Showing posts from May, 2021

The Sign of the Cross

Living gratefully today, I appreciate sleeping in, the birds singing, and playful squirrels. I love how the outdoors is teeming with life in late spring.  I offer sincere thanks and remembrance to those who have died serving our country, and I bring to my mind's eye my father's grave, decorated with loving reminders of his life. I bring to my heart, my sister Mary Jo.  I have always had reverence for cemeteries and what they signify, and today find them more interesting than anything. Like many things from my Catholic upbringing though, I have more appreciation now than I did growing up.  That goes for the sign of the cross too.  My husband Darcy, a deacon in the Episcopal Church, just gave a sermon for Trinity Sunday. In it he spoke about the Catholics in his hometown using the sign of the cross, but not his family's church (German Reformed) and many others in the area. I had never even thought about that.  The sign of the cross is an integral part of the Episcopal service


Today I am grateful for the plethora of colors before my eyes as I sit on our patio and look at flowers in bloom and the various greenery that is keeping company with the blossoms. I am also grateful for recovery connections that matter. A few of us, a general mix of recovering alcoholics and addicts, were talking about love the other day. Such a topic can go in many directions, and it did, but they were all beautiful. People who have known deep self-hatred and self-loathing in their active addictions go on a journey of self-acceptance when they decide to get sober.  And isn’t acceptance really about love? Loving ourselves as we are when we arrive in recovery—flawed, imperfect, full of remorse and feelings of unworthiness. If I couldn’t find some acceptance and forgiveness, it’s likely I would pick up a drink again. There are many places unconditional love is evident and felt, and one of those is anywhere people seeking recovery are gathered. It is one of the many blessings that having

Spare Moments

Living gratefully today, I appreciate an extra day off and the long weekend ahead. I give thanks for recliner time with my husband Darcy.  The cyclical nature of a school year is something I am familiar with after 33 years of traditional August to May/June calendars. The energy shifts and changes in various ways as the year goes on. But this, this year #33, has been like none other.  My school has been in session in person all but six days. That has been so good in so many ways, and none of us could have known this when we started the year with plenty of uncertainty and trepidation. I am drained beyond drained. Tapped out. Limping to the the finish line. From the daily masking to the increased mental health concerns that came our way, from the quarantined students to the Zoom meetings, we kept plugging along. So this extra day off to start the Memorial Day weekend is most welcome. These words from one of my favorite writers are also most welcome: Guard well your spare moments. They are

Winds of Change

Today I am grateful for this morning's cool breeze and colorful sunrise. I appreciate the opportunities that are in the day ahead.  Yesterday at the end of the school day, I joined others in a prayer service to commemorate the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. It had turned into a windy day, and was still very warm and humid, as it has been for a few days,  As we held sacred silence for a few moments, I looked down and noticed the changing shadows and tree "helicopters" blowing across the concrete under my feet. This song, the Scorpion's "Wind of Change" came to mind:  It seemed fitting in many ways. The worst of the pandemic may be behind us. Efforts to bring real solutions to racial injustice seem possible. The wind beckoned the cooler weather now here.  This song is actually about the fall of the Soviet Union, and was written after the group performed in Moscow in August of 1989, among several Western heavy metal acts that were the first to p

Sidewalk Cracks

Today I am grateful for comfortable shorts, our dog Oliver, and the humidity that soothes my winter skin. It's helpful to find gratitude in humidity, taking the edge off of the discomfort it also brings me.  Here is a recent "Word for the Day" at Gratitude is the confidence in life itself. In it, we feel how the same force  that pushes grass through cracks in the sidewalk invigorates our own life. (Jack Kornfield)  It is a nice turn to think of sidewalk cracks as an amazing act of nature, rather than something that might trip me up. Maybe I should consider myself in this same way more often. I am amazing and beautiful in this body, aging flaws and scars and all. Breathing, walking, digesting, stretching and so much more. Unreasonable expectations and unwarranted resentments are what trip me up.  It is my mind that puts up obstacles and spins tales of woe and self-pity. Living gratefully helps me better see where I am and where I am going. That kind o

Enduring and Endearing Educators

Today I am grateful for celebrations and new places to see. Yesterday brought both. My friend and colleague Judy was one of several educators to receive awards at the 2021 WEM Foundation Outstanding Educator Awards event yesterday. I was fortunate to be in attendance to see her and the others receive their awards, and to also listen to their heartfelt words.  Judy received the "Ethics in Education Award" which is described as "recognizing exemplary educators who embody ethical behavior and promote ethical development for students through classroom or school activities, policies or curriculum." Working with Judy for 21 years now, I know she is a most deserving recipient.  Her content area is Social Studies, and she brings a wealth of personal inspiration and professional experience and expertise to her classroom each day. More importantly, she brings her big heart, love for her students and learning, and a sense of humor.  One of the guests joining us yesterday was J

