O—Observe

On Observing A Blossom On The First Of February 1796
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sweet flower! that peeping from thy russet stem
Unfoldest timidly, (for in strange sort
This dark, frieze-coated, hoarse, teeth-chattering month
Hath borrow'd Zephyr's voice, and gazed upon thee
With blue voluptuous eye) alas, poor Flower!
These are but flatteries of the faithless year.
Perchance, escaped its unknown polar cave,
Even now the keen North-East is on its way...

Source: 
The Golden Book Of Coleridge
Copyright 1914
London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.
New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.

Even the sweetest of flowers weather storms.

Observe your own thoughts.

A wise woman once told me (click the link to see)—If you are angry, most likely your mind is stuck on something in the past. If you are anxious, you are probably worrying about the future.

Stop and smell the roses.

It’s not about roses, you know. It’s about staying present. Seek beauty and goodness, and you will find more of the same. And so I send you good vibes today. May the rest of April bring you joy, fulfillment, perspective, and hope.  

N—Nominate

Many thanks to Chen Song Ping, who nominated me for the The Golden Bloggerz Award! I’m humbled and honored! Serena Chen is a nurse and the caretaker of a child with a mental disorder, and she shares insightful life experiences. Serena asked me a series of questions, and my answers are sprinkled throughout this post.

I’m going on my fourth year of catapulting my ideas into the blogosphere, but I still remember what it was like in the beginning to have like three followers and no idea how to find other good blogs. [Stage left. Enter the awards.] The awards, no matter which one, are all about promoting other bloggers’ blogs and helping them be part of the community. If you’re new to blogging (or not), here are some of my best tips:

  1. Read other blogs.
    • Of course, you can keep up with the blogs you follow in Reader.
    • There is also a tab you can click at the top of Reader to Discover new blogs, and you can search by key words according to your interests.
    • You could search for Awards (or maybe Award), and you will most likely find lists of bloggers that other people like inside those posts despite your interest in their questions and answers.
    • Read comments in other posts to see who responds in a way you like. Then pay that person a visit. If a person cares enough to leave a nice comment, that person might care enough to support your blog.
  2. Write something compelling.
    • I taught high school English for twenty years. I used to tell my students, “I have one hundred and fifty essays to grade. Make me laugh or make me cry.” As far as blogs go, people have so many choices. Compel readers to return.  
    • The same advice applies to your comments. If you just hit the little star on the post, you may or may not receive a return visit. If you leave a likeable comment, you are more likely to receive a visit.
    • When I write about anything, I try to reveal a deeper meaning or a bigger lesson without preaching. I personally don’t like to be told what to do in life and especially during my free time.
  3. Final thoughts.
    • One big DO NOT. Too often a star-happy blogger comes along, clicking star after star on my site without any time in between clicks. Knowing the reader isn’t a reader makes for a pointless visit, and I feel no obligation to check out that site.
    • In connection to awards, some people thrive on recognition. Others do not. Considering my own time restraints, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel pressure to respond. Rules are arbitrary, and I tend to circumvent them. I also reserve the right to decline.
    • Remember to update your About page. Check what other bloggers say on their pages for ideas.
    • Blogging should be fun and guilt free. If it ever feels otherwise, step away. People understand, and if they don’t, well…
    • Show your readers gratitude. I appreciate you for reading today, and I know you have a million and one other things you could be doing.  

It’s so hard to narrow down my list of amazing bloggers, and so I’m choosing nominees under the 900 follower mark, who deserve so many more. When you have extra time, check them out. Without further ado, I would like to Nominate the following Golden Bloggerz:

With over twenty years of experience, Tiffany Arp-Daleo has developed a unique painting style described as Bohemian Abstract. All her creations are original, derived from the heart, and born out of a need to consistently create and to explore the unknown.

My friend Keith at Terrified Amateur is actually a Bold Expert in the kitchen. His cheeky sense of humor and adventurous culinary spirit never fail to deliver fantastic posts.   

By day, Gr8ful Collette helps pregnant and parenting teens beat the odds and earn their high school diplomas. Over at her Wine 2 Water blog, she pens her experience of finding peace and meaning through sobriety.

From Faded Jeans Living, Dwight Hyde writes about finding happiness, comeback stories, and growing and learning along the way. I love how he keeps it simple and real.

From the land down under, Perth Girl at The “F” Word blogs about faith, family, and food. She enlightens me with her spiritual insights time and again.  

The David from David’s Daily Dose is just a regular guy, who was tempted to lose all hope but didn’t. It was God who made the difference, but he isn’t preachy about it.

