Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘gratitude’

Challenge: Share Your Gratitude

Thanksgiving is celebrated the fourth Thursday of every November in the United States of America. It is generally marked with a celebration of turkey dinners shared with family and friends. Some gather together to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and even more people shout for their favorite football teams on television during the afternoon. It is, most importantly, a day for people to gather together and remember what they are thankful for.

Even Facebook users join in the November traditions of giving thanks by sharing posts of thankfulness. Did any of your friends do a daily post for MOG –or Month of Gratitude? The idea behind this is to get people to think, for thirty days straight, about what they should be grateful for in their lives. Each day they share a post giving thanks. I love the creativity and how specific people get in identifying even the smallest gifts which are often overlooked. I love watching friends give recognition to the little things in their lives.

Why don’t we make a conscious effort to continue our expressions of gratitude beyond one month? If we spend time every day recognizing the good surrounding us, it becomes a habit to readily notice positive things and give less notice to the negative experiences we have. What is the saying…? We should all readily have an “attitude of gratitude”.

One of my favorite things I did in the past was reaching out to some of the people who made an impact on my life. With the internet, it is easy to look up addresses for people that have somehow touched us in a positive manner. I contacted people I met only weeks before, and I also contacted people who had been a positive role model when I was younger. You should have heard the joy in the receiver’s voice. It was contagious. I was shy and nervous. Would they remember me? Would they think it was a silly prank call? Even when expressing gratitude, we all still have a fear of rejection I guess. I sent letters also. These letters opened up wonderful friendships that were able to grow from a student and teacher relationships into friendships as two grown adults.



Thanks you morguefile.com for the use of this photo

As the months progress, I challenge you to think of a few people who touched your life whether it was in a passing encounter or a lingering presence in your life’s journey. Reach out to these people. In the midst of their holiday cards, let them find your hand written note sharing gratitude. I’m asking you, challenging you, to contact someone who has touched your life. Say thank you. Expressing gratitude and impacting lives should not be restricted only to the thirty days in November.

A Work Trip in Numbers

I was fishing for dreams to share and hope to build…. I think I did well gathering both for myself and others during my time away.

Time Quote

I was fortunate to have been invited to speak to a wide variety of people the beginning of this month. This invitation took me halfway across the United States. The day after I returned home I was so exhausted I laid down in my bed early and slept for ten hours. It took me a few days to get rid of the jet lag and resume my usual schedule. It was a lot of work, but it was such an honor to have been invited.

6 Consecutive days
3,712 Miles flown round-trip
14 Presentations
2 Cities
2 Colleges (Thank you University of Iowa and Loras College for your warm hospitality)
1 Education Center (Thank you Regina Education Center. By the way, I loved being there on pajama day!)
1 Nurse’s group mixed with some amazing volunteers (Thank you University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinic nurses and volunteers for the wonderful gift of caring and compassion you provide to your patients daily.)
COUNTLESS conversations with incredible people who were willing to share their time and join me in a journey to help others learn from the lessons our lives have taught.

It was a whirlwind trip, but I always find myself gaining more than I could ever hope to offer when I hear of the impact we are capable of having on one another.

Testing Gravity

“You may get skinned knees and elbows, but it’s worth it if you score a spectacular goal.”   Mia Hamm

 July 07, 2014


In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton watched an apple fall from a tree and began developing his Universal Law of Gravitation. In the past 327 years, this theory for gravity has been tested time and time again. It’s been proven true with every experiment. I once saw on a stroke survivor t-shirt, “I didn’t fall, I was just testing the existence of gravity”. I now declare to test it when falling on my knees, my hands, my elbows and, most recently, my face. Generally, I fall once every six month or so.


July 06, 2014

July 06, 2014


Early this month I traveled to my hometown. Presentations had been scheduled for the first Monday I was there. The day before this speech, my parents had graciously offered to invite extended family over for a meal. Being two thousand miles away, our visits are rare but treasured.

The morning of our family get-together, I went out for a walk with my husband and Mom. During this walk, I tested gravity again. As I fell, I stopped myself with the hand holding my phone, my chin, and my front, right tooth. I broke that tooth. My speech was slurred. I had a presentation in eighteen hours. My chin was cut deep enough we thought I might require stitches. My wrist and knees were bleeding. I had family coming over in two hours.

