Showing posts from November, 2020

Let's Not Be . . . Too Hard On Ourselves

Today I am grateful for the grace of life that shows itself in many ways, starting with a pause of acknowledgement. I am grateful for recent family connections that took place in person, on the phone, in a Zoom meeting.  Times have been unsettling and challenging for us all in recent months. I have been emotional, reactive, exhausted, and anxious alternating with resilient, faithful, grateful, and flexible. You can make your own list, but I bet we have some crossover between our lists. I have been judgmental, put on a few pounds, procrastinated. I have isolated -- by choice, not just because of restrictions. Harsh words have come out of my mouth, usually directed at those closest to me. Selfishness looks and feels a little different in the middle of a pandemic, but throw some of that on my pile too.  It has not been a likable and inviting set of circumstances that we find our families, communities, states, nations, and world in these days. And I have not felt very likable at times. The

Go . . .

Living gratefully today, I am seeing Thanksgiving in a new light, in a new time.  It is not an easy time, or one anyone invited or sought. Yet, there is light and plenty of it. There is gratefulness to be found and multiplied.  In the United States, tomorrow is our Thanksgiving holiday. Canada celebrates the holiday on the second Monday in October. Brazil joins the U.S. in honoring the holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.  COVID-19 doesn't care who is celebrating what on any given day. It is, as Dr. Michael Osterholm says, simply looking for more wood to burn. It doesn't stop at borders or avoid certain populations.  I like to think of our efforts at prevention and mitigation as little fire breaks, helping put out a hot spot before it jumps and joins another one. Can we each do our part?  I seem to have sidetracked from my STOP. LOOK. GO. theme. Not really.  STOP: Cultivate presence. LOOK: Cultivate perspective. GO: Cultivate possibility. (Read more at  https://gratefuln


Today I am grateful for our son Sam's safe arrival home from college. That arrival is about more than a smooth drive over the two-hundred mile stretch last evening. Semester one of freshman year is almost in the books, pardon the pun. After pausing to STOP , now I need to take a moment to LOOK. Look at what is really there in front of me that I may usually just walk right by. Look at what is within me emotionally and cognitively at this time. Lean into an emotion instead of denying it. Let a thought go instead of spinning it into a knot.  To look with fresh eyes and full attention is the key to shifting perspective. I don't need a perspective shift when I am reasonable, rational, and pleasantly immersed in the task or experience at hand. I need a perspective shift when denial and knots have shut me off, when the lightness of a moment has been buried in expectations and ego. So I paused and looked at our new Christmas tree and the mellow lights throughout. We downsized to a smal


Today I am grateful for quiet meditation time to begin the day, and for genuine and acknowledged emotions.  Undoubtedly, this week of Thanksgiving feels different this year, and will be different in many ways. If I were to focus on what I can't do or have because of the pandemic, or how abnormal some things are right now, I would feel pretty deflated.  Yet, I have so much to look forward to this week, today, this moment. Maybe I should rephrase that. I have so much to fully experience moment-by-moment. Sure, I have things I am anticipating with excitement, but I also have my healthy breathing and clean air right here, right now.  This article,  Cultivating a Practice: Grateful Living as a Way of Life  by Kristi Nelson, Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living, lays out the simple, yet profound, practice of "Stop, Look, Go" shared by Brother David Steindl-Rast. I will use the next three posts leading up to Thanksgiving to focus on each of these three words. STOP

Earth Tones

Today I am grateful for timing . . . when it comes to things like a new mattress delivery and the hard work of healing. I continue to applaud the many frontline workers who go back day after day to jobs that must be so very draining and emotional, and yet you continue to offer heartfelt care and comfort to the people you are all helping.  Words that have been floating around in my head in recent weeks are ones like dire and bleak. The COVID-19 pandemic is raging, worse than ever, and the runaway train it has become will not come to a screeching halt for a long time. People will suffer and die. The holidays will come and go. What will early 2021 look like?  We don't know.  We can somewhat safely say what today will look like. It will look like how I choose to frame it. Doom and gloom, or a day that can be appreciated in ways big and small? Darcy and I went for a bike ride yesterday, a treat for late November. With no snow on the ground, the landscape is also bleak, muted with grays

