The clouds hung low in the sky yesterday as I drove toward a little coffee shop to meet my friends from school with the intention of communal writing. I couldn’t help thinking, “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens…” I had been teaching Poe and started drawing parallels. Except yesterday—the clouds weren’t oppressive, and the day wasn’t dull, dark, or soundless. Traffic hummed, and the sky beyond said clouds was clear, bright, and blue.
“…I had been passing alone…” this was true… “on horseback…” and by horseback, I mean in my Mazda CX-5… “through a singularly dreary tract of country…” if you consider downtown Houston the country or deary. Perhaps, it was opposite day… “and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on…” I mean, I found myself as the morning sun shone brighter… “within view of the melancholy House of Usher…” at my destination, anyway, a packed parking lot at 1111 E. 11th street, hardly melancholy.
Just inside the front door, A 2nd Cup teemed with the aroma of good coffee, the sound of Indie music, a vibe of creative energy, and three of my friends. I wondered if Poe had friends. I bet not. His House of Usher was melancholy from the first sentence. Mine included coffee, friends, and writing…a purpose. Is it all a matter of perspective? If you dwell on the melancholy is your house destined to fall?
*This post was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and brought to you by A 2nd Cup, a non-profit coffee shop and café that raises awareness of human trafficking issues in Houston and develops resources that help create a second chance for survivors.
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.
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: Abstain, Ballet, Cartwheel, Devote, Encourage, Forgive, Google.
I love new beginnings—the opportunity to start over—to get my mind right. May March bring you joy, fulfillment, perspective, and hope.
A few weeks ago when I stayed with my daughter in Dallas, my bestie Denise let me do some of Lauren’s laundry at her house, which was awesome. Even better, what comes next. Our conversation started like this. “Blah, blah, blah…I’m angry,” I said.
She sat in her chair beside me, listened to my woes, and said, “Do you know where your thoughts are when you’re angry?”
I thought for a moment and said, “The past?”
And she nodded her beautiful face up and down and launched into some sound advice.
I said, “Wait, could I video this?”
Denise coaches golf. And for me, life. She should have her own YouTube channel. Our backstory goes like this—I crashed her birthday party when she turned five. I went uninvited with another friend. That’s how we met. The year was 1975. Later, we shared homerooms—first, second, and third grade. I was always happy to see Denise’s name on the list for my class. Flash forward through twelve years of school, and then I didn’t see her for almost twenty years. We became besties closer to age 40 when we realized we lived within twenty minutes of each other. There’s something about having friends who know exactly where you are from, and I’m just lucky to have a few of those.
There is a little girl
She lives on a ranch
with endless skies,
wide open spaces,
and her big sister Olivia.
Together they explore
all kinds of places
with so many animals
and things to do.
There are dogs that bark.
And cows that moo.
Kittens to hold and catch mice
and horny toads, too.
and bees buzz.
and turkeys gobble.
Of course, the horses say neigh.
Cottontail bunnies visit
and then hop away.
Scissortail flycatchers and robins—
what colorful eggs they lay!
On Allyson’s ranch,
it’s always a beautiful day!
And a BIG Happy Birthday to my most favorite four-year-old, my GREAT niece, Allyson Kate! She reminds me of the JOY to be found in small pleasures. The gorgeous photography featured is courtesy of Allyson’s Mom. Follow her Instagram @shesdoinok .
I was ten years old when my Dad left his firm and launched his solo law practice, where he practices forty years later. The whole family was there checking out his new office, the new space, and the new Xerox machine. My big sister Liz said, “Let’s Xerox our faces.” No matter what she would’ve suggested, I would have followed. But she protected me always!
Liz pressed her face, nose on glass against the scanner and the blinding tubular light traveled left to right. The machine discharged the copy. Hilarity ensued. When my turn came, Liz coached. “Close your eyes, really tight,” she said, and look at how well I followed my sister’s advice. I love a good lesson with specificity and demonstrated examples and words of encouragement.
And this Xerox copy reminds me of my ten-year-old self, fun-loving and sister-adoring, adventurous and creative and happy. More than anything, I want to do right by that little girl. I want her to be proud of and true to herself, confident and unapologetic, strong in body, mind, and spirit. I want her to love wholly and forgive fully. Zero grudges. Not an ounce of poison in her soul. I want her to be honest and courageous. I want her to maintain her boundaries for bullshit and remember she can do hard things. And most of all, I want her to live out her God-given purpose.
What do you want for your ten-year-old self?
As I round out this A-Z blogging challenge, I have some fairly fuzzy ideas for Y and Z and leftover ideas for P and K and C and other ideas on less grateful topics. My laptop hard drive crashed right in the middle of my W post, so that was wack. Thank God for my iPhone! And thank you for reading and pressing that little star and leaving kind comments and checking out other posts and praying for my family! Hand on heart, I’m beyond grateful for this WordPress family and for those of you who follow by e-mail and social media, and I’m completely humbled that you choose to spend your time with me. ❤️❤️❤️ More gratitude posts linked below:
On an icy Oklahoma day fifty Decembers ago, I surprised my parents with my missing malehood. No one had seemed to consider that I might be a girl, and I would be named David like my dad with no contingency for a daughter. Following my birth and my mother’s subsequent emergency hysterectomy, the hospital window—obscured with crystals of glistening snow and a valance of shimmering icicles—captivated and inspired my parents. I would be the Crystal that melted their hearts.
I suppose I’ve been more reflective as I wind down my forty-ninth year. I was born December 30, 1969. Hard to believe that my time on this spinning blue ball spans seven different decades—the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, ‘10s, now into the ‘20s. Fifty years later, I ponder how many more? I consider my friends who have leveled up to the big five-oh before me with varying levels of acceptance. I remember my friends and their significant others who have passed on too young and too soon.
