"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Early Fall

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy, our marriage, and the time and effort we both give to keeping it healthy and happy.  I have also been really grateful for the comfort of air conditioning in recent days. 

We have had unseasonably hot and humid conditions this last week, so I totally missed the fact that fall had officially arrived. I love the changing seasons overall, and appreciate that my life spent living in the upper Midwest has always come with a variety of weather. 

There is something to look forward to for each season and something I am ready to say goodbye to for the current season.

Fall would have to be my favorite. Cool, crisp air after heat and humidity. The variety of colors. Smells and sounds that herald the end of the growing season. 

This picture was taken yesterday morning, a quick stop on our run. It is one of my favorite places to watch the changing seasons unfold. Near the Mississippi River and accessible only by trail, the fall colors are already evident. 



Let me not forget the gratitude in having eyes to see this, a nose to smell it, and legs that help carry me as I run past.

What is your favorite season?  Whatever it is, relish nature's variety and beauty. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Grateful Day--Please Watch This Stunning Video

Today I am grateful for the sounds of other people's voices, voices that soothe me and remind me I am loved. I am also grateful for the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Brother David's soothing voice speaks throughout A Grateful Day video here. It is a video that is beautiful in every sense of the word. You may have seen an earlier version of this video. This is a brand new version, just released yesterday for World Gratitude Day.

It is 5 minutes long and I encourage you to take those minutes sometime today to sit and give full attention and all of your senses to this stunning piece. Share it with family, friends, coworkers. Watch it again.

Below are some lines pulled from the first minute or so of the video. Pick one and focus on it today.
Or carry them all with you. Enjoy this day for the gift that it is.

"It's not just another day. It is the one day that is given to you. Today."

"The only appropriate response is gratefulness."

"If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, 
then you will have spent this day very well." 

"Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes to open."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

World Gratitude Day is Today, Every Day

Today I am grateful for the valuable lessons I have learned as I try to live each day gratefully. I am also grateful for the convenience of cereal for breakfast and all who helped make that possible for me.

Today is World Gratitude Day. It's been around as long as I have, but I had never heard of it until two years ago. Here is a post I wrote about it then.

A date to focus on gratitude can be a good starting point, and if you're fortunate, maybe it will become a habit. That is what happened to me. I started keeping a gratitude journal at the suggestion of my good friend and spiritual advisor Terrie. I wasn't feeling all that grateful when I started, but slowly that changed.

It has made all the difference in my life, as I continue to live gratefully, to share gratitude, to train my mind to look for the good, rather than the downside. Changing our perceptions truly can change our world.

I am not a big fan of this special day or that special day. If it's important, we should do it daily or often. Waiting for "World Exercise Day" to exercise would be bad for my health. Waiting for "World Gratitude Day" to practice gratitude is equally as harmful to my overall well-being.

Today can be a good day though, if you need a push to give it a try. It can become the day you started to change the default mode in your brain, the day you started seeing the world around you with more clarity. The day you took a few more pauses to breathe and pay attention to that breathing.

The day you realized what a blessing a simple day and the people and experiences in it can be.
Onward! Have a good day!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kneel Down

Today I am grateful for connections with others in recovery that help me keep doing the daily work I need to do. I am also grateful for the team of teachers I get to work closely with at school.

This quote about kneeling down caught my attention because it is something I try to do daily:

"A desire to kneel down sometimes pulses through my body, or rather it is as if my body has been meant and made for the act of kneeling. Sometimes, in moments of  deep gratitude, kneeling down becomes an overwhelming urge, head deeply bowed, hands before my face."
(Etty Hillesum)

I can't really say the urge to kneel down pulls at me this strongly, at least not most days. But I have learned the value of kneeling down to pray, to give thanks, to take a quiet moment. I find it humbling and comforting. It reminds me I am neither alone, nor in charge of the world. 

Here is a post titled "Practice" that I wrote in March of 2015 that also talks about the humbling and helping practice of kneeling down. 

Etty Hillesum died at Auschwitz in 1943, at age 29. It seems that she had a full, sometimes tumultuous, life well before being sent to a concentration camp and put to death. Her days were cut short, yet the days she had were lived fully.

That's a question to ask ourselves:  Have I lived this day fully? And by fully I mean fully present.
Not fully busy. There'a s big difference. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Changing Stories and Perceptions

Today I am grateful for trustworthy friends and shared laughter. I am also grateful for the wisdom that  we can draw on from years of experience--whether it be work, marriage, life.

As I continue to reflect on 1700 blog posts and what the experience of this blog has taught me and shown me, this quote bears repeating:

"Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world."
Jean Houston

My story and perceptions were comprised of narrow-minded self-pity and inhibitions for the first two decades of my life. Both started to change when I got sober at age 24. If I hadn't stopped drinking, my story could have been cut short. It was the grace of a Great Spirit that helped me survive excessive drinking, drunk driving, and depressed thinking. 

Sobriety was a start, but the perception changing has taken longer. Recovery practices help in many ways, and one of the most effective practices has been gratitude practice, living gratefully day by day, moment by moment. That's my goal. I fail at it daily. But I also succeed at it daily. It's as simple as writing in my gratitude journal each morning, or pausing to smell the fresh air as I step outside.

A subtle shift in perception and less self-pity started opening my eyes and expanding my horizons. Open eyes helped me see beyond my own mind, which had often been a prison to me. Open eyes and open mind helped lead to a more open heart and reaching my own soul, which had been buried behind misperceptions.

