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!

That Time I Quit Drinking Coffee

It was May 1, 2020. I had returned from my morning walk. I took off my sweaty clothes, turned on the shower, and stepped naked on to the scale. I was down five pounds to my pre-Covid-19 weight. You might think I would be thrilled. The problem was I had been tracking my steps on my phone during April and came across my weight from August of 2019. Ten months ago, after seven months of consistent boxing and kickboxing, I weighed thirteen pounds lighter. In August, I gave up the boxing gym.

In May, I decided to give up coffee.

Here’s the thing. I normally do not drink coffee every morning, but Kody does. He drinks his coffee in the office, but—since he’s working from home, coffee has become part of our morning routine. He drinks his black. I drink mine blonde. You know—with cream. And honey. It’s decadent.

After my shower last Friday, I made myself a large glass of iced tea. Unsweetened. I was parched. The tea quenched. This is good, I thought. I can do this.

Saturday rolled around. I rolled out of bed and went for my walk. On arrival home and through my front door, I smelled the aroma of good coffee, medium roast Texas pecan, 100% Arabica from our local HEB. I thought, Maybe I can make an exception, just on the weekends. This time, we were out of cream. I opted for vanilla almond milk. Even lighter, I thought. And then that little devil on my shoulder whispered, “What the heck—it’s the weekend. Indulge.” I added a shot of bourbon.

Sunday was similar. Except no walk and no almond milk. Instead I Googled Chase Oaks Church on my phone, connected my device to the television for the April 26th sermon “When Life Seems Out of Control,” and sipped my coffee. Black. With Bourbon. Dear Lord, please don’t judge. We are amid a pandemic.

Monday rolled around. I walked again. I re-entered my home. Damn that coffee. After a weekend expedition for groceries, I had cream once more. I give up. I’m keeping up my walks—thirty minutes a day is my minimum. If it’s cool enough, forty-five minutes to an hour. Fewer carbs. More self-control. That’s my plan.

And so I quit drinking coffee—for a day. A pandemic calls for comforts, I decided. I’m okay with changing my mind.

I look forward to A 2nd Cup, 1111 E. 11th Street, Houston, Texas.

N is for the Numbers

On April 1, I stumbled across a blog post that centered on the A-Z blogging challenge. I had just spent the previous two weeks at home vegging on the couch and mindlessly scrolling past all of the corona virus jokes and advice and fearmongering on facebook, and I realized that I needed something productive to occupy my time lest I go cuckoo.

I published my first ever blog post on September 12, 2017 and tapped out 13 posts total in 2017, 30 in 2018, and 35 in 2019. 78 total posts heading into 2020, and this post makes 25 so far for the year. In the beginning I posted at least twice a month and last year more like three times a month. How many times have I tapped that cranberry-colored Publish button (does it change colors? I swear I thought it was blue), and said to myself, I’ll never be able to write anything again. That’s where the challenge came in. I wondered. Could I really write something remotely interesting every day? How much would the blog grow?

Shortly after I committed to the writing challenge, I walked back to my bedroom and stepped on the scale. Yikes! That number scared me worse than Covid-19. I wondered. If I walked at least thirty minutes a day for the next month, how many pounds could I lose? How much would my ass shrink?

So the writing and walking became part of my recent routine. After thirteen posts this month, it should come as no surprise that my viewer numbers on Word Press are at an all-time personal high. If only I could say my weight was at an all-time healthy-adult low. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was my body. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers, but more than anything, the progress is good.

Life Is Bittersweet.

Some sweet things have happened these last few weeks, and I wanted to shout out a few blogger friends who have inspired me. Cue Julie Andrews. These are a few of my favorite things (from the last couple of weeks):

Thanks to Barb at letitgocoach.com, I have a bathroom that sparkles down to the shower liner. Who knew that you could throw a plastic liner into the washing machine? The biggest part of the triumph—this is Drew’s bathroom, which I normally avoid. I just happen to have some extra time on my hands. Click on this link for Barb’s post on Showers That Shine.

Another blogger friend who goes by the pen name Terrified Amateur posted a recipe for Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes, and I’m a sucker for crab cakes, one of my favorite appetizers when we dine out. Of course, we’re not dining out at the moment, so I thought these would be a treat. And treat—well, that’s an understatement!! They were divine!! Like straight out of heaven. One pound of crab made eight cakes, so we had them two days in a row. On the second day, they were even more amazing (my pan was hotter—medium high). I thought I had peanut oil, but I didn’t, so I used canola. I thought I had Dijon, but I didn’t, so I used spicy brown. And you know what? I braved the grocery store one more time (for alcohol) and round two of lump crab.

Then there is Eliza over at Journey to Life, who has been posting a daily Gratitude Challenge. I’m a big believer in gratitude, but even so, there are times when I lose focus. As I reflected on my blessings, feeling thankful for things like the roof over my head and my sweet dog and my family and friends and extra time to read and write and the gorgeous Spring weather and my walks and music in my ears, I remembered a note to self that I typed into my phone on Sunday, August 19, 2019. Now seems a right time to post it.

This Sunday morning I’m thankful
for my eyes that opened
to another gorgeous day
and the sunlight at play,
silver gold reflections
in the emerald treetops.
 
I’m thankful for strength
of body and mind
that carry me
to my oasis of calm
through my own backdoor.
 
For a delicious breeze
and the songs of birds in the trees
backed by the choir of cicadas.
 
For two little black dogs
with waggity tails
smiling faces
and so much love
in those deep brown eyes.
 
For all of this.
This moment in time
when all is right in the world.

So here’s the thing—life is bittersweet. I’m heartbroken by two deaths this past week. One of my best friends lost her Dad, and I lost my dear friend Desi who was my lunch buddy all through junior high and high school. Cancer is a bitch, and so is Covid-19. And as I scroll through Facebook (because I can’t see anyone in real time), I see so many others facing losses and illness and pain. Obviously, not all is right in the world, but there is something good in every day. I went to church this past Sunday (in my living room online), and later a friend asked me what I heard that was meaningful. Here are a few words that resonated with me from the sermon and the good book:

Philippians 4:4-13 New International Version (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I find peace and strength in these words in a time when I need peace and strength, and I’m finding contentment in circumstance. I pray the same for you. I try to keep my thoughts on the true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable things, and I try to thank God for the excellent and praiseworthy—like good people and clean showers and crab cakes and reasons to live.