Showing posts from June, 2020


Living gratefully today, I give thanks for cool breezes and the smiles I know are behind the masks of friends. I can see the smile in their eyes.  The word marginalized has been rolling around in my head for some time now. The killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day and the unrest since then brings many terms to the forefront. Systemic racism. White fragility. White privilege. Black Lives Matter. Anti-racism. Marginalized.  Marginalized...seen as insignificant or peripheral, on the edge or outer limit. To marginalize is to treat a person or group as unimportant, insignificant, or of lower status.  An acronym I am seeing and hearing often now, along with BLM, is BIPOC. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. BIPOC certainly refers to groups that have been marginalized for centuries in our country. We have some ugly history fellow Americans. The present has had some ugliness too. Can we use the pain and anger, the injustice and frustration, to bring some real change?   That remains to be


Today I am grateful for band-aids for a blister on my foot and for our dog Oliver and his presence with me right now. Momentum is a tricky thing. Sometimes it is sought after and desirable. At other times it is downright discouraging. Momentum for my writing pursuits is picking up in recent weeks as I feed it with time and effort. Even in my mid-fifties, I am energized by the pursuit of goals I have long sought but not yet achieved. It’s not too late and I am determined. I hope the momentum to bring real change to racial inequalities in this country isn’t slowing down, though there are indications that it is. Changes to our social and economic systems, and the local, state, and national laws and policies that it will take, are not overnight matters.  What can I do to help advance this worthy cause?  If we each ask ourselves that question and take actions- even small ones- moving forward is possible. I continue to read and listen to better understand the complexities here. And I conside

Reminders, Some Gentle, Some Not

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the “Insight Timer” app and the new guided meditations I am finding there.  My meditation practice reminds me to slow down, to be kind and gentle in my own head and heart, which helps me in my interactions with others too.  Reminders. I need them regularly. Some are more gentle than others. Sometimes I have to get spun up and feel some pain before a needed reminder slaps me upside the head.  As a nation, a society, we are in a time where the reminders we all need have been the less gentle ones. COVID-19 is not done with us, even if we want to be done with it. Systemic racism will only be uprooted with each of us being part of the solution. A not-so-gentle reminder on both of these issues, and any issue:  If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I am saying this to myself and to you. Being socially responsible isn't always convenient, but it is always important.  There are reminders about cancer and dementia too. My s

Tea Time

Today I am grateful for my hands and feet and all that they do for me in a day.   It’s summer tea season —we do the cold brew in the fridge, unsweetened. I was making a new batch the other day and took the time to read the little messages that come on each bag’s tag. I ignore these messages as often as I look at them, deep in thought or in a hurry. I paused and took notice of this collection: *Take time to bask in the brew. *Inspiration is just a sip away. *Take a moment to make a moment. Sometimes the word “brew” takes me back to my drinking days. We often called beer “brew.”  Beer was my drink of choice. Cheap and available being key factors. I wasn’t picky about my beverages, just particular in making sure there would be enough to get the job done. The job of escape for a few hours.  I sometimes looked for inspiration in the alcohol too. Inspiration to make life better, to feel better about myself. On many drunken nights I found that inspiration for a brief time. . . And then would

The 4-1-1

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the meditation on surrender that just helped me start my day. I give thanks for the moments I got to enjoy this rainbow last evening: I also give thanks for the opportunity to give blood for the second time yesterday.  I am learning about the steps in the process, can tell you my blood type is B+, that they like how easy it is to find a vein in my arm to use, that it took 4 minutes and 11 seconds for a pint of my blood to flow into a bag and be used to help someone else.  I can also tell you it's a little strange to see a pint of your own blood, dark red, sitting there in a bag. Our bodies and the natural processes that blood is part of are amazing. If I take a moment to surrender to that amazement, a sense of grounding comes to me. Trust arrives as well. This body has worked pretty smoothly overall for well over fifty years now, and though I have had something to do with that, there is also much that is taken care of for me naturally and beyon

