Category Archives: Photos

G is for Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” –Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.” –Charles Dickens

It’s difficult to maintain a positive attitude when we are constantly bombarded by negativity. Just watch the evening news. It’s enough to make anyone depressed. Social media isn’t much better. Since I’ve been trying to adopt “an attitude of gratitude,” I now limit the viewing of both of these sources. Appreciating the gifts we’ve been given isn’t always easy, but creating a gratitude list is an effective way to develop and sustain a positive outlook on life.

I’ve started a “30 Days to Happiness” challenge, and the first thing that’s required is to list three things I’m grateful for every day. By day five, I’m finding it harder to do. I trudge on. My brain benefits from searching for the good in life.

So today, I’ve decided to give thanks for my five senses, which are so often taken for granted. The older I get, the more I realize how lost I would be without the ability to see, hear, feel, smell  or taste.

My eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I no longer have 20/20 vision. I need reading glasses for fine print. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without being able to read a book, watch the next season of Game of Thrones, or immerse myself in nature’s vibrant colors and beauty.

I’m grateful I still have my hearing, even if it is a bit damaged from listening to loud rock-n-roll during my youth. I need music to lift my spirits, to energize me or lull me to sleep. I would be as frustrated as my father without his hearing aids if I could not follow a conversation or hear birds singing in the distance.

I recently became a grandmother, and let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than the feel of a baby in your arms. I just want to kiss all over her soft, smooth skin, rub her baby Buddha belly, massage her little legs, and caress her tiny fingers and toes. Doing so calms my nervous energy. There’s also something soothing in petting a puppy or kitten, or curling up with a silky blanket or lounging on cool bed sheets.

My sense of smell has always been strong. I can spot a foul odor a mile away. If it’s coming from within my house, I hunt it down to eradicate it. Before I leave town, I clean my house so that upon my return I will be greeted by fresh scents. I use essential oils, incense, and scented candles to cheer me.

As for the sense of taste, mine has never been overly picky. I’ve always been a fast eater, never lingering on what my taste buds might have to say. I know I need to slow down and savor each bite, but eating always seemed to be an inconvenience to me. I used to wish there were pills I could take to bypass the whole process. Now I know I’m missing out on what the French have always treasured: making mealtime a pleasurable indulgence. A glass of red wine with cheese or chocolate are some of the few treats I truly cherish.

Yes, I am thankful for these gifts. Not everyone has use of all five senses. As a child, I was fascinated by Helen Keller. I read every book I could find about her. For a woman who was deaf and blind, she accomplished more than many of us and appreciated what life had to offer her. I would like to be more like her. By acknowledging my blessings every day, I hope to shift my mental state and respond to life from a place of strength and sensibility.

Be grateful for the good in your life.

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JUST A FAN (OF A ROCK AND ROLL BAND )

As a child in the seventies I fell in love with the voice of lead guitarist Justin Hayward of the British rock band The Moody Blues. Once I saw him on the album On a Threshold of a Dream I discovered he was as beautiful as he sounded. I prayed for the chance to see him in concert, but it wasn’t until 1994, some twenty-odd years later, when my prayer was answered.

The Moody Blues came to town and performed with the local symphony. A radio station announced an opportunity to meet the band for one hundred dollars. I wanted so much to meet my idol, but I was a thirty-two-year-old mother of a toddler and a teen, returning to college for my elementary certification, and therefore, tight on money (plus, my husband wouldn’t let me). I bought tickets, but didn’t get front row seats. I kicked myself for months afterward. Why didn’t I ignore my husband? Kick. Why didn’t I spend the money I didn’t have? Kick. I could have charged it!

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A younger Justin Hayward.

The night and music were magical. Afterwards, I wanted to play all my old albums but my turntable was broken, so I bought CDs to replace my antiquated collection. I listened to their music every day until my husband said, “You know, The Moody Blues used to be my favorite band, but since you’ve played the hell out of their music, I’m getting kind of sick of them.” To appease him, I played their music every other day.

My prayer was answered, but I wasn’t satisfied. I had not been specific enough. I wanted to be up close and personal, so I added this wish to my daily meditations. Before the concert I went through a writing dry spell, but after listening to them I felt the muse awaken. I wrote a corny short story about a woman who fantasized about Justin Hayward. (Hey, what can I say? Most fiction is based on reality.) In time, this phase played itself out. Years passed, my children grew, I began teaching. Life became hectic. Occasionally, I would loll myself to sleep with fantasies of Justin, but the obsession abated.

