Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for ZEST

I try daily to live my life with ZEST!  In all actuality I refuse to live it any other way.  When you consider the meaning of the word, zest...

  1. a tart spiciness
  2. vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment
  3. add herbs or spices to
  4. A piece of orange or lemon peel, or the aromatic oil which may be squeezed from such peel, used to give flavor to liquor, etc.
  5. To cut into thin slips, as the peel of an orange, lemon, etc.; to squeeze, as peel, over the surface of anything.
  6. enjoyment
Yes, when you consider the meaning of the word zest, why would you want to live life any other way??!!  I do believe I have the tart spiciness down to an art:)  I strive to embrace each day with a vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment.  Unless I am mistaken, I add spice to the lives of those around me when I can, and I try to squeeze as much life out of every day that God gives me.  And last, but not least, I enjoy life!

You may wonder how this is possible.  I am more than happy to share my secret:)  I realized after reading The Dalai Lama's book, The Art of Happiness, that happiness really is a choice.  Living life with zest and excitement is a choice.  Every morning, when I open my eyes for the first few seconds of my day, I have a choice.  I can choose to be happy and live the day granted me with zest, or I can choose to be a grumbly grump and make myself and everyone around me miserable all day.  It's that simple.

It doesn't matter if you had a horrible childhood or if you haven't yet accomplished your life's goals and dreams, or if your job sucks, your life starts over each day the minute you open your eyes.  The past is gone, done, over. The future is but a dream.  Your life is only moment to moment, breath to breath, RIGHT NOW.  You have been given a new day, another chance to get it right.  I choose to live right now, happy.  I choose to live my life with ZEST!  Period.

I can hear ya grumbling already...saying well that's just hogwash. Now I am not saying that I don't ever get down or worried or ticked off, I do.  BUT when I do, I remember a scripture that puts things back into perspective. 
Philippians 4:8 - 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. And that is just what I do.

If I find myself worrying about bills, I remind myself that I have a roof over my head, when there are many folks who have lost their jobs and their homes.  I stop and give thanks.  If I find myself fretting over Logan's allergies and snotty nose, I am reminded of my friend, whose son has cancer, and Logan's sniffles seem like a blessing.  I stop and give thanks.  If I get frustrated because I can't afford to buy steak for dinner every week, I am reminded of the homeless, who haven't had ANYTHING to eat in days, and my chicken looks like a feast fit for a king!  I stop and give thanks.

You see, there is ALWAYS a reason to CHOOSE happiness.  I choose to count my blessings.  I choose to see the bright side.  I choose to not give the darkside any more victories than possible.  There is a little devil over there with a shiz-eating grin on his face gloating each time I don't choose happiness...SO...  I CHOOSE to live my life with ZEST!!  I encourage you to do the same!!  This is the day that the Lord hath made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.  ROCK IT PEEPS!!!


Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for YIELD

If you look up the definition of the word yield, you might find something like this:  to surrender or relinquish to the physical control of another, hand over possession of ,  to surrender or submit (oneself) to another, to give up and cease resistance or contention, to give way to pressure or influence, submit to urging, persuasion, or entreaty.

If you consider these definitions, then yielding may never seem like an option you would want to choose. It sounds weak.  It sounds cowardly.  Why, it just sounds like something only sissies would do.  But I would like to offer you another perspective on the word, yield.

Over 22 years ago, when Blake and I married, someone gave us a copy of Ann Landers' rules for a happy marriage.  One of the rules was :  Yield to the wishes of your partner as a matter in self-discipline if you can think of no better reason.  Whoa!  That could be a tough one.  It could be something as simple as what to have for dinner.  Blake wants steak.  I want chicken.  We have a dilemma.  Whatever shall I do?  Is it really worth an argument to push the chicken issue?  Or, is it possible that maybe I could yield to his wishes and keep the peace?  Yielding takes discipline.  Yielding takes strength.  Yielding is NOT for sissies.

This concept of yielding is not limited to husband/wife relationships.  Sometimes it is to our benefit to yield to our children too.  I can hear you now.  YIELD, to a child's wishes!!  Never!  Before you rush to that decision, consider the sage advice of my grandmother, Marjorie Causey, "Choose your battles wisely.  Don't make every little thing a battle because there are going to be lots of them.  Sometimes you just have to let your child make a choice, even if it is not the choice you would have made, and let them live with the consequences.  This is how they learn."  Yielding not only takes discipline and strength, it also takes courage.  It takes courage to yield, relinquish a little of that parental control, sit by and watch your child possibly make a mistake.

Another person we might want to consider yielding to is ourselves.  How many times have I rushed headlong into something without yielding, slowing down to pray over the matter, meditate upon it it and wait for Divine direction.  How many times was God looking down sadly wanting to scream STOP, LOOK, LISTEN!  How much better off would I be now if I had?  I venture to say MUCH better.

As I think about our world I think how much better off we would all be if everyone learned the value of YIELD.  Politicians and world leaders in particular come to mind.  The Republicans think their view is always right.  The Democrats think the Republicans are always wrong.  Neither side is willing to yield and what we usually end up with is a stand still, a lockout, a stall.  Is this beneficial to any of us?  I dare say not at all. 

I think about religions.  Every religion seems thinks they have all of the answers.  Their way is the only way.  The Baptist believe that total immersion baptism is the only way.  The Methodists and Catholics feel that sprinkling with Holy water is good enough.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Is it possible that they all could be right?  Does it really matter in the long run?  

As I am realigning my life and my priorities of late, I have been giving alot of thought to the concept of yielding.  The older I get, the more I understand that Webster might just have been wrong about the word yield.  I do not feel by yielding I am being weak or giving up.  Often times I have found that it is in yielding that I prove my greatest strength.   

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for XTRA (lagniappe)

"We picked up one excellent word -- a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice, limber, expressive, handy word -- 'lagniappe.' They pronounce it lanny- yap.  It is Spanish -- so they said." [Mark Twain, "Life on the Mississippi"]

la·gniappe - (lan-yap)

–noun Chiefly Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas . a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus
So....are y'all startin' to get the idea of my "X" word - X is for XTRA or down around Sugar Magnolia parts...lagniappe.  Lagniappe is that little somethin' extra that you give that is not required.  Often times merchants down South Louisiana and Mississippi way give a little something extra as a way of saying thanks to their customers. 
It is a common belief among Southerners that you get what you give.  You will not find any more generous people in the whole wide world as you will find in the South.  Hospitality is our middle name.  We might not have two pennies to rub together, but whatever we have, we share.  When times are plenty, we share.  When times are lean, we share.  I remember my grandfather, Charles Causey, used to grow acres and acres of vegetables every summer, far more than he needed.  Once I asked him, "Pa-pa, why do you grow so MUCH?"  His answer was, "Because somebody will need it, like the widows at the church.  They don't have anybody to grow a garden for them.  Or that new young couple that moved in over the hill there.  Somebody will need it and I can share it."  My grandfather was such a beautiful soul.  I miss him so much.
During my growing up years I was pretty much taught that if someone asks you to do something for them, or you are providing a service for someone, don't just do what is required...go that XTRA mile.  If you're picking some beans for your Granny, go ahead and shell them for her too.  No, Granny didn't ask you to shell them, only to pick them BUT, it's that little something EXTRA that makes all the difference.  It makes people feel special, makes 'em feel loved.  I remember an old Southern Baptist preacher telling me once, "You can't out give God.  You get what you put out there."  Lagniappe, a beautiful, generous word.  Try it out!  You might be surprised what comes back to ya!  Sugar Magnolia wouldn't steer ya wrong:)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W - is for WAYSIDE