There is Publish, Then There is Published

Today I am grateful for the life-saving and life-giving force that writing has been in my life.  For over forty years, I have put many pens to many pages, many keyboard taps to many screens. Some of it has been nothing but drivel needing release. Some of it has been pure flow from heart and soul. Most of it has been somewhere in between.  All of it has brought me here today, deeply grateful to be a writer.  A poet at heart, collaborating with my dear friend Jenny as we both recovered physically and emotionally from our breast cancer surgeries and treatment, opened doors to longer writings like the essays that mark these blog posts.  That collaboration with Jenny led to opinion pieces in newspapers, a local newspaper column, and starting this blog, among other endeavors. I have hit "publish" hundreds and hundreds of times here.  Continuing to dream of publishing a book, I have started many ideas and several working drafts. It is so very fitting that it was another collaboratio

Pressuring Myself

Living gratefully today, I am noticing some achy muscles and appreciating the walking and running I am able to do. In the last week a couple of my posts here, one a guest post from my blogging friend Nancy, mentioned how I don't pressure others to be grateful. I hope that is how others see me. There is someone I pressure quite a bit in a variety of ways though. Me. What matters most is how I see myself.  It's not so much that I pressure myself to be grateful. I have practiced enough that I acknowledge the ebbs and flows of living gratefully. I lean into what the present is offering more readily than I ever have before. Sometimes that is a warm and peaceful feeling, and sometimes it is a painful, uncomfortable one. Often, it is somewhere between the two. Gratitude ebbs and flows. Life's ups and downs come and go. I often accept circumstances beyond my control more readily than I accept the person I do have some control over. Me again. My thoughts and actions. My talents and

In the Little Things

Today I am grateful for a chuckle at my own mistake. I forgot to put in the coffee for our first pot of coffee and ended up with a pot of hot water. Little things.  I opened my sock drawer yesterday morning and noticed this pair:  I usually keep it pretty basic... but when I saw this pair the thought that popped into my head was “what the world needs now is love, sweet love.” The song is found  here if you want to listen to Jackie DeShannon sing it. It just so happens that the song is from 1965, a good year in my book.  I showed Darcy my socks, and a couple of coworkers too. It warmed my heart a little. Much of the time, though, I forgot about my socks in the busy pace of the day. I don't think my socks forgot me though. There was a little more patience. A couple more pauses. Some active listening. Maybe it’s a trite little ditty some of the time, but not right now. It's a necessary song in a dire time. We are really in need of love. For larger causes, for common concerns, to

Revisiting an Old Post, But Not Old Emotions

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the warm glow of winter and holiday lights throughout our home. My sister Aileen used the term "winter lights" to describe what many Alaskans put out this time of year to lend some brightness to the darkest months. I see many others doing that in the lower 48 this year too.  I decided to revisit an old post today instead of composing a brand new one. It is from three years ago and titled  Flat, But Not Flatlined  I got the idea from a Cure  magazine cover story titled "Flat, But Not Flattened." Here are a couple paragraphs from the post:  I have several ways to refer to my new chest terrain following bilateral mastectomy. "The area formerly known as my breasts." and "strange vacancy" are two of them. Flat and free. Flat, but not flat affect. And as I read this most recent cover story, I thought about "flat, but not flatlined." I am alive. I have not flatlined. I am not remaining static, nor is my le

Ebbs and Flows

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the ways we understand one another and communicate.  I also appreciate these words from my friend Nancy in her guest post on Thursday: "Lisa never pressures. Never judges. Rather Lisa leads  writes by example.  She encourages while accepting the fact that gratitude ebbs and flow."  Many who know me know of my belief in and commitment to living gratefully. I blog about it. I host gratefulness gatherings. At work, I encourage sharing gratitude on Thankful Thursdays. If that is all you know about me, you may think I am one of those pollyanna sorts always looking on the bright side. Bleh!  That's not me, and that's also not good for one's mental and overall health, in my opinion. Living gratefully is not about denying and glossing over the sometimes grim realities of life as a human. Living gratefully is about pausing to breathe and feel grounded.  It is about acknowledging that this is tough right now, but that I have the


