#FeelingGrateful

I try not to think too hard about my blog statistics, but sometimes they amaze the heck out of me. Today the blog passed 5000 views for the year, more than 1000 over my entire 2018. I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who has stopped by to give me a chance and to those of you who continue to return and for the writing support and for the friendships made. All of this means much more than the stats and much more than you know.

A List of Praises

by Anne Porter

Give praise with the psalms that tell the trees to sing,                                                         Give praise with the Gospel choirs in the storefront churches,                                          Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,                                                                                                       Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,                                          Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,                                                    A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry                                                          living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away                                                          With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle                                                 As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,                                              Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh                                                                       Of the wind in the pinewoods,                                                                                                       At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls                                                                                           And the rattle and flap of sails                                                                                                          And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell                                                                               Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.                                                                        Give praise with the humpback whales,                                                                                  Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets,                                                                katydids and cicadas,                                                                                                                    Give praise with hum of bees,                                                                                                            Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.                                                               When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries                                                    We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.                                                                Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle                                                                              And glossy tulip trees                                                                                                                         On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech                                                                                            Of the eider-duck and her ducklings                                                                                             As they paddle their way downstream                                                                                          In the red-gold morning                                                                                                                      On Restiguche, their cold river,                                                                                                 Salmon river,                                                                                                                              Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.                                                                                      Far, far from the cities,                                                                                                                   Far even from the towns,                                                                                                             With piercing innocence                                                                                                                 He sings in the spruce-tree tops,                                                                                            Always four notes and four notes only.

Give praise with water,                                                                                                                   With storms of rain and thunder                                                                                                And the small rains that sparkle as the dry,                                                                             And the faint floating ocean roar                                                                                               That fills the seaside villages,                                                                                                     And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf of the vast flood,                                                                            And with the angels in that other country.

Courtesy of https://poets.org/poem/list-praises

Everyone Needs a Denise

It was July 14, 1975. Up the street, a vacant lot and three houses away lived my friend Jennifer. I was five in 1975, and Jennifer turned five that day, so I walked to her house with a gift in hand to celebrate her birthday. Jennifer’s social calendar was packed for a five-year-old. After her party, she would head across town to another birthday party for a girl I didn’t know. Although the details are fuzzy, I remember crashing that party with Jennifer and meeting the tiny, precious, blonde-haired, hazel-eyed Denise. We would grow up together, sharing classrooms and friends and happenings of the Oklahoma panhandle. Little did I know that one day in the distant future, Denise would forever change my life.

Flash forward to Memorial Day weekend 2008 and our twenty-year high school reunion. When I caught up with Denise for the first time in at least nineteen years, we discovered that we lived within twenty minutes of each other. And guess what? We both needed a friend. One dinner at a time, one text message at a time, over months and months, then years and years, Denise learned all my deep-dark secrets, and I learned hers. We shared our imperfections and struggles, our wins and celebrations, and that’s how the girl I’ve known since age five became my bestie. And OMG, everyone needs a Denise.

Speaking of wins, her 20-year-old son Ryan, a junior on the Baylor Men’s Golf team, won the Texas Amateur golf tournament back in June with Denise caddying and coaching him toward the victory. She coaches kids’ golf, by the way, and teaches private lessons, too. In case you don’t have an extra two minutes to watch this news clip and see AWESOME in motion, my favorite part is when Ryan says, “If I got down on myself, no matter what happened, she would be the one to say, ‘All right, we got this. Let’s just keep on moving forward.'” So many times, Denise has kept me moving forward with a little positivity and a little “we got this.”

In 2015 my son was hospitalized, and believe it or not, I was a complete wreck. Denise was there to say, “You got this.”
In 2017 Hurricane Harvey flooded my house, and here is Denise showing up to help with the packing, the trashing, the decision-making, saying, “You got this.”

In that same news clip, Denise says, “You don’t see very many mothers [caddying], but if anything, I hope I’m encouraging more mothers to get out there.” That’s my Denise, the ultimate encourager. Life’s too short for anyone who brings you down, and I’m so very grateful for my forever friends who lift me up.

It is July 14, 2019, and I’m hopping in the car, driving the four plus hours from Houston to Dallas to crash her party again today. Forty-four years later. I wish Jennifer could crash it, too.

Whatever challenges you meet today, just remember, “You got this.”