Seven years after my first Moody Blues concert I heard they were coming back. I made damn sure I was in line early to purchase tickets. This time I got front row seats. The day of the concert I went to the salon to have my hair styled. If I was going to make eye contact with my idol, I had to look my best. My husband laughed. When we found our seats at the auditorium, we sat next to a fellow who had been behind me in line when purchasing tickets. My husband whispered something in his ear. A few seconds later the man grinned and said, “By the way, your hair looks lovely.”

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Photo I took at the April 2013 concert.

The concert was fantastic. I was close enough to get some great photographs. I looked Justin in the eyes and couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. I floated on a sea of sighs throughout each song. In the end, the audience moved closer to the stage and the band members threw guitar picks and drum sticks, while shaking people’s hands. As Justin moved in our direction my husband pointed at me and shouted, “She loves you!” Then it happened. Justin shook my hand. My second prayer had been answered.

I begged my husband to walk by the backstage doors, but he wouldn’t. “Only groupies do that,” he said.

Well, I wasn’t a groupie, but after that concert I thought maybe my obsession had something to do with a spiritual connection. Maybe that was why I always wanted more. I shook hands with Justin Hayward. It should be enough. It wasn’t. I started dreaming about talking to him.

When I heard they would perform in Oklahoma City during Spring Break I about wet my pants. I would be in Norman, Oklahoma then, visiting my daughter who attended college there. I ordered tickets.

On Sunday, March 16, 2003, my twenty-two-year-old daughter Miranda and I met Debbie, a friend from OKC, at the Civic Center to embark on another Moody Blues voyage. Our seats were at the back by the lighting crew. Though far from the stage, we had an excellent view. Some of the songs brought tears to my eyes. When Justin sang, “I know you’re out there somewhere” and the lights flashed on the audience, I wanted to wave and shout, “I’m over here!”

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What girl wouldn’t fall in love with a face like this?

Once the concert ended, we sauntered out back and waited around with other fans, hoping to catch a glimpse of the band. After some time, they came out. Drummer Graham Edge and guitarist John Lodge and his wife left in a black limo. The rest of the band, along with Justin Hayward, left in a white van. Miranda took several photographs.

With a sigh, I said, “I wish I knew where they were staying.”

Debbie said. “Let’s go have a cocktail.”

“Where’s the nicest hotel?” I had an idea.

We drove by two. At the second one, the Renaissance, I saw a guy walking in, carrying a Moody Blues album. “I bet this is the place. Let’s have a drink here.”

On our way to the hotel lounge, we saw Paul Bliss, the keyboardist, and Gordon Marshall, the other drummer, talking to fans. I felt my blood pressure rise. We found a table and ordered drinks. The band members came in and sat at the table next to us. The drummer leaned over and asked if they could use one of our chairs. As my heart pounded through my ears, I said to my daughter and friend, “God, I hope he’s here.”

Not long after that, Justin Hayward walked in. I thought I would faint. We watched as they toasted each other with champagne. Fans came by, asking for autographs and photos. Debbie and Miranda kept saying, “Go over there. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.” I didn’t want to interrupt their celebration. And I was terrified.

Debbie told the waitress I wanted to meet Justin but was too shy. The next thing I knew, Miranda whispered, “She’s telling him. They’re all looking over here.”

I don’t know what the waitress told him, but she came back to our table and told me I was welcome to go over. Still too scared to make my move, I felt like crying. I started slamming down my beer, looking for strength in my liquid courage. When two chairs became vacant and it was last call for alcohol, the girls urged me on. “Go, go,” they chanted.

I took a deep breath, made myself stand, turn around, and plop into the chair next to Justin. I felt like a complete idiot. To make the situation more awkward, Justin was talking to a man sitting next to him. I couldn’t be rude and interrupt. Trying not to let on I was in a panic, I introduced myself to the female backup vocalist. Thank goodness, she was nice.

Before much else could be said, Gordon the drummer came back to the table. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m in your chair.”

He sat in my lap “That’s okay,” he said in his charming British accent. “I’m the birthday boy!”

Oh joy! Comic relief. I wrapped my arms around his waist and laughed. “So how old are you?”

“Thirty-four.” He held up his glass and cheered. Everyone was laughing, including Justin.

I said, “You’re just a baby.”

“I mean forty-three.” He got out of my lap and sat next to me. Now I was sitting between Justin and Gordon.

Trying to keep the conversation alive, and not knowing what else to say, I stuck my foot in my mouth. “So did you get your birthday spanking yet?”

Everyone cracked up laughing. The female singer asked, “Is that with or without clothing?” More laughter.

They probably thought I was making a sexual advance. I felt my face begin to burn. Thankfully, the lights were dim. I tried to regain my dignity. “You don’t know about birthday spankings?” A shake of smiling heads. Obviously not.