As I thought of what to write for the letter "W", I remembered a poem I wrote over 20 years ago.  I've always had a soft spot for those who've been left by the wayside of life.  I often think...There but for the grace of God go I.  This poem was actually published in a book of American Poetry.  I thought I might share it with you.  I feel it is more relevant today than it was when I wrote it so long ago.

BY:  Renee Ravencraft Bierbaum

How did you get here, homeless man?
What cruel twist of fate,
Dropped you on this forgotten path
Of misery and waste?

What brought you to this, young woman?
What unfortunate roll of the dice,
Left you walking this street corner
Selling body and soul through the nights?

Who did this to you little child?
Your face is black and blue!
I can see there in your haunted eyes
That your heart is broken too.

What kind of people are we?
To allow others to live like this?
One can't even call that living.
They just fight to exist.

So what brought us here Americans...
Here to our indifferent state??
Leaving fellow men by the wayside,
As we continue on our way.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U - is for UNDIVIDED

Lately I have found myself evaluating my life.  I find myself thinking about how I relate to my child, my spouse, my faith, my friends...just about everything.  This may have something to do with the fact that I have become more conscience of how I spend my time and how every day I have less of it.

Regardless, it has been on my mind lately that I am often guilty of not giving the people I love my UNDIVIDED attention.  I can not tell you how many times Logan rushes in, all excited about some new accomplishment or idea and I am in the middle of something, be it writing, reading, or working around the house.  Regardless of what I am doing, I have found that I rarely stop and give my child my undivided attention.

Now, I understand the importance of a child learning patience and learning not to interrupt, but often times, in his young mind, what he has to share with me is so earth moving and exciting, it deserves my full attention.  He deserves to know that what he has to say is important enough for me to literally STOP what I am doing and listen to him.

God has really been "talking" to me lately about this.  It has been on my heart that I am only given a certain amount of time to influence and encourage my child.  In a few years he will be grown and gone.  If I continue to shove his excitement to the back of the line or only give him some lame, half-assed part of my attention, eventually he will no longer have the desire to share these parts of himself with me.  What a pity that would be:(

I am determined to STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN as much as possible and to give the people I love my UNDIVIDED attention.  They deserve nothing less.

T - is for Time

Time.  Each one of us is given a certain amount of time on this earth.  It seems to me that I never have enough time.  I find myself running from this activity to the next, scattered, hurried, stressed, all because of time, or lack thereof.

I often feel as though I can hear the sand flooding through the hourglass at an alarming rate of speed.  The sound of it fills my being and creates a sense of anxiety.  I get the overwhelming feeling of running out of time.

Recently I decided to do something about my little problem with time.  As I was reading my Zen in the Martial Arts book, I came across a passage that talked about time.  The author describes how we allow other people to manipulate our time.  Time is life.  When someone takes up part of our time, they are essentially taking little chunks of our life away.  Now, if we are involved in an activity with another person that we enjoy or one that is going to benefit us, then we are "spending" our time.  But, if we have managed to involve ourself in an activity that we really don't want to be doing, one which is not going to be beneficial to us, then we are "wasting" our time and essentially, "wasting" our life.

An example of "spending" time would be the time I spend with my son and my husband.  Regardless if we are playing together or working together around the home, we are growing and strengthening our bond as a family.  This is beneficial to all of us.  On the other hand, if I allow someone to talk me into, or guilt me into, donating a large block of my time to help out with a cause I really could care less about, even though it may make them happy, I am "wasting" my time.  This is time "wasted" that I can never get back. 

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn't donate our time to worthy causes, but it should be a cause that we care about, one that is meaningful to us.  This way, we are not "wasting" our time, we are "spending" it in a manner that will benefit us.

I have been guilty in the past of "wasting" so much time.  In my attempts to not disappoint friends and family I would agree to things that would "waste" huge chunks of my time, which equalled huge chunks of my life.  I am working to do less and less of this time "wasting".

If I do not truly want to do something I just say no.  I do not need to offer an apology or explanation.  It is my time, it is my life.  When asked to do something I do not wish to do I just say, "No, thank you."  PERIOD.  If the person insists on questioning me about it I will say, "I do not care to do that."  Now, believe me, sometimes people are persistent and it takes some staying power to hold your ground, but you just have to do it if you ever want to break the habit of "wasting" time.

I have found the phone to be another big time "waster".  If someone calls me and I am in the middle of "spending" some time with my family or I am involved in an activity that I have chosen to do, I will not answer it.  Now some folks get pretty uptight about this.  They will say things like, "Well, I know you were home, why weren't you answering the phone?"  My answer is usually, "I was busy."  If they can't accept that, it's not my problem and I refuse to allow them to make me feel guilty about not answering my phone.

Time is one of the most valuable commodities we have.  I have determined to "waste" as little of mine as possible.  I am slowly, but surely, cutting away the things and the people who "waste" my time.  I would encourage you to do the same.  Time can not be forced to stay, nor can one single moment be retrieved once it is gone.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

S - is for SILENCE

In the Garden - Elvis Presley

O.K. - So I know I'm a few days behind. but I don't really care, so hopefully you won't either:)

I love the sound of silence.  Yes, I know that is hard to believe as much as I like to run my mouth but it's true dat.  Many times Blake and Logan will come home and I have no T.V. blaring, no radio playing, nothing, just silence.'s a beautiful thing.

One of the reasons I love silence is because it is only when I become still, and silent, that I can hear God's voice and I do love the sound of God's voice.  There is a passage in the Psalms that says - Be still and know that I am God.  In our hustle and hurry world it is easy to miss the sound of God's voice.

God talks to me every day, as does Jesus.  Now I know some of you might be wondering why They would talk to a wild child like me and not to you.  The answer is, They are probably trying to talk to everybody but maybe everybody can't hear Them because of all of the noise, noise, noise.

When I take time to be still and be silent God starts talking and it comes in such a stream I can barely take it all in.  I often grab a notebook and start writing stuff down.  There is so much that God is trying to tell me.  I receive instructions on things I am supposed to do, people who I am supposed to minister to or love on, people who need encouragement.  I ask questions and the answers come to me as plain as day.  Sometimes God points out to me things I could have handled differently.  Not in a mean, condemning way, but in a loving, constructive way.  It is truly an amazing thing.

