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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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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What are we thankful for?

It’s that time of year again, when we stop, step back from the weekly grind, and remember what we’re thankful for.
And it just seems fitting that I re-post something I wrote many Thanksgivings ago, because it still fits, and it’s all still very true…

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GRATITUDE

There is a day in this country set aside for giving thanks, yet every day I try to express my
appreciation for life and love and all that comes with it

My heart is full of gratitude for the friends who see me for who I am,
know my heart,      and stand by me as I stand in my truth

And I am grateful for the lessons learned from the disillusionment of
relationships that no longer serve me
and for each step of the unabashed movement toward my    higher purpose

I am grateful for the realizations in the aftermath that
nothing is as it seems
and that sometimes reality is merely an illusion

I am thankful for the liberation that comes with letting go, with no ill will
only appreciation for the time spent on that particular path
remembering that without honest and sincere communication –
the foundation upon which relationships are built        and maintained –
there is no real relationship

I am thankful for a year of dreams realized, of unimagined spiritual moments
shared with those to whom I don’t feel the need to explain

I am thankful for the journey to the mountaintop
for the extraordinarily breathtaking display of fall colors in Vermont
reminders of the beauty that is in and around us
humble reminders to keep open our eyes and our hearts

I give thanks for the compassion felt for those who don’t have the capacity
for those who can’t or won’t open themselves enough to truly love
and for the understanding that no one can love us until they truly love themselves

I am grateful for the true friends who love unconditionally
who love through it all and give of themselves expecting nothing in return

I am beholden to the men in my life who have caused my heart to flutter
and those who mangled it and left it for dead
for either way, they cause me to stop to remember the divine feminine in each of us

And I’m glad for the time I had with the most difficult of men
the ones whose anger and rage taught me what I will and will not tolerate

I thank humankind for the daily doses of pain and heartache that come,
sometimes relentlessly
teaching me, again,
that we all have an unlimited supply of patience, tolerance and love

I am thankful for the growth that comes from leaving behind old hurts
and frustrations and fears
old scars from childhood or wounds from recent battles
because it is in the tearing down that we are built back up

I am thankful for the voices of all humanity, and of those on the other side
who talk to me, in the daylight and in my dreams
whispering the secrets of the universe to me,
knowing I will carry them close to my heart

I am grateful for strangers, who upon approaching, aren’t afraid to make eye contact
who acknowledge the divine in me, as I do in them

I am grateful for the children, the tiny messengers of hope,
who reach inside me and touch my heart and awaken my soul in ways that
bring  me  to  my   knees

I am thankful for the memories of all my friends and enemies, here and on the other
side,
because the time they gave me and the lessons they taught me
will forever be part of me, part of who I am to be

I am thankful for the dark times and the tears that have come in the night
silently slipping out of their bottomless well, reminding me that I’m human

I can’t express enough gratitude for my family, who, though I don’t see them often
remind me of where this journey began, who recognize themselves in me,
as I do in them,
and who remind me of the innate potential in every moment, in every breath

I am grateful that I am never lonely, for there are always words to keep me company
words – the gifts given to us to aid in expressing our truest selves
and I’m grateful for the gift of freedom we have in this country to use those words

I am grateful for music, that sweet universal language that often speaks without words,
in times of intense emotion, reaching in and touching the very core of who we are

I thank the universe for the still, quiet moments
those fragments of time that allow communion with all that is and all that will be

And above all, I am thankful for
trust
and faith
and love
and knowing
for these are the things that sustain me
when all else
. . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .  . . f a l l s
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . a w a y

©Sunny Stephens  /  11-22-07

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