Showing posts from December, 2019

Goodbye . . .

Today I am grateful for my recovery friends and the genuine life stories and laughter we share. I am grateful for this day of sobriety. I begin my recovery fresh each day. In ways, this is a break from the A-Z list I am moving through, but it really is about perspective, so I guess it is still a "P" word. Today is the last day of 2019, and the last day of the decade that began on January 1, 2010. Reflecting on this past year, what emerges are the tears. I cried more tears this year than ever before. They were tears of sorrow, pain, regret, loss, fear, lack. And also tears of catharsis, joy, connections, comfort, worthiness. The tears flowed, helping me get unstuck from midlife mire. They brought clarity and direction for the day ahead, the year ahead. I say thank you to each one that fell. Tears of gratitude.Tremendous transformation through tears, time, and effort. Reflecting on this last decade, what emerges are images of my son Sam. Nearly eight years old as the de


Living gratefully today, I notice the smell and taste of some seasonal eggnog and the feel of coolness on my skin after a workout. I have a couple other "P" words in line for posts for my A-Z list, but this morning the word that is speaking to me is PRESENT.  Being right here, right now. Staying in the moment. Focusing on my breathing, in and out, inhale, exhale. Checking into thoughts and feelings without latching on to either. Just acknowledging. Readers, there's a reason this topic of presence, attending to now, keeps showing up here. To continue writing about it, really writing of any kind, is action that brings me fully into the current time. Being fully present is simple, but not easy. It is an ongoing challenge for me, but a challenge that I embrace and keep working on. It matters. A ton. As Dr. Shauna Shapiro heard from a monk when she needed, and was ready, to hear:  "What we practice grows stronger."   Practice presence and it comes more natura


Today I am grateful for the family treasures I have kept over the years, and for the space to store them and keep them safe. I also appreciate the guidance that early morning meditation provided me to start this day. A second "O" word of challenge has been sitting on my brain the last couple of weeks, and I am a little fired up about it this morning. Here I go with OPTIONS. Excuse me, but I need to make room for my soapbox. . . What the heck is going on with all the options facing us in the grocery stores of the developed world? Do we need that many different flavors and kinds of chips to consider before we purchase one?  Is it necessary to have dozens of different cereals in the cereal aisle?  We didn't go hungry growing up with Wheaties, Cheerios, 40% Bran Flakes, and Chex. Sure it's nice to be able to customize shoes, cars, furniture and to select a color combination from a variety of options. It feels a little exorbitant to me though. There's a real fir

Optic Issues

Living gratefully today, I appreciate city services like water and sewer, and garbage pickup too. I give thanks for electricity and indoor plumbing, which I usually just take for granted. I also take my eyesight for granted. Sure, I have some OPTIC issues, but I have the blessing of opening my eyes each morning and seeing the world around me. I had 20/20 vision until I hit my mid-twenties and have been wearing glasses ever since. I don't mind wearing glasses and usually like the look they give me. My correction isn't significant and contacts aren't something I care to try. I could still manage to do the important tasks in front of me without my glasses, but feel funny without them. I have progressive lenses now, with three levels for close reading, near, and distant. Everyone in my own family has optic issues. Darcy wears glasses, Sam wears contacts, Arthur has worn both, Emily has glasses. We appreciate our vision insurance, access to quality comprehensive eye exams,


Today I am grateful for the positive ways our phones can connect us, and for the fun games that can be played with a few dice. NATURE is the word of focus for today. The challenges that nature and the environment face because of all the world's development and advancement are daunting. There are wonderful things about that development, and there are horrible things. Pollution. Erosion. Global warming. Less water. Less respect for and less connection to our natural world also seem to be stemming from this high level of technology and convenience that so many of us have at our fingertips. This is only my opinion, but I have witnessed it in many ways. We humans seem to have an audacity that convinces us that we will figure out these pressing environmental issues, find more renewable energy sources, be able to continue our high level of consumption (and waste). Who is the "we" though?  Are you doing your part to reduce, reuse, recycle?  Are you doing your part to care f