“You get one spanking per year old you are, and then a pinch to grow an inch.” More laughter. Oh God, what did I just say? Why not the variation, “And one to grow on?”

Gordon said, “In that case I’m not 43, but 4003.”

When the laughter died down I introduced myself. I shook Justin’s hand and said, “You don’t know how many beers I had to drink to get the nerve to come over. I’ve loved you since I was a kid.”

He said something like, “That’s okay. I understand.” He was so nice. His voice was soothing and he looked as handsome as ever.

I felt like a silly young girl sitting next to him. At this point, I lost my senses and the rest of the story is the best I can recall.

Someone asked if Rebel was my real name. “Are you a rebel? Have you lived up to your name?”

“I was, but I’ve mellowed with age.” I explained that my mother’s name is Dixie.

Justin pointed to Miranda. “What’s your sister’s name?”

I laughed. How sweet of him. “That’s my daughter.”

I introduced Miranda and Debbie, though they remained in their seats. Everyone exchanged hellos. Justin asked why I didn’t name Miranda along the same lines as my name. I explained about hearing her name in a song and thought it was pretty. He smiled as if he appreciated I got her name from a melody.

Debbie said, “Rebel drove all the way from Midland, Texas to see you.”

I added, “I saw you last year in Midland.”

“That was two years ago,” Justin said.

“I had front row seats, you shook my hand, and my husband screamed, ‘She loves you!’” The band laughed. At least now they knew I was married, perhaps they didn’t think I was some hussy. Then I said, “I did something that made me feel really stupid.”

Justin leaned forward. “What’s that?”

“I was clicking away, taking pictures, when this roady told me to turn off my flash. I didn’t even think about how it might temporarily blind you.”

More laughter. Why worry they might think I was a groupie? By now, I’m sure they thought I was a complete idiot.

“The flash doesn’t bother us.” Justin shook his head. “Heavens no, we don’t care. It’s the concert hall that decides whether you can take pictures with or without flash.”

Relieved to know I hadn’t blinded my favorite guy, I still felt foolish for not thinking about all the stage lights and how much brighter they are than any flash.

I told him about how I had kicked myself for years for not attending the hundred-dollar event to meet the band many moons ago. He didn’t know what I was talking about. I explained hearing about the 1994 concert charity benefit, how I could have purchased a ride in a limo, had front row seats, and a chance to meet the band members.

“Aw ha!” Justin said. “That’s the catch . . . a chance to meet the band members. We don’t do those kinds of things. You can’t trust all you hear on the radio. Good thing you didn’t spend your money.”

I’m not sure what I said in reply. At least I didn’t have to kick myself anymore.

We spoke of other things. I told them about Stephen Stills playing in Midland, how there had been no advertising and a poor turnout for the concert. “It was embarrassing.”

“It was the promoter’s fault.” Justin pointed to the man sitting next to him. “That’s what he does. He’s the promoter here.”

The man scowled pure hatred. He looked like he would rather see me dead. I tried to ignore him, but his angry gaze made me uncomfortable. I struggled for something to say, so I mentioned seeing Bob Dylan in OKC. (Oh great, now I really sounded like a groupie, mentioning all the concerts I had been to.)

Justin pointed to the promoter again. “He promoted that concert, too.”

Someone asked, “How was he?”

“He was good,” I said, feeling my words begin to sputter. “The concert was outdoors.” I looked at Miranda. “Where was it at?”

“The Zoo.” The look on her face said, Mom, they don’t really care.

I continued regardless. “They sold beer there, so you could drink while you listened.” (Oh great, now they think I’m a lush as well as a babbling idiot.) “It was a lot of fun. A friend of mine broke her wrist . . . I mean her ankle while we were there.”

Gordon said, “Well, get it straight. Was it her wrist or her ankle?”

Everyone laughed.

“Her ankle,” I said, not knowing why I even mentioned it in the first place. Feeling even more flustered, I said, “Anyway, I turned my daughter on to The Moody Blues.”

Justin smiled. “What did you think, Miranda?”

“It was great!” She smiled.

The rest of the evening was a blur. I talked with Paul the keyboard player for some time. At some point Justin spilled a drop of red wine on his sweater. I asked if he had tried white wine to get it out.

“That doesn’t work,” he said.

“How about club soda?”

“That doesn’t work either.”

I couldn’t believe it. Here I was talking to Justin Hayward about laundry.

We talked some more, or should I say, I talked some more. I rambled on about how much fun Miranda and I have together, going on trips and concerts together. All the while, I could see Justin from the corner of my eyes, leaning back with his chin in his hand. Was he just listening? Or was he thinking: How did I get stuck with this weirdo at my table?

