Posted in Uncategorized

Four Things I Pretend to Like; Four Things I Like but Pretend Not To

Here are four things I pretend to like:

1.  Baked Lays.  I really want to like them because they are supposedly better for you, but to me they taste a little like very thin cardboard.  The next time I’m at Subway, I’m thinking about buying a bag of Baked Lays and a bag of regular Lays, switching the contents, and from then on keeping the regular bag with me as my cover.

2.  Wal-Mart Greeters.  I know, this is so mean of me, but REALLY, come on.

3.  Green Tea.  I drink it, but I don’t like it.

4.  Elves.  I don’t care if they’re from the North Pole or not, elves are creepy.  I know I’m a fine one to talk, with my ears and all, but still.

And here are four things I like but pretend not to:

1.  Susan Boyle.  She’s the best thing that’s come along since The Beatles.  I love this song:

(Maybe the outfits are a bit much for the English countryside.)

2.  Gold Bond Powder.  You don’t want me to get started.  Let’s just say that if I can’t find my GB, everything this blog stands for disappears.  EVERYTHING!







3.  Pork Rinds.   Barbequed, the kind they peddle at the Statesboro Fair in that little back alley where all the locally made food items are sold.  I buy one BIG bag for immediate consumption and another for a midnight snack.  The barbequed variety are really pretty hot, and I can’t feel my mouth for a day or two after the gorging, but they are worth the temporary inconvenience.

4.  The Greeters at Moe’s.  Like everyone else, I make fun of them: “Welcome to Moe’s!” I jokingly yell occasionally.  But when I rush in for the Ruprict Nachos at lunchtime, and the workers behind the sneeze guard greet me with such enthusiastic passion, I get a little choked up, like they really care, and that I’m, well, “home.”  (Now, if the Wal-Mart greeters did the same thing, the first list might just have three instead of four items.)

Now you know.  And you’re smarter because of the knowing.

Posted in JoyInciters

Introducing the JoyInciters

JoyInciter = a strategy or practice which can bring greater happiness in life

I would like to introduce you to what I call the JoyInciters, a collection of simple practices which I use regularly to increase the level of happiness and joy in my life.  And even though some folks make a distinction between joy and happiness, I use the terms interchangeably.  I have collected these strategies from my study of happiness over the years, as well as my own life experiences, and have found them to be instrumental in moving me from not feeling good to feeling better, or from feeling okay to feeling happier.

I have come to have great respect for my feelings–they help me to know “where I am” at any given moment.  I see them (all of them) as significant helpers in life.  But I certainly don’t like them all.  I’ve heard it said that we “live at the address of our thoughts,” and I would add that our feelings (sad, depressed, excited, happy, etc.) are most often set in place by our thoughts.  Especially thoughts that we allow to become dominant in our minds.

My JoyInciters, if practiced authentically and regularly, WILL increase your joy.  I like the term JoyInciter, and when I created it, I played with other similar “words,” such as JoyEnticer, JoyInsider, and JoyInsight, but I love the idea that some very simple things we can do will incite (def = spur on, push toward action) us to get to where we want to go.  And I submit to you the belief that we all want to be happier.

I will be introducing one JoyInciter every week or so.

JoyInciter #1  is the most fundamental of all the strategies (and a practice which I imagine we all do to some extent): expressing gratitude.  This is what I am suggesting–make being thankful a regular, conscious practice.  And to help that endeavor, I keep an ongoing listing of what I’m thankful for, a gratitude journal or what I call my THANKSGIVING BOOK.

Everyday (or whenever I think of it), I write something down I’m thankful for.  I have come to realize that what I write down is NOT the most important factor of this practice.  But the LOOKING for thanksgiving is paramount in causing a shift in SEEING.  And it’s SO easy.  Right now as I type, I am grateful to be able to type, to have a computer and a smart phone, to have this popcorn I am eating, to have a bed to sleep in, etc.  Two of my courses this semester are keeping gratitude journals, and we begin class each day by sharing what we’re thankful for.

I challenge you to consciously begin to look for that which you are thankful for (whether you use a Thanksgiving Book or not).  To get started, tell me a few things you are grateful for right now.  This practice is a definite JoyInciter.

Posted in Uncategorized

Update–Twins Naming Contest

Okay, well here are the entries so far in the NAMING CONTEST for daughter Emily’s TWINS.  (See “I’m Having Twins!”  2/5/12.)  Emily is still insisting that she is going to be the one who names the twins; I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her.

** GIRL NAMES:                                          ** BOY NAMES:

Nealy, Nell  (VERY POPULAR)                    Neal, Neils  (VERY POPULAR)

Valerie                                                                Thatcher

Serena                                                                 Xavier

Grace                                                                   Conrad

Alexandra                                                           Thomas

Allison                                                                 Alex

Carly Ann                                                            Aiden

Madison                                                              Cray

Hayden                                                                Mason

Maggie                                                                 Kaleb

Anabelle                                                              Calvin

Augusta                                                               Hobbes


And even though the HGTV Dream Home Contest is now closed for entries, we are not.  Send more suggestions!