Historical Significance

Today I am grateful for safe travels and time with Darcy's family. I am also grateful for the historical significance that Sioux Falls will always have in my/our life story. Darcy and I got married in Sioux Falls in July of 1998 and spent the first two years of our married life there. His family still lives there. Sam will be attending college about an hour away.  All significant points, and all make Sioux Falls a special place for me.  We brought our bikes along and enjoyed a different stretch of trail on Saturday afternoon. I was up early for a run on Sunday morning and came across this sign I hadn't noticed before. I captured the pictures because I wanted to do some investigating.  I did a little research yesterday and found out that this sign likely marks the southern edge of what was Fort Dakota Military Reservation. It was a 70-square mile area, but the fort buildings were adjacent to the falls of the Big Sioux River, near downtown, several miles from this site.  I

Unbalanced Sanity

Today I am grateful for rain and enlightening news stories. I am grateful to be learning more about today's celebration of Juneteenth. I was going through a small storage area yesterday and moved some of my journals to a new home. It presented this photo opp: The stack in the top photo started teetering a little so I had to stabilize it with a couple fingers. The bottom photo offered more stability. That is nearly thirty various journals right there. And that is not my complete collection, which is probably closing in on fifty.  I have done A LOT of writing. A LOT. A friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about what we might do with our journals. As we get older, we are considering who might see them after we die and if we want that. It is something I am giving more thought to now in midlife. I have been journaling to my son Sam since before he was born. I think I am on #6 now. He knows they exist and has looked at them a little. Those are for him and his family. Fu

Plenty of Processing and a Few Poems (A Poem for the Class of 2020)

Living gratefully today, I embrace this particular moment for what it is. A time and place where I am honoring writing and true presence. Both open me to spiritual and emotional clarity. Processing. Transforming. Clarifying. Purging. Extracting. Plenty of that going on currently and over the course of my life. Sometimes I have been a willing participant, and at other times I seemed to be the last one to know what was unfolding. Most of the time, I am somewhere between 100% willing and 100% stuck. Pandemic. Cancer. Graduation. Anniversaries. Grief. College. Alcoholism. Goals. These are some of the things moving in and through my head and heart. From time to time a poem will emerge to help distill the meaning and emotion surrounding whatever I may be writing about. Here is one I started a few weeks ago, in late May, as Sam's high school days ended.  I revisited it a few times and typed it up earlier this week. One poem can't capture it all, but this extracted some: What E

Road Noise

Living gratefully today, I appreciate all the pictures I have taken over the last forty years or so, and that I have many of them as prints I can hold in my hand or look at in a photo album. I appreciate the ease of saving and editing photos digitally too, but don't see myself giving up the old ways entirely. When I got home from a few hours at work yesterday, I sat down and made a slide show in honor of my sister Mary Jo.  I had plenty of pictures from our younger days and the decades since that I could pull together. It was healing and healthy for me to do this on the first anniversary of her death. Her bright smile came through time and time again. She knew much joy. As I headed out for an early morning run today, I was thinking about road noise. I heard cars and trucks, the various sounds of varied vehicle sizes, on the county road less than a mile from our house. I thought about the people in those vehicles and if they were on their way to or from work. If they were feelin

The End of the Line

Today I am grateful for the passage of grief, in time, and for peace, also in time. Both find their way to our hearts when we invite them. And I believe I can't know true peace until I have known loss and struggle. As humans, we get plenty of the latter two. The former is also in ample supply, but we are known to use our human shortcomings to get in our own way, to block peace. One year ago today, on the calendar and the clock, my sister Mary Jo was in her final hours. After so much pain and suffering, at the hands of the insidious disease of cancer, she reached a peace she so deserves. Her life was defined by much more than cancer, but with three rounds of it over thirteen years, it was a significant part of her story. And the reason for her death a couple months shy of turning 62. The grieving, writing, meditation, and processing work I have put in since Mary Jo's death has been meaningful and helpful to me. It has been about much more than loss and grief as well. This

Life, Work, Life's Work

Today I am grateful for my current gratitude journal and the daily discipline of writing in it. There is peace in the practice and in the pause taken to do the writing. Those fractions and percents I wrote about yesterday are still on my mind, as is my sister Mary Jo, her family, my siblings, as the anniversary of her death approaches. A year ago, June 15, was her last full day of earthly existence.  I wonder . . . I am almost 55 years old. What percent of my life have I lived already?  That question doesn't have an answer. This question is easier . . . am I living fully today?  My own attitudes and actions determine that. I have worked in education 32 years now. I just completed my 20th year as a middle school counselor at the only school I have worked at since moving to Minnesota. I have spent 10/16 of my career in one place, after brief stints at five other schools. I taught high school social studies for ten years and was an elementary counselor for two. That equates to 5/1

