It’s a New Day.

Most people who know me know that I’m pretty low key, and for many years I haven’t been one to make a big deal out of my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve.

I remember a time when I used to get all wrapped up in the occasion, and celebrated full-throttle, making the day as memorable as possible.

But as I’ve gotten older, I find myself pulling back from the loud, excessive celebrations, choosing instead to simply remember the day, and be grateful for it.

For a while I was worried about myself, wondering why the excitement had seemingly left me.

But it hasn’t, really. It’s simply taken on another form.

Since my birthday in 1991, only one month after my dad left this world after a five-month battle with cancer, I simply don’t want a big production, or a lot of fuss. I remember my friends on staff at Anixter, where I worked at the time, trying their best to cheer me up with balloons, cake, and the traditional singing of the “Happy Birthday” song. As I stood in the doorway of the break room, and looked around at all the “festive” decorations, my heart ached. I wasn’t “festive.” I was deep in the throes of grief.

And when they started singing, I couldn’t take it. I turned and walked out, trying to hold back the tears…

It was tradition in our family, since Dad was always the first one to rise every morning, that he would be the first to wish us a Happy Birthday. And when we all moved out, and started lives on our own, he would call us, long before we were scheduled to wake up. But it was worth being awakened before dawn, just to hear his voice. There was such comfort in his voice.

But that year, there was no phone call…

I moved to Nashville eight months after I lost my dad, hungry for a fresh start. And through the years, I’ve not wanted a big celebration for my birthday. But I did used to go all out for Christmas, and I’ve attended some amazing New Year’s Eve parties.

But in recent years, I’ve pulled way back, preferring instead to “be” in the moment, and not get caught up in the materialism of the holiday season. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the season, or the special occasions. It’s just that I find every day a special occasion. And spending time with loved ones makes for incredibly precious moments.

I worried for a while that I was becoming a scrooge of sorts, but I’ve come to realize that I’m not. I have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve in my heart every day.

I wake each morning with a prayer of thanks. Before I even open my eyes, I thank God for another day, and for a good night’s sleep. I know there are so many who struggle to get enough sleep, and I’m truly so grateful that I’ve never had trouble falling asleep, and sleeping the whole night through. That is such a gift.

And I thank God for the love I’ve found, in family and friends, and in my work. And I’m reminded that there is no greater love than giving one’s life for others, as His son did for us.

I also pray a special prayer for all my loved ones, and I send love and light to each one of them…

And I pray that I make the best of this new day that I’ve been given, and make the right decisions in all that I do.

I’ve found an incredible peace in my morning prayers.

I’ve come to believe that EVERY day is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, all rolled into one.

And on this day, this first day of a new year, let’s do our best, and make the right decisions, as we go about our lives.

And let’s love each other deeper, and pray for each other, and for our world leaders.

Most of you know that I’m in the music business, and I travel to Memphis once or twice a year, for Blues Foundation events.

One morning in 2008, in a hotel room in Memphis, when I opened my eyes, this is what I saw. And it moved me to my core.

The light coming in between the drapes was breathtaking, and it reminded me that the light comes into us, and through us, and we can pass it on.

Let’s open, and let the light pass through us so we can be the light that this world needs, with our words, our actions, and our love.

sun-thru-wine-glass-be-the-light

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Another glorious day in Nashville!

Every once in a while, we get to do something so completely for ourselves, so singularly satisfying, that the pleasure derived from it stays with us for quite some time…

And yesterday afternoon, for just a little while, I fed my soul by surrounding myself with lots of books, and others who love the written word as much as I do.

And today, the excitement still stirs within me.

At the invitation of Jennie Fields, author of “The Age of Desire,” I attended a book reading at Parnassus Books in Green Hills. Much like the diminishing of brick and mortar music stores, I was devastated when Davis Kidd, our longtime independent book store, closed. And I was elated when bestselling author Ann Patchett, and publishing veteran Karen Hayes opened Parnassus. I’ve attended several events there, and the intimate vibe of the room wraps me in a peaceful feeling.

Ross Howell, Jr., admittedly a 65 year old white man, took an interest in, researched, and wrote a novel about Virginia Christian, a black woman charged with killing her white employer in 1912. Written from the perspective of Charlie Mears, a young white newspaper reporter investigating the murder, the story focuses on “Virgie,” the only female juvenile to be executed in Virginia history.