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Mountains (But You Can’t Take the Mountains Out of the Girl)

When I stepped into the blue rubber raft from the safety of the river bank, I had only two things on my mind: Carpe Diem and surviving (with faith and gratitude, peace and hope). Before the bus ride to our launching site, I had skimmed the release of liability and waiver of legal rights and acknowledged that whitewater rafting can be HAZARDOUS AND INVOLVES THE RISK OF PHYSICAL INJURY/DEATH. Then I signed on the line and proceeded to pick up my wetsuit, spray jacket, helmet, and life-preserver.

Colorado’s abundant snowfall last winter through May translates to deeper, faster water and what may have been the best white water rafting season in decades.

Shout out to my brother Scott and his beautiful, adventurous wife Gerri for having a 30th wedding anniversary and a reason to celebrate with friends and family, to Rapid Image Photography for the complimentary photos, and to Zach, Ivan, and Kerrie of Clear Creek Rafting Company for the safety debrief and an adrenaline-fueled float through he Rocky Mountains. No one fell off of the raft. No one died. And the river of life keeps flowing, sometimes with faster, deeper waters and cold splashes in the face, sometimes with the possibility of tipping, relying on your life vest, and swimming to safety.

When I stepped back into my ordinary life from the perfection of vacation, I had only two things on my mind: Carpe Diem and surviving (with faith and gratitude, peace and hope).

Breckenridge, Colorado in July

Happy Independence Day to my American friends! And Happy 4th of July wherever you are!

Sunshine Galore

Summer kicked off with toes in sand and wind in hair for this teacher (Galveston, TX).
Pool side views of sunlit clouds at the Hotel Galvez.
A quick trip to Oklahoma, morning walks around Sunset Lake, sunshine in pursuit.
Somewhere in the Texas panhandle, the sunrise was a must-stop-and-photograph.
Same trip home for a sun shot near Canadian, TX because look how gorgeous.
At home in the back yard.
Did you know that vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, supports bone growth and structure, reduces inflammation, supports muscle function, potentially staves off heart disease, possibly prevents cancer, and supports brain development?
https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-vitamin-d

The Sun Never Says by Hafiz

Even 
After 
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

This post brought to you with gratitude to JoAnn of Midnight Harmony for my second Sunshine Blogger Award nomination. JoAnn is a fellow mental health advocate who blogs about all-things-Florida and reminds me to stop and enjoy the flowers. JoAnn, I’m humbled. Many, many thanks to you for the blogger love and support for my rule-breaking.

In keeping with the theme, enjoy my sun shots and the 14th century wisdom of Hafiz. Ironically it’s raining here as I tap out this post, but I carry the sun with me. I carry it in my heart. “Look what happens with a love like that.”

Thank you! Thank you!

You can’t see me, but I’m smiling right now. You know why? Julie Krupp of Enhanced Perspective nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award, peer recognition for bloggers who inspire positivity and joy. Wow! Thank you so much, Julie!! By the way, your blog delivers on its promise, enhances my perspective, and always leaves me with a new insight. I appreciate you more than you know.

The Rules:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.

I must admit…I’ve wrestled with this post. Rule #1 was easy because Julie, a mindfulness teacher, is amazing, and you should definitely check out her blog. In general, however, I struggle with rules.

Questions Posed to Me:

1. What is the best present you ever received?

On the Holy Lands of the Aegean coast, Kody slipped a sapphire ring on my finger, gazed into my eyes, and proposed marriage again, and this time I knew without a doubt that our relationship would last forever. The sapphire symbolizes sincerity, faithfulness, and new beginnings. Mine will always remind me of my parents’ example, God’s presence, and the deep sapphire blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

2. What are three small sources of joy for you?

Practicing gratitude, knowing I’ve made a difference, dancing when the music plays, beating my husband at darts, sunshine in my day, my toes in the sand, the wind in my hair, my family, and my friends who are like family, oh, and my dog Rain, oh, and my grand dog Boozer. Do you see me rule-wrestling? But, seriously, we’re talking about joy here.

3. Where is the last place you traveled and why?

At question #3, I begin to wonder, ‘Who cares?’ Nothing extraordinary happened during my last travels. No disrespect, Julie! I’m just digitally processing here. Almost every time I write a blog post, I ask myself the ‘Who cares’ question, and my internal dialogue continues, ‘Who are you writing for anyway?’

‘Me,’ I usually say.

‘Then, why are you sharing it with the world?’