My point in writing this is to deliver a message from God to you.  If you feel that you have no connection to the Divine; if you feel that God is not listening or that God doesn't care, you are mistaken.  Find a place where it is quiet and still.  Make some time for Spirit to talk to you and I promise you will not be disappointed.  God will speak to you, but sometimes God's voice is heard only within the sound of silence.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Tracy Chapman - Talking Bout a Revolution

I've always been a bit of a rebel.  Just ask my parents.  They can attest to the truth of that statement.  Got into my share of trouble for it too, but that's O.K.  Just makes me who I am today.

You see, I kinda have a fondness for rebels.  Rebels stand up for what they believe in.  They "ain't skeered".  A rebel doesn't follow the crowd and generally tends to stand out in a flock of sheeple.  Sometimes rebels aren't too popular because they often think and live outside of the box.  A rebel isn't afraid to go against the grain of common thought and beliefs.  They tend to make the sheeple uncomfortable.  Yep...I do like me a good rebel.

I come by my "rebelness" honestly.  My ancestors were rebels.  My great (x6) grandfathers, on both sides of my family, William Causey and William Ravencraft, fought in the Revolutionary War. They didn't much like some politicians laying down unfair laws and taxes, telling them how they were gonna live.  I don't much care for it either.  They decided to break free from the system that was trying to take away their freedom.  They decided they were done with the ones that would enslave them and take away everything they had worked hard for.  I'm thinking they had a good idea.

Rebels are known for starting revolutions.  Just look at all the trouble Jesus of Nazareth stirred up in his day.  Now he got some folks riled up!  Whooo Hooo!  Go Jesus!  Even way back then the "Powers that Be" didn't much care for rebels, because rebels aren't afraid to tell it like it is. Rebels will call a spade, a spade, or in this case, a viper, a viper.  Rebels make the "Powers that Be" very nervous.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being controlled and dictated to, brainwashed and fed poison in my food, lied to and stolen from by the "Powers that Be".   I'm thinking it is time for another AMERICAN REVOLUTION!  Are there any rebels out there who will give me a good amen?

P.S. - If I don't make it to the letter "S" it means they got me.  Like I said, the "Powers that Be" don't much care for rebels:)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q - is for Qigong

I have always had a fascination with the Zen qualities of the Eastern arts.  I love their order and discipline, their cleaness of lines and the way they seem to calm the spirit and quiet the brain.  This is primarily why I began studying the martial arts and yoga.  That, and I liked the fact that I was exercising and learning to defend myself in the event of an attack. In actuality it was akin to killing three birds with one stone, if you will.  Stress relief, exercise and defense all wrapped up in one neat, nice package.  Can't beat that with a stick:)

Several years ago I discovered Qigong (chee gung).  Qigong is an Eastern energy healing art and Chinese health care modality.  The word Qigong is made up of the Chinese character Qi, which can mean breath or energy, and Gong, which can mean exercise or work.  So the practice of Qigong can be like doing "breath exercise" or maybe "energy work".  Either way, it's all good and good for you!  Quigong is an ancient art that can be traced back thousands of years and it is the basis for Tai Chi.

The best way I can describe it is to liken it to a healing dance. It is a combination of exercise and meditation or moving meditation. It really can't be described in words but must be experienced.  I am no expert at Qigong.  For one thing, I have never been able to find a teacher in my area.  Most people have never even heard of it.  I have studied the art through books and recordings and any information I have been able to gather.

I enjoy practicing Qigong and alternate it with my yoga practice.  In Qigong one uses deep breathing, much as is used in yoga.  The deep breathing is combined with slow, synchronized movements.  Together, these two help to bring body, mind, and spirit into balance and alignment. 

Qigong has been proven to relieve stress, which increases the bodies immune system, helps organs work better and just makes you feel better overall.  Research has indicated that regular Qigong practice can eliminate chronic pain and symptoms, reduce the need for some medications, and help control diabetes, among a host of other beneficial things.

Qigong, like yoga and martial arts, stresses the importance of living in the present, not the past or the future. 
"To be too connected to the past prohibits forward motion.  The past pulls on us with anticipation, worrying about what has already happened.  The future tortures us with expectation, always fearful or excited about what is to come.  To be fully present is to take into account all of who we are, all that has happened, all that is happening and all that will happen."~~Garri Garripoli   

I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to Qigong and if you ever have the opportunity to try it, I highly recommend it.

Namaste and God bless

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P - is for Perception

I have often heard it said that perception is everything.  In my humble opinion, this is a very true statement.  Now if you look up the word perception in the dictionary, there is a long, scientific explanation of the word that well, pretty much just gives me a headache.  So I decided to give you the Sugar Magnolia definition of the word perception and I can sum it up in one story about a Southern Baptist country girl and an accused murderer.  Here goes.

In the past 15 years I have had the opportunity to work for a couple of criminal defense attorneys.  I must tell ya, for a country girl from a two red light town, who was raised in a strict Southern Baptist family, this journey was quite the experience.  Boy did I learn some stuff!  More than anything else though, I learned alot about myself and my perception of things.  I found that perception is largely based upon the experiences we have encountered in our lives.  Every experience we have, shapes and forms our perception, and our view of the world around us.  These life experiences also shape and form our perception and view of ourselves and others.

Enter Jake.  Once upon a time I went to work as an assistant to a criminal defense attorney here in our town.  He had been court assigned to a murder case and the accused young man, whom I will call Jake for this article, was entitled to speak with his attorney every day if he liked and he pretty much did.  But in order to get to his attorney he had to first go through me.  Many times when he called, the attorney would be in court and Jake would only get to talk to me.  Poor boy.

I remember the first time I spoke with him.  My mind was screaming, "Oh my goodness!  You are actually speaking with a real, live accused murderer!"  You see, I had all of these preconceived ideas of what  murderer would look like, sound like, BE like.  My perception of a murderer was actually very far off the mark of what my first encounter with a murderer turned out to be.

Jake was very young, barely out of his teens.  The voice I heard on the other end of that phone line was that of a very scared little boy.  As I began to learn more about Jake, my perception of him began to change.  Let me explain.

Jake's mom was a piece of work.  She had been married numerous times and when she wasn't married she was "shacked up" with this man or another and she drug Jake with her wherever she went.  Jake had been abused by these men in every horrible, conceivable fashion that you can imagine, sexually, physically and emotionally.  The man that Jake was accused, and later convicted, of murdering was one of these men.

It appears that the mom and the boyfriend got into an argument and the boyfriend was beating the mom.  She managed to get to a gun and she shot him but...she didn't kill him.  She runs to find Jake and begs him to help her.  Jake in a fit of rage and frustration takes the gun from his mom and fires the final killing shot.  They then wrap the man in a shower curtain and leave him in the bathtub for a few days until they can figure out what to do with the body.  They eventually bury it out at the beach where it stays buried and undetected for about a year and then one day, the body "pops up" and Jake's worst nightmares come back to life so to speak.  The mom and Jake are arrested, tried and convicted of murder.