Because of Jennie’s comment about this being one of the best books she’s ever read, I got to the book store early enough to buy a copy of the book, “Forsaken,” and read the first chapter, to get a feel for the author’s writing style. And from the little bit I read before the event started, I was captivated…

Howell spoke to the small crowd who had gathered, then he read a few pages from the book, wearing a hat that helped him step into character. My mind was spinning, hanging on to every word he spoke.

Ross Howell Jr 1 - rsz
Ross Howell Jr 2 - rsz

When he finished, he sat with Jennie, as she asked him some questions about the book, how he came to be interested in Virgie’s story, and his thoughts on the current day juvenile justice system.

Ross Howell Jr 3 - rsz

What seemed to keep rolling around in my head, though, was the fact that at the age of 65, Ross wrote his first novel. That fact alone excited me. It gave me hope that one day soon I can finish my book…

By his example, and several things he said, I was moved to my core. He changed me.

Ross Howell Jr 4 - rsz

As the event wrapped up, I spotted Karen Trotter Elley in the back of the room. Another fine writer, and a member of the women’s writers group that I’ve attended off and on for a decade or more, Karen has been published in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and is currently doing stand-up comedy. She doesn’t know it, but for quite some time, her quiet determination has inspired me.

Also in attendance was Rebecca Wells, who most of my readers will know as the author of “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” It was great to see her, but I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to chat with her for a bit.

As I stood in line to have Ross autograph my copy of his book, I wondered what I’d say to him. And before I knew it, it was my turn. I handed him the book I had purchased, and simply spoke the truth.

I said “You are an inspiration to me, and when I leave here, I’m going straight to Office Depot to buy a flash drive so I can get all the pieces of my book in one place, so I can finish it…”

He looked up at me and smiled, and pulled a business card out of his jacket pocket. Handing it to me, he said “Email me when you have your manuscript finished.”

My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. What better motivation could I have to finish my book?!

I work for various clients all the time, often until the wee hours. But I’m determined to carve out some time to piece my chapters together, to streamline the story, and to finish my book. It’s been about fifteen years in the making. It’s about time…

 

 

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Hit the ground running

For years, while working for corporations, I had to get up every morning, hit the ground running, and fight the rush hour traffic to get to an office where my time was not my own – ever…

For the last two years, I’ve managed my own companies, from my home office, where I set the rules and boundaries, and the hours that I work. It’s been sheer bliss!

Now I can work till the wee hours (and often I’m up till 2:00 or 3:00 am), and sleep as late as I need to.

And when I rise, still behind closed blinds, with bleary eyes, the first thing I do is make my way to the coffee pot.

Then, for as long as that one large mug of coffee lasts, whether it’s five minutes or fifteen, I treat myself to lots of games of solitaire.

It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, or if I decide to start over in the middle of a game, just because I don’t like the way the cards laid out.

It only matters that it’s ME time, in the quiet, easing my brain gently into gear. It’s my favorite time of the day.

And today, without really trying, I set a new Personal Best Time of 1 minute 37 seconds!

Sunny's solitaire win - Best Personal Time 021816

What’s your best time?

And how do you start your day?
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Michael Martin Murphey – the cowboy rides into town

So, I didn’t get to watch the Grammys last night… with good reason.
But I sort of watched vicariously through the words of Craig Havighurst’s recap on his facebook page. Thanks Craig!

Music.
It is the tapestry of our lives.
And my love of music goes way back.

I love many different genres, and am often moved to tears by good music.
And when I was in a Barnes & Noble recently and actually held in my hands, a vinyl record, it took my breath.
Who remembers those?!?

I’ve called Nashville home for 24 years, and I’ve heard a lot of music in this town.
And last night was one of the best.

My friend, Justin O’Neal invited me to go hear Michael Martin Murphey at the City Winery.
We had the balcony VIP section to ourselves, and it felt like we were at a private concert.

Michael Martin Murphery 021516Michael and his band performed some of my old favorites, including “What’s Forever For,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Cosmic Cowboy,” “Cherokee Fiddle,” “Carolina In The Pines,” and “Wildfire.”

Here’s a snippet of “What’s Forever For.”

And who can forget “Wildfire”?

With his son Ryan on rhythm guitar and mandolin, and young phenom Shaun Richardson on lead guitar, mandolin and fiddle, the band was tight, and fluid, and straightforward.