My story changed. My view of the world around me changed and continues to change. The view I have of myself and the stories I add to my life each day are far more friendly and hopeful than they tended to be in my early years. 

These changing perceptions, and getting out of my own head, have given me energy and direction to contribute to the world. It started when changed perceptions helped me stop contaminating my own existence. And that truly started when I was five years sober and began to practice gratitude regularly. 

Try it. It works. It truly does. 


Monday, September 18, 2017

17 Seventeens for 1700 Posts

Today I am grateful for all the parks and playgrounds in our community and time to spend with our grandson Leo at some of them yesterday.

When I hit publish on this post in a few minutes, it will mark post #1700 for "Habitual Gratitude." It has become an enjoyable tradition for me to mark each century mark here. It is also a reminder of how taking a leap of faith into the blogosphere in late March of 2012 has led to deeper gratitude and a more humbled and satisfied writer.

In honor of my 1700th post, here are 17 seventeens. When I think of the number 17, the first thing that comes to mind is my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008.  I will start there.

1. My first surgery, a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, took place on July 17, 2008, after weeks of waiting and fear. These were some of the toughest weeks of my life.

2. On July 23, after that first surgery, I wrote out 17 thank you notes to family and friends who had offered me kindnesses in many ways. I didn't plan to write 17, it's just the number I ended up with. I wrote a poem about it too.

3. My third surgery, a bilateral mastectomy, took place on December 17, 2008. It brought relief and grief and everything in between, and it marked the end of months of surgeries and active treatment.

4. As my friend Jenny and I began to write about our shared BC journey, "17 Points of Clarity" came out. Read them here.

5. I began running again about 6 weeks after my mastectomies, and did my first post-cancer, flat-chested public run, a half-marathon, on May 17, 2009, exactly 5 months after surgery. It was joyful liberation, stride for stride.

6. As Darcy and I looked for our next marathon, it seemed fitting to choose the Kansas City Marathon, which took place on October 17, 2009. For the first time, we finished side by side in a marathon. Besides finishing our first marathon in Chicago in 2004, this is my most cherished marathon experience, exactly 10 months out from my mastectomies.

7. I graduated from high school in May of 1983, at age 17. Already drinking alcoholically, already full of the self-hatred and denial that would keep me drinking for a few more years.

8. From 17 days of sobriety, to 17 months, to 17 years and beyond, recovery remains a priority in my life. It has to or I lose everything, either quickly or slowly.

9. Marathons, or any run, begin with one step, then 17, then 1700, then 17,000 or more.
But a run of any length can only be done one step at a time.

10. Apply the same to a day. Whether it is 17 seconds, minutes, or hours, they can only unfold a moment at a time.

11. Consider mile 17 of a marathon. Those miles between 15 and 20 are tough. Over half done, but not yet past the psychological boost I get when reaching mile 20. Mile 17 is one that toughens us runners, in good ways, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

12. I have completed 17 full years at my current job and I just began school year #18 there. Seventeen years of experience is hard-earned and helpful. Seventeen years of many wonderful connections with many different people there, past and present, from students and parents to co-workers.

13. I decided to go back and find my 17th post: And Then There's Pup. It's a post also related to the summer of 2008.

14. And my 170th post: Off Buttons. The message there is even more fitting today than it was five years ago.

15. As I continued coming up with my list of 17, it dawned on me that another 17 is the year 2017.
It has been a tough year for many people I care about, but also a year full of growing in gratitude and hope.

16. One of those people I care about is my dear friend Sheila. Her daughter Carli died by suicide on April 4 of this year, just a couple weeks after her 14th birthday on March 17. Sheila's birthday is October 17. The conversations Sheila and I have had in recent months, both pain-filled and hope-filled, have taken our care and understanding of life, motherhood, ourselves, and much more to deeper levels. I appreciate our friendship more than ever.

17. There have been many significant seventeens in my life. This number 17 marks a journey of 1700 posts on a blog I started to help me better practice living gratefully and to honor my writing with time each day. I can't begin to explain how much it has helped in both areas.

Thank you for reading and helping me spread the idea of living gratefully. Have a good day!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Stormy Weather and a Word Wrap-Up, Courtesy of Aileen

Today I am grateful for cooler air and less humidity after a warm week. I am also grateful for the thousands of words available for us to use, from simple and mundane to profound and unique.

Twice yesterday we nearly missed getting rained on. On our early morning run, and later at the park with our grandson Leo and his mom Emily. I think about all the people impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. How some got spared and some got hit really hard. Life is like that. Narrow misses, direct hits, glancing blows, and staggering upheavals. All the more reason to appreciate the calm that can be had in the present moment. 


My A-Z trip through some emotionally-laden words was enjoyable and thought-provoking. My sister Aileen and I were just talking about it yesterday. How words are fun to play with, explore in our writings, and some just roll off the tongue in their own special way-words like flummoxed and xenodochial. So as I took my journey, the writer in her took this poetic journey:


Lisa’s Words

My words
are apathetic,
will inhabit
my sister’s
bold and vibrant
ones.
Devoted to gratitude
she nurtured
and replenished
jaded spirits.
With quiet
and tolerant determination
itchy and icky
are transformed
into light-hearted,
unbridled joy.
Flummoxed frustration
morphs into
mesmerized
with the stream of life.
Exhilarated and grateful,
I thank you
for your words.


And I thank you for your words Aileen, which are anything but apathetic, along with our shared exploration of written language. Onward! Even when flummoxed or jaded. Writing always carries us.