World Meditation Day

Today I am grateful to give trust to others who are helpers in my life. I also appreciate the help that regular meditation time has become. Today is World Meditation Day 2021. I only learned that when I went into the meditation app I use:  Insight Timer . If you have never considered meditation as a practice for yourself, or you have found it difficult to make it a regular routine, I can relate. Maybe today, or a day coming up soon, you will delve into it a little further and give it a try.  (from: ) Like any exercise I do, which my physical self give thanks for, any meditation I do leaves my mental and emotional self feeling more calm. And they all contribute to my overall wellness. Exercise helps my mental and emotional state. Meditation helps my physical and spiritual presence. If you are tired of "World day for this . . . " or "Awareness month for that . . . , " I experience that frustration too. Why do we need all these days and months for stuff t

Loosen the Grip of Thoughts

Today I am grateful for some needed rain and for road construction. Improvements are coming, and I am reminded of how fortunate we are to have the streets and highways we do.  I continue to appreciate the fruitful morning meditation time to which I have committed. A few minutes makes a difference. It helps physically calm me, but more to bring mental focus and emotional clarity.  It helps loosen the grip of thoughts, which are often some of my biggest obstacles. My best thinking got me drunk more than a few times. Years into recovery, my thinking hasn’t lead to a drink, but it can take me to unhealthy places--complacency, rigidity, neediness, repetitive and counterproductive thought patterns.  A recent meditation asked listeners to consider thoughts more as sensations. Like we hear a sound and then it’s gone. Or a smell wafts our way and then recedes. Thoughts can come and go like a touch. Start strong like a first bite of savory food, then go away.  Too often I give my thoughts, espec

A Good Conspiracy

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the pleasant aroma of a variety of trees and plants in bloom. I pause to give thanks for my sense of smell and for all of my senses.  Kristi Nelson, Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living, is facilitating a class I am taking on Wake Up Grateful , her recent book. It is one I would recommend to all, and is the kind of book that you can pick up and read a page or two and come across plenty of good stuff. You could read the same pages next week and find more.  The subtitle of the book is "The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted." This is about waking up to each moment, not just a new day. In our most recent class, she was talking about how a million things had to happen just right to get us here to this moment, and there were one million things that didn’t go wrong to get us here too.  There's been plenty of mention of conspiracies in the news in the last year. This is a good conspiracy.  The kind that reve

Why did we quit drinking?

Today I am grateful for good pizza at a place in a neighboring town. We hadn't tried it before, but we know now that we'll go back for more.  And I am ever appreciative of my connections to others in recovery. They help me stay grounded, and are often connections for me to my Higher Power.  Yesterday a few of us were pondering this important question: Why did we quit drinking?   The short answer is that we weren't very good at it, or too good at it, depending on how you look at it. We were making a mess of things and becoming more of a danger to ourselves and those around us. The consequences were ramping up. DWIs and divorces. Hospital stays and hopeless nights. That dangerous mix of feeling worthless and a fair amount of self-hate, while simultaneously convincing ourselves we can figure this out on our own.  We didn't want to lose more. We were afraid to die, or kill someone else. We couldn't figure out how to drink normally. We never had, so why would we now?  Th

Today I will praise . . .

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the amazing people I work with. They are such a talented bunch and they have especially risen to the challenge of this pandemic school year. I also give thanks for the morning patio time I am presently enjoying.  I am taking a six-week course, online with several hundred others, about living gratefully.  The course has a weekly session via Zoom, and a wealth of resources for us to delve into, practice, take in and give back out. Here is a poem and accompanying reflection we were invited to explore: Praise  by Angelo Geter.  It is a lovely, sometimes dark, always hopeful poem. The reflection we were presented with is:                                               Complete Geter’s first line, “Today I will praise..."  Here are a few of my responses: *The rustle of spring leaves in the breeze— much more subtle than the dry fall leaves.  *Change. The kind that we seek, and the kind that seeks us, even the painful kind.  *The poignant words of Ange

To Be is to Grieve

Today I am grateful for the pleasant day yesterday that made for a pleasant school activity, and for all of the people who helped out in so many ways with the activity. I also appreciate that I am slowing down more in my morning time. I miss much when I race on ahead in productive mode. As I continue my goal of daily morning meditation in May, I am leaning into grief. To be is to grieve. To be alive and to know love means that we also will know loss and pain. I can avoid and ignore the pain and grief, which seems the route many of us want to take, and that our culture encourages, or I can lean into it.  Yesterday, it was seeing my sister Mary Jo for the last time. Today, it is aging and the physical limitations that show themselves more. It is also accepting the regrets of previous choices, mistakes, shortcomings. Grief ebbs and flows. Contentment does too. Avoiding grief doesn't make it go away. It gets us stuck.  And when I am stuck, I am missing so much beauty and the great full

How Can It Be?