I must admit in the beginning I had a perception of what a murderer would be like.  I had set rules in my mind of how such a person should be treated and how I would feel about them.  I had no mercy or understanding in my heart.  Murder was just inconceivable to me.  It was one of those really "bad sins" that there was just no wiggle room on.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am not excusing or advocating murder for any reason.  What Jake did was wrong and he will be paying the price for it for a very long time.  His own mother turned on him in the end and tried to pin the whole rap on him.

The point of this gruesome, and drawn out story is, that our perception of things changes as we grow and change.  My cousin, Kester Rice, once said it can be foolish to draw a line in the sand and tell yourself that you will never cross it.  I think I know what he means.  Perception.  A very intricate and complicated word.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O - is for ORGASM

Ooooo!  I can hear ya from here. "What kind of brazen hussy writes about the "O" word on her blog!"   My answer, "THIS, brazen hussy does."

You see, I have been happily, and VERY satisfactorily married, to the same man for over 22 years and if anybody is qualified to write about the "O" word it is me.  So, buckle up kids and please keep you hands inside the vehicle at all times.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a group of younger women.  They were talking about their children, their joys and troubles, and their husbands.  Eventually the conversation turned to their personal satisfaction with their husbands and the "O" word came up.  Yes, women do talk about such things these days.

For once, I just kept my mouth shut and my ears open.  I was shocked to hear how many of them considered "bedroom time" with their husbands to be a chore, one which they dreaded and certainly did not enjoy.  I was even more disappointed to learn that many of them blamed this solely on their partners.  They seemed to take no personal responsibility whatsoever for their situation.

After a while I could keep silent no longer, so I began asking questions.  My first question was, "Have you ever discussed this with you significant other?  The majority of them answered no.

HELLO LADIES!! - Believe it or not, your man is NOT a mind reader, nor was he born knowing what you need and want.  YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM.  If he is not doing something the way you want it done...TELL HIM.  If he is doing something you don't care for...TELL HIM.  He can not do any better if he doesn't know any different. 

My second question was, "What do you do to prepare for the moment?"  They looked at me like I was from the moon.

LADIES - Women need mental and emotional stimulation, as much, if not more, than physical.  Men, for the most part, are very visual and physical beings.  We, on the other hand, are mental and emotional beings.  YOU NEED TO PREPARE YOUR MIND.

For example, unless you are just the most beautiful woman on the planet, presenting yourself to your guy in a ratty old T shirt, that has 2 days worth of baby spit up on it, with your hair slicked back in a ponytail, and your fuzzy slippers that the dog uses as chew toys, is not quite setting the tone for a romantic encounter if ya get my drift.  You have to make time to relax and get your mind right.

Create some YOU time.  Take a nice relaxing bubble bath with a yummy scent that relaxes you.  Slather yourself in your favorite lotion.  Notice how soft your skin feels.  Fluff up your hair.  Primp a little until you FEEL desirable.  It will make a huge difference and your man will appreciate it too.  And although your guy will appreciate it, you are doing this for YOU.

While you're in there, spend some time thinking about the things you love about your partner.  Do NOT allow negative thoughts to enter your mind.  Focus on the positive things.  Maybe it's the blue of his eyes or the way his hair curls at the nape of his neck.  Maybe it's the way his voice sounds or the touch of his hand.  Whatever it is that first attracted you to him, dwell on these things.

My third question was, "Are you engaged in the moment?"  In other words, are you giving or just taking?  Do you engage yourself in the moment, or are you just hanging out there, like a bump on a log, waiting for all of the stars to align, the planets to spin and the fireworks to explode?  You gotta get in there and do your part gals!  Don't expect your partner to do all of the work, ENGAGE YOURSELF.

My Mama used to tell me you are only going to get out of something what YOU PUT INTO IT.  That goes for love, friendships, marriage, and the "O" word.  If you don't put 100% into it then don't expect to get 100% out of it.  The person who carries the biggest responsibility for you finding satisfaction in your love life is YOU.  (I sure wish I could share this with those young ladies who wanted to blame their husbands for everything.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

N - is for Nigger (Gasp! Don't faint, just read.)

My son, Logan, asked me once what was the 'baddest" word.  I remember him asking, "Is it the "F" word, Mom?"  I thought about that a minute and I said, "No, Logan, I think the "N" word is the "baddest" word."

You see, I hate the "N" word.  I do not use it and it was very hard for me to even type it.  To me, the word nigger is probably the most hateful word one can use.  It is a word that brings with it a legacy of hate, degradation, humiliation, shame, and pain.  It is truly an ugly word.

It has not always been such.  The word, nigger, originated as a term used in a neutral context to refer to black people, as a variation of the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger, meaning the color "black". ~~Wikipedia

So, originally it was used as a desciptive word with no demeaning connotations.  It was not until the 1900's that it became a pejorative word.  It all went down hill from there as far as I'm concerned.

I think one of the things that riles me up the most is how young people, in particular African American young people, throw the word around like it's nothing.  I frequently hear them referring to one another in this manner.  The reason it flames me is, I have tremendous respect for how hard their grandparents and great-grandparents fought to rise above such degradation and racial prejudice.  They fought and died for their right to basic human decency.  They fought for their children to have a better life and now those childrens' children toss around the word as though it were a term of endearment.  I just don't get it.

Each to his own I suppose, but in my world the "N" word will always be a bad word.  To me, the word nigger is an ugly word, with an ugly past, and I have no use for it.  I wish others wouldn't either.  There is no love, no respect, no acceptance in that word.  There just isn't.

M - is for MERCY

Every breath I take reminds me of the word mercy.  Mercy, the power to be kind, compassionate, refraining from harming or punishing, a blessing that is an act of Divine favor or compassion.  The very act of me taking breath is just that, an act of mercy on the part of my Creator.

I didn't just come into being.  I was created.  The Power That Is and Was and Will Forever Be, The Ancient of Days, knit me in my mother's womb, I was born and I have been breathing every since.  How often do I even think about the act of breathing?  How long would I survive without my next breath or my next heartbeat?  The mere fact that I am alive and breathing and healthy...mercy.  I have done nothing spectacular to earn or deserve my next breath.  I am a decent sort of person, but that does not entitle me to my next breath...mercy.

As I contemplate the mercy that has been bestowed upon me by my Creator, my God, it makes me think about how I treat other people.  Am I merciful?  Do I give favor to those who may not have earned it or even deserve it?  Do I withhold it as an act of power just because I can?  Do I show compassion and kindness as often as I could?  The One who controls my very ability to draw breath is merciful to give me one right after another after another.  As I think on this, I realize that I have a long way to go in the mercy department.  Mercy, a powerful word, one, that when put into practice, could change the world as we know it.