Holiday Spirits

Living gratefully today, I am noticing the beautiful peace and playfulness of holiday lights. I am paying attention to the calm in my heart, a deeper and more meaningful calm. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the holiday. Merry day to all. Holiday spirits take many forms. They are the childhood memories of a toboggan full of gifts, a dollhouse I really wanted, a decade of the rosary said as a family before any gifts were opened. They are also the memories of my son Sam's childhood Christmas mornings. Cookies left out for Santa. Early rising to see what awaits. Hours spent with Thomas the Tank Engine and Star Wars Legos. When this recovering alcoholic hears the word "spirits" I also think about the alcohol-laced spirits that  I indulged in on holidays and so many other days. There was always a reason to celebrate, a pain to ease. The gift I used to think alcohol was became a curse, and a wicked one at that. And especially this holiday season, the g


Today I am grateful for thoughtful gifts from others and that I have people in my life to whom I can give thoughtful gifts. I may struggle with memory at times, but there is one word burned into me that I am not likely to forget...METASTASIS. Metastasis: the spread of a disease-producing agency (such as cancer cells) from the initial or primary site of disease to another part of the body. Plural: Metastases. I feel a special compassion for those facing the death and absence of a loved one for the first time through this holiday season. That includes my brother-in-law Clay and his daughters Whitney and Rena and their families. That includes my siblings and I. Our sister Mary Jo died in June of breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones, and lungs, and likely her brain near the end of her life. I think especially of Mary Jo and Clay's seven grandchildren who will only have memories of their Nana this holiday. How will they honor her? My family and I honored her memory the

Memory Loss

Today I am grateful for safe travels for many of us over the weekend, for time with my extended family, for beautiful weather, and numerous pauses to appreciate some amazing sunrises and sunsets across the rolling hills of northeast Iowa. Back to this A-Z list of challenges and catalysts and it is the letter "M" today. MEMORY loss has my mom on my mind first. As her dementia progresses, her memory plays more tricks on her. She was confusing her children with her siblings recently. And yet, she can recount an earlier memory with some accuracy. I have no expectations of who and what Mom will remember anymore. It is still unsettling and emotional to see it and hear it play out though. It is a different kind of grief and loss. She has some remaining comprehension that she is comprehending less and less. How must that feel to her?  It brings a gentle compassion to my heart, and that is a catalyst to more kindness and gentleness. Life is precious. Life is fragile. And my mom


Living gratefully today, I appreciate my eyesight and the wonders I get to witness. I give thanks for my hearing and the voices and laughter of loved ones. LACK. Lack. LACK. There have been big and little lacks in my life. It started in my childhood. Lack of comfort. Lack of guidance. Primarily when it came to my emotional learning and growth. I need to state and honor this lack because it impacted me significantly. Yet, I want to also clearly state and honor that my childhood had fullness and depth to it that shaped me in healthy and meaningful ways. It took me nearly fifty years, but I am coming to better terms with how this lack has interfered in my life. With that has come healing and forgiveness. There are characteristics that I have often had in short supply as an alcoholic in recovery. Lack of tolerance. Lack of acceptance. Lack of understanding. I continue to learn and grow with the help of Great Spirit and the help of many supportive people. I don't consider myself


Today I am grateful for the stars in the night sky and that they remind me of the power beyond myself. I am also grateful for holiday traditions. KNOWLEDGE as a challenge? For me it can be. Especially self-knowledge. I have spent far too much time gaining what I thought was good self-knowledge. Hmm...wrong! All that time and thought energy put into "figuring it out" more often gets me more confused and stuck. Think less. Feel more. Then the thoughts become clarified, and actions and boundaries more healthy. I can't do this without help. Left alone, I simply default to thinking too much. Great Spirit guides me. Meditation helps. Talking to trusted people in my life is productive. Gratitude practice energizes. We live in the information age, inundated with facts and news 24/7 if we choose. Information and knowledge are not the same thing, but they are related. And the information about what we are doing to ourselves, one another, and our planet is often negative. It i

Jealous, Judgmental, and Jaded

Living gratefully today, I appreciate holiday music favorites and indoor plumbing. Returning to the A-Z list of challenges (a.k.a. silver linings), the letter "J" awaits. I would like to think that I am not a JEALOUS sort, but I am. It's not one of my most glaring issues, but it flares up at times. It may be material in nature, like a bigger house with the kitchen and master suite I dream of having. Or it may be circumstances such as the flexibility and finances to be able to not work or work less than full-time. JUDGMENTAL? Guilty here. As my sister Aileen says, if speed judging were an Olympic sport I would have a really good chance of making the team. My wrong-sized ego is constantly judging and getting all self-righteous about how smart and efficient it is and apparently other people aren't. I reserve the harshest judgment for myself, but have made good progress in lovingkindness, compassion, and forgiveness more recently. It is taking hard work, but it is t