Today I am grateful for life's simple pleasures like toast and a warm blanket.  What we all probably think of these days when we hear the word surge is what is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a scary surge. Very scary.  It is unsettling to hear “humanitarian disaster” in reference to what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. The mounting crisis and death toll is real. Pandemic fatigue is real. The complexities and simplicities of human nature are showing themselves.  I am worried about tomorrow, short term and long term, but I can’t spend too much time there. Today is a better place to use my energy and take helpful and responsible actions.  I am sentimental about yesterday. The pre-pandemic times when my biggest worries were personal, not global. I can’t spend too much time there either. But as I considered the word surge, it brought to mind growing up on dairy farm. A company with the name of Surge manufactured milkers and other equipment.  Pleasant memories

A Guest Post : Sometimes It’s Hard to Feel Grateful (& that’s okay)

I discovered Nancy Stordahl's blog,  Nancy's Point , several years ago and really appreciate her writing and insights on breast cancer and grief. She has the courage to call BS when she sees it, and also to delve into sensitive and emotional topics. Her perspective is refreshing because she writes her truth, and it is a truth we can all relate to in one way or another. I also encourage you to read her memoir titled  Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn't Make Me a Better Person . I have had the honor of writing two guest posts for her blog and am now honored to have her write one for mine. Nancy and I have never met in person, but we are blogging friends who share mutual respect for one another's work. She really hits the mark with this piece,  just two weeks out from Thanksgiving.  Thanks Nancy!  Sometimes It’s Hard to Feel Grateful (and that’s okay) When Lisa asked me to write a guest post for her wonderful blog, right away,  I knew I wanted to write about gratitude. 

Veterans: I couldn't have done what so many have

Today I am grateful for steady feet on icy walkways. I am also grateful for the excitement of new experiences.  Today is Veteran's Day in the United States. We have over 17.4 million veterans in our country now, and over 360,000 veterans in Minnesota.  Thanks to my co-worker Erin, a veteran herself, for providing us these statistics and more on the history of this special day: * Armistice Day (now Veteran's Day) was celebrated to remember World War One on the anniversary of signing the peace agreement. *The world had never before seen such a dramatic loss of life and widespread violence. *Memorials became common in almost every country in the world to remember the people lost in the conflict. *Poppies are a common symbol of Veterans Day and were popularized in the poem, “In Flanders Field.” Thank you Erin, Keegan, Alex, and all who have served or are currently serving to protect our country and the democracy and freedoms that have become so strikingly apparent and important in

Sent scurrying

Living gratefully today, I appreciate family time over the weekend and Sam's safe travels back to college.  On my run yesterday morning, I sent a few squirrels and other critters scurrying for cover as I neared them. Plenty of foliage has died back, leaves have fallen. There is less cover to be found.  They were safe from me, but I made them anxious and they weren't going to wait and see what my motives were.  It struck me then and there that COVID-19 has sent us scurrying. Or at least it should.  We do know its motives. It is a virus looking for hosts. It is highly contagious and it is deadly to some.  We are at a critical juncture as cases and deaths are growing very quickly and dangerously in many places. Maybe we don't need to scurry, or run, but we best grab our masks, keep the hand sanitizer nearby, and follow this guidance as much as we can with anyone who doesn't live with us: I can do my part to be responsible and safe. It may not prevent the virus from finding

"You know what . . . ?"

Living gratefully today, I give thanks for our home, the rooms in it, and the opportunity to change things up in a few of those rooms.  We moved around some furniture, downsized a few things, got some new ideas as we went along, and now we are happy with the results. You know what? A new perspective in a room is fun. A new arrangement changes the energy flow as we head into the winter months and plenty of time indoors.  You know what . . . ?  It's a good question to ask, to reflect on, throughout the day.  You know what brings me belief in humanity? Saying hello and greeting others out walking or running on the trails of our community. I don't know them or their political views, and it doesn't matter because we are just sharing common courtesy and an appreciation for being out there.  You know what I don't get to do very often? Complain about the humidity in November. I wasn't really complaining, but it is true that it was freakishly warm and humid. You know what? I