L - is for Love Letter for Logan

Dear Logan,

If I could offer you any advice for your life, I can't think of much better than is offered in this song.  You are everything I ever hoped for, prayed for and dreamed about in my son.  I am very proud of you and I love you very much.  Logan, be a simple kind of man. Be something you love and understand and all of the rest will fall into place.

Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Mama told me, when I was young,
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.

Take your time... Don't live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you'll find love,
And don't forget son,
There is someone up above.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won't you do this for me son,
If you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

 And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won't you do this for me son,
If you can?

Boy, don't you worry... you'll find yourself.
Follow your heart and nothing else.
And you can do this if you try.
All I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won't you do this for me son,
If you can?

I love you to infinity and beyond, forever and always,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K - is for KATA

As a martial artist, I have a love/hate relationship with katas. In the traditional martial arts, for which I am training, Katas are a necessary evil.  The kata is a series of choreographed movements, one advancing on the other, the higher in belt rank you go.  I compare katas to dances, except katas have no fun butt wiggling, which therefore makes them evil:)  If I'm going to learn all those steps and motions, then there ought to be a least a few butt wiggles in there somewhere dang it!

The fancy definition from Wikipedia is - Kata (型 or 形 literally: "form"?) is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Kata are used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theater forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony (chadō), but are most commonly known for the presence in the martial arts. Kata are used by most traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as aikidō, iaidō, jōdō, jūdō, jūjutsu, kenjutsu, kendō and karate. Other arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan and taekwondo feature the same kind of training, but use the respective Chinese and Korean words instead.

"So, why do we have to learn katas?" I asked the Master of my first martial arts dojo.  "I just want to know how to kill and maim a would be attacker in the Walmart parking lot after dark."  Several reasons besides killing and maiming were explained to me.  Discipline was the first answer given me.  Imagine that!  I guess my passionate killing and maiming statement led the Master of the dojo to believe I might just need a little discipline and that I might just be a redneck:)  Focus was another reason offered up, and last but not least, mushin.  Mushin, pronounced mooshin, is when you act with unconscious awareness.  You don't think -  overhead block, front snap kick, grab, twist, side kick, spear hand, break, etc.  You just do it.

Now to get to the point where you just "do it", mushin, takes lots and lots of practice and requires buckets and buckets of sweat.  You practice and you practice and try and try, over and over again and you think you are NEVER going to get it and then one day...SHAAZAAAAM!  The light bulb goes off.  All of the pieces fall into place and you've finally got it.  You have finally managed to burn it into your muscle memory and it is mushin to you.  And believe me, when this happens, there is usually a little celebration and more than a little butt wiggling going on.

Once you have burned the kata into your muscle memory, then the dancing begins.  I mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with katas.  I hate learning them, but once I do, I love perfecting them. for they truly are like a dance.  Katas are discipline.  They demand total concentration and focus to master, but once learned they are mushin, unconscious awareness.  Katas bring out the best and the worst in us, but to master one, and to be able to move through it like the wind, is a thing of beauty to behold and to achieve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J - is for JESUS

Jesus is in trouble.  When people worship him today - or even speak his name - the object of their devotion is unlikely to be who they think he is.  A mythical Jesus has grown up over time.  He has served to divide peoples and nations.  He has led to destructive wars in the name of religious fantasies,  The legacy of LOVE found in the New Testament has been tainted with the worst sort of intolerance and prejudice that would have appalled Jesus in life.  Most troubling of all, his teachings have been hijacked by people who hate in the name of love.~~The Third Jesus; Deepak Chopra

When I first read the above words they literally struck a chord in me and I thought - Mr. Chopra you have hit the nail on the head. If Jesus came back today and saw what is being done in his name, if he saw the way people who call themselves by his name treated other people, I think he would be heartbroken. And believe me... I think he already sees and he already knows...

Most of you have probably heard about my friend, Jesus.  He's been around for quite a while and most everybody has at least met him in some form or fashion. For some it was a positive experience, and for others, maybe not quite so because of the person doing the introductions.

Today I'd like to introduce you to MY Jesus, my superhero.  Come along now, dahlins...

My Jesus was a rebel.  He wasn't some mush mouthed wimp. No sirrree! He went against the grain.  He stirred things up.  He got under peoples' skin.  He was radical.  He hung out with the unsavory people.  You know, the hookers and the lepers and the tax collectors. He touched people that others wouldn't even get within a mile of.  He was just cool like that.

He came to bring a message of unconditional love and hope.  He came to teach us how to re-connect with God.  He had a radical vision which he tried to share with all of human kind.  He knew the secret to living life more abundantly and he tried to pass on his vision to others. But as is the case with most anything that we humans get our greedy little hands on, we screwed it all up.

I say that because most anywhere you go these days and get introduced to Jesus, if you want to become close to him there are "conditions".  My Jesus loved everybody and he didn't place "conditions' on his love.  He didn't say, "Well, I'll love you if you quit smoking and drinking, or I'll love you if you go to this certain church and worship this certain way, or I might think about loving you if you agree to do lots of works in my name."  NOPE...his message was for everybody, every race, culture and creed.  He did not judge, he did not place conditions on his love, he simply loved.

I recently read a post about some friends who were having a big brew haha within their "white" church because some of the congregation wanted to invite "black" people to the church. Squeeeeee! Evidently, some of the members had a problem with this.  They didn't want black people in their church....and they called themselves Christians.  Yeah...right... (I got a little secret for them.  I'm not sure what "color" Jesus was but I can guaran-dang-tee you he wasn't white!)

I heard about another church, here in my little neck of the woods ,which wanted to pass rules against allowing gay people into their church....and they called themselves Christians.  Yeah...right...

And then last, but not least, I heard about a church that actually asked their pianist to leave the church because she and her husband were getting a divorce and they didn't think it would be "proper" for her to remain on as the pianist in light of the "situation".  I know this story to be absolutely true because I was the pianist.  At that particular time in my life I needed the support and love of Christian brothers and sisters more than I ever have in my life and yet...they kicked me out...and they called themselves Christians.  Yeah...right... 

But, ya know what?  Those folks kicking me out of their chuch didn't change my feelings about Jesus, my superhero, one bit.  He just came in and filled up that big ole hole they had kicked in me with a whole lot of love...because He's cool like that.

So I guess I say all of that, to say this.  If you've been mistreated by someone who calls themselves by HIS name, don't hold it against HIM.  As his friend, I can assure you he would not treat you that way and neither would I.  We love you right where you're at, just as you are...because we're cool like that:)

Monday, April 11, 2011

I - is for INTUITION

Merriam-Webster defines intuition as a quick and ready insight, immediate apprehension or cognition, knowledge or conviction gained by intuition, the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.