At one point, he asked about our stay at the hotel. I rushed on to tell that Miranda went to school in Norman, I was staying with friends there, and Debbie lived in OKC. He may have thought I was stalking him. I don’t know why I didn’t explain how luck (or divine intervention) had drawn us together.

The band had a long drive to Nebraska the next day and I had a long drive home. We all stood and shook hands. I would have left it at that, but my dear friend Debbie used her brains (she knew mine had been blown away). “Before you go,” she said. “Could I get a picture of you with Rebel? This would mean a lot to her.”

He was gracious and said yes, mumbling something about the wine spot on his shirt. We stood and put our arms around each other’s waist. I glanced at his face, still in a haze, not fully comprehending that I was next to HIM.

Miranda took my camera and shot the photo. “I think I blinked.” I moaned.

“I think I did, too,” Justin said.

“Take another one,” I ordered.

“I can’t,” Miranda said. “That was the end of the roll.”

I wanted to say, “Oh shit!” but instead I said, “Oh well, at least I got to touch you.” (Fortunately, the photo turned out and our eyes are open.)     

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Justin and me. April 2003.

As the band headed toward the elevator, we girls waved, saying, “Goodbye, have a safe trip.”

I called, “We love you guys!”

Debbie, Miranda, and I went outside and hooped and hollered with joy. It had been a perfect night. I saw them in concert again this April. My husband and I had second row seats. I made eye contact with Justin. I couldn’t tell if he remembered me. Who knows, if he did, he may be afraid.

I still would like to meet him again so I’m working on another prayer. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I’d like a second chance to prove I’m not a stalking, babbling idiot. I’m just a lifelong fan of a singer in a rock and roll band.

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Graduation Vacation

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My family: Miranda, Dean and Morgan.

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So I finally did it. This June I graduated with my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. It’s been a dream of mine for over twenty years. Why did it take me so long? Well, while I was raising my children and teaching full-time I never had the money or the time. Tuition isn’t cheap and teaching small children is mentally and physically exhausting.

Going back to school, especially at SNHU, was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I worked with the most talented writers, my wonderful mentors Jacquelyn Mitchard, Katherine Towler, and Ann Wertz Garvin. There were many more I would have loved to work with if only the program lasted another two years: Wiley Cash, Mitch Wieland, and Craig Childs, just to name a few. I recommend this low residency program to all who are serious about their writing. I had so much fun while honing my skills.

New Hampshire is such a lovely state with some of the nicest people. After graduation, my family and I took a vacation while there. We went to beautiful Portsmouth. Everywhere we looked history was preserved in this pristine seaside town. One of my friends, Sophia Easterly, also a SNHU grad, played our tour guide. I’ll attach some photographs to give you a little taste. We went to Strawberry Banke and back to Star Island for a farewell visit. My husband and daughters wouldn’t mind living in the “Live Free or Die” state if it wasn’t for the harsh winters. We’re from West Texas where it rarely gets below freezing. After we returned from our trip we visited Norman, Oklahoma, where my daughters live. It was lush and green there, too, though hotter than New Hampshire. Once back home we arrived to dry heat of over one hundred degrees. Now we’re looking forward to retirement and moving away from here. I could handle Oklahoma and living closer to my girls.

Now that I’ve graduated and completed my novel, what next? It’s time to find an agent. I have two editors who’ve said they’re interested in my YA novel Daughter of the Bride. With one a smaller publisher, I wouldn’t necessarily need an agent, but my published writer friends have warned it is essential to have an agent to protect my interests. So while I’m waiting for news on possible (nothing is guaranteed) publication, it’s time to seek out that special agent.

In the meantime, I’ll work on a sequel and dream of greener pastures.

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Portsmouth sunset.

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Downtown Portsmouth.

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Sophia and Steve showing us the gardens at Strawberry Banke.

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Pictures of Star Island and SNHU

Some of the sights you’ll see on Star Island.

This boat is trapping our lobster dinner.

The Art Barn is an excellent place for a Peer Workshop.

Yes, there’s an old cemetery on the island. Star Island is supposedly haunted.

An old church

More views along the way to Star Island

The MFA in Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University meets in the Robert Frost Hall for a few days before the residency travels on to Star Island.

The view while walking from my dorm to Robert Frost Hall.

Another view while walking on the SNHU campus

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Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa

The SNHU Winter Residency

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Me and fellow travelers

Me and fellow travelers

This is me in Venice, Italy a couple of years ago. I’m learning how to upload photos! What fun!

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December 21, 2011 · 5:27 pm