Showing posts from January, 2020

Blog Breaks, Breaks in Blogs

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the power of music in my life. It started at a young age, and continues. Songs are often the gateway to tapping into my emotions. I plan to start taking more blog breaks, even if short ones. My goal will be four to five posts a week.  I may also be doing more re-posting of previous posts, or portions of posts. That is a time-saver, but it is also a process this writer needs. What is already here? What does previous writing spark in me in this moment?  How have I transformed as a writer and an evolving person? It is also a good practice for this sometimes rigid overachiever. I have learned some flexibility in my nearly eight years of blogging. And in the pain of complacency in recent years and my efforts to get unstuck. Thank you to all my readers, and especially those faithful since early on in "Habitual Gratitude's" history.  There will still be plenty of new material, and you can always join me in perusing some of the earlier

Finding Less Fault, More Gratefulness

Today I am grateful for my feet and comfortable, safe shoes for them. Here is part of my post from two years ago today, titled "Fault" as I was moving though an A-Z list. Then there is the fault that has to do with placing blame, finger-pointing at the responsible party when a problem arises or something difficult happens. I have to hop up on my soapbox for a brief rant on this one. I believe one of our society's biggest crutches right now is that it has become common to do so much finger-pointing and blaming of others that we render ourselves helpless at times. If it is always someone else's fault, action isn't required on my part. I am the victim. Someone else screwed up. They need to fix it. If that is your expectation, you stay stuck, the problem stays a problem, your energy is wasted, and you develop tunnel vision. And when I say you, I mean me too. We all end up here from time to time. My goal is to not stay there for long. That is not a fun place

Ongoing Revisions

Today I am grateful for the ease of Bluetooth technology. I don't understand it, but I do appreciate it. I am also grateful for every poem I have ever written. Each has served a purpose. Some of those poems are long forgotten, and others are committed to memory. Some are full of pain and despair. Others brim with joy and transformation. Some are not well-written at all, while others stun me with their power. For most of my early life, when I wrote a poem it was written and then done. I thought it a dishonor to make revisions, because the poem came out as a whole in a few moments in time. The poem had done the job it needed to do--getting out emotional toxicity that knew no other safe escape. As I have evolved and learned as a writer, I have revisited the idea of making revisions to my poems. I am currently revising some of my old "drinking poems." These are the life-savers that kept me from killing myself, accidentally or intentionally, at the height of my active

Food on the Table

Today I am grateful for the nutritious and convenient food options my family and I have readily available to us each day, each meal. I try to choose wisely and also not to waste any. The school I work at did a wonderful thing yesterday. We had a day of service to kick off Catholic Schools Week. A big thank you to all who helped plan and carry out this day. It included traveling in two shifts to pack nutrition-packed meals for hungry children around the world. Each shift had around 400 students and adults in it from our grades 6-12 school. We packed over 186,000 meals, enough to feed more than 400 children every day for a year. Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) is an amazing organization making a significant impact on world hunger. A statistic that stuck with me yesterday was that each day 6,200 children around the world die of hunger-related causes. EACH DAY that many lives are cut short, even though there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone. To get some idea of the im

The Trick about Quiet

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the many posts that I have composed here over the years. I also am thankful for the new and ongoing connections I make with others in recovery. Speaking of all those posts, here is one I wrote six years ago today, on January 27, 2014: So let's make  quiet  today's word. It is a word I am enjoying learning about and practicing more. It used to be fairly elusive to me. I couldn't enjoy the quiet because my mind continued to race. I couldn't quiet my mind because fears, worries, and self-pity kept it spinning.  I am learning to quiet my mind through prayer and meditation. I am learning to let go of fears and worries by staying present and mindful. Gratitude practice helps me quiet my mind. I will never do it perfectly, but I am making progress and enjoying more moments of quiet contentment than ever before. The early morning quiet is one of my favorite times of the day. The house is quiet. The freshness and hope of a new day aw

Enlightened and a Little Lost

Today I am grateful for the muscles in my legs and torso that are responding to physical therapy exercises. There is such resilience in our physical bodies, and also our mental, emotional, and spiritual beings. Yesterday I headed to our local Walmart to get a few things. It's not my favorite place to shop, but with our Target closing two years ago, it's convenient. I appreciate the steps I get in, and that I can get grocery and stock-up items under one roof. What I couldn't get though was a needed bulb for a bathroom light fixture. Reaching the light bulb aisle, I saw three other shoppers combing over the wide selection of bulbs. My search was proving fruitless. One shopper was double-checking a note. Two others were confirming the wattage needed. Another was a bit overwhelmed by so many choices. We, as random shoppers and complete strangers, were sharing a moment in this aisle full of light, but feeling a little lost. I made some comment about "it didn't use

At 18 . . .