Bosssy Babe shares her journey through life as an imperfect human trying to balance marriage, motherhood, work, and her many passions. She is proud of being loud and feels no shame about having unpopular opinions. 

H. Davey Thoreau claims to have succumbed to a spell for the first forty years of life before undergoing a spiritual awakening. At Words from Walden, he writes of how our friendly universe is full of possibility.

Jen Knapp at Life, Love, and Sentences is a former high school English teacher who scooped up her family and moved to Quito, Ecuador. Her blogs are part literary analysis, part life analysis, all in the in the hopes of doing some good.

Bryan Wagner blogs at Visions of a People’s Dharma. He believes that we can all have our own paths and still interact with compassion, intelligence, and caring for others. I love his philosophy: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you and expect nothing in return.”

For my nominees, I have one question should you choose to respond. No sweat off my back either way.

What is your all-time favorite post, the one that makes you laugh or cry or most proud of your own writing?

If you have a spare moment, please reblog your favorite one. I would love to read it.

M—Memorize

A couple of weeks ago, I read The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, and I’m one chapter short of finishing her 1995 bestselling memoir The Liars’ Club now. As the Peck Professor of Literature and Memoir at Syracuse University, she offers expert tips and provides an appendix of must-read memoirs. The list is so worth the purchase for those interested in studying the genre.

In Chapter 19, “Old School Technologies for the Stalled Novice,” Karr encourages intellectual enterprises to keep you studying the craft of writing. Here are some of the tools she uses to learn from mentor texts. Some of these include writing longhand. She says it will slow you down as typing can’t.

  1. Keep a notebook, where you copy beloved poems or hunks of prose. Nothing will teach you of great writers’ choices better. Plus, you can carry your inspiration around in compact form.
  2. Write reviews or criticism for an online blog or a magazine. It will discipline you to find evidence for your opinions and make you a crisper thinker.
  3. Augment a daily journal with a reading journal. Compose a one-page review with quotes. Make yourself back up opinions.
  4. Write out longhand on 3×5” index cards quotes you come across, writer’s name on the left, source and page on the right. Karr has thousands of these from which she cobbles up lectures.
  5. Memorize poems when you’re stuck.
  6. Write longhand letters to your complicated characters or even to the dead. You’ll learn more about voice by writing letters, how you arrange yourself different ways for each audience, than in a year of classes.

Number Five spoke loudest to me. Funny how I can still remember chunks of verse from days gone by. I memorized the “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost in the eighth grade for my English class. Anytime I take another look at that poem, the words come flooding back. When I taught sophomores, I memorized Mark Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” funeral oration from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. And when I taught juniors, I memorized Macbeth’s “Out, out, brief candle” soliloquy. Because the students had been tasked to memorize, I wanted to prove I could do it. I loved to show them a three-year-old’s ability to memorize, too. Here’s a toddler’s version of “Litany” by Billy Collins.


Here’s one I’m working on, at Mary Karr’s suggestion and just because I love it:

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

L—Listen

My mother visited me not long ago in a dream. I sat in a campus classroom when someone came to the door and said, “Your mother is here to see you.” That seemed weird—one, because my mother passed away this past Christmas Eve, and two, because my classes are online, but this time my cohort surrounded me.

I left my spot and walked into the next room where my mother stood with a radiant smile on her face and a gift in her hands. Neck scarves, probably four of them, rolled up in a long plastic tube. “I wanted you to have these before I leave,” she said.

“Will you come meet my friends and my teacher before you go?” I said. Mom nodded her head and followed me to my classroom. I introduced her to the people who’ve supported my writing most this past year. She came to leave me a gift before she left.

***

Sometime last month, my friend David wrote about Mother Teresa, and I carry this story with me. An interviewer once asked what she said to God when she prayed. She replied, “I don’t say anything. I listen.”

The reporter said, “Okay, when God speaks to you then, what does He say?”

Mother Teresa replied, “He doesn’t say anything. He listens.” She offered no other explanation. To her, prayer was spending time with the One she loved. The One who created her and cared for her

***

The sun rose on Sunday, the night after my dream. I walked the streets of my neighborhood, and I listened. The voices of unknown birds and rustling motions in the treetops filled the morning air. I thought about how my feathered friends can sing whatever their hearts desire, how their songs are as much a part of their nature as soaring through the sky. Sunbeams streamed through the leaves and lit the grass with gold. My mother and her scarves seemed a comfort—as if she came to my school to approve of my work, to protect my voice, to validate my story, and to say, “Don’t let anyone shut you up or shut you down.”

Sympathy
BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;   
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,   
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,   
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   
For he must fly back to his perch and cling   
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!


