Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday, 30 September 2007 - Climbing moments

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for climbing moments.

Thirty days hath September ...

September has been the strangest month of this year's journey. From Labor Day to 9/11 to seasonal transitions to harvest time, I hoped, I prayed, I believed.

I end the month, thankfully, on a high note. On a lovely autumn day filled with mixed feelings about nearly everything, I climbed very well.

That's what I like about climbing - I'm forced to focus 100% on the task before me, to live entirely in the present. Shut down worries and anxieties. Forget about yesterday's mistakes and tomorrow's challenges.

I step onto the rock and study the problem it presents to me - a gift, really. It's up to me to make the next move.

Climbing. An act that produces meaning from movement. An experiencing of time and space. Reality. I climb therefore I am.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday, 29 September 2007 - A patient heart

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a patient heart during a week when nothing seems to be going my way.

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself ... do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage. ~Saint Francis de Sales

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday, 28 September 2007 - Peppers to pick

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for peppers to pick.

The near-freezing night time temperatures mean one thing ... harvest time is near.

I concede that the watermelons won't mature. They're curious plants - amid the withering leaves sit a few fresh blossoms. In a few weeks, I'll dig up the vines and cut up the immature fruit before adding them to the compost bins.

At least I can reap a pepper crop. I am tempted to pick the dozen or so peppers but decide to wait at least one more week. The mariachis sport a reddish cap near the stems. In a few days, each pepper will blush boldly, wearing their finest fall colors just for me.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday, 27 September 2007 - Autumn climbing

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for autumn climbing.

The day produced all the elements of a perfect fall climbing adventure - ideal weather, gentle trail, warm rock - except for the actual climbing.

We're still a bit rusty from the long layoff due to S's blisters.

I just couldn't link the movements required to climb one slightly overhung section. Grasp crimps ... step up left foot ... step up right foot ... reach high right hand ... step up right foot.

For the next few days, I'll mentally rehearse the sequence over and over so I can do it or a similar problem this weekend. I'll also add a few more sets of pull-ups and push-ups to my workout ... never hurts to be stronger.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Photo: Red Rock Canyon ... fall colors

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday, 26 September 2007 - A greater purpose

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a greater purpose.

Every time you pick up a piece of trash along the road, say to yourself, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the house of God." ~Edward Hays

Time to feed the trash receptacles. I am in a "pick up every last bit of trash along our route" mood. Not because I have to but because I want to.

Even T senses that this morning's walk has a greater purpose. He dutifully leads me to a wayward scrap of paper and wags his tail as I pick it up. One down, scores to go.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday, 25 September 2007 - Warm jacket

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a warm jacket.

Common sense is not so common. ~Voltaire

I am freezing this morning. The cold front that brought snow to the high country continues its unseasonable journey to the south and east. The resorts are predicting an early ski season.

T celebrates the cooler weather by tearing around the backyard in pro running back style while I complain about the cold. He's eager to begin our morning walk.

I must look strange to our middle school friends waiting at the bus stop. Yes, I'm the woman wearing summer capris, walking shoes and a warm Patagonia jacket made from wind resistant fleece. If I had prepared better, I'd also be wearing gloves and a hat.

Dominic yells good morning to T. I see that he's not wearing a jacket or his favorite hoodie. I'm sure that, as he left the house a few minutes earlier, his mother urged him to wear a jacket. But, like most boys his age, he refused, opting to brave the chill. Now, he looks cold but won't admit his discomfort.

I shiver and push my hands deep into my pockets. When Dominic's older and wiser, he'll appreciate the virtues of wearing a warm jacket on a cold morning.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday, 24 September 2007 - One bold caterpillar

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for one bold caterpillar.

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.
~Richard Buckminster Fuller

I always notice butterflies, especially the ones that visit my gardens. But, I very rarely see caterpillars (although I've spotted cocoons in the scrub oak).

So, during prime visiting hours at Garden of the Gods, I was surprised to find one bold caterpillar out in the open. "Mr. Fuzzy" entertained us for a minute or so. He demonstrated his acrobatic skills by traversing a leggy scrub oak branch. Then, he wandered into the grassy area that bordered the paved trail. No time to stop and chat. Mr. Fuzzy was definitely on his way to somewhere.