Today I am grateful for our son Sam and how being his mom continually enriches and enhances my life in so many ways. I am grateful for the journal I have been writing to him since before he was born. Several are now full of his life story through his mom's eyes and words. Happy 18th Birthday Sam! It got here fast. The senior picture is on the wall. The post-secondary choice is finalized. You are already a college student taking online classes. Graduation and party dates are on the calendar. Here you are at 5 months of age: I love this picture, your smile, your embracing of the fun at hand. I have loved every step of the way as you have grown. One of my frequent prayers has been for your healthy growth and development. You have helped me grow and develop too, as I have experienced motherhood over the years. As I embrace the many mixed emotions surrounding this milestone and the upcoming milestones of you finishing high school and going off to college, I reflected b

The Gate of Heaven

Pausing in this moment, I appreciate my senses of hearing, smell, and touch. Hear the quiet. Smell the coffee. Touch our dog's warm coat. Speaking of gaits and gateways more gates came to mind, as did this beautiful quote: “At the center of our being is a point of pure truth. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with  the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody. I have no program for this seeing.  It is given. The gate of heaven is everywhere."  (Thomas Merton) When I first heard this quote, I found it to be deeply profound. It is where living gratefully can take us. If we truly pause, truly consider what is around us and within us, it is amazing and humbling. The gate of heaven is everywhere. I don't so much consider heaven a place or location, but rather a perception and an experience. We don't even need to work at opening the gate. It is already open, just waiting for us to open our eyes and hearts. It may look grand and magnificent at times, bu

Gait as Gateway

Living gratefully today, I appreciate clean clothes, yogurt, and stocking caps. As part of my physical therapy appointment last week, I ran on a treadmill while the PT videotaped me from a few different angles. The gait analysis clearly showed the quad-dependent runner I am, just like this picture from the 2014 St. Louis Rock 'n Roll Marathon shows when you look in the lower right corner: Now that is a screaming quad! It was the late miles, so other parts were screaming too, but not that obviously. After my gait analysis last week though, my arm position and a bit of a forward lean became more noticeable to me. My PT recommended I focus on engaging my spine and shortening my stride, and she gave me some more exercises to strengthen my hips, and the sleepers--my hamstrings and glutes. I mentioned to the physical therapist that I sometimes wondered if my mastectomies and flat chest had had any impact on my running form. It now is apparent that they had, but with a more emoti

Snowshoes, Puzzles, and Cardinals

Today I am grateful for family, sunshine, blue skies, snowshoes, and jigsaw puzzles. Happy Birthday wishes today to my mother-in-law Marlene and our niece Maycee! With fresh snow earlier in the week, we were able to get our new snowshoes out a couple of times. We can go to a nearby golf course to use them and that is a nice convenience. Yesterday afternoon it was bright with clear blue skies and little wind. We first followed the path put down by someone else across pristine open space and took in the replenishing fresh air and sunshine. Then we forged our own way for a time as well. Both my husband Darcy and I would put this excursion as a highlight of our day. Our physical capabilities allowed us this exercise that became as mentally cleansing and spiritually renewing as it was physical. Our grandson Leo joined us a couple hours later and he and I set to the work and fun of putting a new puzzle together. He dismantled the 100-piece one we finished over the holidays and we got

Love or Hate?

Today I am grateful for the values my parents taught my siblings and I, and to Martin Luther King, Jr. for his courage, contributions, peaceful efforts, words of wisdom, sacrifices, and so much more. I grew up in rural Iowa, surrounded by very little diversity in terms of race and religion. Still, my parents imparted the lessons that all life has value, that everyone deserves dignity. We lacked for some of the comforting words it would have been helpful to hear, but we also didn't hear hateful words directed at us or at certain groups or situations.  Mom and Dad did us a significant service in this way. Our upbringing may not have been worldly, but we learned some universal lessons. My siblings and I have wide and varied views on many things, and some topics are better left off the table at family gatherings. Yet, somehow we walked out of our childhoods with fairly open minds and less judgment when it comes to differences among our fellow humans.  Martin Luther King, J

And Keep Stretching...