K—KISS

I remember teachers in my life using the acronym KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid. I didn’t personally like the word stupid on the end. My mother wouldn’t let me use that word in reference to a person. There was no name calling in my house. (Probably not completely true, but that was the rule.) This probably explains why name-calling crawls under my skin, regardless of who is slinging insults at whom. But, name-calling is beside the point. This post is about keeping it simple.

The U.S. Navy began using the term in 1960, a design principle that most systems work best when kept simple, rather than made complicated. By the 1970s, KISS had become popularized.

As for me, I normally blog four to five times per month. Simple. This April, I took the challenge of 26 posts on a theme of action from A-Z. To Keep It Stupid Simple, I’m concluding here.

You could be doing anything today, but you’re with me. Thank you.   

J—Jog

I would love to say I’ve been jogging recently. I haven’t. But since last summer, I have jogged more than I have in my entire life. #Progress. That all ended in January when I allowed myself some time to grieve for my mother and couldn’t seem to pull myself off the couch. In February, I committed to walking again, at least thirty minutes almost daily, and I’m pretty good at keeping promises to myself. (If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?)

During my 2020 walks, I started jogging short distances. I worked my way up to a two-minute jog and then to four—that was my limit. I could run while listening to the entirety of No Doubt’s “Sunday Morning” in my earphones. The song inspired me to keep going. Suddenly I found myself able to run a few times in the course of a two-mile walk.



And now, my knee is achy. Walking isn’t a problem; however, I’m listening to my knee and doing some strengthening exercises. Maybe I’ll feel like jogging again before long. Sometimes we must accept our limitations and go to plan B.

Thank you so very much for reading my A-Z Challenge post today. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action—mental, physical, and spiritual actions, some dreams and reality. Here are the rest—AbstainBalletCartwheelDevoteEncourage, Forgive, Google, Headstand, Innovate.

I—Innovate

in·no·vate/ˈinəˌvāt/

  1. make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”the company’s failure to diversify and innovate competitively”
  2. introduce (something new, especially a product).”innovating new products, developing existing ones”

Time and time again, I take a flying leap. I’m in the air and realize I have no wings. I might just crash and burn, or I can innovate. Take for example this A-Z challenge. I’m all for challenges. I know some people plan these types of things, like for months. Me? Well, I just make up my mind and do it—often at the last minute, without a plan or perhaps with a few sketchy ideas. Then I have no other option than to innovate. Such is life. We must figure it out—one day at a time.

Video suggested by Jerry Snider @ theartofbecomingawildflower – Ready to Blossom? (wordpress.com)


I’m humbled by those of you who chose to read my A-Z Challenge post today and especially for those who returned for more. After a year stuck mainly at home, I wanted to try some new things, you know, innovate a bit. Maybe you would, too. And so this April, I’m sticking to a theme of action: mental, physical, and spiritual, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m doing this month? Click here to see: AbstainBalletCartwheelDevoteEncourage, Forgive, Google, Headstand.

H—Headstand

I don’t have too many memories before age five, but sometime in the mid-70’s, I remember my Granny standing on her head. She would’ve been in her mid-sixties. She was a feisty one, my Granny. One of my favorite stories is the time the neighbor boy squirted her with a water hose. The details are a little fuzzy, I think she was dressed up and headed somewhere important. Anyway, she nursed her grudge and waited out her revenge. One day when he was all dressed up for church (or was it the prom?), my Granny had her water hose ready and soaked him down.

When Granny stood on her head with my sister Liz and me, I seem to recall her crashing down. I texted Liz about it recently: “Do you remember? Did she hurt herself?” In my blurry memory, Granny broke her toe.  

Liz confirmed the head stand and speculated on a melodramatic, “Ouch!” I could see where a five-year old might equate that reaction to a broken toe. Maybe Granny even shouted, “I think I broke my toe.”

For the next ten years or so, I stood on my head. And for a couple of years in the last ten or so, I picked it up again in my yoga class. I haven’t practiced in a while, but I do remember some benefits—you know, the type of benefits a person forgets and must Google and the type that might motivate a person to just do it.

The Alternative Daily lists 11 Reasons to Stand on Your Head.

  1. Increases Your Focus
  2. Reduces Stress
  3. Strengthens Shoulders and Upper Arms
  4. Helps with Fluid Retention
  5. Develops Core Strength
  6. Gives You a Free Facelift
  7. Improves Your Circulation
  8. Improves Digestion
  9. It’ll Make You Happy
  10. It’s Empowering
  11. Impress Your Friends

On my first attempt in years, I started with a pillow and hands flat on the floor, placed the top of my head on the pillow and my knees atop my elbows. Since I was in the middle of the floor, I held the pose for about ten seconds without extending my legs. This was before I Googled benefits. Based on what I read about fluid retention and core strength, I moved my pillow next to a wall beside the couch. With the top of my head on the pillow, I walked my feet up the side of the couch and allowed my heels to rest on the wall. I counted to ten and then used the couch to assist in returning my feet to the ground. I might add that I felt empowered and focused, happy and not a bit stressed.