Now, the caterpillar's appearance must be a sign (a good one, I hope) - a warning, perhaps, that I should not downplay my sensitivity to seasonal changes.

Summer becomes fall becomes winter.
Long shadows punctuate my days.
Morning late.
Evening early.
I pray as the harvest moon rises.

The spirit of transformation hovers over me like a vigilant guardian angel.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday, 23 September 2007 - A sense of humor

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a sense of humor.

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.

~Jean Houston

Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.
~Henry Ward Beecher

A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. ~William James

During this afternoon's visit with Tom, S and I noticed these changes in his behavior:

1. Time. He lives more and more in the present, following ongoing events and conversations. He also fixates on very specific future events like doctor consultations.
2. Social skills. He now greets and acknowledges other patients (not just the medical staff).
3. Personality. He displays a sense of humor.

The last item - Tom's reborn sense of humor - was a delight to experience. I'm smiling right now, recalling his funny (and appropriate) antics and witty retorts.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Photo: Red Rock Canyon - Quarry Wall - looking west from today's climbing route on the east wall

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday, 22 September 2007 - Leaves

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for leaves.

You shall ask
What good are dead leaves
And I will tell you
They nourish the sore earth.
You shall ask
What reason is there for winter
And I will tell you
To bring about new leaves.
You shall ask
Why are the leaves so green
And I will tell you
Because they are rich with life.
You shall ask
Why must summer end
And I will tell you
So that the leaves can die.
~Nancy Wood

During our afternoon hike, I see that the leaves are already changing. Is it truly that time of the year?

As I slowly turn the calendar page, I say good-bye to summer and reluctantly welcome autumn. According to the book of seasons, the leaves now have permission to exchange their practical summer greens for radiant and extravagant gold and crimson robes.

Yes, it's time to celebrate the harvest and prepare for winter.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Photo: Native sumac (relative of poison oak)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, 21 September 2007 - Luigi

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for Luigi.

I hear his familiar voice on the answering machine: "Hello, this is Luigi from LBD ..."

Luigi calls me from the upscale New York City department store about two or three times a year (whenever his cosmetics line offers a special promotion). Late this morning, he calls and leaves a message. A few hours later, I return his call.

Luigi asks how I am doing and if I had a good summer. I learn that he vacationed in Italy this year. I ask him to describe any new items or colors and, given the products I already own, what he thinks I should add to my collection. Then, I place an order. This time, I need to replenish a few frequently-used products and want to buy the top item on my wish list.

I first "met" him over the phone about three years ago after I decided to use mineral makeup. After our initial conversation, he sent me lots of generous samples so I could choose the right colors for my face, cheeks, eyes and lips. Long story short ... thanks to Luigi, I am a loyal LBD customer.

I'm thinking about another visit to New York City. My trips are all pre-9/11. I think about sauntering along Fifth Avenue for a day of window shopping and museum hopping. I think about eating at an out-of-the-way deli and savoring an Italian ice purchased from a gregarious street vendor. I think about exploring Greenwich Village and searching the cool Bleeker Street shops for the perfect accessory - most likely a piece of artisan jewelry. And, I think about finally meeting Luigi and letting him use his talent and every trick he knows to make me look absolutely fabulous.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday, 20 September 2007 - Summer memories

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for summer memories.

Summer ends.
Autumn begins.
A seamless transition.
Yet, each season is distinct and separate.

Our summer began on a down note ... Tom's freak bicycle accident on June 16 that resulted in a traumatic brain injury primarily to his left frontal lobe. His month-long coma and ensuing weeks in a local hospital dictated our evening schedule. Although Tom's now in Denver for rehabilitation, we still think and worry about him daily.

Our summer ends on more down notes ... George M's cancer diagnosis and grim prognosis (the cancer is widespread) and Daisy's death (expected but still difficult to accept).

As for the days and weeks in between ... merely life as I lived it. This year, however, I faced each summer day knowing that, despite my good health and optimism, I have no guarantee that I will live to see the summer of 2008.

Among other things, this summer ...

~ S and I rock climbed with enthusiasm and passion, but didn't attempt any route on the Wailing Wall (timing wasn't right).