Living gratefully today, I notice my energy level after a night of rest. It is not the number of hours of rest that matters as much as the level of peace during rest. More restful sleep comes my way when I let go of the day just lived and don't yet pick up the day awaiting.  Now, this day is here. And it marks an anniversary that is both one of pain and one of gratefulness. Two years ago today, May 11, 2019, was the last time I saw my sister Mary Jo alive. I said goodbye to her as she lay in her bed, hooked up to oxygen. Some of her last words to me were "I hope this doesn't happen to you."   She was referring to the metastatic breast cancer that was weakening her further and would end her life a few weeks later, on June 16.  The few minutes I spent with her that day are with me in my heart, leaving a profound imprint. It was so very hard and also a true blessing to be able to spend that time together.  How can it be 2 years already? How can it be that you had to suff


Living gratefully today, I give thanks for my stepchildren Arthur and Emily. I have watched them grow into adulthood since meeting them at ages 6 and 3. I appreciate my son Sam in new ways too as he also grows into adulthood. Today is Arthur's 30th birthday. I remember that milestone in my own life with mixed emotions. Happy Birthday and enjoy your day!  This African saying and "WORD FOR THE DAY" from is a real zinger today: The times are urgent; let us slow down. Let me repeat that. "The times are urgent; let us slow down. What a seeming contradiction at first glance. But as the words sink in, their wisdom also does. Harried, hurried, frenzied, frenetic. Trying to maintain control in situations where most factors are beyond my control. These are all words, feelings, circumstances that I am familiar with and to which I continue to subject myself at times.  I have paid a heavy price for that on some days and in some years and decades of my life.  A he

A Pile of Birthday Cards

Living gratefully today, I appreciate the phone call I had with my friend Claire and the chance to join in an online class with hundreds of others. The topic: living gratefully.  I recently had the opportunity to look through the cards my mom received for the card shower for her 90th birthday back in February, There were about as many cards as there are years in her life. They were from her children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends of her children, fellow parishioners, and more.  It was fun to look through the cards and read the sentiments and notes that were included. It warmed my heart. I captured a few pictures before returning them to their bag, ready to pass on to the next readers.  Life is full of intersecting moments. These two images, from Mom's cards, provide a couple for me:  As my recovery from alcoholism has been a faith quest, so has my mom's life. In ways,  her faith and mine are pretty different. But in other ways they are ver

Serious Business

Living gratefully today, I recommit to recovery work and give thanks for those who walk with me on this journey. Alcoholism is a daily disease. Am I doing my daily recovery work? I am also thankful for my siblings and offer special wishes today for my oldest brother Linus. He turns 70 today. Happy Birthday Linus!  I consider each birthday a gift. These milestones have been more on my mind this year. Our mom turned 90 back in February. Linus is 70 today. Our youngest sibling Lee is already 50. I marvel at how quickly these decades have amassed. And I pause in humble gratitude that I survived my active drinking years.  Age milestones feel different than recovery milestones. Recovery is more about today. Sure, we celebrate sobriety and mark anniversaries, but we try to keep our focus on today. If I am living in yesterday's regret or tomorrow's worries I am missing much today. And I am opening myself to attack from a patient and deadly foe.  This is serious business. Earnest effort

Stay Here

Today I am grateful for a nice morning hello from my friend and neighbor Anne, and for our daughter-in-law Alyssa. Happy Birthday Alyssa! I head into another busy work week today.  This time in a school year is always a grind, and this year there are layers of exhaustion and low levels of stress and anxiety that have accumulated more than usual in this time of COVID.  The month of May is underway, and we have a few things on the calendar already. They are good things, signs of life getting back to a little more normal. Prone to getting ahead of myself, overthinking, and overdoing; it is especially helpful and healthy for me to slow down and focus on the present. I can more fully appreciate the happenings of today for what they are--gifts and opportunities. I paused the other day to capture this blossom on camera. I paused a different day to write this poem. Together, they can remind us all to stay right here, right now. Do the next thing, pay attention, take notice. Have a good day!

Some Visitors and Some Normalcy

Today I am grateful for mild air and time on our patio, for a book to have a book signing for, and for family and friends who supported us yesterday. The weather was splendid as well. At the end of the day, I fully appreciated the visitors who showed up and the sense of normalcy I hadn't felt in a long time. Thank you to my sister Zita. We got to co-sign a number of books together and that was fun.  Thank you to my friends Jill, Kate, Steve and Tonya for stopping by. And special thanks to my brother Morry, his wife Chris, my brother Neal and his wife Charlene. They made the day extra special by surprising us. Darcy and Sam were there in support too.  Here are some pictures to capture the day: After the book signing, we enjoyed a late lunch together, walked in our downtown area, stopped in a cute little shop, and walked along the river. We were masked when needed, but also got to enjoy our vaccinated selves unmasked in the outdoors at times. It felt like normal times in ways the tim