife, mother, grandmother this Christmas, th

Divine Nudges and Slaps

With gratefulness as my focus in this moment, I relish writing time and morning quiet. Great Spirit. The Universe. Higher Power. God. Whatever you call the power source beyond human, but known by humans in the form of faith and grace, that is the Divine. Divine is defined as God-like, sacred, providence. In a recent conversation l was in, we were talking about deceased loved ones and how it might be helpful if they could deliver some “divine slaps” to some of us earthly beings. If not a slap, maybe at least a nudge. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought? And then I thought some more. I have been the fortunate recipient of many Divine taps, nudges, and a few slaps. (Because I am a slow learner who gets stuck in my own density of thought.) Divine nudges and slaps can come from many sources. Not just the spiritual presence of our loved ones.  I am sure I have missed many a message. Today, though, I am open and aware and ready to receive. For all of this and more, I am deeply grateful.

2 x 4, Gratefully and Proverbially

With gratitude in my heart at this moment, I give thanks for my marriage to Darcy and for our son Sam. I give thanks for my stepchildren Arthur and Emily and their families too, including Alyssa, Aaron, and Leo. Darcy and Sam. That gives me the idea for a 2 x 4 > 8. I am grateful for: 1. Darcy a. because he loves me for all I am and all I am not b. he rolls with my hormonal changes and challenges c. because he manages our finances/bills d. he shows me how to regain perspective when I have lost it 2. Sam a. because he gives me the opportunity to learn through his eyes b. time we spend in conversation always warms my heart, for his insights and calm c. because I find joy in making a meal with him and then eating as a family d. I know he is ready for the next steps in his life, even when I am not sure I am I love my family, immediate and extended. It can get messy at times, but they are always here for me. I feel the love and support. I treasure this sense of togethe

Misty Memories

Today I am grateful for people who understand alcoholism and who understand me. I am also grateful for reminders to slow down; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Misty water-colored memories yesterday had me thinking of my Dad and my sister Mary Jo, and other losses in my life. Grief is about far more than loss through death. Life can be considered a series of losses. We lose what once was and who we once were, to become who and what we are today. The losses and gains are inextricably woven together. So as I listened to  "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" yet again,   I heard the words "and misty memories of days gone by" in a new way. This is a song from the Bee Gees that I have always liked. It is also one of the songs that Mary Jo's family chose to have playing during the slide show at her memorial service. Pictures of her life, her family, her story crossing the screen, and many feelings crossing my heart. The song holds more meaning and emotion for m

The Way We Were

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend, time in conversation with family members, and events to celebrate. I also appreciate chance meetings with old friends and faithful readers of this blog. Congratulations again to my brother Linus and his wife Elaine on their 40th wedding anniversary! We drove home yesterday in a light rain and mist for part of our trip. I was thinking about the visit we had just had with my mom before we got on the road. As her eyesight worsens, she talks about things looking a little foggy. She asks if we see it too . . .  that fog? And these words from the song The Way We Were came to my mind: “misty water-colored memories of the way we were.” It is a sad and reflective song if you want to listen to it  in a live version here.  My memories of the way life was, the way Mom was before aging and dementia deepened, are both uplifting and burdensome. As I looked at a family photo from a wedding day forty years ago, I saw all 12 of my siblings a

A Mindful Moment Here, A Mindful Moment There

Today I am grateful for a return to more mild temperatures. (It's all relative folks!) I am also appreciating the comfortable shoes I can pick to wear each day. Living gratefully and practicing mindfulness go hand in hand. To pause in gratefulness is to also pause in the present moment. Aware and attending to what is right here, right now.  Hand in hand, but not easy. Not for me anyway. I practice. Practice makes progress possible. So I have intentionally been practicing some mindful moments this morning, including: -slowing down to eat part of my breakfast, considering where it came from -being in tune to the flow of my smooth-writing pen across the paper as I journaled -fully sensing that milder air as I went outside to walk Oliver -pausing to feel my warmed-up muscles relaxing again after some exercises Now, that was pretty simple. I will intentionally take some more mindful moments today and revel in what I experience. I invite you to do the same. I will be taking