~ We connected with people from our past - for S, a Peace Corps buddy whose son is a freshman at the Air Force Academy; for me, a few high school classmates.

~ I caught the sewing bug and made several items for my climbing and everyday wardrobe, found and bought a pair of perfectly fitting jeans and won second place in a national poetry contest.

~I began brewing my own kombucha tea and started this year's batch of my popular homemade organic vanilla extract.

~ For the 21st consecutive year, we did not attend the annual Labor Day hot air balloon event in Memorial Park.

~ My vegetable and herb garden comprised an experiment that yielded mixed results (note the bags of rich compost that I intend to work into the soil before winter). I'm not sure the watermelons will ripen before the first hard freeze or snowfall. The hot mariachi peppers did very well - I look forward to adding them to pots of spicy tortilla soup this winter.

~ My perennial gardens and shrubs grew wildly, creating a nectar-rich playground for the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

~ The six goji berry bushes thrived - can't wait until they finally produce berries - won't be for another 2-3 years, however - hope we still live here so I can celebrate the first harvest.

Adieu summer of 2007. Thanks for the memories.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday, 19 September 2007 - Daisy

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for Daisy.

In moments of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.
~W.H. Auden

You think dogs will not be in heaven?
I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.

~Robert Louis Stevenson

S and T ran into Ric and Audrey (the mastiff) this evening. Ric gave S the sad news: Daisy, one of Mark's dogs, had died.

Daisy, a golden Retriever, suffered from many maladies including cancer. She was only 10 (same age as T) but looked years older. I think she knew that she could not survive another cold and snowy Colorado winter. Not with severe arthritis. Not with the cancer.

I searched my archives for a photo of Daisy but couldn't find one.

So, imagine a perfect September morning. See the faithful and loyal golden retriever trudging along the dirt path adjacent to the culvert. Her reddish coat is soft and feathery; her face and muzzle, sporting a white beard. Her droopy, weary eyes brighten immediately when her dad calls her name.

She lingers near the overgrown field, inspecting a weed, sniffing a large rock. She walks at her own pace, unconcerned about the others who are many yards ahead of her now. The warm sun feels quite lovely this morning. The cool breeze carries a tantalizing scent - maybe a wild bunny or a pesky ground squirrel hiding in the scrub oak.

Despite her ailments, she insists on accompanying her dad and brother (a black Lab mix) for a lap or two around the park. Twice a day, in fact. Morning and dusk.

She pauses for a minute, as if to take it all in - the glorious sunshine, the cloudless blue sky, the nearby meadow and its bouquets of late summer wildflowers, the familiar sidewalk, the expanse of park lawn, the good sniffs, the cows grazing on the hillside, the saplings struggling to grow near the playground, the messy muddy spots near the softball field, her dad and brother enjoying the exercise ... one last time before the day fades for good, leaving only stars, moonlight and night sky.

Good-bye, Daisy.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday, 18 September 2007 - Reality check

Dear God:

Today I am thankful for a reality check.

Lead me to places of loneliness and pain.
May Your words shine in my mouth.

May I trust that the way You have made me
is the way that is needed.

~Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

This prayer, especially the third line, really touched a raw nerve. So much so that I'm seriously evaluating my ongoing and quasi-fanatical self-improvement efforts.

I'm thinking that it's time to take a break from the ongoing search for myself.

Maybe the person I am this very minute is quite sufficient for this leg of my journey.

Maybe, I need to appreciate how far I've come given how scared and unprepared I was when I started the adventure.

And, maybe, just maybe, I am already sitting pretty, having reached an important destination. I just don't know it because I've haven't taken the time to explore and appreciate my surroundings. Imagine missing a milestone that's clearly marked in my book of days!

If all these "maybes" are true, then it's time for me to embrace my sufficiency, walk with greater confidence, speak with more authority, write more passionately, and trust that I am needed.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday, 17 September 2007 - Living strong

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for the honor of living strong for others.

Some days there won't be a song in your heart.
Sing anyway
~Emory Austin

Earlier this year, I wrote about my diligence in wearing a yellow Lance Armstrong "livestrong" bracelet. I also cited the names of people for whom I am living strong.

