And the Winner Is…

Drumroll please.

Me!

Back in April when I rose to the challenge of blogging twenty-six posts from A to Z, I received a couple of awards from bloggers who showed up almost daily to read my work. I’m sure that Bridget and Eliza have more to do than read my blog every day, but there they were, tapping that little blue star and leaving me nice little notes. However, not only did they support me by reading, they passed my name and website along to others. One thing I’ve noticed about this blogging world is the kindness of others. I’ve met so many people who stop to straighten my crown and leave sunshine in their wakes.

Bridget A. Thomas is a Christian author who turns her dreams over to God, lets him work it out, and inspires others to do the same. She nominated me for the Fix Her Crown Award. It’s an award for women who lend a helping hand to other women whose crowns seem too heavy, who appreciate the sister who dares to be her own glorious self, who raise strong young women, who smile at the sister journeying alone and walk beside her for a time, who stand with the sister whose crown has been knocked off her head time after time, and who shine as their own beautifully unique selves. Thank you, Bridget! I’m completely humbled by that description!!

Eliza is a twenty-something blogger-friend who reminds me of my daughter and most often writes about gratitude and mental health. Her posts spread glitter, love, and light, and I always appreciate her perspective. She nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award and grouped me with others she called inspirational, calming, and gorgeous for taking time to read and respond to her posts. Eliza, you’re a doll! How could I not rise to the challenge of paying it forward?

As for me, I’m going on three years 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. In no way would I want to add pressure for someone to respond, so I’m not posting any rules to follow or questions to answer, just non-gender-specific blogs that I love and haven’t had the opportunity to mention until now. By the way, it’s so hard to narrow down my list, and because I received two nominations for two awards, I’m combining the love into two brand-new awards. Drumroll please. And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for—the winners of the Somebody Loves Your Blog Award:

  • All Things Thriller indulges Pamela Lowe Saldana’s love of film, music, and literature. A DJ by profession, she draws inspiration from her west Texas roots and true crimes.
  • ALTAIR 5G Theatre: During this quarantine time when I’ve overextended my capacity for television and even reading, I look to my French friend’s site for virtual culture: orchestra, opera, tango, street dancing, just to name a few.
  • The Art of Becoming a Wildflower: Jerry Snider has a gift for telling the simplest of stories that make me laugh out loud and think for a while. His children’s book Buddy Bloom Wildflower follows the life of a lost seed who only wants to become a flower.
  • Fear-and-Hope.com is the newbiest (is that a word?) blog on my list. Meet my cousin. She is a 42-year veteran teacher who dedicates her life to students with social, emotional, behavioral, and academic weaknesses. God bless her, and please give her a follow!
  • Cheryl Oreglia at Living in the Gap cracks me up every time. She blogs on the joys of being a Grammie and the bliss of marriage. One of my favorite recent posts is Grow Dammit.
  • KA (Allan) Gould at PhotoblographyToo is a retired Canadian just living his best life, through photography, gardening, cycling, skiing, and traveling. Just this year, I’ve traveled with him to Banff National Park, Vancouver, and Ireland.
  • London Life with Liz, as the site title suggests, covers all-things-London from literature to pop culture, history to politics, and so much more. I don’t know if Liz has ever taught school, but I always walk away from her posts having learned something fascinating.
  • Priscilla Bettis has led the life of an engineering physicist and a swim team coach, and she aspires to be a horror novelist. One of my favorite posts is her beautiful tribute R.I.P. Daddy.
  • The Thought Badger hails from the UK, marries photography with the written word and shows how our experiences with animals have the power to make thoughts happen.

Blog Award

Geez, it seems my list could go on and on, but it wouldn’t be a true award without thanking a few more authors who have been so kind to support me here on WordPress as well as on Twitter (even though my Twitter game lacks). And now for the Outstanding Supporter Awards: Jean Lee (young adult fantasy, fierce heroines, and storytelling strategy), Melissa Henderson (children’s books and Christian themes), Mark Bierman (action and adventure, fiction and non),  Alaedin Fazel, (psychology, philosophy, family, and culture) and Freya Pickard (poetry, epic fantasies, and tales of passion). Thank you all, sincerely.