Thanks to Dolly Chandler from the City Winery for putting together some great events. I’ve seen several shows at the City Winery – including Gary Nicholson’s birthday bash, with EG Kight at the BB King Tribute show, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, now The Original Cowboy himself, Michael Martin Murphey.

Here are a few shots of Justin chatting with Michael after the show.

Justin and Michael Martin Murphey 1

Justin and Michael Martin Murphey 2

Justin and Michael Martin Murphey 3
Thanks Justin! I had a great time!

 

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On the Boulevard

Oh the irony…

In “Boulevard,” the last movie Robin Williams appeared in before his death, his character was sad and lonely, even around the people who loved him. Nolan, portrayed by Robin, had lived his whole life as a lie. And in a split second, to satisfy his thirst for something tangible, something to make him feel alive again, he reached out, not to those close to him, but to a total stranger. It was a moment that he couldn’t take back. And he didn’t want to.

I won’t go into detail, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet. But as I sat in the movie theater on a Sunday afternoon, right here in Nashville where the movie was filmed, I actually found myself holding my breath several times, feeling Nolan’s pain and sadness. Or was it Robin’s?
Robin Williams by Warren Louw

Painting by Warren Louw –
http://warrenlouw.deviantart.com/art/Robin-Williams-Tribute-475139150

In the end, Nolan had the chance to start over, to finally be true to himself. Though as the movie ended, we don’t know if he ended up being happy with his new life, or if he ended up lonely again, in a new city, still pretending to be someone he’s not…

I can’t help but wonder how making this movie may have impacted Robin’s life, and whether the story line may have left him more depressed… enough to take his own life.

The many personas of Robin Williams were so much a part of the fabric of my life, making me laugh in my formative years with the sheer genius of “Mork and Mindy” and all his other antics on Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows, and making me think and feel deeply in later years with “Dead Poets Society,” “Awakenings,” “Good Will Hunting,” and “What Dreams May Come.”

If you haven’t seen the latter, I highly recommend it. It totally changed the way I think about life, and death, and everything in between. It was, in my opinion, his greatest work. And coincidentally, the story line is about a man whose wife died by suicide. He loved his wife so deeply that when he later died in an accident, he went to hell, literally, to bring her back into the light.

It somehow brings me comfort to imagine someone on the other side, who loved Robin deeply, making that same journey to bring him back into the light…

No matter our beliefs, we have to hold on to something. And I’m holding on to that image of Robin smiling again. It’s the only thing that keeps me from grieving over losing him, all over again.

Life and living. Death and dying.
It goes on, down the Boulevard.
And we just do the best we can, trying to stay between the lines…

———————-

“Sober, tender and reassuringly unsentimental…As Robin Williams’ final film, it tolls a wonderful bell for the legacy of a distinguished career.” – Rex Reed, New York Observer

 “Uncommonly compassionate, candid and courageous.” – Prairie Miller, WBAI Radio

 “…one of the best performances of his career.” – Alfonso Espina, ScreenPicks.com

“…this is one of the kindest characters Williams has ever played, which makes his self-imposed turmoil — the consequence of not wanting to hurt anyone, least of all his wife — all the more tragic. Tapping into that same loneliness felt in “One Hour Photo” and “Good Will Hunting,” the actor projects a regret so deep and identifiable, viewers should have no trouble connecting it to whatever is missing in their own lives — whether those regrets are romantic, sexual, professional or spiritual.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

http://www.belcourt.org/events/boulevard.1676418

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Sunday Morning Musings…

I don’t typically watch TV in the mornings. I prefer to slowly wake in the quiet, with a cup of coffee, and a few games of solitaire. I’m a lot like my dad in that way.

But this morning, I was checking in on a client, and the TV was on. And the story on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” got my attention.
CBS Sunday Morning logoThe editor-in-chief of Mad Magazine, John Ficarra, was talking about the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. It clearly was an event that shook him to his core, as I would imagine it does all journalists and satirists now…

Though I’m not a fan of, nor a regular reader of, Mad Magazine, I wanted to hear what he had to say.  He started with “When I was in college, a journalism professor once told me that freedom of the press is a freedom that has to be re-won every generation. I didn’t quite understand what he meant back then, but given the developments of the past few weeks, I do now.”

