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!

I for an I

“You have heard that it has been said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not fight with the man who wants to fight. Whoever hits you on the right side of the face, turn so he can hit the other side also” (Matthew 5:38-39 NLV).

brown wooden cross
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In my friend Eliza’s recent gratitude challenge, she said, “Write down five things that you like about yourself.”

Well, gee, Eliza, that’s tough! We don’t often compliment ourselves. At least I don’t, so I’ll take your challenge.

  • I like my smile.
  • I like that I’m working on my master’s degree.
  • I like that I still dance like no one is watching.
  • I like that I have meaningful relationships.
  • I like my sense of adventure.

Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.” So for a Good Friday bonus: I like that I’m not a fighter. Peace be with you today.

What about you? What are five things you like about yourself?

A to Z Challenge

You guys, I made it through the letter I, and I like that, too. Honestly I have no ideas for J. I jumped on this A-Z blogging challenge at the last possible minute without much thought or a master plan. Join me tomorrow as I try to stick to my theme of gratitude, and please know that I’m grateful each time you visit. Here are links to my challenge posts so far:

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

F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope

The Flood

It was August of 2017. After completing a ten-month major renovation on our latest fixer-upper, Hurricane Harvey flooded Kody, Drew, Rain, and me out of our home. When Houston fire fighters showed up with a city dump truck, I grabbed what I could stuff into an over-the-shoulder water proof bag and climbed aboard with my family and neighbors and their dogs. They dumped us a few miles away in a dry parking garage. It was just another one of those times that I realized I can’t control everything.

After a mile-or-so slosh on foot to the nearest pet-friendly hotel, I dug my orange journal out of my bag, the journal with embossed letters that spelled Gratitude, and this is what I wrote:

Aug. 27, 2017

Today Kody, Drew, Rain, and I were rescued by HFD on an emergency truck with sixteen people including our neighbors and first responders and seven dogs. Water shin deep flooded our house when we left. Our yard was submerged to my knees. I’m thankful for being able to communicate via cell phone and Facebook. I’m thankful for those who have prayed and continue to pray for us. I’m thankful for the La Quinta and breakfast and a room, actually a suite and space for Drew, and for a shower and dry clothes and for our next-door neighbors Boaz and Megan (also sheltered here) who brought us water and snacks and for the restaurant at the Hilton across the street that had wine!!

***

I suppose in that moment I realized I needed faith and gratitude. Somehow I felt a peace that transcends understanding and a glimmer of hope.

Not only had I saved my gratitude journal but also my laptop, and over the next ten months of rebuilding home and living at the La Quinta, my laptop saved me. In September 2017, I typed the story of our evacuation and sent my first words into the blogosphere. I typed other stories, too, and again and again, I tapped the blue button in the upper right corner, the one that says Publish. Ninety-four posts later, I see growth, and more often than not—faith and gratitude, peace and hope.

Home with Lipstick
Home with a makeover. Landscaping on the to-do list.

And today, I’m grateful for you, dear reader. Thanks so much for spending time with me at my first ever A-Z blogging challenge. As I hover at home this April, I’ll be seeking the good in every day, and I count you as good.

Links to daily challenge posts: A is for AppleB is for BoozerC is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5D is for Dad, E is for Epiphany

 

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.