Thank you Nature

Today I am grateful for the genuine sharing of gratefulness that others model for me. I am also grateful for the unceasing wonders of the natural world; which is to say our world.  A few of us were discussing Nature and all it gives us last evening. We talked about our part in protecting and preserving it. That starts by being present in the moment, to the gifts it bestows. Air to breathe. Sustenance. Marvelous colors. Amazing light changes. A blade of grass. A grain of sand.  That presence brings a reverence. We wrote thank you notes to Nature last evening. Mine was a thank you to Nature for always being a source of spiritual strength for me. Even in my darkest times, even when I could barely see past my own pain, even when a hangover was especially torturous (emotionally as well as physically), Nature has never let me down.  It brings a sense of belonging to a larger whole. It brings a sense of "I am not alone." Nature gets me out of myself and my own head, allow

For A Day, For a Week

Today I am grateful for the unsettling times that become the transformative times. I am also grateful for the various teachers who are sent my way in a day. This morning, our dog Oliver has been one; reminding me to lighten up. For a day. Recovery comes in increments of one day at a time. One hour at a time when most deeply tested. Emotional sobriety is my priority these days. Physical sobriety is "easier" now, but not taken for granted. When I do the daily work needed for emotional sobriety, I don't do it alone. I have help of the human and beyond human varieties. When I do the work, I don't feel alone or lonely. That makes all the difference. Loneliness and terminal uniqueness are dangerous. For a week. My son Sam participated in an extra credit opportunity for his College Psychology class this past week. He turned in his phone last Monday and got it back yesterday. No phone for a week. He had computer access and he used my phone to check his social media a fe

Warming Up From the Inside

Living gratefully today, I say a heartfelt thank you to all currently serving in our military, and all who served in the centuries and decades past. I embrace the freedom and security they won and continue to protect. I braved some chilly temperatures yesterday afternoon to take a brisk bike ride around our beautiful city. Properly layered and attired, I was well-prepared, but the wind still went through me as I started out. Pedaling along, I began to warm up from the inside. The movement and exertion generated body heat and I was cozy and comfortable temperature-wise. It was a pleasant feeling. Warming up from the inside. It happens in times of grief and emotional struggles too. I shut myself off in ways--fear, selfishness, ego, and more. I distance myself from Great Spirit and block the efforts of others who are offering comfort and wisdom. Sometimes it takes strenuous and vulnerable toil to get me out of the way,  allowing the heat source to start getting through. I thaw out and

Onward! Onward.

Today I am grateful for a house and working heat to protect my family and I from the cold. It is one of the things I am reminded of as the seasons change, and something I tend to take for granted. I don't always enjoy the cold, but it has rarely been a threat to my safety like it is for the homeless and others. As I sit here in my cozy home, snuggly warm in one of my favorite sweatshirts and sipping hot coffee, I ponder the word onward. Onward--so as to make progress, going further rather than coming to a halt or an end, moving forward, in a continuing forward direction. I don't know when I started this, but I will sometimes end blog posts and social media comments and notes to others with an "Onward!"  I find it hopeful and motivating. Onward with an exclamation point carries an energy and a pep I appreciate. Onward! Even when uncertain, or tired, or discouraged, onward is still possible. Sometimes it can just be an onward minus the exclamation point. Sometimes

Gratefulness is not Complacency

Today I am grateful for laughter with colleagues and a healthy "I don't care" attitude about some things I used to care far too much about. Living gratefully is not something that we all come by easily. Remember, our brains are hardwired to look for danger, for negative threats. We have to do some retraining and change our default. The good news is, at any age, our brain can learn new things, new neural pathways can be created. So it can take some work. That's a challenge at times. Another challenge for some is the idea that if I am grateful for what I already have, then I become complacent and stop striving for a better life, stop working for more good, more for which to be grateful. Personally, that has not been the case for me at all. Gratefulness creates anything but complacency in me. My complacency tended to have me stuck in difficult emotions, overthinking, unhealthy ego, overdoing. All the stuff that holds me back. Living gratefully moves me forward. I

Where Did This Come From?

Living gratefully today, "good enough" sounds healthy. So does oatmeal and fruit. Where did this come from? As in November.  It seems like it arrived when I wasn't looking.  Wasn't it just last week when my 11 surviving siblings and I, along with other family members, sang our sister Mary Jo home on the deck of a Colorado country house? Wasn't it just yesterday that my son Sam's team opened their football season with a victory on the new turf and updated stadium of their home field? Time. Fleeting and eternal. Moments missed and monumental. Where did this come from? As in today.  I couldn't tell you exactly, but I know it is a gift. Today I will experience the time passing, the moments as they ease by, as some will, and fly by as others will. Today. That's all.

