“Z” is for…

Zoey and Zig Ziglar

Yes, you read that correctly.  My favorite “Z” word in the whole world is Zoey, my precious granddaughter. There is none so perfect as she. 🙂 Especially in her sassy little leopard print dress.

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And Zig Ziglar? I couldn’t think of a better way to end this remarkable blog challenge than with one of his quotes.  This adventure has led me to the good habit of writing every day (which I hope I can keep), it has helped me get to know acquaintances better (My NCW comrades), and has brought some amazing blogging friends into my blogging life. It has been an amazing ride and I hope to stay connected with all of you. Every one of you has a special place in my heart.

“Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success.”
― Zig Ziglar

The willow

GOD{isms}

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Lonely willow tree. Standing tall against a backdrop of stormy skies.

Resilient and compliant, it bends with the wind.
While chartreuse limbs cry out against the dark skies that are creeping in.
Day and night, a hollow song can be heard as the winds whip through its branches.
Singing it’s lonely and sad aria to whomever may be near.
Yet the willow stands strong beneath the darkened skies.
Knowing that it can not be beaten by any wind.
Willow’s roots run deep below the surface of the trampled ground.
Drinking the cool refreshing water of life from the shoreline that it calls home.
Digging it’s roots in deeper and deeper still with each passing day.
Drawing strength from the well-spring of never-ending love.
From the One, the Creator, who rules in Heaven above.
The willow tree stands silent but strong.
Ready to face the storms of life head on.
Rooted in…

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“Y”is for…

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Practicing yoga has woven its way through various aspects of this life I live. The parallels are multiple in number, and I believe it’s more than mere coincidence that it’s called “practicing” yoga. It’s a discipline that allows an opportunity to practice becoming better–at yoga and at living life.

Each stretch and pose, as uncomfortable and awkward as it may feel at first, carries me just a little further to becoming better the next time. It’s about stretching beyond my comfort zone to accomplish what I couldn’t just a moment before. It has shown me how to take the uncomfortable, make it comfortable, and move forward.

Yoga teaches me to show up even when I don’t feel like it.  In fact, especially then, because it leaves me with an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I’m enjoying those last cool down stretches.

That act of showing up regardless of what I feel like doing, reinforces how important it is to show up in life every moment of every day, not allowing feelings to dictate how I live that day. Negative feelings can be overcome by simply showing up, whether we feel like it or not, to live a life of purpose. It’s about pushing past letting feelings control you and using that power within you to control your feelings.

It carries over into my writing life, my running life, being-a-wife/mother/friend-life…and life in general.

Showing up at my desk even when I don’t feel like writing produces written words and pages, along with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I’m done with my scheduled time, rather than feelings of wish-I-would have’s and regret when I neglect to show up, producing nothing, opening up the door to negative feelings.

Showing up when my husband/kids/friends need my time, even when I feel I don’t have the time, reminds me to set my “self” aside and put others needs before my wants, reminding me life is about relationship and being available to and loving others.

Yoga shows me it’s about the journey of mastering a pose, progressing a little further each time I practice, rather than being able to immediately conquer and perfect it. That making progress through hard work is key to growth–physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Yoga teaches me to focus on the importance of each breath as I breathe slow, even breaths through holding each pose, uncomfortable as it may be, teaching me to keep my focus on the matter at hand, anxiety at bay. Not thinking about the next pose, the next hour, or the next day. Just the here and now.  And that leaves space for nothing other than peace.

Yoga

Namaste.

“X” is for…

X-tra ready for the challenge to be over…Okay, so that may be cheating a bit. But the truth is there all the same. 🙂

This challenge has been an amazing journey.  It’s taught me that even when I am sure I have nothing to say or my mind feels blocked from thinking of something interesting to write about, I can overcome that self-doubt and conquer the blockage.

It has shown me what an amazing group of people the blogging community is comprised of.  The support, the camaraderie, the pooling together of minds.

The diverse subject matter has given me knowledge I did not have prior to the challenge.  And knowledge is truly power.  However, I’ve learned more than just subject matter content from all my blogging peeps. (That means friends where I come from. 🙂 )

It has shown me the importance of making writing an everyday occurrence and not simply when I feel like it.  Writing every day is what produces results.

It has also shown the importance of endurance–to see it through to the end, even when it got difficult or time was hard to find. We make time for what is important to us.

