WOW! My first book signing! Chicken Soup for the Soul!

I’ve always written.
As long as I can remember, I’ve put pen to paper.
And now it’s keyboard to computer screen…

I’ve not submitted many of my stories through the years, as I didn’t feel they were ready yet. But a couple of years ago that little voice told me to submit a story, about my dad sending me a message long after he had died, for one of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. And it was accepted, and it’s in the September book – “Dreams and the Unexplainable.”

There are two other women in the Nashville area who also had stories in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and I wanted to bring us all together for an event.

So yesterday was the culmination of years of writing, and honing my craft.
I did my first book signing, with Karen Elley and Deb Zemke, at Words of Wisdom Bookstore. Seeing our poster hanging on the door was a welcome sight!

Karen’s story is about a message she received, and how that stranger’s message would become her spiritual mantra.
Deb wrote about how she found her dog, August, during a turbulent time in her life.

We appreciate everyone who came out to join us, to celebrate with us, and to buy some books!

Thank you, Keith Pruitt and Rebekka Pruitt, for taking a chance on us, and letting us get our feet wet at WOW.
Your generosity is priceless, and who knows?
This could be the springboard for other stories, other books, and maybe even getting my own book out there.
The possibilities are endless!.

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Eclipse perspective

Like millions of people around the world, I was prepared to see the eclipse.
My friend, Patricia, had given me a pair of the special glasses that would allow us to see the eclipse, but not go blind.
I used them for a split second, but the trees blocked the view.
I was more interested in the light and shadows dancing around on Randy and Fab’s deck.
Randy was out working on a shoot, and I was alone in the house, working in the office.
And when I stepped outside, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The universal shift was eerie, almost like the calm before an Oklahoma tornado.
As darkness covered the land, the critters started making their night noises.
And I heard a collective “Wow!” from the crowd who had gathered at a nearby park.
The air felt heavy, as if the humidity had increased to 150%, and I was wearing it like a blanket.
Less than a minute after it started, the sun was shining brightly through the trees again.
And as it was all happening, I was shooting pictures of the mosaic art on the deck.
What a fascinating experience!

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Don’t be afraid to speak about what you know

Those who know me well know that I’m fairly shy, and I’m comfortable in the background, going quietly about my life. I keep a low profile, and don’t get vocal about too many things.

But recently I was compelled to respond to a facebook post by Melanie Layden, WSMV‘s traffic reporter, about Nashville’s traffic. She wrote that they’d be airing an “exclusive sit-down interview with Mayor Megan Barry as we talk about what the future of Nashville’s transit system looks like… and what that will mean for our traffic as the city continues to grow.”
I responded with “Please ask her what’s being done to alleviate the already existing traffic congestion in Green Hills, and what the plan is to handle the influx of a minimum of 300 additional cars when the new apartments at Hillsboro and Richard Jones opens in December. If two people live in each apartment, that’s 600 more cars trying to navigate an already gridlocked Hillsboro Pike. I live on Hillsboro, a few blocks from that new building, and lately it takes ten minutes to go 1 mile to the post office – even if I cut through the back neighborhoods. I can’t imagine what it will be like with all those new people, AND all the cars full of people who will come to shop and eat at the new restaurants on that same corner. What a nightmare!!”

A week or so later, she wrote back “Yes, you are so right about Hillsboro Pike!! You’ve inspired me to make my next story on this. Do you live around the area in Green Hills? Would you be willing to talk to me on camera about how terrible the traffic is for you? (I’m also going to be talking with city leaders to see what’s going to be done to fix it.)”

When she asked if I’d talk with her on camera about it, I immediately wanted to. But I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable doing it.

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I flashed back to several years ago, when I was in Austin, Texas. I was at the Midwest Arts Conference with two of my artists, EG Kight and Lisa Biales, (together known as the “Peach Pickin’ Mamas“) and they were getting ready to take the stage for their showcase. The announcer wasn’t doing a very good job, and talked so quietly that the audience could barely hear him. So Lisa grabbed me by the arm, pointed me toward the stage, and said “You need to introduce us!”

I didn’t have time to think about it, or to panic.

So I walked up to the front of the room, and without even using a mic, I projected my voice loud enough for all to hear, told the audience how glad we were to see them, gave a one-minute introduction for both Lisa and EG, then introduced them as the Peach Pickin’ Mamas. And it was SO easy!

Here are EG and Lisa performing, after the introduction.

The next day, at the conference, I got up in front of a different crowd and told a little bit about the PPM’s, and invited everyone to come visit us at our booth.

And THAT was easy, too!

Lisa changed my life in that one moment, when she didn’t ask, but TOLD me to get up and speak…
It gave me confidence, and nothing has been the same since.

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So when Melanie, the WSMV news reporter asked if I’d talk on camera with her, I remembered Austin. And I remembered that when you know a lot about a subject, it’s easy to talk about it. I gave it serious consideration. Over time, Melanie was encouraging without being pushy. So I finally agreed to do it. And it felt good.

Here are photos I took in one afternoon in Green Hills a few months ago, in the middle of the day, NOT during rush hour. Here’s a look at traffic in front of me, and traffic behind me.


And here’s what the typical congestion is like on Hillsboro Pike, within just a few minutes, while waiting at a one red light.

 
With that in mind, here are two links to the stories that aired on WSMV.

http://www.wsmv.com/story/35461301/green-hills-residents-fed-up-with-traffic-congestion
http://www.wsmv.com/story/35465063/new-development-brings-traffic-concerns-to-green-hills-residents

It was interesting to hear Melanie say that “Metro Public Works tells Channel 4 that it’s often a misconception that mixed use developments bring in more traffic. They say that Hillsboro Road has the capability to handle the extra traffic that will be thrown at it, and then some.”

What world do the folks at Metro Public Works live in?!?

And I find it interesting that in the second story, the CEO of the development group states “I don’t think people will get in a car at our building and drive to Trader Joe’s. They’ll walk there.” And he states that Southern Land’s “sidewalks will be big and wide.”

However…

That doesn’t help ease traffic congestion when all 300 (possibly 600) residents have to get in their cars to go to work every morning, and drive back home every evening.

The Green Hills traffic nightmare continues

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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…

 

 

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…

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“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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