Fractions and Percents

Today I am grateful for the experience of seeing nature and a robin do what nature and a robin do. I watched a mama robin, from a few feet away, snag a worm from the dirt and grass of our yard, feed herself a portion of it, and then take the rest to her babies in the nest we have been observing in recent weeks. As I sometimes do on a run, yesterday I found myself tracking progress via fractions and percents. Five minutes into my planned hour-long run, I was 1/12 of the way done already. It wasn't long before I was 25% done, then 50%.  I don't dwell on the numbers. My thoughts and strides took me plenty of places. But they help me keep moving forward. A runner moving through a run, a stride at a time, small fractions covered with each step, eventually putting the miles behind her. A mother robin taking a whole worm and making a meal for at least three mouths out of it. Fractions and percents can define and describe so much. It is almost a year now since my sister Mary Jo d

Please Help Me Understand

Living gratefully today, I am enjoying cool morning air on our back patio, listening to birds and our fountain, appreciating a slower pace to start this day. I wrote this line in my post on June 1, referring to the racial unrest and all that has unfolded since the murder of George Floyd: "None of us can sit by and let this unfold without offering to be part of the solution.  But how does that look?"  I would like to think that I am fairly educated and openminded. But I confess that I need help understanding my own sense of what race means and how I can best help at this time. I saw these words on a sign at a local peaceful protest I attended last week: "I understand that I will never understand, but I stand with you." That struck me, as a white woman who has known privilege, security, accessibility, and availability of opportunities throughout my life. One of my jobs at this time is to educate myself.  I cannot say "not my problem" and throw my

Sacred Space and Time

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Iowa, a visit with my mom and several other family members, time on the farm in the quiet of early morning. I traveled to Iowa for the funeral of my Aunt Joyce, who died of cancer last Friday, June 5, at age 76. I recall my aunt as someone with lots of spirit and a sharp sense of humor and frankness. Not having traveled back to my home state since February, prior to the pandemic and all that brings with it, it was an interesting journey of both miles and experiences. My brother and I visited our mom on the porch of the nursing home, with her inside and a window screen between us. It was something. It was sharing space and time together. Sacred space and time. I opted to attend the visitation for Joyce in person, hand on heart, no hugs or handshakes. I wanted to greet my uncle, cousins, and their spouses and children in person to offer my sympathies and honor Joyce's life. A small gesture in the whole scheme of things, but a mea

Alta’s Peonies

Living gratefully today, I enjoyed the walk my husband Darcy and I just took, and I give thanks for the recovery connections I have. Recovery from alcoholism has made deeper relationships possible for me. With others, myself, Nature, and a tender-loving, ever graceful Great Spirit. I see beauty and grace in the blossoms and blooms of this season. Below are pictures of peonies we have had in our backyard for nearly 14 years. They have been at this place almost as long as we have. They are peonies planted by Darcy's Grandma Alta. Alta died in late 1995, so I never got to meet her. I did appreciate and enjoy knowing Darcy's Grandpa Matt for several years before his death in 2007. Darcy recalls where these peonies were, near a corner and close to the picture window of the house that Alta and Matt had built in 1977. The peonies were planted in 1978.  Grandpa Matt moved to assisted living a few years before his death, and the house was bought and moved out of state. On one

Lessons, In Hindsight

Today I am grateful for the graduation celebrations that we enjoyed with Sam and others over the weekend. They were small, but meaningful. I especially appreciate my sisters Zita and Ruth making the trip up to be with us Friday evening. We are so grateful for the efforts of the school and community to give the Class of 2020 a special send off in recent weeks. None of these events and acknowledgements happen without plenty of time and effort given by many people. Thank you all! The weather was beautiful on Friday and the rolling parade an enjoyable experience for Sam, Darcy, and I. I captured this photo of Sam as we drove to the high school for our alphabetical portion of the parade: What was this experience like for Sam?  What will it feel like in the coming months and years when it is further behind him in the rearview mirror of his life? We have had many conversations over the last months and will continue them, but much of this is his story alone and it is still taking sh