Sugar Magnolia defines intuition as the feeling you get when the hair stands up on the back of your neck, your breath becomes shortened and somewhat labored, your heart rate increases and your palms get sweaty and sometimes, in my case, I get a little dizzy or disoriented.  It is that feeling of just "knowing".

Now I've caught alot of flack in my life for my intuition.  People generally just don't want to hear that you "know" something they don't, especially, if you have no way of proving it. You can warn, beg, plead, and everything else and they just don't want to hear it.  Usually, this is what I get, "You mean you want me to believe this, even though you have no proof, just because you have a feeling?!!"  Because I have learned to trust my intuition, which has been proven accurate to me time and time again, my answer is always...yes.

So, where does this intuition come from you might wonder?  Good question, one I have often contemplated, and one that I still can not give a definitive answer for, but, I have a general idea. 

Some folks believe that we are born with intuition.  They believe that it is like a gift, a heightened awareness, (there's that "A" word again), such as, exceptional hearing, or vision.  I believe this is part of it, but I also believe it has alot to do with my "E" 

When I wrote about energy, I described the state of being "plugged in" to the Divine Source of all energy...God, The Most High, Spirit.  I believe that long ago, our ancestors were more tuned in and plugged in to the Divine Source of all energy and that they were much more aware of everything.  They ordered their lives around the changing of the seasons.  They planted and harvested their crops by the phases of the moon.  They could tell you if a storm was coming without a weather radar.  I know my grandfather, Charles Causey, always knew if a storm was coming or snow or a tornado without turning on a T.V. or watching a weather radar to find out. 

Our ancestors were also very reliant on their God.  They believed in a Higher Power and they believed that their lives were dependent upon the grace and blessings of that Power.  They were also very big on giving thanks for the harvest and for the many blessings in their lives.  They even had ceremonies created for the sole purpose of giving thanks, Samhain comes to mind.  Other than Thanksgiving Day, how often do the majority of us stop everything, prepare a feast, and come together just to give thanks and praise to our Creator, our God?  How often do we make a celebration of giving thanks?  More often than not we throw out a casual - "thanks" and that's it and we expect that to be good enough.  Hmmmmm....

I have noticed a turning away from the traditions of our ancestors.  Our modern society is plugged in to electronics, money, power, ego, self, much more so, than the natural world and The Divine.  We have cut ourselves off from the Divine Source of power, energy and intuition.  We believe in our own power.  We no longer "hear" that still small voice that gives us warning, guidance and insight.  We have lost touch with our intuition.

So, is intuition a gift that only a select few have been blessed with?  Maybe, maybe not.  It may just be that we all have been given the gift, but only a few have actually unwrapped it.  I have been in the process of unwrapping my gift for quite some time, and I have found that the more I stayed tuned in to God and the natural world, the more clear, quick and accurate my intuition becomes.  Give it a try.  You might just be AMAZED:)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I - is for Intimacy

Often, when we think of the word intimacy, we think of it in a sexual content, but is that what it really means?  I know that it is possible to have a sexual encounter with another person with no intimacy involved whatsoever.  Yes, a sad fact in my world, but true.  So what is intimacy, real intimacy?

Intimacy is derived from the Latin intima, meaning "inner" or "inner-most".  Your inside being is the real you, the you that only you can know.  The problem is that you can know it only when you are being intimate with something or someone outside of yourself.  Intimate itself is a revealing word.  As an adjective it means "personal", "private", "detailed", "deep", "innermost".  As a noun it describes a close friend or associate.  As a verb it means "to make known indirectly" or "to hint at".  This sense of touching our innermost core is the essence of intimacy:  It contains all the qualities implied in its various definitions. ~~The Art of Intimacy; Thomas Patrick Malone; Patrick Thomas Malone

So, now that we know the meaning of intimacy, the question I put before you is - How many people are we truly intimate with?  How many people do we allow to see the real us, and are they the folks you would expect, like our spouses, our family, our closest friends?  And if not, then why?

I'm not sure about you, but in my world I find judgement and expectations every way I turn.  People tend to have preconceived ideas of who I am or who they would like me to be or expect me to be.  And like most human beings who need and long to be loved, I try my best to fit into the mold that has been created for me.  Often times though, this mold does not take into account the REAL me.  Very often the mold chaffs and rubs and squeezes me to the point of pain.  So why do I continue to try to fit a square peg into a round hole?  The answer is simple...acceptance.

We all want to be accepted and loved for who we really are, however, more often than not we are more likely to try to be what others want us to be and not who we really are.  This is a problem.  This brings a breakdown in intimacy.

I have been blessed with a very small group of people with whom I can be intimate.  These are the folks I can really let my hair down around without fear of judgement.  These are the people who know the real me.  I do not fear that they will turn away from my flaws and warts.  I do not fear that they will stop loving me based on the things I say or do.  Unconditional love works that way.  Unconditional love makes room for intimacy. 

I try my best to love unconditionally.  I strive to see the good in people and not judge them.  I do not always agree with everyone, nor do I condone everything they do.  I just love them and allow them to be themselves.  My husband once said to me, "I think you must have,'Tell me your deep dark secrets' tattooed on your forehead", because often times people, sometimes complete strangers, would just open up to me and tell me their entire life story.  I told my husband, "No, that is not what it says.  It says, 'Trust me.  I will not judge you.  I will just love you and be your friend.'"

Intimacy...a powerful word.  A word that takes mutual trust, unconditional love and acceptance to achieve.  Work to be someone others can be intimate with and YOU will receive the blessing.  I promise.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H - is for HONOR

Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12)

Honor thy father and thy mother...OUCH!  One of the "Big Ten" rules laid down by the Judeo Christian God.  I find it interesting to note that folks are instructed to honor both father AND mother, not just the father and not the father more than the mother. This equality for both the father and mother is highly unusual for the times these words were written, as women were usually given a subordinate role. So, honor thy father and thy mother.  For some of us, this is not such a huge challenge.  For others it may be downright impossible.

I must admit ,there were times in my life when it was very hard for me to "honor" my father.  My father is a good man, but he has a disease.  He is an alcoholic.  He has been in recovery now for over 9 years, but once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.  There is no cure for alcoholism.

There were times when his disease led him down paths that were abhorrent to me.  He did things that were an embarrassment to himself and to our family. The alcohol 's influence caused him to hurt the ones he loved and do things he wouldn't normally do. How does one honor that?  I tell you, it's not easy.  How do you show respect and give high regard to someone you find intolerable.  There's only one way that I found, and that is through God's grace and God's love.

Many times I begged, literally begged, my mother to leave my father.  She refused.  Her answer was always the same, "We must pray for him."  Well I prayed and I prayed, for 32  long years I prayed.  There were times I just got sick and damn tired of praying.   I'll admit it. I felt as though no one was listening.  But I continued to pray.  Somewhere, along the midpoint of my praying, I realized that I was actually HONORING my father by praying for him.