Outstanding Supporter

What have I learned in three years about growing a blog? Well, just like a garden, growth requires nurturing. Back in April I saw that if I build it, they will come, and if I build relationships (reading other blogs and interacting), they will stay. Interesting how relationships work that way. This April I had more traffic to my site than in my entire first full year of blogging, and that’s because I posted 26 times in April 2020 and 29 times in all of 2018. Now for me, posting almost every day is like a no-income job. I need more balance between my everyday and online lives. But can I post more than twice a month? Yes. Twice a month was my personal commitment back in the beginning, September of 2017 when I taught full-time, lived in a hotel for ten months, and oversaw a home re-build. In the month of May 2020, I posted six times, and that felt pretty natural and doable. Have I grown as a writer? I think so. And guess what? May was my second most successful blogging month ever.

120 posts later, I’ve been practicing, and I feel like a winner today. The blogging rewards are rich, and the awards are awesome, too. Thank you, Bridget! Thank you, Eliza! Thank you, dear reader, for visiting my blog, supporting me, and checking out a few of my friends!

Happy Anniversary #59!

Happy 59th Anniversary to my parents! They were high school sweethearts. On May 29, 1961, they exchanged vows at 21, just a couple of kids.

May 29, 1961, Oklahoma City
Headed toward their honeymoon
Looks like the late 70s or early 80s, probably Mexico.
Newport Beach, California, May 2011, 50 Years Strong
Venice, Italy, June 2011, The Holy Land Tour
Walk for Alzheimer’s, OKC, September 2017
Mom’s Birthday Celebration, February 2019
Dad’s new van complete with wheelchair lift.
Celebrating Mom’s big 8-0, February 2020.
My mother kept a book of writing prompts. It includes questions that her kids might have, but never thought to ask, and my sister Xeroxed a copy for me. Today I’m turning the blog over to my mom for a guest post.

How old were you when you met Dad and what attracted you to him?

We really met at the end of my eighth grade [1954]. But I was attracted to him earlier that year. The Rainbow Girls were having a dance and everyone was going. I didn’t have anyone to ask. Betty Sue suggested that I invite David Petty. He was so cute. After dragging my feet for several days I finally got up the nerve to call him. He told me that he already had plans that night. I didn’t ask anyone else and so I went to the movie at the Ritz that night. There was David with his friends. He didn’t even know who I was.

At the end of that school year, I won the election for Student Council President and your Dad was the outgoing President and he swore me in. I still think he didn’t know I was the one who had invited him to the dance.

We really met the end of the 10th grade. He played baseball on the vacant lot on Mary’s street, but we didn’t meet until a Slumber Party at Donna Moreland’s home.

Anyway, I’m dying to know what happened at Donna Moreland’s home, but knowing my mom, it was the most innocent of meet-ups. And I’m thankful for Betty Sue, who encouraged my mom to ask my dad to the Rainbow Girls’ dance. And I’m thankful for that vacant lot on Mary’s street. And I’m thankful for this little book of prompts. And of course, I’m thankful that my parents still have each other after fifty-nine years. Here’s one more:

Did you ever go to a dance? Tell me about it.

My most memorable dance was the Junior/Senior Prom when I was a Senior. I had not even thought about what I would wear. Carol, my sweet sister, brought me a beautiful dress without telling me ahead. It was white, sheer organza with a design flocked in white. It had large scallops around the bottom and across the strapless top. It was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. My date was your Dad and it was a very wonderful night.

 

Z is for Zen

What is Zen? According to the Zen Studies Society, Zen is “vast and boundless, far more than the rational mind can grasp. Just breathe in with full awareness. Taste the breath. Appreciate it fully. Now breathe out, slowly, with equal appreciation. Give it all away; hold onto nothing. Breathe in with gratitude; breathe out with love. Receiving and offering—this is what we are doing each time we inhale and exhale. To do so with conscious awareness, on a regular basis, is the transformative practice we call Zen.”

Recently I stumbled upon an Oprah Winfrey “Super Soul Sunday” episode with Thich Nhat Hanh, a legendary author, peace activist, and Zen Buddhist Monk. Between current Netflix binges, I urge you to take twenty minutes for his powerful message on listening with compassion and transforming relationships.

https://youtu.be/NJ9UtuWfs3U

Insightful and deep, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of four little conversational mantras that make a big difference:

Mantra #1: Darling, I’m here for you.

Mantra #2: Darling, I know you are there.

Mantra #3: Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I’m here for you.

Mantra #4: Darling, I suffer. I’m trying my best to practice. Please help me.

The lotus grows out of the mud, Darling.

Y is for Y’all

First off, I didn’t grow up in Oklahoma saying, “Y’all.” I grew up saying, “You guys!” Y’all is very Texan. Correct me if you are from another state that says, “Y’all.” However, as I’ve lived in Texas for twenty-six years, I now find myself saying “Ya’ll,” (occasionally) especially when I need more than one person’s attention or when frustrations follow.