Sadly, I must now add two more names to the list:

~Lisa Moore, breast cancer
I've followed Lisa's long, heartbreaking struggle with breast cancer in the comic strip, Funky Winkerbean. This month, she's finishing the last leg of her remarkable journey and coming to terms with death. Yes, she's only a comic strip character and I don't know her personally. But, she represents the reality of breast cancer and has unselfishly shared her story with faithful readers - that's why she's on my list.

~George M.
George is the local genius who invented a low-impact plyometric exercise machine. S and I are members of the team tasked with bringing the product to market. George called S this afternoon to deliver the bad news - after a 7-year remission, the cancer has returned. In fact, it has already metastasized. We are still in shock over the news ... I will write more about George later.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday, 16 September 2007 - T's rapid recovery

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for T's rapid recovery from a throat/salivary gland infection.

For the past week, T has drooled excessively and rarely displayed his signature high energy behavior (i.e., he's been sleeping most of the time). We thought that the significant change in weather - from hot to cool - affected him more than in past years.

But, after, S felt a soft lump near T's throat, we decided that a trip to the "veg" (a.k.a. "the veterinarian") was necessary. After determining that T probably has an infected salivary gland, the veg prescribed antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs.

T thinks the pills are treats and swallows them without protest. And, after just a few rounds of medication, he is nearly back to normal. High fives all around!

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday, 15 September 2007 - Golden days

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for golden days.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese,
harsh and exciting --
over and over
announcing your place
in the family of things.
~Mary Oliver

I'm officially half-way through year number 54. The past six months have been challenging, creative and insightful.

Now, what about the next six months?

As I begin the adventure, I'm ordering an extra helping of passion (my substitute for Emerson's enthusiasm) - will need it if I am to do or write something great.

I'm also super-sizing my imagination and restricting all judgment - important actions if I am to explore, understand and accept my place "in the family of things."

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Photo: Bee on sunflower - What luck! As I photographed the sunflowers growing on the south side of the house, a bee landed on this blossom. I only had time to take one picture before the bee flew away.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday, 14 September 2007 - One chocolate flower

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for one chocolate flower.

Each spring, I plant at least one chocolate plant (berlandiera lyrata).

According to the gardening experts:
This chocolate scented native wildflower blooms profusely all season with cheery, light yellow daisies; the sweetly fragrant blossoms really do smell like chocolate! Easily grown in a variety of soil types, this drought-tolerant species readily re-seeds itself, making it a desirable addition to any wildflower meadow or informal garden area. Zones 4-8. ~High Country Gardens catalog
The perfect perennial for my Colorado garden, one would think.

Unfortunately, the plant hasn't done very well in either the front or back yard. Until this year.

This morning, as I watered the north back yard garden, I noticed a single sunny yellow bloom rising above the leafy spray.

And, yes, the flower lives up to its billing - it has a heavenly chocolate scent.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday, 13 September 2007 - A change of seasons

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a change of seasons.

This is the way the rhythm moves. The fall of the year comes, then winter with its trees stripped of leaf and bud; cold winds ruthless in bitterness and sting. ~Howard Thurman

During September, summer blends seamlessly into fall.
While I lament the short growing season and waning daylight, my gardens don't mind the transition.

For them, it's simply time to move from blooms to seed to sleep. An early snowfall - disastrous for the still maturing watermelons and fragile herbs, will be a welcome event for the hardy yarrow and sage plants. I really need to finish my late summer planting and mulching by this weekend.

Cool mornings and evenings punctuate a hot afternoon. T's energy level rises as the temperature falls. I start studying knitting patterns - time to begin knitting my new wool sweater. S and I wonder when the aspens will be ready for prime viewing. We anticipate local and distant climbing adventures.

In Colorado, autumn and winter happen, though not always in that order.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday, 12 September 2007 - Stones

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for stones.

There is life in a stone. Any stone that sits in a field or lies on a beach takes on the memory of that place. You can feel that stones have witnessed so many things.
~Andy Goldsworthy, NY Times, 5/16/04

I like stones, rocks and pebbles.
Even sand if you mean long, lonely stretches that greet the winter tide.
Stones as monuments, borders and cairns.
Cornerstones and gravestones, too.
Strong and earthy.
I feel their weight in my pocket.
I acknowledge their power as I remove one from my shoe.