Go Out on a Limb

Today I am grateful for a celebration of our son Sam and his senior teammates at a pleasant football banquet last night. Sam's high school football career has closed out, but the impact it has on him will remain. Thank you to all who contribute to this solid and meaningful football program! Words to consider today: "Why not go out on a limb?  Isn't that where the fruit is?"  (Frank Scully)  There are many ways to go out on a limb. Some are more advisable than others. It was advised, through pain and alcoholism, that I go out on a limb with my perception of self and surrounding world. My thinking process was naturally rooted in negativity and self-pity in my youth and early adulthood. If I wanted to change and recover, this thinking process would be the starting point and the ongoing work. We alcoholics sometimes joke that we don't have a drinking problem, we have a thinking problem. It's really not funny though. It's deadly serious. Practici

Everything or Nothing, Faith or Doubt

Today I am grateful for phone conversations with my friends Linda and Sheila yesterday. One helped start my day, the other to wind it down. I am also grateful for a bike ride with Darcy and some progress for Sam on college scholarship applications. I was thinking about the Albert Einstein quote about either seeing nothing as a miracle, or everything as a miracle. Here is the full quote: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."  I considered that as I  undertook the simple task of making coffee. Water from a faucet. Clean water at my convenience. Plenty of coffee. Money to buy it. A store nearby that stocks it. A percolator coffee pot made from steel and plastic parts. Steel mills. Steel workers. Iron mines. Electrical outlets in the wall to power the coffee pot and the lights I used to see my way at a dark time of the day. A few minutes later, a cup to safely hold the hot, fresh b

Who Moved?

Living gratefully today, I soaked up the warmth of a sweatshirt fresh out of the dryer and a moment of silence between myself and my Higher Power. Higher Power. Great Spirit. God. Those are the names I most often use when referring to my own concept and understanding of a power beyond human. Call yours whatever you would like. Let's not get hung up on names. Let's keep reaching out to that power for support, energy, grace, and opportunities to serve. I will say this about names for higher entities. If the one you are currently using, or the one you were raised with, doesn't click for you, if it is more an obstacle than an opening; please find a name that does resonate with you. It is simply about placing faith, trust, and hope in more than our human selves. (My opinion, my blog.) There are numerous things I appreciate about the faith of my upbringing. And I have found far more to appreciate about this idea of a higher force at work in my life the last three decades si

Live Fully, Go Live

Today I am grateful for the peaceful fire Darcy and I enjoyed last evening sitting by our backyard fire pit. I also appreciate the conversation and the quiet we shared. To live fully is to experience moments in time such as watching a fire flicker, flame, flutter. It is an amazing sight really, and one that I fully enjoy witnessing when the circumstances are safe and controlled, such as last evening. And then there's going live. I did my second radio interview at our local radio station the other day. The topic was living gratefully, and it was timed for now because of an upcoming event that I host each month. (More on this event some other time.) Living gratefully and pursuing ways to share this passion and avocation (or is it vocation?) with others has opened many doors for me. I did my first-ever radio interview back in July with Mo, the friendly and engaging interviewer who also did this second one. We have only met twice, for each of the interviews, and exchanged a few e

Threads of Grief

Today I am grateful for a nice view of Halloween festivities as Darcy and I ate dinner out last evening. I am thankful for the community we live in. I am also grateful for the phone conversation my bookend sister Danita and I shared yesterday morning. This morning I am appreciating the grieving process. It can be surprising in the ways it unfolds, powerful in the emotions it manifests. It is necessary, difficult, liberating. There are days that my sister Mary Jo's death comes to visit me more strongly than on others. Yesterday was such a day. Starting with the writing I did for Mary Jo's eulogy, threads have become my reminders, my signs of her continuing presence, her lasting impact on those of us who love her. On other days, there are only fleeting thoughts. Such is the nature of grieving as well. It hits hard at times and barely surfaces at others. Mary Jo died 137 days ago. A picture of four of her grandchildren in their Halloween costumes yesterday brought me to tear