I wanted to write about YouTube today because YouTube starts with Y. I listen to music through my headphones everyday for an hour or so while I walk in the mornings and then often in the evenings accompanied by wine and Kody. Life goes on with music and YouTube.

Then a couple of days ago as I wrote W is for Walk on the Wild Side, my laptop crashed, as in, my hard drive crashed. I felt like a complete idiot for not backing up my work—my writing for school this semester is possibly gone. Life almost did not go on. Thank God for my iPhone! But do you know who is a computer genius? Kody. Thank God for Kody! He has ordered my new hard drive and will install, Y’all!

I hate to even whine with the world-wide economic downturn, and I hate to add gloom to the current doom. I’m straddling the line of guilt and gratitude for housing and income, for food and cars, and for our needs being met. We have the means for a solution to the laptop problem. It’s possible that I have lost some of my work, but I’ve lost things before, and life moves on.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I would’ve said about YouTube except for that I find balance in the music just as I find balance in writing and walking.

Speaking of walks, I like to start at a brisk pace to get the ol’ heart rate up. Over the course of an hour, my music slows down along with my feet, and the tunes become progressively girlier. If you happen to be following, you might even hear me singing or notice the occasional melodramatic hand gesture as my feet hit the pavement. Anyone care for my playlist?

“New Breed” by James BKS featuring Q-Tip, Idris Elba, and Little Simz

https://youtu.be/5Pc7TJZUx8o

“Lose Control” by Meduza, Becky Hill, and Goodboys

https://youtu.be/b7kxtIGaNpw

“Hideaway” by Kiesza

https://youtu.be/Vnoz5uBEWOA

“All About that Bass” by Postmodern Julebox

https://youtu.be/aLnZ1NQm2uk

“Crazy” by Angela Ricci

https://youtu.be/f2jgdsHzDf4

“Hit the Road Jack” by Becca Krueger

https://youtu.be/OfUDsHtSv88

And the cool thing about YouTube is how it takes your requests and follows them with other songs you might like. Sometimes our evenings are hip-hoppier or more alternative or more Americana folk. Sometimes Kody chooses and then I choose, and we go back and forth like that. It’s called balance, Y’all.

This is my second to last A-Z blogging challenge post. Let’s Z what I can conjure up for tomorrow. The rest can be found here in case Y’all want more:

A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl and P—Prayer and My Grandmother’s Pearls and R is for Ripples Colliding and S is for Siblings and T is for the Tomlinsons and U is for Untamed and V is for Violoncello, Voices, and a Vision and W is for Walk on the Wild Side and X is for That Time I Xeroxed My Face

W is for Walk on the Wild Side

Crystal came to Houston for a stay,

img_3489

Walked around a bayou known as Brays,

Snapped photos with her phone along the way,

Squirrels and birds and dogs stopped her to say,

They said, hey babe, talk a walk on the wild side.

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

This post inspired by Lou Reed and A Tribe Called Quest also inspires my morning walk. Can I kick it?

Yes, you can! Have a great week, Everyone!

V is for Violoncello, Voices, and a Vision

My son Drew is a cellist. These days he doesn’t play often. His cello stands in its case next to the media console in our living room. The voices Drew hears stand in the way of his gift.

img_3487

But—I have a vision. I believe in better days and a brighter future. I decided long ago that I can choose hope or not, and I choose hope. I wouldn’t know how to do that without God, and I lean on the words of the good book:

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3).

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).

“Then [Elijah] stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD, my God, let this boy’s life return to him! The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” (1 Kings 17:21-22).

I believe in a God who will return Drew’s life, a better life with a cello to play and the light in his eyes. And today, I have a gift for you, actually Drew does. Four years ago, Drew managed the symptoms of his schizophrenia better than he does today. He found an app on his phone that allowed him to record a four-part cello piece, and he makes it sing. It’s the gift—I hope you have a minute to listen:

A to Z Challenge

It looks as though I will make it to the end of my April A-Z blogging challenge. I had some doubts along the way, but I kept doing what I do—being grateful each day. All of this goes to show the importance of our beliefs. Life is not perfect. And now for those times when my world shakes so hard that the sky falls off my life, I have a little collection of reminders to help me carry on:

A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl and P—Prayer and My Grandmother’s Pearls and R is for Ripples Colliding and S is for Siblings and T is for the Tomlinsons and U is for Untamed

 

U is for Untamed

When people ask my opinion on must-reads, Glennon Doyle’s memoir, Love Warrior makes my list. It’s the inspiring story of a woman who has overcome bulimia and alcoholism and then faces her husband’s infidelity. It’s about the healing process and finding trust in self. Love Warrior is one of those books that I marked up, and as promised, it changed my life.