You see, at that point in our lives, I couldn't honor him because he was not being an HONORABLE man, but I honored him every time I prayed for him because in doing so, I was honoring the promise of the man he could become.  As I prayed, I would ask that God would restore him to the man he was originally created to be.  I would pray that God would help him to overcome this evil, this disease, and be all  that he could be.  It took 32 years, as Spirit does not always move to our timetable, BUT my father finally admitted the truth to himself, sought help and found the road to recovery.  Praise be to God.

Prayer works.  God still works miracles.  Never give up on anyone.  No one is unsalvageable,  no one. 

My father is a dear, dear man.  He is generous to a fault, loving and kind. I love him with all of my heart.  He is worthy of my honor and my praise.  He has faced the devil, walked through hell on earth and has lived to tell the tale. 

I guess the point of my sharing this is to encourage you in your journey. If you have parents whom you find it almost impossible to honor, pray for them. You may NOT be able to honor them in the normal form or fashion and they may not even be worthy of your honor.  The verse does not say honor thy father and mother ONLY if they are worthy of honor.  There are no ifs, ands and buts, just one word...honor.  It does not say HOW we are to honor them, but I assure you, praying for them IS honoring them and not only do you honor them by doing so, you also honor God and yourself in the process.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G - is for Grandparents

Recently, I lost one of my grandfathers.  We called him Papa Joe.  Actually, alot of folks called him Papa Joe because he was just a gentle, Papa kind of guy.

When I heard the news of his passing I couldn't help but think of how blessed I have been.  I mean, come on, really!  I am 45 years young, and up until that day, I still had 4 living grandparents!  How many folks can say that?  I know my husband hasn't had grandparents in over 30 years.  Yes indeed, I am blessed.

As I ponder this blessing of grandparents, I have to admit that not only am I blessed, I am downright spoiled rotten.  When I was born, I had 6 living grandparents and 6 living great-grandparents.  Mmmm...yep I just saw your jaw drop.  I am not making this up.  Twelve grandparents total!  That's got to be a record somewhere.

Now you're probably wondering how I got 6 grandparents if you're doing the math.  Allow me to explain.  My dad's parents divorced when he was very small and re-married, hence the 2 extras.  But I say, the more the merrier!  My step-grandparents never treated me any different than if I was their own blood.  Not only was I blessed with all of these grandparents, but I was the first born grandchild.  Whoaaaa mama!  I was not just spoiled rotten, I was plumb stinky rotten:)

My grandparents have always been such a blessing to me. They had as much of a part in raising me as my parents did.  I had my own little space at each of their homes.  Had my own toys, favorite foods, sleeping spot, etc.  My Granny, God bless her, to this day, still makes my favorite pie for me every time I go home, cherry-o-cream....Mmmmmmm Yummy!!

There is something to be said for being raised by a community of elders.  There were those rebellious times in my life when I really didn't care if I disappointed or ticked off my parents, BUT, I never wanted to disappoint my grandparents.  When I would get into trouble, which happened at least once a week, I would beg my parents not to tell the grands.

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my life is richer and better because of my grands.  I know that I would not be the person I am today had I not had their amazing influence in my life.  I pray that God will bless all the grandparents out there.  The ones still with us and the ones who've gone on.  G - is for Grandparents because grandparents ROCK!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F - is for FEMALE!!

So... as I was trying to think of a "F" word to write about, several came to mind but I am determined to keep this blog clean:) And to think, I could have really written some spicy stuff on that other "F" word but... I digress.  After much deliberation, I finally decided to write about something that's appropriate for all audiences and that is being female.  You see, I have been a female all of my life and I've gotten pretty dang good at it.  Let me share with you my experience on being female.  Follow me, dahlin.

Being a female, in particularly a Southern female, is one of the most exciting things I can ever imagine being.  Now naturally I don't have any experience at being a male, so my point of comparison is pretty narrow, but that's fine by me.  You see, I  LIKE my soft feminine skin, my rounded curves and my girlie voice.  I like that men open doors for me and say yes ma'am and tell me when I look pretty.  I enjoy long, candlelit bubble baths and painting my toenails.  I love makeup and scented lotions and soaps.  In short, I LOVE getting scrubbed and buffed and powdered and puffed.  In short, short I just like lookin' "gawjus", dahlin, you know there's always a but comin'...

Being a descendant of a long line of G.R.I.T.S. (that's Girls Raised In The South for all you Yankees), is much more than bubble baths and pink toenails.  Being grits means learning how to grab a catfish out of an underwater barrel or log with you bare hands.  It means learning to turn a bull into a steer and feed baby calves from a bottle.  When you're grits you find out where bacon comes from and that fried chitterlings, or chitlins, as we call 'em down south, once had pig poop in them.  You know this because you helped clean them.  You cleaned them because Great Grandmama Gertie loved her fried chitlins and you loved Grandmama Gertie.  You got those pretty pink toenails and fingernails dirty digging potatoes in the garden and shelling purple hull peas.  And believe me, nothing takes that purple off.  It just has to wear off.

Most grits learn how to shoot a gun before they go to school and drive a truck through a mud hole, door deep, before they're big enough to see over the steering wheel.  We can skin and gut most any animal but prefer to leave that to our big strong men because it makes 'em feel all manly and stuff.  We can fight and spit chewing tobacco and hit a home run, all without hardly breaking a sweat.  And by the way, grits don't sweat, we just get dewey.  Yep.  It's true:)

So, ladies and gents, yes, I am soft and girlie on the outside, but when I have to be, or need to be, I am solid steel on the inside.  Don't ever doubt it. I am proud to be a female and I am proud to be a girl raised in the south!!  And by the way, the spellchecker on this here program didn't even recognize the word chitterlings.  What's up with that!  Geez!

E - is for ENERGY!!

Often times folks ask me how I maintain such a high level of energy and such a positive attitude.  There is a secret, and I am willing to share it with all who care to know, but it comes with a price.  The price is an open mind.

I believe that there is an unlimited source of energy in the universe and that source is The Divine.  Now, there are as many different names for the Divine as there are believers.  Some call the Divine, God.  Some call It, Goddess. Others may refer to It as, Spirit or Great Spirit, or The Most High, or Creator.  I do not believe the Divine has a gender, male or female, but that It encompasses ALL of us.

The problem with a large majority of our population here on earth is that we have become disconnected from the Divine, and in so doing, we have become disconnected from our main power source, our energy.  I liken it to my laptop.  As long as it is "plugged in" to the electrical outlet and the power is on, it can run all day.  Once I disconnect it from the power source, it will run for a while on battery backup or reserves, but after a while even those become exhausted and eventually my laptop dies.  I believe the same thing happens to us once we disconnect ourselves from God, Spirit, The Divine.

I am of follower of the teachings of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  This comment, is evidence to me, personally, that I am like a branch on the vine of the Divine. I must remain plugged in and connected to the vine or I will wither and die.  I will run out of energy so to speak.