Finish Strong Quote

But that being said, I’m ready to finish–and not just finish, but finish strong–and carry on with the revisions on my novel, The Inheritance, and to start the revisions of my “novel-in-waiting,” The Last Resort, which has been patiently waiting since I completed the first draft this past November. Writing novels is where my heart is.

What will you be working on after the A to Z Blog Challenge?

 

“W” is for…

Writing on the Wall

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After reading a blog post some time back asking how far back our love of writing went, I began thinking about when my love of words began, and discovered it was the writing on the wall.  Literally.

Much to my mother and father’s dismay, I began experimenting with writing on our living room walls when I was about four years old.  In crayon.  And despite getting into trouble, that was the beginning of freedom as I knew it. 🙂  (The second time words got me into serious trouble was in elementary school when a boy kept getting me out in four-square and an obscenity I didn’t realize I knew flew out of my mouth before I even knew what happened. Right in front of the playground aid.  I’m not sure who was more shocked, me or the aid. 🙂

I never wrote on the walls again, but I practiced my writing and my penmanship endlessly–on paper and chalkboards, taking great pride when my teachers would compliment my near-perfect handwriting.

As I grew into my teens, I spent endless hours and evenings in my room, walls decorated with all things writing, and immersed myself in writing in my journal and writing heartfelt poetry about the life of an adolescent.  When I wasn’t writing, I was reading.

As I grew into my late teens I still enjoyed writing but it fell to a lower rung on my list of priorities, until I got married.  It was then I decided to try my hand at a novel.  Although, truth be told, I hadn’t even thought about it that deeply to realize that’s what I wanted to write, I just knew I had a story I wanted to tell and sat down to write every evening until I realized I had finished the first draft of a novel.  A whopping 90,000 words before I even realized what I had done.  That manuscript, along with another completed first draft, still sit in a box in the bottom of a filing drawer.  Someday maybe they will see the light of day, but for now they’re tucked cozily in place.

For several years I took a break from writing to raise my boys, and have found my way back to it about two years ago. And what joy! It was like finding a long lost love after being separated for far too long.  And now that its been rediscovered, I can say I will never separate from that love again.  I found my way home.

When did you have that “Aha!” moment that you knew you wanted to be a writer?

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“V” is for…

Vacation

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Who doesn’t love a vacation? The image of my toes in the sand, a cool drink in my hand…ahhh…heaven.

When I was younger my definition of vacation was narrow, including only the traditional meaning of the word–“a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.” (Merriam-Webster).

As I get older–although I prefer the word “seasoned” rather than older–I have developed a much broader view of the word, which now encompasses the full definition–”

1:  a respite or a time of respite from something :  intermission

2a :  a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended
 b :  a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
3:  a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation
(“Vacation.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vacation)

Vacation means more than just a break.  Taking a break from something has its time and place, but taking a vacation is feeding the soul.

It means spending time reading a book in the sun, even if it’s on my backyard patio, with a glass of lemonade, without a shred of guilt from thinking I should be doing something.

Vacation means going somewhere with no phone service, no television, and no computer.

It means pitching a tent in the woods with nothing but a backpack, the smell of oak trees and bonfire smoke, sounds of rustling leaves, black coffee early in the morning, and the ripples on the waters surface to start the day.

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It means a day spent lying in a boat floating in the water for an afternoon, throwing a line in to catch dinner, and even dozing off in the sun.

It means picnics under a big oak tree, eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips, stretching out for an afternoon nap afterwards.

What does your ideal vacation look like?

“U” is for…

Understand

There’s a common saying that says in order to love others, you must love yourself.  I go back and forth on that one and think there’s more than one way to look at that.

I do believe, however, that before I can understand the world around me, I must understand my place in the world. It’s important to discover my part in making the world around me the best it can be, making sure that whenever I leave a room it was better than when I entered.  Making sure that what I say and do gives instead of takes away.  That I lift others up rather than tear them down.

It’s important for each to know one’s strengths so those strengths can be shared with others, as well as to know one’s weaknesses so those areas of need can be strengthened.

It’s important  to know and understand one’s own morals and values so as to stand firm when the undercurrent of the opposition threatens to undermine those values and carry us away to dark territory.

“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
― Peter Hamilton

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Peace.

“T” is for…

Tidbits – Because they’re fun! 🙂

Top Ten I liked while searching:

10.)   In the I Love Lucy episodes in which Lucy was pregnant, each one had to be reviewed by a minister, priest and rabbi in order to ensure that they weren’t offensive to the television audience. (What in the world happened between then and now??)

I Love Lucy

9.)  Mark Twain dropped out of school when he was only 12 years old, after the death of his father.