‘Because maybe someone else needs to hear it.’

As an observer of my own conversation, I realize I write when I’m inspired. Hence, the current wrestling. Back to question #2, writing gives me a small source of joy, especially when people find it relatable. Today I realize I’m writing for the award, and I find myself wondering, ‘Will my Sunshine Blogger award be revoked if I don’t answer all of the questions?’ And I try really hard to refocus on question #3 and answer the rest, and I hope someone connects in some small way.

Kody, Lauren, and I drove from Houston to Dallas over Memorial Day. Kody golfed with friends for three days, I saw a dear friend and we soaked in some sunshine at the Marriott pool, Lauren saw friends and went to Six Flags and to church with me. We dined (see question #9), we shopped, and in a blink, we found ourselves home again. It’s the little things, right?

4. Where is your dream vacation?

Thailand and Barcelona are tied for the top spots on my bucket list for cathedral and temple tours, not to mention question #9.

5. What did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to dance on Broadway, 👯‍♀️ and someday I will. Okay, probably not on stage, but I’m okay with dancing in the street…

6. When did you feel that what you said or what you did really resonated with your soul?

I feel it almost every day, teaching. One of my favorite moments of this past year was when I told my students about that time I fell on my face.

7. What are you afraid of or what fear have you overcome?

I wouldn’t call myself fearless, but I don’t tend to worry about things. I suppose my biggest fears revolve around tough conversations and potential outcomes. I tend to leave things unsaid. Later those things may or may not matter, and often when it matters, there are more chances to get it right.

8. What is one of your favorite books?

So. Many. Favorites. If I could be more like any author, I choose Maya Angelou. I love Why the Caged Bird Sings

9. What is your favorite type of cuisine?

Thai…Thai Herbal Chicken Fried Rice, Thai Sweet Chili Paste with Beef, Shrimp Tom Kha Soup, Fried Crab Cream Cheese, all on the menu at Jasmine in Plano, TX, where Kody and I had a standing Friday night date for many, many years.

10. What is one of your favorite songs?

These favorite questions are killing me. I love variety and gravitate toward Indie rock/pop, like Hippo Campus “South,” 90s grunge, like Chris Cornell “Seasons,”and gangsta rap, like Rick Ross “Hustlin’.”

11. What is one of your favorite movies?

I will drop everything and watch Dances with Wolves, Moulin Rouge, or anything directed by Wes Anderson.

My Nominees: I chose blogs written by people I know personally. Let me introduce you to friends of mine.

Patricia and Marisa are beautiful and inspiring young women, my former students, rays of sunshine for sure, and Marisa has been a friend of my daughter since 9th grade. These ladies share a zeal for life and the University of Texas. Let’s see if they take on one final writing assignment. Regardless, please check out their blogs.

I’ve known Renee practically all of my life. We grew up together, same church, same dance lessons, in a small Oklahoma panhandle town surrounded by fields of corn and wheat that kiss the endless blue sky. Today Renee knows food and wine, travel and writing, and she leads a life of adventures. Click the link to witness joy in motion.

I met Shannon in the bathroom. Isn’t that where you meet your friends? We were both attending the Mayborn Literary Non-fiction Conference, where we sat around a table in an intensive writing workshop, and I bawled like a baby when sharing my writing. We ran into each other in the ladies’ room so many times over the course of that weekend, we became more than bathroom buddies. Shannon is my BB to this day, she has a passion for helping the homeless in California, and she totally helped me revise what is now this clickable post about my son’s journey with paranoid schizophrenia. Plus, the hilarity, check Shannon out.

It’s my honor to share with you my talented friends.

Broken rule #1, I have four nominees. Broken rule #2, I have one question, more of a writing prompt. I’m an English teacher.

Patricia, Marisa, Shannon, and Renee, here’s your question:

In honor of this Sunshine Blogger Award, will you write a post (any genre) that feels like sunshine?

I realize that some of you may not participate in awards, so no pressure to conform. I totally understand.

Patricia @ allthingspatricia.com

Marisa @ moonbeamzyoga.com

Shannon @ ramblinrandol.com

Renee @ connectorcreator.com

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Thanks for stopping by and reading today. May your day be filled with sunshine!

Food for Thought and Mental Health

Thanks for participating in #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth.

Family and friends often ask, “How’s Drew?”