I was compelled to listen to every word, because I could, because I was interested in his thoughts and feelings, and because he had the right to say it.

And he said it well.

In case you missed it, here’s his segment, in its entirety.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mad-magazine-editor-on-the-hazards-of-satire/

I was reminded of what it really means to have “free speech,” and all that that entails. I was reminded that this country is full of screenwriters, journalists, songwriters, publicists, cartoonists, novelists, poets, stand-up comics, talk show hosts and more who, by their very nature, cannot help but spit out their thoughts, their ideas, their feelings, their stories, their opinions. And they should be allowed to do just that – because in this country, we all have that right.

Imagine being one of those staff members in Paris who, in their conference room at Charlie Hebdo, never saw it coming. Imagine being the family members and loved ones left behind who are now grieving the unthinkable, and trying to make sense of it all. Imagine the fear and torment running rampant now through that beautiful city, with the later events at the supermarket and printing factory.

Though three terrorists are dead, we all know there are more where they came from. Imagine the utter chaos, and the knot in the pit of every person’s stomach who was too close for comfort to these events, who wonder where they’ll strike next. Just imagine….

And then imagine a world where the terrorists win, and no one is brave enough to write or speak any more…

Could we be headed in that direction?

At the end of Ficarra’s segment, he signs off with this:
“By the simple act of appearing on camera denouncing the terrorists and defending the rights of cartoonists and satirists, would I be drawing a target on my back and the backs of my colleagues?
Unfortunately these days, those are not unfounded fears.
And the very fact that I had these fears? Score one for the terrorists.
On the other hand, come Monday morning, my staff and I will be back at work on the next issue of Mad.
What, us worry?”

As I type this, I think about all the things I’ve written in my lifetime – poems, songs, press releases, corporate annual reports, procedure manuals, website content, contracts, tributes to lost loved ones, and even the majority of my own non-fiction book…

And I’m reminded of how much I love the written word, and the freedom to write those words for all the world to see.

And I’m reminded of one of the greatest tools of this generation, which allows us to all communicate in ways unimagined before.

Mark Zuckerberg, and Facebook, provide a free place where people all over the world can express our thoughts, ideas, and feelings (within reason) without fear of retaliation. Thank you for allowing us to reconnect with friends and family, and to relive the memories through photos and the written word. Thank you for letting us connect with new friends, and network in ways we never could have imagined. I have used facebook to chat, with the written word, in real time with friends in Germany, Holland, Brazil, Mexico, and Finland. Where else could I do that?

Though the ads and seemingly constant algorithm changes are irritating, we try to overlook them. It’s the price we pay for having such a powerful tool with which to connect with the world.

And I’m grateful for Twitter, and the wide world of connections made possible by its inner workings. But as a writer, it’s a bit difficult to keep my thoughts to 140 characters. But we manage to get the point across even with that limitation.

And if we don’t agree with someone’s post, we have the right to simply look away, scroll right past it, or delete it. It’s not that hard…

How these terrorists felt it was their right to execute someone whose beliefs and ideas didn’t align with theirs is beyond my comprehesion. How does one live with oneself knowing that you took a life, not in self-defense, but because of twisted ideals and lack of morals?

Pure hatred drives them. And I believe there’s a special place in hell for people like that.

My youngest brother, Michael, visited Paris in 2013 and 2014, and he loves everything the city has to offer. And for years, he was the art director for a magazine. I can’t help but think of all the staff meetings he must have attended in their offices, discussing, planning, and designing their next issue. Did they ever think there would come a day when some of their colleagues, though an ocean away, would be killed for doing their jobs?

My heart aches for the people of Paris, and for writers everywhere…

Eiffel Tower by Michael Stephens(photo by Michael Stephens / http://2-michael-stephens.fineartamerica.com)


 

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He made us all laugh…..

My heart is heavy today, as I grasp the fact that an old and dear friend is no longer with us. A father-figure to me for several decades, Les Scarce left this world Monday morning. Though he passed peacefully, it doesn’t lessen the loss…

I met Les and his wife Normalou, in 1984, at an EG Kight show in Tulsa. I was dating Mike Cleeton at the time, and it was Valentine’s Day, so he and I were out on a date, looking for a place to have a nice, quiet dinner. I would have been content with a Schlotzky’s sandwich, but he preferred a hearty meal, so we ended up at Melody’s Restaurant, near 71st and Memorial Drive.