Back Around to Breathing

Today  I am grateful for safe travels, family time, and future direction for our son Sam. I am also grateful for the breathing that helps ground me in the present moment. Before I go back to the A-Z list I am working on, I want to go back to breathing. It's not that I stopped breathing, obviously. Rather, I forget to pay attention to it. I stop tuning in to the calming and guiding force that it can be. We all do this forgetting, this lack of presence. Much of the time. My theory is that this lack of attention to our breathing is compounding plenty of other things going on in our current society and culture. Fast-paced and too often frenzied, we go too fast in our minds and multi-tasking for too long and we end up exhausted at the least. We also end up mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and/or physically sick. So back to the breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Pause on the in-breath and then inhale peace. Pause on the out-breath and then exhale tension. Try it. A few times. A fe

Taking a Break

Today I am grateful to more readily recognize peace when I experience it, and for the simple fun in giving our dog Oliver a doggy treat. It's time for a break from my A-Z  challenges list again, and I will be taking a blog break for a few days. How about a simple gratitude list for now? 1. Clean sheets 2. A bed to put them on 3. My husband Darcy sleeping beside me 4. Smooth writing pens 5. Knowing how to write 6. Postage stamps and snail mail 7. Trained professionals in medical and other fields 8. Gloves 9. Stocking caps that fit just right What is on your gratitude list today?

The "Big I"

Today I am grateful for people who share their gratitude and insights, and of the range of human experience and wisdom that show themselves in connections, conversations, and common ground. Moving along in this alphabetical saunter through some of life's challenges, the letter "I" lands me right in the lap of "The Big I." And this is not the lap of luxury. This is the lap of interference. A recovery friend of mine likes to use this term, this reference to "The Big I."  It's more of the ego trip I wrote about a few posts ago. "The Big I" impedes my progress and interferes with a healthy sense of self. It makes problems out of nothing, then makes them bigger problems. It stifles clarity and misguides until I am stranded on a dead-end road wondering how I got there. "The Big I" used to be invisible to me, allowing it to run rampant and pick up steam. It is no longer invisible, though it can be ignored or denied until enough p

Of Hearts: Bypasses and Attacks

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the low-impact exercise of biking and that we have a stationary bike that will help me through the winter months. I am also grateful for recovery connections in my life. The HEART challenges I am writing about today weren't mine, they were my father's. Since I turned 54 earlier this year, I have thought more than once that 54 is the age my father was when he needed quadruple bypass surgery. That was in 1978, and that was when they opened your whole chest up. The diagonal scar ran the length of his chest. Something just hit me that I hadn't thought about before. My dad and I both had/have scars on our chests from diseases that can kill--heart disease and breast cancer. Back in 1978, they called it arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Dad's was discovered somewhat fortuitously, when he was bitten by a sow with a new litter of piglets. The bite didn't heal. Tests were conducted. Clogged arteries discovered. The surg

Of Hearts: Murmurs

Today I am grateful for beating hearts and smiling faces. I appreciate the healthy beating of my own heart. Returning to my A-Z list of challenges and catalysts, I arrive at the letter "h" and I think of HEART. The heart is a vital organ. And heart means so much more than a body part too. Today it's about the body part. When I was 5 and my brother Artie about 4, we both had rheumatic fever. I don't recall being all that sick, but I know that I was. Artie was even more sick. I remember a swollen and sore ankle. A heart murmur was detected, and for the next five years Artie and I took penicillin and the rest of the family was cautious when anyone got sick. We were vulnerable to more serious heart damage. We also had to make an annual trip to University Hospitals in Iowa City for testing and appointments. Things like getting an EKG were a challenge for shy and inhibited Lisa. I was also challenged by the size of the hospital, the things I needed to have done to me

A Nod to 2300

Today, as I pause in gratefulness, I say thank you for my sense of hearing and the songs loaded with sentiment and feelings that are helping me start my day with emotional awareness. I say thank you to the songwriters, musicians, and technology that made the songs possible. A deep sense of gratitude for this blog fills me this morning as well. A tradition of noting the milestone was started when I reached my first 100 posts. I have reached 23 century marks as of today, publishing post #2300 when this one is done. Today is a low-key milestone. Nothing catchy. Nothing notable number-wise. Just a nod to a writing milestone, and then continuing what got me gratefully and writing gratefully a post at a time, a day at a time "Only the disciplined are free" is a quote attributed to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who lived over 2300 years ago. (Okay, so there is something notable number-wise.)  Writing "Habitual Gratitude" posts for well over seven yea