Thankfully, there’s a wonderful emergency room in a nearby small town. They saw me right away and fixed me with concern, compassion, and medical skill. An amazing dentist in our town rushed to his office on this Sunday morning and bonded my tooth. Thank you Wolken Dental for making it appear as if nothing ever happened. My visiting family forgave me, and even helped me laugh about my dramatic entrance a few hours late.

When I started book talks and presentations over the next week, the participants not only heard about the challenges life delivers as a young stroke patient, but also saw these challenges first-hand from the battle wounds I wore on my face, wrists, and knees. The speech offered a great demonstration of my ongoing attempt to help people understand when you fall, you brush off your knees, wipe your hands, and carry on.

People have said I am too positive. I have heard I am unreasonably optimistic. Yes. Yes to both of these statements. I am hopeful. I am positive. I am happy and optimistic. You see, for example with this fall, I am acutely aware what a gift I have walking again. I know exactly how far I have come and am reminded what is still missing. I prefer to celebrate what I have recovered since my stroke. I would never fall down, never break a tooth, and never crack open my chin or scrape up my knees if I was bound to a wheelchair. I am walking. I get out of bed every morning and walk independently. If falling down every six months is the price I have to pay for walking, well, I consider that a mighty small price for the opportunity to experience the other abilities I celebrate and embrace every other day of the year.

Next day at Oelwein library ready to present.

Next day at Oelwein library ready to present.

Book talk and presentation in Guttenberg July 8, 2014

Book talk and presentation in Guttenberg July 8, 2014



I fell down. I brushed off my knees, wiped my hands, and carried on.



When No Pictures Remain

June 25, 2003 I woke up having had a stroke.  I lost my eyesight.  A very kind hospital volunteer sat on my bed early on during my recovery.  She described in great detailed the picture hanging on the wall.  She taught me a life changing lessons: You do not have to see images to realize the beauty which fills the world around us.  She also allowed me to understand there is a large difference between having eyesight and having vision.  Images can be discovered in different ways and vision has more to do with the hope for our future rather than what our eyes see in briefly passing moments.

Getting back the eyesight I now have was a long, gradual process.  Half my world is still completely black.  I have hemianopia and can no longer see anything using my left peripheral  from both eyes.  Click here to see a picture I showed on a previous post which demonstrates how a street looks now when I walk out of a building.

Though I did regain fifty percent of what I can see, my visual memory never returned.  The stroke permanently destroyed that piece of my brain.  When I close my eyes and try to remember what something looks like, I can no longer create pictures within my mind.  Whether I am trying to remember what a sunset looks like, trying to picture a glass of water or trying to imagine what a tree looks like, I cannot create any image or color within my mind.  The visual memory loss took away my ability to see anything when I have my eyes closed.


Picture I see when I close my eyes

Picture I see when I close my eyes



Yet, as I said, I did regain half my eyesight.  At first, I could not see anything with my eyes open, and I was unable to see anything when I tried to remember what I had seen previously.  For too long, my world was too dark.  The world seen through my mind was always completely black.

Yet, through this experience, I have been able to learn an important lesson.  I hope you can take something away from this, too.  What is in front of you right now?  What you see when you look out into the world today, treasure it.  Don’t take that streak of lightning, the smile from a stranger or images you may see every day for granted.  One day this image may be erased from your memory forever.  Regardless of how long or how often I am given to experience any sight, I try to treasure it. 


Agave in the sunset

Agave in the sunset



I try to notice all the images and colors which fill my world. 


Succulent garden with a sunset

Succulent garden with a sunset



I try noticing minute details such as how a ripple of water can dance with the fading light.


Sunset over the pond

Sunset over the pond



These are images I see nightly from my backyard.  For three years, I have enjoyed watching the beautiful night sky where I live.  I realize at times I am fortunate to still have so much eyesight missing from each eye.  You see, every second of every day I have this reminder to never take for granted the beautiful world in which I live.  I always remember that early lesson I was taught – just because I can’t see something or memories do not remain does not mean the pictures surrounding me are not filled with beauty.  I celebrate and treasure what I see, even if it is only for a fleeting moment.


The view from our backyard

The view from our backyard



“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?”   G.K. Chesterton

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