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.”
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.
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.
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.
I wish I could say otherwise, but this marathon stretches past the normal twenty-six miles into nine new-normal years on a treadmill to nowhere fast. I understand why people quit, and I understand why people can’t pick up the pace. Marathons require stamina and an unswerving belief in the ability to finish, and so I cling to my belief in God and his timing, medical advancements and the promise of stem cells, sun-filled days and peaceful nights.
When I compare each year to the previous one, I measure our progress and remind myself, “The road to recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.” For more of the marathon, click here.
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.
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.
In recent years I’ve claimed to be a mental health advocate…except that I’ve skirted the details of my story, which is like a raw wound, easily agitated and painful. May is Mental Health Month, AKA Mental Health Awareness Month, and so I remember another May day, now nine years ago, and the beginning of our journey towards help, hope, and understanding.
My cell phone vibrated, and I glanced down. The text message popping up from my son Drew said, “There’s something wrong with my brain.”
I wrote his words on the white board stuck to my classroom door. I typed them into my power point agenda right above today’s plan—Timed Write (2 x Minor) and projected it on to my screen. From there I said, “Did you guys know that after today I will only see all of you together three more times before your AP Literature test? That’s including today. And that’s why I want you to remember what Jay Z said, ‘The genius thing we did was, we didn’t give up.’” I pointed to the quote on the screen. “Some of you guys might know that I’ve been boxing and kickboxing since January.” I noted a couple of raised eyebrows. “When I started, I committed to going three times a week for three months, and I did it until about Spring Break, and then I went out of town, and after that I had some company, but I’m still there twice a week at least. And you know what? I can punch a lot harder than I could in January. And what difference does that make? Well, none, except that I’m sticking with it and hopefully I can defend myself if I ever need to. But my point is—if you spend two to three hours a week practicing anything, you’ll see results, and that’s what we’re still doing today. We’re practicing, and we’re improving, and we’re not giving up.” I forged on. Certain times of the year call for psychology. “I know that the last thing you want to do is write back-to-back essays.”
I know this because yesterday juniors all took the SAT, a four-and-a-half hour timed test, and I proctored. At the end of the exam, I said, “You guys are welcome to move around and talk to each other until they release us.” As if I had spoken Greek, blank stares and a few blinks met my gaze. On top of yesterday, today and tomorrow my AP Lit juniors are all taking their U. S. History final exam.
Also, I know that after today we only have two more days, and so I passed out a packet of three essays prompts—a poetry analysis, a prose analysis, and a theme prompt based on a major literary work from this year—as I continued my pep talk. “And I only share my boxing because first of all, do I look like a boxer?”
I actually heard a “yes” or two, which is hilarious.
“Most days I don’t want to go, and often I think to myself, ‘I want to quit.’ You know how you hear your own voice in your head?”
I saw nods and their eyes. They were with me.
“Well, you can’t believe everything you think. And sometimes, you have to get back into your head and tell yourself the opposite. ‘I can do this…I can do anything for an hour…’ Guys, boxing is hard and kickboxing—” I just stood there shaking my head back and forth. “But I can do anything for an hour, and I’m getting better.”
Next class period students will self-score using rubrics and sample essays and spend time comparing these essays to past teacher-scored essays in their writing portfolios. After that, all that’s left is extra psychology, some last-minute tips, a healthy dose of prayer, and maybe some Shane Koyczan.