When I worked for a Fortune 100 company, I placed five small polished stones on my desk. They sat in one neat row just below the computer monitor. A personal tribute to David's (of David and Goliath fame) five stones.

One morning, I noticed that only four stones sat on my desk. I looked everywhere for the missing one. I never found it. I like to think it had a noble destiny, like slaying a giant.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday, 11 September 2007 - Everyday heroes

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for everyday heroes.

The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.
~Hubert H. Humphrey

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.
~Herman Melville

The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.
~Benjamin Disraeli

9/11. Always a difficult morning because the memories are still fresh. Just six years ago. I will always remember where I was (at home) and what I was doing (getting ready for work).

The televised images of tragedy and horror, replayed again and again.

"Enough!" I finally exclaimed and escaped to work.

There, the story continued unabated. We gathered in the main conference room, watched the replays and turned away in disbelief. I reached out to colleagues, hugged close friends, shared a box of Kleenex. The CEO sent us home early.

The day's legacy?

For me, the knowledge that, when tragedy strikes, the golden rule will prevail. An ordinary someone will do something extraordinary for a stranger - lend a helping hand, soothe frazzled nerves, hug trembling shoulders, offer sips of cool water, whisper hopeful and encouraging words.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday, 10 September 2007 - Moments

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for moments.

I'm thinking about time today. In particular, how one moment can completely change a life.

Just ask our friend, Tom, who continues to recover from a severe traumatic brain injury. Or ask 25-year-old Buffalo Bills football player, Kevin Everett, who incurred a career-ending and still life-threatening cervical spine injury yesterday.

One moment or
A series of moments ...
Link them and I get my life.
Savor them and I get my story.
Count them and I find my truth.
Scatter them among the stars and I discover my destiny.

Just a moment, before I ...
In a moment, until I ...
For a moment, unless I ...
Whew! Not a moment too soon.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday, 09 September 2007 - One thousand reasons to be grateful

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for one thousand reasons to be grateful.

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone.
~G. B. Stern

Two kinds of gratitude:
The sudden kind we feel for what we take;
the larger kind we feel for what we give.

~Edwin Arlington Robinson

No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;

But, grateful, take the good I find,

The best of now and here.

~John Greenleaf Whittier

This is entry number 1,000 of My Grateful Journal (a sentence I never expected to write when I started this blog in December 2004). Today's milestone marks the end of my first 1,000 step journey in blogland (hurrah!).

Tomorrow, September 10, 2007, I'll take step one on a new intellectual and creative adventure, probably westward this time as I explore my complex Japanese-American heritage and identity. This is a topic I've wanted to study in depth for many years. The time feels right, and I am ready for the challenge.

As for My Grateful Journal ... well, it will continue although the format and flavor may change. As a writer, I still feel inspired to put fingers to keyboard every day and thank God for His blessings. I know He understands my heart whether I write a poem, an essay or one well-written sentence.

Finally, I am very grateful for you, the readers, whether you've perused one or one hundred entries. Every writer needs an audience, and I am delighted with mine.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday, 08 September 2007 - Healing gifts

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for healing gifts.

The email arrived on Thursday morning. An invitation-only workshop on healing and deliverance lead by a woman from Idaho with an intriguing resume. I feel a pull on my heart. I need to attend. I check with S and T to make sure we have no scheduling conflicts if I'm gone all day. I email my RSVP. So much for Saturday's gardening and housekeeping chores.

This morning, I enter the workshop venue, a beautiful home in a wooded neighborhood about ten minutes northeast from where we live. I hope to learn something that I can use to help our friend, Tom.

Not the case. As it so often turns out, the workshop isn't about healing others - it's about my own healing and deliverance.

So, I set aside my expectations and receive the gifts of healing and deliverance with open arms. I embrace the peace and serenity that results from confession and repentance. I accept God's quiet confirmation that I was right all along about my pain and burdens.

My cup runneth over: I am alive. I am whole. I am healthy.

Forgiveness, compassion, grace, mercy, love. All there for the taking. All there for the asking.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday, 07 September 2007 - Blisters

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for blisters.