As for me, I still feel the same as that little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. Do you know her? When she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid. The baby of my family AKA the baby princess. Spoiled. Pouty. Ornery—disguised as sweet and shy.
I still feel like that teenager I once was and the twenty-, the thirty-, the forty-something, just with more experience, more compassion, and a little more fat.
What’s not to like about another year of life? A new decade? A brand new era? So many bucket list items, so many things to do, people to see, places to go, and the blue ball spins on.
At fifty years, nothing surprises me anymore. Truth is stranger than fiction. I’ve learned you can’t predict the future or plan for everything, not without disappointments anyway. Life delivers cruel and unexpected blows, mistakes and heartbreaks and devastating losses with love and joy in the midst. Life delivers inevitable bad and sad—illness, death, and natural disasters with something good in every day. There might be someone living with you and unable to care for himself, someone who hears voices in his head and screams at them, someone who slams doors in your house and causes your dogs to run and hide. There will always be people who don’t meet your expectations, people who don’t do things the same way you would, and so many situations outside of your control. Necessary changes don’t come quick or easy. Some need professional help.
At fifty years, I’ve learned to focus on the good, on the love, on the joy. This focus doesn’t make the bad and sad go away, it just makes the bad and sad tolerable. I notice my sad and frustrated, hateful and angry thoughts spawn more of the same. And I notice that happy thoughts do, too. Beside me now, I have two little black dogs with waggity tails and so much love in their deep brown eyes. These are a few of my favorite things. *Cue Julie Andrews. You know what else I love? Deep thoughts…
Seven Beliefs for Seven Decades:
The ‘60s: “And though she be but little, she is fierce” (William Shakespeare).
The ‘70s: “Do the best you can. Then when you know better, do better” (Maya Angelou).
The ‘80s: “Crystal, you can choose your attitude” (Dad).
The ‘90s: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel” (Maya Angelou).
The ‘00s: “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
The ‘10s: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
The ‘20s: “Stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it” (Frank McCourt).
Numbers are just numbers, and who knows when your number is up? And so I try—to live life with an abundance of love and adventure and joy. Carpe Diem, as they say, and Happy Birthday to me! I feel privileged and blessed, thankful and hopeful, and just really happy to be here.
It was Friday, September 29, 1989. I remember the twang of the B-52’s on the radio that morning: “If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says ‘15 miles to the Love Shack.’ Love Shack, yeah, yeah….” Except I wasn’t headed down the Atlanta highway or headed for a love getaway. Nope. Not this day. On this day, I got in my Honda. I was big as a whale. Nine months earlier, I had spent my time at the Love Shack. On this particular day, I headed down Highway 51, having contractions along the way to the hospital in Stillwater.
Twelve hours later…
It was 11:56 PM. The doctor said, “Do you want to have this baby on September 29th or the 30th?” 9/29/89 had a ring to it, so I plucked up strength enough and gave another push.
And with this little baby Andrew Riley, 8 lbs. 8 oz., came a love and joy and pride I never knew.
Looking back over thirty years, I remember so many moments of greatness, and I realize how often you have to keep plucking up strength enough and giving yet another push.
And today Happy 30th Birthday to my love and joy and pride, my courageous and strong son Andrew!
A few weeks ago on my last trip to Oklahoma, I met up with
my beautiful forever friend Starla who happened to be visiting at the same time
from California. We’ve been friends since second grade, and when you’re 49 like
us, that’s forever, right? Even with the distance, we make an effort to see each
other every year or two, our phone visits in between are always good for the
soul, and there’s nothing like those special friendships that encourage and uplift
you, make you laugh and let you to have a good cry, and always pick back up
right where you left off.
“Your skin looks fabulous,” I said, mesmerized by her radiant face.
“I’ll tell you my secret as long as you don’t blog about it,” she responded. I’m just kidding, you guys—she didn’t say that, and I did later ask if I could share her BIG secret. Truthfully Starla said, “I’ve been eating collagen protein since April, every morning in an açai bowl with frozen cherries and coconut. You can buy the açai as a puree in the frozen section of the grocery store.”
When I arrived at my local HEB, the details of our conversation escaped me, so I bought smoothie ingredients—bananas and strawberries and unsweetened vanilla almond milk and a one-pound cannister of the anti-aging factor. At home I threw that all (not the whole pound, just one scoop) into my blender with some ice and frozen blueberries, and voila! Health in a glass. Today is Day 7, and I kid you no more, I can see a difference in my sun-damaged hands and my nails, too.
One scoop of collagen peptides includes 18g of clean protein, 18 amino acids, and a B-vitamin complex to support metabolic energy. It’s gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, non GMO, and both KETO and PALEO certified, not to mention my extra servings of fruit each day.
Benefits of Collagen Peptides (according to supplementpolice.com)
Collagen improves the health of skin and hair.
Collagen reduces joint pains and degeneration.
Collagen helps in weight loss.
Collagen improves the health of nails and teeth.
Collagen detoxifies the liver.
Benefits of Forever Friends (according to Mrs. Ward, my 9th grade English teacher and me)
Forever friends encourage and uplift you.
They make you laugh.
They don’t mind when you cry.
You can always pick back up right where you left off because you’ve known each other forever.
They are the fountain of youth, literally.
Starla has one more secret. She’s a Plexus distributor and swears by the Joyōme Illuminating Day Serum and Intensive Overnight Repair. For more information go to https://plexusworldwide.com/home. Starla’s sponsor number is 2876670, which should give her credit if you place an order. Sending good vibes your way! Thanks for reading today!