Reality in Large and Small Doses

Today I am grateful for time with our son Sam and his safe travels home. I am also grateful for the unseasonably wonderful weather we have had all week.  The reality is that it will soon start feeling more like November usually feels in this part of the world. Reality surrounds us all day, every day. Our perspective on it is what makes all the difference. The wider reality in large and small doses lately includes: *Well over 140 million Americans voted in our recent election. Democracy is alive.  *There still is not a declared winner in said election. It's a new reality for us. We are used to quicker results. Patience and trust in the process will carry us through. *Over 125, 000 new COVID cases were reported in the U.S. yesterday. A sad new record that will likely be broken again and again.  *Lack of hospital beds for the critically ill, and the surge in cases, will also lead to devastating deaths. *The sun is coming up for a new day.  Grim reality meets amazing reality. Denial of

A Welcome Respite

Today I am grateful for the amazing weather we are being treated to this week in our neck of the woods. After a couple of early snowfalls and some unseasonable cold, we have been granted this respite even as the days get shorter and winter gets closer. The snow is gone, the shorts came back out for my run yesterday. Sunny and in the 70's. That doesn't sound like November in the upper Midwest, but we are sure relishing in it. It's a respite in more ways than one. Tough weeks and months lie ahead as the COVID-19 pandemic surges right along with our human fatigue, fear, and even anger about it. Bright and warm days and being outside shore us up for the times when darkness will settle in early and cold temperatures will keep us indoors more.  A welcome respite, courtesy of Mother Nature. An intermission granted at just the right time. This week and the uncertainty of election results, the patience needed as we wait to learn more, is made more bearable because of the beauty of t

Exercising . . . Rights and Body

Today I am grateful for milder weather and that I have the right to vote as a citizen of my nation. I have many rights as an individual living in a democracy. When I taught high school social studies classes like Government and Civics earlier in my career, we would talk about “with rights come responsibilities” and the idea “that my freedom to move my arm ends where your nose begins.” Freedom is not absolute, nor is it defined by me in a vacuum.  I try to be a responsible and reasonable citizen and I understand the process of government to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people." When people are as divided as our nation is at this time, I have some fear and trepidation, but I also trust the process. And I will do my part. Nothing dooms us more than apathy.  My husband Darcy and I voted by absentee ballot this year for a variety of reasons. I have always voted in person and felt good about walking into a polling place and casting my vote. The main factor leading

Sun Out, Eagle Soaring

Living gratefully today, I notice the better lighting of new bulbs replacing old ones. If only it were that simple to turn the tide of a pandemic and an overall unsettling time.  I went for a run yesterday morning, "doing a Roger" and welcoming daylight. It was cloudy and breezy, and then at one point the sun came out and I noticed an eagle soaring overhead. An eagle, the proud symbol of our nation. And also a reminder of my sister Mary Jo.  The day after she died, I was driving, grieving, feeling--and I noticed an eagle soaring in the blue sky ahead of me. It felt like Mary Jo was telling me "I'm free. Pain-free and soaring." The image, and the emotions accompanying it, bring comfort and acceptance.  The bald eagle is described as having fierce beauty and proud independence. My country is floundering in ways, on the eve of Election Day and in the middle of a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Will we and our national symbol make it through t

A Dark Chill

Today I am grateful for warm layers, running water, and batteries to power flashlights. Based on my gratitude list, you may have surmised that the dark chill I am referencing in today’s post title is regarding a power outage. It is, but it is more. With strong winds yesterday and overnight, it’s likely a branch went down and took our neighborhood’s power with it. I heard a chain saw when Oliver and I took our walk just now on eerily dark streets with randomly dark houses. Across our street, neighbors have lights and electricity. Down our block, there is darkness. I can see the power grid, literally.  Thank you to the crews already working hard to restore our electricity and the convenience and comforts we often take for granted.  Daylight will soon come, earlier today than yesterday, on the clock anyway, because Daylight Savings Time just ended overnight too. That will help take away the darkness. And we have plenty of layers and blankets to take away the chill. A few hours of this is