Blisters. On both heels. Incurred two weeks ago. I'm thankful not for the actual blisters (which belong to S, not me), but for lesson of blisters. In our case, patience.

It's a tough lesson for S, who has never before suffered from heel blisters (thank goodness he usually heals very quickly). It's a tough lesson for me, who reluctantly accepted the fact that S's blisters would limit my climbing exploits to bouldering or the short top ropes at the bouldering area. And, it's tough lesson for T, who will never understand why we did not visit Red Rock Canyon three times a week (no, T, it's not your fault).

~~~Waiting for the fragile skin to heal completely before resuming rigorous athletic endeavors.
~~~Leaving the wounds alone so they can heal in peace and in their own time.
~~~Forcing S to rest from his favorite outdoor sports - they all require fancy footwork or tight shoes.
~~~Not giving in to the temptation of doing just a little climbing or a little cycling because the wound is nearly healed (remember that "almost only counts in horseshoes").

So, we stopped climbing for a few weeks, bringing an abrupt halt to our momentum. We hope to resume our favorite sport next weekend. To me, the hiatus will be worth every minute as long as the blisters heal completely. Anyway, autumn, with its dry, crisp air and delightfully warm afternoons, is our favorite climbing season.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday, 06 September 2007 - Free mulch

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for free mulch.

September. Time for our annual mulch run.

I gather the equipment - shovel, gloves, 40-gallon trash bags. Then, S, T and I jump into the truck and head for the mulch distribution center in Black Forest.

Upon arrival, we give the gate attendant a bag of assorted canned goods, "payment" for the mulch. The attendant points to the towering mound of fresh pine mulch (must be at least 25 feet high) and directs S to the access road.

S drives slowly through the lot, passing enormous piles of slash (potential mulch). After he carefully positions the tailgate against the mound, we assume our positions on the truck bed and begin filling the trash bags. I hold open the bags while S shovels and fills. T, of course, supervises from his comfortable seat in the truck.

About a half hour later, we've filled a dozen bags. Enough mulch, I think, to protect my gardens through the fall and winter. I'll give any surplus to a neighbor.

We drive towards the freeway along a quiet two-lane road. The sun is bowing out for the evening in glorious fashion, painting the western sky with rich hues of hot pink, coral and mango. I smile, pleased about the generous supply of mulch, the sunset, the prospect of working in the garden this weekend.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wednesday, 05 September 2007 - Morning ritual

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for our morning ritual.

Early morning.
A few minutes past sunrise.
The best part of the day.

T wakes me up by dabbing his very cold nose against my cheek. "That time already?"

I better get up, pronto. If I sleep for just a few more minutes, I'll miss the magic. Then, I'll regret the "miss" the rest of the day.

We leave the house. I'm slightly groggy while T is energetic and excited to navigate the very familiar route to the park.

The late summer sun rises lazily in the east while the waning moon fades from the western sky.

Several high school students gather near the street corner, awaiting the bus.

We arrive at the park where T and I meet and greet other morning regulars: people and their dogs circling the park, enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet before the day's madness begins.

And the magic. Well, it's all of this. The sunrise, the students at the bus stop, the park regulars, the walk, the wet grass, the cool breeze, the solitary hot air balloon, the cows grazing along the ridge, the wild bunny munching on grass.

Our morning ritual.
We're expected, after all.
So, we arrive on time.
Just in time,
As it turns out
To whisper
Good morning, world.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday, 04 September 2007 - Gardening lessons

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for gardening lessons.

It is utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about gardening. You have got to love your garden whether you like it or not. ~W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman, Garden Rubbish, 1936

There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. ~Alfred Austin

It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn't a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing. ~Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts, 1981

When our neighborhood gathers for a summer cookout, the conversation inevitably turns to gardening. Our front yard is still a hot topic - everyone remembers the weekend that I dug up the sod, replacing it with a thick layer of mulch and various xeric shrubs. At the time, my neighbors doubted my plans and sanity. Now, three years later, they compliment me on my garden's beauty and health.

Of course, my neighbors never witness my challenges and mistakes. They never hear my complaints about certain plants and aphid infestations. They never feel my anxiety about over-watering new additions or when to plant spring bulbs. My struggles are private ones.