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the guided meditations and reflective writing that help me start my day with more reasonable expectations. I am also grateful for old movies. I enjoyed "Ice Castles" last evening. Yesterday I wrote: “There is such a mind-body connection in each of us and I am stretching to reunite threads that had been disconnected . . . Stretching it out physically is just the beginning. There is much more to stretch in the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms of our lives.” I am repeating the words here as much for myself as for anyone else. The new or refreshed physical exercises I am doing in recent weeks coincide with some of my efforts to stretch myself spiritually, and to engage healthy thoughts and emotions that are more readily available to me. Not only are muscles and neural pathways awakening in me, so are healthier emotions. I am even finding some for the first time. Emotions directed at my former worst enemy--the woman in the mirror.

Stretch It Out

Today I am grateful for the freshness of a new snowfall and how it changes the light indoors and out. I am also grateful for the comedic and other contributions from Betty White over the last 80 years. Wishing a Happy Birthday today to my sister Ann! Have a special day! I have been doing some physical therapy for my left hip and many good things have already come from the process that started with an X-Ray and MRI, appointments with a doctor, and now several PT appointments with two different physical therapists. What we know now is that I have some arthritis in my left hip and a tight IT band on my left leg as well. I also have learned that I am a quad-dependent runner and have been under-utilizing and under-engaging my hamstrings and glutes. None of this is surprising, but it sure is insightful. And helpful. It's another way I got stuck and complacent in recent years and it caught up to me. Now, I have a regimen of several exercises to strengthen what needs strengthening

But Not Careless

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the lights I can turn on with ease, and the rooms of our comfortable home that those lights illuminate. As I wrote on Wednesday: "Caring less, in healthy fashion, is an exercise in energy conservation. At this stage in my life, I need that."  Caring less helps me prioritize, which helps me find more peace. More peace, less exhaustion. Less exhaustion, less carelessness. Inattentive, remiss, negligent, causing harm... these all help define carelessness. As I typed them, they also defined what happens when I forget mindful gratitude. I miss and ignore the daily gifts that surround me. I am more negligent of other people's feelings and my own. I cause harm to my spiritual health, and overall health. As a society and culture, I think we are becoming careless in ways. Careless about our environment. Careless about our driving and walking as we sneak a peak at our devices, or as we rush from one "must" or "need" to

Caring Less

Today I am grateful for progress, prayers, peanut butter, and memories of ping-pong. That is sure a random gratitude list to start, but that's the beauty of practicing gratitude. Whatever comes in the flow was meant to come. Some of the progress I have made recently is caring less. Caring less in healthy ways. I often have plenty going on in my head, heart, and to-do list. Too much. And I hold myself to an unreasonable standard. You need to do this. And this. And this. Next thing I know, EVERYTHING seems important, and also impossible. My general approach used to involve a lot of unhealthy thinking and berating of myself. Plenty of frustration and not a whole lot of progress on anything other than digging a deeper hole and feeling exhausted. Caring less is a beautiful thing when applied in healthy ways. I can't do it all or be all. What matters most to me? Who matters most to me? Where are my wrong-sized ego and irrational fears getting in the way? These are key questio


Today I am grateful for the opportunities that writing presents in my life, and for safe travels home for my husband Darcy. With "stillness" as my focus word this year, I am hearing and seeing things that I pick up on more readily as tie-ins and inspiration regarding this word, this concept.  Be still and more gets though the usual clutter. Yesterday, it was a random song I heard on my way to work:"Hush" by Deep Purple. Hush. Silence. Soundlessness. It takes practice and intention to reach stillness, to welcome hush. Deep Purple is a British hard rock band. They are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they also made the "Guinness Book of World Records" in the mid-70’s for being the loudest rock band. Ironic that my favorite song of theirs has always been "Hush." I like it mainly because of the opening--"na, na, na, na, na. . . " Sometimes it takes sound to remind me to be quiet. There's that other definition of hush as

Flexibility found in the Stillness

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the various ways my phone allows me to communicate and connect with the people in my life. Phone calls, text messages, FaceTime and more give me a nice variety to fit the time I have and the people I am connecting with. There is more flexibility in distance communication methods since my teen years when the options were the phone attached to the wall or a letter dropped in the mail. Flexibility. I showed some to myself yesterday in a little way when I wrapped up the last six words of my recent A-Z list here in one post. Not a big deal, but it does reveal that I am becoming less rigid in my ways and that is a good thing. "I have to do it this way" does apply to certain things, but not most of the things I tend to apply it to. I wore ruts in my routine and in my thoughts and feelings with my inflexibility, with my insistence on consistence. I was literally stuck in ruts in ways, and the path it took me down got me stuck even further.