A Rolling Parade

Today I am grateful for our son Sam, on this, his graduation day. I am also so appreciative of the efforts of his school and our community to honor and celebrate the Class of 2020 in these challenging circumstances. His graduation, and that of his 330 classmates, will consist of a rolling parade of sorts. It will be a different kind of parade for sure, but each graduate will have his or her moment in it. There will be caps, gowns, tassels, and diplomas. Rolling parade is a very apt phrase for me in many ways. There has been a rolling parade of emotions and memories. The other day at school, there was a sporadic parade of cars with parents and students dropping off school items and picking up personal items from lockers. There has been a heartbreaking parade of pictures of burned out, looted, damaged buildings in the Twin Cities and around the country. There have been peaceful walking parades of protesters and demonstrators who only want peace, justice, and an end to divisive poli

Burst into Bloom

Living gratefully today, I appreciate my workplace, co-workers, efforts to honor seniors and 8th graders as they graduate, and the hard work done by so many to keep our school functioning as a school community in the middle of circumstances none of us saw coming.  There is hope in this quote, and awe in the pictures:  The flower is always the bud’s undoing. Let go then. Step into the river lean into the wind let the strength of the earth rise through you. Watch your fingertips burst into bloom. (Pavithra K. Mehta) These are irises that probably date back to the 1970’s. They were at my mother-in-law Marlene’s house when she moved there. In 2017, she had to move because her home was now part of a large road construction project. When it is done, a service road will be going through what was once her living room and kitchen. Her house was bought and moved.   My husband Darcy dug some of these up and we replanted them in our background. They have taken wonderful

Mixed Up

Today I am grateful for a coolness in the air and on my skin after some high heat and humidity. Fresh rain for the grass and flowers and farmers' crops. I had a phone conversation with my mom yesterday morning. She used the words "mixed up" several times, referencing how she was feeling, her current state. "Mixed up" can mean a lot of things. I don't really know what it means to my mom--89 years old, frail, slipping further into dementia. But I know how I feel when I hear her say it. I think forlorn is the word I am looking for here. The pandemic has kept my mom on lockdown in her nursing home for over 3 months now. The limits and the isolation have probably accelerated her decline. It's a mixed up world when loved ones can't visit, hug, see the facial expressions to match the words. It's a mixed-up world when Mom can't do what she enjoys . . . walking, stepping outside, looking at gardens. I so appreciate the efforts to keep people saf

Big A, Little A

Living gratefully today, I give thanks for tower fans and the coolness they generate, and ceiling fans for the same reason. Can you tell we have a heat wave here? As this day arrives, I am thinking about words that start with A. Alcoholism is a daily "A word" for me. It's a daily disease. Am I doing my recovery work today?  And am I connected to others in recovery, such a key part to staying on track?  A strong yes to both questions. Recovery from alcoholism, for me, requires right actions, which then lead to healthier attitudes and a better acceptance of life on life's terms. These actions are many, and include daily gratitude practice. The Guest House  is a wonderful poem by Rumi. The first two lines are: This being human is a guest house.  Every morning a new arrival.  Arrival. Today is here. What will I make of it? That is not referencing a long to-do list. That is suggesting honoring today moment by moment, hour by hour. Honoring human life and natur

The Human Race

Today I am grateful for soothing colors, like gray tones, that we have in our house. I am also grateful for my five senses and how they can help calm me through things like hearing bird song, feeling a light breeze, tasting my first sip of coffee. Fear has loomed large for months on our planet, as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread and touched each and every one of us in numerous ways. The last week has multiplied the fear and unsettling feelings, with widespread unrest and violence. I struggled on how to write about this all, and the answer came as I scrolled through some news coverage. The line on a sign read " We are all one race. The human race." We seem to have utterly and completely lost this idea. Difficult times and injustice bring out both the best in us, and the worst.  None of us can sit by and let this unfold without offering to be part of the solution. But how does that look? At the risk of oversimplifying, it can look as easy as "We are all one race. Th