To me, gardening failures cast an unfavorable light on the gardener. Success, of course, belongs solely to Mother Nature.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Monday, 03 September 2007 - Time off, time out

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for time off, time out.

Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. ~Douglas Pagels

The power of work. I remember the 80+ hour work weeks and Sunday afternoons in the office ... the unhealthy belief that if I didn't do it, it wouldn't get done. So much for climbing the corporate ladder if, simultaneously, I can't exercise my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, still on sabbatical from the corporate world, I am finally beginning to understand work and its place in my life.

Most importantly, I no longer tie my worth or identity to a corporate title. When someone asks me what I do, I could tell them that I'm a marketing communications consultant (boring!). Instead, I simply say that I'm a writer and poet (much more interesting).

On this Labor Day, as I redefine my career goals, I vow:

Never again to allow work to swallow me whole.
Never again to let self-imposed deadlines ruin a holiday or cancel a vacation.
Never again to surrender my life to work.
Never again to engage in work that's meaningless beyond the office walls.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday, 02 September 2007 - Homecomings

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for homecomings.

T greets us enthusiastically when we return from our trip to Denver to visit Tom. He grabs old "squishy" ball with his mouth before racing around the backyard at full speed. S and I clap our hands enthusiastically as T deftly circles my gardens, negotiates tight corners, and bounds up the sloping yard like a canine Marcus Allen.

My thoughts, still unsettled after visiting Tom, swirl with concerns. Among other things, I replay Tom's continuing difficulty communicating with us verbally, his ongoing frustration with confinement and therapy, his anger at having to wear a seat belt when he uses the wheelchair, his very short attention span, his lack of self-awareness. My worries obscure the fact that he is improving, that during our weekly visits we see healing, progress and restoration. Still, Tom doesn't remember anything from our shared history and that bothers me.

But, I'm home now. And, it's T-time. I look into his big golden eyes and ask if he missed us. T's vigorous tail wags and slobbery kisses tell me that, despite the fact that he hates being home alone, he's forgiven us.

My parents are home. All is well. Treats abound. Life is good. It's time for a walk.

For this blessing, I am grateful.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday, 01 September 2007 - A sporting weekend

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for a sporting weekend.

My husband is in 7th heaven this weekend. Sports, sports and more sports. Cycling, tennis and football.

+++La Vuelta a Espana - The year's final major European stage race. S and I watch it live on Internet television via Despite the doping scandals, we remain staunch cycling fans.

+++The US Open Tennis Championship - S calls this tournament the "high holy days" of tennis. Even though we haven't played tennis since we left Austin, we remain loyal fans. Gotta love that Roger Federer.

+++The World Track and Field Championships (in Kyoto, Japan) - Another sports event that we can't ignore. Hometown favorite, Adam Goucher, will be in Sunday's 5,000 meter final (I knew his mother way back when).

+++College football - We're pro-UCLA, of course, and follow the PAC-10 closely. My UCLA ties have strengthened now that my niece attends my alma mater as a third generation Bruin. The Air Force Academy is our local Colorado team. We are not CU fans.

+++Pro football - S and many of our friends are Oakland Raider fans. I usually just go along for the ride, although I do love the team colors (silver and black) and slogan ("commitment to excellence"). You won't catch me cheering for the Denver Broncos, ever. S is more accommodating. He'll watch any game regardless of the teams - just hopes for a well-played, competitive contest.

+++High school football - We are Coronado High School fans. Our next-door neighbor, Everett, and his friends start on the varsity team. The local and Denver newspapers identified Everett as a player to watch and one of the best at his position (RB, LB). S, who has followed and supported Everett's athletic career for many years, will attend most of the games, sitting and cheering with the players' parents.

+++Rock climbing - S and I will continue to climb in Red Rock Canyon through fall and winter as long as it's at least 45 degrees, dry and sunny. My 2007 goal remains unmet - to climb the 5.10a route on the Wailing Wall.

... All of this before baseball and the boys of summer end their long, drawn out season. Sorry, Rockies. Once football season begins, we won't watch another baseball game until the World Series.

For this blessing, I am grateful.