8.)  The only painting Vincent Van Gogh ever sold was to his brother.

7.)  William Shakespeare had his tombstone inscribed with a curse that reads, ” “Good friend for Jesus sake forbear / To dig the dust enclosed here! / Blest be the man that spares these stones, / And curst be he that moves my bones.” (Hmmm…sense of humor perhaps?)

6.)  James Michener’s last TV interview was for the History Channel and was about his experiences as a hobo during the Great Depression.

5.)  Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Rudyard Kipling all suffered from insomnia. (Maybe that’s how they produced so much?)

4.)  The book Les Miserable contains a sentence that is 823 words long!

3.)  Sidney Sheldon didn’t start his writing career until he was in his 50’s. (Proof that we’re never too old to start. Age simply means we’ve lived more years from which to draw experiences.) 🙂

2.) The author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, wrote his first book about chickens. (Lions and Tigers and Bears…and chickens? Oh my!)

1.)  Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a 50,000 word novel, Gadsby, that doesn’t contain one letter ‘e’. (Is that even possible?)

“S” is for…

S.P.E.A.K.

This past Saturday I participated in an event near and dear to my heart.  The Youth Commission in my city hosts a S.P.E.A.K. (Suicide Prevention Education Awareness and Knowledge) week each year and one of the events is a 5K walk, which was Saturday. Having been touched–and devastated–by suicide with a friend several years ago and again with my step-daughter almost nine years ago, the number of people who showed up to band together and walk for this cause made my heart swell with a kinship to others who have had to endure such a traumatic event in their lives.

Suicide leaves  those left behind in its wake with so many questions.  Did I fail?  Was it my fault?  Should I have seen it coming?  Could I have seen it coming?  Could I have done something to stop it?

It also leaves us with so many “What if’s.” What if I would only have answered that one phone call.  What if I would have followed my gut and made that one last follow-up visit to check in.  What if I did/said something that triggered it.  What if s/he had wanted to open up to me and I wasn’t emotionally available.  What if

The fact is that all the questions and the what if’s will not bring someone back. The day I was finally able to release all of those questions to God, the healing was able to truly begin.  And it was important to me to know that healing does not mean forgetting.  To me, healing is the ability to be able to let the guilt go and use the experience to help others.  To bring awareness to a tragedy that brings so many people to their knees.

And it was when I was on my knees with grief that I was able to find God.  Right beside me, holding me up from falling onto my behind.

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Our guardian angel, shining bright.

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Letting those balloons fly high into the sky, each with the name of a loved one written on it, watching until they were no more, was beautiful and symbolic to letting our loved ones fly to the heavens. As the balloons disappeared from sight, we knew they were still there.  Just as our loved ones disappeared from our sight, we know they are still there.  And I found such comfort in that.

Peace.

“R” is for…

Rahab

One of my very dearest friends named her dog Rahab.  One day when we were out for a walk, she was telling me the story of how her son thought it was terrible that she named the dog Rahab.
“Why is it terrible?” asked my friend.

“Mom!” He looked at her as if she were dense.  “Rahab was a hooker.”

She knew he was talking about Rahab from the Bible. The same Rahab who was a prostitute had also given a safe place to stay to the spies secretly sent by Joshua to scout out the fortified city of Jericho.  She risked her life for men she didn’t even know, putting their lives ahead of her own well-being out of loyalty and faithfulness to her God.

“Son,” she had told him, Rahab was a prostitute, yes, but she was a good person.”

While the fact that she was a prostitute remained in the forefront of her son’s memory, her goodness is what remained in my friend’s memory.  Though I can’t say that surprised me, because she saw the good in everyone.  It was she who taught me that just because someone does something unfavorable, it doesn’t mean that person isn’t redeemable by God’s grace.  When I was complaining about something my husband had done–or didn’t do–it was she who said, “Remember what he has done for you and given to you.”  And when she felt frustrated with her husband about something, she didn’t get angry.  She voiced her thoughts, smiled and said, “But he’s my husband and I love him.”

That friend was brought into my life by a loving God who knew I needed exactly her and her outlook on life.  He knew her words and wisdom would guide me long after she moved out of state to far away Tennessee.

The story she told me about her son’s reaction to naming her dog Rahab taught me two important lessons.  It’s wise to be careful what we do in life because they may be remembered for years afterward.  And the second is, when I see a person, do I choose to see the bad or the good?  I hope and pray that I show enough love and grace that the good I do is what will be remembered.

Peace