Ready to wrap it up . . . U-Z

Today I am grateful for warm blankets and familiar house sounds. In my efforts to be less rigid in my approach to thinking and writing, I am ready to be done with this A-Z list. Not that I have run out of ideas, or that I have tired of this look at challenges, but I am acknowledging that there’s really no reason why I cannot or should not do what I am about to do... I even checked with my editor (who I live with, and who is me) and she is okay if I wrap this up. There's just six letters left. Instead of six days, how about six minutes or so? I forgive myself for not UNDERSTANDING so much about life.  One thing I unequivocally understand though is the role of WRITING in my life. It has saved me, found me, and now defines me. Striving to let go of what is VEXATIOUS to my spirit and my energy, I give up what matters less so I can focus on what matters more. WAITING for inspiration is easier when I am quiet and pay attention to my inhale and eXhale of breath. An open mind and

Thumbs Down

Living gratefully today, I appreciate time to sit in my new recliner and take in a new sunrise. Moving on to "T" in my A-Z list, THUMBS becomes the obvious choice. On the one hand, pun intended, I take them for granted so much. On the other hand, they are a real pain for me at times. From Google, here is the definition for opposable thumbs: A thumb that can be placed opposite the fingers of the same hand. Opposable thumbs allow the digits to grasp and handle objects and are characteristic of primates. I appreciate my opposable thumbs as I drink from my coffee mug, put our dog Oliver's leash on him for his walk, as I crack a couple eggs for breakfast. And the list could go on, and on, and on . . . A very grateful thumbs up to my fully operational opposable thumbs. But I can become quite unappreciative of my winter thumbs, which can be cracked and bleeding. A real thumbs down to what the extremely dry air this time of year can do to our skin. (Yes, I will try to rem


Today I am grateful for the work week winding down and the electricity that powered the coffee pot that made the coffee I am now enjoying. I had another post I was working on for today, but I am feeling SCATTERED right now so I am going to riff on that instead. It's not a mystery why I am feeling scattered. It's Friday of a full work week after having two weeks off for the holidays. Work always has me fairly worn out by the end of the week, and even more in these transition weeks. My husband Darcy is out of town, traveling for work and to see family. Our routine here is different and a little more of the day-to-day running of a household has fallen to Sam and I. It adds a little more to my daily routine. I don't sleep as well with Darcy gone, and I don't tend to be sleeping as well period these days. That is a mid-fifties peri-menopausal set of circumstances that I have to embrace as well as apply good self-care. There are numerous writing ideas and projects f

Squirrels in the Stillness

Today I am grateful for warm socks and the convenience of bananas and clementines. I have written about SQUIRRELS before, sometimes as pesky challenges. Today it is more as catalysts. In a brief pause on a recent day, in that stillness I am seeking more, I readily picked up three squirrels in my line of vision. They were all moving, climbing, jumping-on trees, on piles of snow, doing what squirrels do. One would pause, as if to catch it's breath, then scurry off again. Squirrels, when visible to us, don't stand still often. They are always moving. Sometimes their careless movement leaves them as road kill on a city street. But just as often, I will see one stop itself before it meets the tires of an oncoming vehicle. Observing squirrels catalyzes the importance of intentionally pausing and gathering ourselves when that is a good idea, and springing into action when that is the best approach.  Sometimes I get those two things mixed up, then I end up mixed up. In a mome

Musings on Stillness and Settling

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the stillness that calls to me more and more. STILLNESS will be my focus word this year. This is the 4th year I have received a random word for the year in the mail from my friend Laurel. Acceptance, grace, and play have come before it. I continue to grow in awareness of each of these. I am a work in progress, and I do the work. Stillness is such a good fit for me at this time in my life. It calls to me across physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realms. It knows I will find it challenging at times, and leave me wide-eyed and open-hearted at others. Stillness can be unsettling. Unpleasant emotions and impatience can surface. Struggles show themselves more plainly. We have to become unsettled before we know what we need to settle. In the stillness, trust, faith, and guidance come. Words to compose come. Rest comes. Peace is less elusive in the stillness. I gladly welcome where the word will take me, and not take me, this year. Thank