Since 2016, I waited patiently for Glennon’s next memoir Untamed. I follow her on Instagram, so I knew the premise to come. My friend of forty-years Pamela follows her, too, and mailed me a copy. When the book arrived, I pulled a yellow highlighter from the kitchen-miscellaneous drawer and started reading and highlighting. 

Between memoirs, Glennon fell in love with a woman—Abby Wambach, soccer icon, speaker, New York Times bestselling author, and activist for equality and inclusion. Untamed tells their story and launches into more activism—racial justice, refugee rights, and women’s ability to live and work without the threat of sexual harassment and violence. At times, it feels preachy. I like Glennon most when she sticks to her story. Regardless, she is insightful and funny, her relationship with Abby loving and faithful, and her truths universal: 

 #1

“In the past eighteen years, I have learned two things about pain.

First: I can feel everything and survive. What I thought would kill me, didn’t. Every time I said to myself: I can’t take this anymore—I was wrong…

Second: I can use pain to become. I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever” (51).

#2

“There is a life meant for you that is truer than the one you’re living. But in order to have it, you will have to forge it yourself. You will have to create on the outside what you are imagining on the inside. Only you can bring it forth” (64).

#3

“A few years ago, Alicia Keys announced to the world that she was done wearing makeup. She said, ‘I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles…Nothing.’

A while later I read an interview with Adam Levine. He said that while they were filming a show together, he poked his head into Alicia Keys’s dressing room. She had her back to him, and she was leaning into the mirror, putting on lipstick.

He smiled and said, ‘Oh, I thought Alicia doesn’t wear makeup.’

She turned around, looked at him, lipstick in her hand. She said, ‘I do what the fuck I want’” (101).

#4

“I have spent the last decade of my life listening to women talk about what they most desire. This is what women tell me they want:

  • I want a minute to take a deep breath.
  • I want rest, peace, passion.
  • I want good food and true, wild, intimate sex.
  • I want relationships with no lies.
  • I want to be comfortable in my own skin.
  • I want to be seen, to be loved.
  • I want joy and safety for my children and for everyone else’s children.
  • I want justice for all.
  • I want help, community, connection.
  • I want to be forgiven, and I want to finally forgive.
  • I want enough money and power to stop feeling afraid.
  • I want to find my purpose down here and live it out fully.
  • I want to look at the news and see less pain, more love.
  • I want to look at the people in my life and really see them and love them.
  • I want to look in the mirror and really see myself and love myself.
  • I want to feel alive (121).

#5

“I will never promise to be this way or that way, I will only promise to show up, as I am, wherever I am. That’s it, and that’s all. People will like me or not, but being liked is not my One Thing; integrity is. So I must live and tell my truth. Folks will come around or quit coming around. Either way: lovely. Anything or anyone I could lose by telling the truth was never mine anyway” (200).

#6

“I think of the words of Dr. Maya Angelou: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’” (219).

#7

“After a decade of listening to women, I’m convinced that our deepest fears are:

  1. Living without ever finding our purpose
  2. Dying without ever finding our true belonging” (267).

#8

“I’m a clinically depressed inspirational speaker. I am a diagnosed anxious person whose main job is to convince people that everything’s okay. Please note that if I can be these things, anyone can be anything” (275).

#9

“I’ll tell you this: The braver I am, the luckier I get” (296).

#10

“Glennon shows us the clearest meaning of ‘To thine own self be true.’ It’s as if she reached into her heart, captured the raw emotions there and translated them into words that anyone who’s ever known pain or shame—in other words, every human on the planet—can relate to” (Oprah Winfrey, Untamed book cover).

Today I’m thankful for the Untamed perspective, the ability to make up my own mind, and a platform to pass along my thoughts. Next book—Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.

Thank U for visiting my A-Z blogging challenge. If U stumbled onto my post by chance today, I’ve been sticking to a theme of gratitude this month and working my way through the alphabet. Past posts are linked below 😊:

A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl and P—Prayer and My Grandmother’s Pearls and R is for Ripples Colliding and S is for Siblings and T is for the Tomlinsons

A to Z Challenge