Today I am grateful for the feel of my fingers on the keyboard of my computer as I compose these words. I am also grateful for my ability to read and write that I learned at a young age. There's one more ""G" word I wish to throw into the mix of the A-Z challenges and catalysts. That word is GRAVITY.  I think first about my elderly mom, as she becomes more unsteady and unstable. I have worried for years that gravity would pull her down in an unfortunate fall. Thankfully, she uses a walker and lives in a nursing home now. The risk of a fall is always present though. I wonder if it contributes to her anxiousness?  Gravity and falls have led many elderly people into what becomes their death spiral. Mom's fragility has made me more aware of my own, as have some of the aches and pains of my aging body. I am not as confident as I used to be, and use more caution, when the lighting is poor, the surface uneven or slippery, the stairs darkened. Caution is warranted,

Grind and Gravel

Today I am grateful for the laughter shared between recovering people, and for chocolate in its many variations. Not being able to land on just one “G” word, I am going to take a shot at two of them with my writing efforts in this post. GRIND. The daily routine. The parts about our home and work lives that most seem like drudgery. The complacency that can come with a length of sobriety. Many of these things are necessary, or at least recommended (i.e. doing laundry at home or attending a work meeting, staying sober, etc.), but we may not have the best perspective about it. If all we do is grind and regrind, it can get pretty discouraging and uninspired. We all feel this grind at times. My goal is to not stay stuck in it, and I find that living gratefully sure helps the mundane and repetitive seem less so. Laundry again? Balled up socks, again? OR: I have family to do laundry for. We can afford a variety of seasonally appropriate garments. And that washer and dryer of our own and


In a grateful pause, I notice the comforting sounds of my home and the people (and one dog) in it. I appreciate the idea of self-care and how I can apply it throughout my day. The first "f" word yesterday leads to the second one today: FORGIVENESS. Fear, mostly of the irrational variety, tends to lead me to think, say, and do things for which I later need forgiveness, mostly of the self-forgiveness variety. There are times forgiving others has been warranted, and certainly many times when I have been the one who needed to be forgiven by others. But for me, the forgiveness I need the most and often lack is the forgiveness of self. Feeding resentments toward others and myself, berating myself for my shortcomings, these are not kind or beneficial endeavors. Fear and wrong sized-ego block gratitude and grace and faith. They prevent me from fully embracing the best stuff of life. And by stuff I don't mean material goods. I mean connections, relationships, goals, Nature,

FEAR fear

Today I am grateful for the stars in the morning sky, a precursor to the coming sunshine. I am also grateful for the laughs that our dog Oliver brings us. There are some powerful "f" words out there. I am going to give this letter two separate posts. The two words on my mind and heart each need their own say. The first is FEAR. Big FEAR. Little fear. Healthy fear. Unhealthy fear. We all experience it. We all have it. Like stress, some fear is normal. I fear gaining too much weight, so I try to monitor what I eat. I fear forgetting the stock-up items we need, so I write them on a list. If I leave it at that, it's a fairly rational fear. If I fuel my fears with wrong-sized ego, selfish motives, lack of faith, then they tend to become irrational and energy-sucking. Fear can rob us of gratefulness, joy, and presence. It can rob us of confidence and direction. I strive to "Face fear with faith." Faith is the catalyst. Faith reminds me that I don't ever ha

Of Egos and What We Eat

Living gratefully today, I enjoyed coffee and breakfast with my husband Darcy earlier. I also appreciate the emotional awareness I am gaining and the guided meditations that help bring this awareness. EGO is an "e" word that has given me some real challenges over the years. For a long time I misunderstood ego. It is defined as a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. We all have an ego. It is part of who we are. I mistakenly defined it as someone who thought too highly of themselves, and that certainly was not me. I was missing what I have come to know as "right-sized ego." Thinking too little of oneself, and conversely, thinking too much of oneself, are each damaging and detrimental. My "wrong-sized" ego was a combination of feeling pretty worthless much of the time, but spending just as much time in my head ruminating on that self-hatred, a.k.a. thinking of myself too much. The challenge of my unhealthy ego got me drinking as a teen