Rest and Restless Legs

Today I am grateful for take and bake pizza, and for safe travels for loved ones. I am also grateful for the job I return to today after a nice break from it. I have written plenty about RESTLESS heart and mind, and will continue, but RESTLESS legs are my focus today. I have random times where I am bothered by restless legs, both at night and during the day. Thankfully, it is not a chronic condition. I hope it doesn't become one, and I sympathize with those for whom it is. I am often on the move in my waking hours, so during the day if my legs are restless it is most noticeable when I am driving. I have a 30-minute commute and sometimes I will have some pain and that urge to move my legs. It becomes a test when you are the one driving the vehicle down the freeway. A little movement and some deep breathing help. I more often experience the restless legs at night in bed. It might be after a long run. It might be hormonal/menopausal. It might be just because. I think it is a com

Quiet--as Challenge and Savior

Today I am grateful for light in the darkness and quiet in the morning. QUIET is today's word. It is every day's word for me because it is vital to my existence and my energy.  It is both a significant challenge for me to have some quiet and a true savior to experience it and move forward with it. This morning, I am hearing the sound of two different clocks, with alternating tic-tocs, and our refrigerator. They are comforting sounds, not intrusive, as so many sounds in our days can become. Sounds like traffic noise, other people's phones, disheartening news reports. The most intrusive noise for me though is often that in my own head. Thoughts that spin. Ideas that flounder. Fears that grow. They can amount to quite a clamoring. The quiet I seek, and the quiet within my own personal power, is this mindful quiet. Being at peace with whatever sounds surround me as well as my mental and physical states. I just started writing in a mindfulness journal that my friend Kate

Patience and Patients

Living gratefully today, I embrace the stretching and strengthening of physical therapy exercises for my hip, and I greet the moments and hours ahead with an open heart and mind. The "p" words just keep coming, so I will wrap up this letter with two more words today: PATIENCE and PATIENTS. As a recovery friend of mine likes to say: "I want patience and I want it now!" Patience to live life on life's terms, to not force outcomes, but rather let them unfold. Forcing means I am trying to control. Unfold means I am allowing Higher Power/Great Spirit to lead the way. I lack patience when I lack acceptance and faith. The good news:  I have tools and habits that help me acquire the necessary amount of all three of these--patience, acceptance, and faith--each day. Sometimes action is needed, sometimes inaction is key. PATIENT. Cancer patient. I have emotional and physical responses, even years later, when I have walked into the cancer center where I saw my oncol

Podiatry Needed

Today I am grateful for the spiritual guides I have had and continue to have in my life. I am also grateful for the music of Simon and Garfunkel. Several of their songs are some of my overall favorites. Back to my A-Z list of challenges and catalysts and the letter "p." PODIATRY. Podiatry is the medical care and treatment of the human foot. Taking care of our feet is an important endeavor.  Consider the amazing job they do, hauling us around all over the place. Walking, running, dancing, snowshoeing, skating, taking the stairs. . . the list is endless. My feet aren't the prettiest, but I sure do consider them an essential part of my body and I work to take good care of them. A bunion on my right foot has taken me to the podiatrist a few times.  It wears holes in my running shoes after enough miles, and causes some discomfort, but it isn't chronic pain. Hoping to slow the progression of it, I use a spacer and tape, a night-time brace, wear shoes in the house, and

And Welcome . . .

Today I am grateful for the beauty of fresh snow and sunrises, for the playful nature of grandsons, good food, family. I am also grateful for an early morning connection with my friend and fellow writer Jenny. Welcome 2020 and the new decade. Happy New Year to all! It's another source of common ground for our planet. It's a holiday we all share, just like we share smiles and tears. We have far more in common as humans than we do different. Look for the similarities and compassion tends to sprout. Welcome to this new day. It's all we get, and it is more than enough when I immerse myself in it fully. My husband Darcy and I went snowshoeing yesterday and fully enjoyed the exercise, fresh air, and natural beauty. It was a pleasant way to close out the year and decade. This morning, the first sunrise of the new year and decade looked like this from our picture window. The reflection of our Christmas tree offering itself as a reminder that the holidays are passing and