On another day, I Googled—proper headstand. YogiApproved.com listed more benefits such as stimulation of the pineal gland, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which causes the other endocrine glands to coordinate and function better—as well as improved condition of the brain, eyes, and ears by the increased blood pressure. This website recommended not practicing against the wall lest you use the wrong muscles.

And so I set out to stand on my head properly. This time I laid down my neglected yoga mat. As recommended, I brought my hands together and interlaced my fingers, “making a basket,” with forearms flat on the floor in a triangle shape. Then I placed my head on the floor with the back of my head in my cupped hands. Here, I departed from the steps listed by YogiApproved.Com and used my ottoman to help lift first one leg and then the other into a perpendicular position. And you know what? I am stronger than I realized and maybe a little feisty like my Granny.   

I appreciate you for reading my A-Z Challenge post today. After a year at home, I wanted to mix it all up a bit and thought you my like a few suggestions. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action: mental, physical, and spiritual, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m doing this month? Click here to see: AbstainBalletCartwheelDevoteEncourage, Forgive, Google.

G—Google

The day before yesterday while out grocery shopping, I racked my brain for letter G options for today’s A-Z challenge post. I felt grateful for the food soon to be on my table, but I was stumped as far as posts go.

Back at home later that day, I Googledverbs that begin with the letter G. I considered giggle, graduate, and give, but I had covered those topics recently. I had nothing new to say.

That same day I Googled the past tense of lie (which I look up over and over) and benefits of standing on your head. I realized I had twenty opened tabs, and I wondered if other people’s browsers looked like mine.

I had a page opened via Google for HemingwayApp.com. You can copy and paste your writing into this App, and it highlights problem areas such as passive voice and adverbs and hard to read sentences.

Another opened tab of Googled information included Selenium from Se-methylselenocysteine and Carbonyl Iron which a reader mentioned to me as an alternative treatment for schizophrenia.  

I had searched for the definition of Anosognosia for my memoir in progress, and Google took me to the Treatment Advocacy Center website, the tab still opened. Also called “lack of insight,” Anosognosia is a symptom of severe mental illness caused by physical damage to the brain that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. It is the single largest reason why 40-50% of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder refuse medications or do not seek treatment.

I had an opened tab for Chase Oaks Church from a recent Sunday service and one for the Royal Academy of Dance for my third ballet lesson at home and one for the Serenity Prayer. All Googled.

A little over three and a half years ago I Googled WordPress, signed up for an account, and started publishing myself for others to Google. I feel like this post could go on and on. Isn’t it amazing the resources at our fingertips?

Thanks for reading my A-Z Challenge ramble today. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action: mental, physical, and spiritual, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m doing this month? Click here to see: AbstainBalletCartwheelDevoteEncourage, Forgive.

F—Forgive

I’m not going to lie. When I started thinking about F words and verbs for this month’s A-Z challenge, I struggled with my habitual G and PG ratings. I considered skipping F. Instead, I decided to confess my dirty mind and ask for your forgiveness.

Through teaching school for twenty years, I refined a philosophy. I get along with 99% of everyone I know, and the other 1% is not my problem. More often than not, those who fall in the 1% are dealing with something that has nothing to do with me. However, I later realized that sometimes the people crawling under my skin were the people closest to me. Did they fall into my 1%? Did I have a bigger problem getting along with people than I wanted to admit?

I came up with another philosophy through fifty-one years of life experience. Expectations in other people lead to disappointments. People will fail you. People, especially those closest to you, will say and do things you don’t like. What’s a person to do? Say, “I’m right and you’re wrong”? Fight about it? Hold grudges forever? Delete family and friends out of your life one-by-one? Forgive and move on?

Forgiveness is hard, and I’m no expert. But I do know life is too short to resent people for being human. If you struggle like me (and have an extra 38 minutes), you might want to watch this. This guy helped me.


I appreciate you for reading my 2021 A-Z Challenge post today. This April, I’m sticking to a theme of action: mental, physical, and spiritual, things I might already do or haven’t attempted in years or maybe never. You know what else I’m trying for some balance? Answers found in these links: Abstain, Ballet, Cartwheel, Devote, Encourage.