It was one of those magical nights that’s hard to describe, filled with music, laughter, and instant friendships. Many people who were in the room that night are still friends today. We shared so much in common, among them a love of good music.

EG would perform in Tulsa for a month at a time, several times a year, and all of her friends would come together and celebrate life. And all of her friends became friends with each other, and we all became part of a big musical family. And Les and Norma were a big part of that family.

When I heard the news that Les had passed away, the memories came flooding back. An astute business man, he was the one who spearheaded the business of a fan club for EG. We were a corporation, held regular business meetings, and had annual picnics at LaFortune Park in Tulsa, for all the fans to come together and play games, have raffles, and just have fellowship with each other. Kids of all ages would come, and some would go home with prizes of some sort. But the biggest prize was our friendships, and Les and Norma were like the parents of this great big extended family.

In this photo, we thought it would be fun to pretend we were the best band in town, so EG would hire us! Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The only one of us who could actually play the instrument we were holding was Les! Barry Whitelock, our vice president was on drums, and Fran Whitelock was on mandolin.
Norma, Fran, Barry, Les, Sunny instruments
Through the years, I’ve attended church with Les and Norma, gone out to hear live music with them, and shared many meals with them. Tulsa was so alive with great artists and musicians back then, and when EG wasn’t in town, we regularly went out to hear Debbie Campbell, Spencer Sutton, Mark Bruner, Jimmy Strader, Gus Hardin, Tommy Crook, Flash Terry, Ron Chandler, Earl Clark and Spectrum, Don WhiteBuddy Bruce, Sylvester, and so many others. And Norma never minded sharing Les with others, because he loved to dance so much.

When I moved to Nashville in 1992, it was difficult leaving family and friends behind, but I was determined to make a difference in the music business. And I carried Les’s business guidance with me…

In later years, though Les didn’t dance much any more, when I’d drive back to Tulsa for a visit, I so enjoyed spending time with him and Norma, eating at Goldie’s, or the Full Moon Café, or CJ Maloney’s, their favorite club. The music and fellowship was still so much a part of their lives, and looking around the table, I was reminded that some of those friends we were sharing yet another meal with were some of the people we met all those years ago at Melody’s.
Les and Norma Full Moon Cafe 020304
Those who knew Les well, and  even those who were blessed to be around him for a short time, all experienced his humor. He was the instigator of so much laughter, and his recitations often had the listener doubled over. Many know his version of the “wide-mouth frog,” and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve smiled, just thinking about his famous line – “Sallisaw Henryetta Wagoner Catoosa,” a pun using the names of small towns in Oklahoma.

One of my fondest memories of Les was the time he and Norma and I embarked on a mini-vacation, through the Ouachita Mountains that run from Oklahoma to Arkansas. It was a beautiful time of year, and with no real destination in mind, we simply took off in their big green Chevrolet (which they had bought from my grandparents) and headed down the road. Under no deadlines, we stopped when and where we wanted to, and often pulled off the road just to take in all the beauty. One of my favorite photos of them was taken on that trip.
Les and Normalou Scarce
They were so young at heart, and we were having the time of our lives.

True friendships withstand the test of time. And Les and Norma have remained my dear friends through all these years. Here we were a couple of years ago, celebrating Don Stacey’s birthday.
Norma, Les, Sunny Don's BD
Though we didn’t talk every day, I always felt them close, because they were so much a part of who I have become. Their influence is still with me today, and I’m so grateful to have had them in my life…

Les fell ill several weeks before he passed, and the doctors did all they could. I was so torn, wanting to be there with him and Norma, as I had several times in the past, to help them through this health challenge. But it wasn’t to be this time.

My heart aches for Norma, but I’ll be with her in spirit as she journeys through the grief. I know she won’t be alone, with her family and friends to support her. And I hope the memories will sustain her

Though my heart is heavy, and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to Les in person, it comforts me to know that he was at peace. He had told Norma that he was ready to go, and he started to describe the colors he was seeing, as he transitioned. I know that he rests now, with no pain, and no worries. What a beautiful reward for a beautiful soul

Hold your loved ones even closer this Christmas season, and remember what it was that first drew you to them. Forgive, and laugh, and love… as much as your heart can hold….

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Service information can be found at http://www.christian-gavlikfuneralhome.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1484566

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