I wish I could say, “Phenomenal.” In reality, he’s okay, and I remind myself of our baby steps forward…(click this link for our story and a prayer).

Momming Ain’t Easy

Jerusalem with My Mother.
#thankful

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a mama’s girl. I dropped out of pre-school, and my mother was my safety net. She chose her battles and her strategies, and in the end I finished out the year. I remember her tucking me in each night with a “Good night, Sugarplum” or a “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” I remember her chauffeuring me back and forth to school each day and the aroma of banana bread awaiting in our kitchen. I remember changing clothes for dance lessons or gymnastics and jumping back in the car with mom. I remember when those lessons moved south by two hours to Amarillo during 5th and 6th grade and forty minutes northeast to Liberal during the 9th. How many hours did we spend together just the two of us? She was in my every audience at every recital, every swim meet, every school activity. And after my freshman year at OU when I found myself pregnant, she helped me move from my dorm into my first apartment and accompanied me to childbirth classes. Even though I lived five hours from home, she drove ten hours round trip each week and held my nineteen-year-old hand as I became a mom.

Beautiful Inside and Out

My mother taught me unconditional love, stood by me during the best and worst of times, and prayed with me and for me non-stop. Somehow my best doesn’t seem to compare.

Once upon a time, I was a soccer mom, Lauren was highly competitive, and we criss-crossed the U. S. for the love of the game. One spring evening about thirteen years ago, I remember sitting on the sidelines watching practice with Jane, another mom, who confided, “Natasha told me that Lauren pierced her belly button.”

“Oh, really?” I said.

Lauren was a freshman in high school at the time, too young to be showing anyone belly buttons or belly rings. Even though I may or may not have revealed more than my belly button at her age, I sat through soccer practice devising my mom-plan. The next day the girls would be boarding a plane for a tournament, location now forgettable. Practice gear needed laundering, and I would wait until we returned home to “discover” the piercing for myself.

I remember smiling at Lauren after practice and saying, “Nice workout!” I remember the ride home as if everything was completely normal. I remember walking into Lauren’s room once home, pointing at her Texans practice t-shirt, and saying, “Take that off. I need to start a load of laundry.”

On cue, Lauren flipped up her shirt, and I gasped with added Mama drama, “What have you done?”

“I pierced my belly button,” she may or may not have said, the memory a teenager now.

I pointed at her navel and said, “Take that out—It’s going to get infected.” Ripped out on the pitch would have been the scarier possibility, but I hadn’t thought through my words or possibilities or consequences, only my detection tactic in keeping the confidence of both Jane and Natasha.

And on cue, Lauren pulled out the piercing and handed it over. At the time, in my mind, removal of the belly ring was punishment enough.

*****

Flash forward a year, same teenager, now a tenth grader.

Lauren’s friend Savannah vacationed in Amsterdam the summer before sophomore year, and Savannah returned with a wonderful souvenir for Lauren—a sterling silver pair of marijuana leaf earrings. I have to give Lauren some credit for showing me the earrings, but I warned her, “You cannot—ever—wear them to school.” Lauren attended school where I taught, and no way ever could she be seen—ever—with cannabis leaves in her ears.

I remember riding shotgun to school one day, Lauren driving with her learner’s permit, a typical morning and a smooth ride considering the fifteen-year-old behind the wheel. At the end of the same day on the way home, Lauren drove once more. This time, I remember the glint of sterling catching my eye from Lauren’s ears. I remember sitting at a red light and commanding once more, “Take those out.” I extended my right hand, palm up. “Give them to me.”

Lauren unscrewed the backs, dislodged the earrings, and placed them in my upturned palm. I can still picture the open field on the passenger side of the street. I remember rolling down my window with her jewelry in hand. In slow motion, I still see myself tossing the silver weed as far as possible into the weeds. I’m pretty sure she hated my guts for that.

Momming ain’t easy, even though my mother made the job seem effortless, but she’s a saint. Sometimes emotions stand in the way. As far as I know, there’s no parenting manual on actions to take when your teen-aged daughter pierces her belly button or sneaks around with marijuana leaves in her ears or hates your guts. I think we all do the best we can, and after that, I’ve found prayer my best hope.

And you know what? Here she is now, age 27, my adulting daughter, BBA in Finance, earning a salary, supporting herself, buying her first car without help, and smiling from ear-to-ear.

And anytime I ask my self, 
What would my mother do?
I know, and I pray.
I love these guys so much!