So, how do I stay plugged in to my Divine energy source you may wonder.  I do this by communing daily with my Creator.  Each morning I go out and greet the sunrise, which is a gift from my Creator and a huge source of energy.  I raise my hands to the rising sun and feel the warmth of my God reaching out to me through the warm rays.  The Divine uses nature to "touch" me and give me physical energy.  As I feel the warmth touching my skin, I visualize it expanding through my whole being.  I feel God loving me, individually and completely.  I do the same with the setting sun, the moon, the stars, wind, rain, thunder and lightning.  Everything in natures has energy.

I also look to nature to find God's touch, voice and love throughout my day and I draw energy from it.  For instance, at lunch I go out to the little canal by my work that leads to the Gulf of Mexico.  I stand and look out over the water.  I feel the sunlight on my skin, I breathe in the tang of the crisp, salt air, I watch the waterfowl and the fish play.  I visualize all of this beauty as a gift from God to me.  I draw it in and internalize that Divine love and  I feel the energy rise within me as I feel God's love surround me like a warm hug.

The last part of this energy renewal project is probably the most important part and that is the give back.  When I am given a gift I feel that it is only right that I give back as a show of gratitude and appreciation for the blessing.  The way to keep the circle of energy flowing is to give energy back.  I strive to give as much energy to the people around me as possible.  I know that as long as I stay "plugged in" to my Source, I will never run out so there is no need to hoard the love and energy that God has given me.  I know that as long as I continue to share what has been given to me, God will remain faithful to supply all that I need and then some.  May God bless you with Divine energy today!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dojo


A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves - our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits.~~Joe Hymans; Zen in the Martial Arts

Today I chose to discuss the word dojo for my A-Z Challenge.  I chose this word because my dojo is a very special place to me.  In Japan the training hall for the martial arts is called, dojo.  In Korea it is referred to as, dojang.  And in China it is known as, kwoon.   Regardless of what it is called, it is agreed upon among martial artists that the dojo is a place of self-enlightenment.

I have been training in the martial arts for the past 4+ years.  I am, by my best guestimation, about 11 or 12 weeks from black belt, and the dojo is where it all comes together.  It is a place of confrontation, where I confront my fears, my doubts and my shortcomings.  It is a place of learning, where I discover more about myself, the more time I spend there.  It is a place of focus and concentration, blood, sweat and tears.  It is also a place of great joy, as each old fear is conquered and each new challenge is mastered.  In this place, this dojo, I learn the discipline that I carry with me into my everyday life.

For me, the dojo is spiritual ground.  Into this sacred space I carry my hopes, my dreams and I work hard to bring them breath and life.  I strive to become a better, stronger person.  In my dojo I learn to live by the code of the warrior, to be all that I can be for myself and for others, physically, mentally and spiritually.  It is here, in this sacred space, that I have met my indomitable spirit, that fighting spirit that never dies. 

I am blessed to not only have a beautiful dojo to train in at Victory Martial Arts Academy, I also have the most wonderful Sensei in Phil Penticost.  I am thankful for my dojo and I am grateful for my Sensei and I am blessed by all of the lessons that he has taught me.  Oooooosssssaaaa! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for - Contentment

When I began contemplation of the letter "C" there were so many choices.  Choices, was actually a topic I considered, along with Crossroads, Commitment, Consistency and a host of others.  Alas, I finally settled on the word contentment.

I feel it is important to be content, but not to become complacent.  Is there a difference?  Well, I believe there is and I believe this is one of the HUGE problems facing our country today.  In a sad reversal of priorities we have become complacent and discontent.

To be content means to be happy enough with what one has; being able to be satisfied with the blessings one has without always wanting something more, something newer, something we deem "better".

To be complacent means we have become self-satisfied, smug.  We have become lazy and unaware of the dangers and deficiencies which have befallen us.

I know I have been guilty of both.  I let my malcontent with what I had, and what I could afford, drive me into building a small mountain of debt for myself.  Instead of being satisfied with what I had, I always wanted the newest, the shiniest, the fastest, the "best" there was.  I was totally in the "keeping up with the Jones' mode".  Also, because of my complacency, I was ignoring the dangers signs and the deficiencies of the path I was on and the glaring SHARP TURN AHEAD sign that was looming in front of me.

We all have to learn in our own manner.  I am now learning the hard way the error of my ways.  I am learning to be content with what I have, and... what I can afford.  I'm actually enjoying it. Alot of the stress of keeping up, was aleviated the moment I realized that path was a dark and treacherous one, frought with heartache and disappointment.  The veil has been lifted from my complacent eyes and I am thankful. 

Contentment.  It's a great word!  One I am learning to appreciate more and more everyday.  I hope you will too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B - is for Breathe - Breathe In, Breathe Out

Ever thought about breathing?  Have you ever taken note of HOW you breathe?  I know I never did until I took my first yoga class.  Now, when I was in labor, I tried to breathe as our birthing coach had taught me, but after 16 hours and no results/baby, it was more screaming then breathing.  LOL! 

Through yoga, I learned that most of us do not breathe properly.  Imagine that!  We do it all day, everyday and most of us have been doing it wrong our ENTIRE lives!  So how does one breathe properly you may ask.  Well, Sugar Magnolia is here to tell ya.

Proper breathing involves filling the lungs completely from the top...all the way down to the very bottom.  You should feel your rib cage expand and contract with each inhalation and each exhalation.  If you haven't been breathing properly, and you begin to do it, you will notice that your ribs will actually be sore for a few days, just as the rest of your body is after a tough workout.  It is a good idea to always breathe in through the nose because the nose has those ugly little hairs in it that filter germs before the air enters your lungs.  Breathing in through the mouth is not a good idea unless you have stuffy nose and that's the only way you can breathe.

When you breathe deeply, and properly, you are filling your lungs with oxygen.  The more oxygen you bring in, the more oxygen floods your bloodstream, the more energy you have, the better you feel.  So if you would like to feel better and have more energy it may be as simple as breathe in...breathe out...deeply.


The word awareness as defined by Webster's Dictionary implies having knowledge of something through alertness in observing or in interpreting what one sees, hears, feels, etc.  I have to wonder how aware we really are. 

As I go about my day, from the moment it begins until it ends, I try to be aware.  I try to be aware of the beauty of the natural world, sunrises and sunsets, the changing seasons, the ebb and flow of the tide and the phases of the moon.  I work to be aware of other peoples' feelings, hopes, dreams, needs and my connection to them.  I strive to be aware of what is going on in the world around me, but with all of this energy being spent trying to be aware of everything, sometimes I totally overlook what's going on with ME.

How aware are you to your own thoughts, feelings, needs and physical body?  Do you take time out to re-charge your batteries?  Do you hear your body calling out to you to slow down, eat, rest and play when you need to?  Are you AWARE that sometimes we all need a little ME time?  Become aware of YOU.