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (2/17/12)

It’s Friday again! And here are Five Things I am happy about:

1. The comfort of this beautiful affirmation: “I always have a choice.”










2. That it’s not Wednesday. (See “The Absent Smile” post.)

3. Having the correct tools for writing a blog:










4. Dear Deer. Earlier this week Riboclavin txted me and asked if I would show him some more pictures of key deer. Why? He just LOVED them, he said, and looking at them made him happy (and I suspect kept his temperature at a healthy status). Some of you will remember my buddy Riboclavin from earlier posts. If not, see Item 4 of “Five Friday Happy Bringers 2/3/12.” I’ve gotten this request for pics of key deer from him approximately every six months since 2006.

Let me explain.

Back in ’06, my older daughter Amy got married in one of those small “destination weddings” on Little Palm Island off the coast of Key West. You know what a destination wedding is, right? Basically it’s where you don’t have to reserve the back room at Ryan’s for the wedding reception because everyone just shows up at the “destination” and–“wham”–every detail is taken car








Little Palm Island amazed me in its uniqueness:

* You had to be sixteen to even take the boat from the mainland and get onto the island. (My 80-year old Aunt Junaluski served as the flower girl. Kidding.)

* No cell phones were allowed in any public places.

* There was only ONE TV on Little Palm Island (in a clubhouse).

* There were private outside showers attached to each bungalow:







All true! BUT what amazed me, fascinated me, intrigued me (and eventually Riboclavin) were the tiny, adorable KEY DEER. They came right up to you to be petted and fed–organic mash mix only (except for a small bag of Doritos I slipped onto the island).













What beautiful little creatures key deer are. An endangered species, they are related to white tail deer but MUCH smaller, the male averaging only 30 inches tall. They live exclusively in the lower keys and swim between the small islands foraging for food (similar to what I did on my stay, dogpaddling for Shirley Temples and virgin daiquiris).

On the wedding day, the little rascals tried to eat Amy’s bouquet:












But we managed to get to the church (okay, the beach) with bouquet unscathed:










When we returned from the wedding, I shared photos with ANYBODY who would look at them. Riboclavin was enthralled (even more than he is with Zach and Cody, and The Suite Life on Deck). BEGGED me to try to help him procure a key deer, as in HAVE ONE AS A PET! Well, of course, I refused. (He wouldn’t pay my $5000 down payment.)







Ever since, I have to deal with txts like this from Riboclavin: “Plz! Luv those key babies! Show pics!” I like having power over people.

(Here’s an interesting article from the National Wildlife Federation:

5. Having the ability to breathe deeply and enjoy life.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Absent Smile

Yes I admit it, I’m an optimist.  Pollyanna’s a very good buddy.  (See Feb 8 post about Pollyanna).  We took tap dancing together.

What I mean is I’m USUALLY a somewhat cheery person.  But not always.  Take this morning, for example.  I underwent a fairly unpleasant medical procedure.  (I’m a big baby when it comes to anything that hurts at a .5 or higher on a 1-10 pain level.)

Here I am in the waiting room, reading:







Finally I was called back to the procedure room but had to wait quite a while.  The doctor was running behind.  I got bored and started playing with the IPhone’s reverse camera capability:







I looked at these pictures, grimaced at their muted and otherworldly haziness, realized I wasn’t smiling–and started to delete them.

Then it hit me.

Get real, Neal.  It’s okay not to smile.  It’s okay to be muted and hazy.

Posted in Grandfathering

My Favorite Word Is “Abu”!

A couple of weeks ago I asked one of my college classes, in preparation for a writing assignment, to come up with a short list of their favorite and least favorite words. Boy, did I ever open up a hornet’s nest. As we went around the room, the students taking turns FREELY and LOUDLY sharing their words (while causing their professor to turn beet red), what I heard made me think I was in a dingy bar at 3 a.m. closing time. I ain’t telling you those words.

But here is a sampling of their LEAST favorite words:



extraordinary    The student said the word just doesn’t make sense.  Extraordinary should mean really, really ordinary instead of exceptional.  Hmm, I get what he’s saying.


discharge, pus, ooze    I put these words together simply to get them over with real quick.  Yuk.

y’all    A Yankee probably said that one.

A few of MY least favorite words include:

space    As in the HGTV-ish, “I love what you’ve done with this space!”  Space?  What’s wrong with “room”?

* In a similar vein, nation. It gets on my nerves when “nation” is used to refer to a college or university, often in conjunction with its athletic teams. Take my school Georgia Southern University, for example. We’re the GSU Eagles. (I’m SO glad we’re not the Badgers). We’ve won six national football championships. Sometimes I hear this: “We are PROUD . . . We are EAGLE NATION!” Nation? Huh?

I was at a Savannah Wal-Mart on Abercorn early one morning last week, getting a bag of preboiled eggs and some acidophilus, when I heard commotion rising from the greengrocer section (“greengrocer” is a favorite word of mine). I slipped up to the celery and pretended to examine the stalks for defects. At least a dozen Wal-Mart “associates” stood in a big circle around the fresh vegetables, being led by a painfully skinny man in what sounded similar to church-like call and answer chants. Really. “Who takes the best care of their customers?!”–“We do!” “Who are we?”–“We are Wal-Mart!–WE ARE WAL-MART!” Did you know this goes on? Two teenage associates, obviously a little bored and maybe embarrassed, whispered behind the leader’s back. I laughed when I heard what one said: “Oh yea, we’re Wal-Mart Nation.”

drill  (as in dentist drill)

And here is a sampling of my students’ FAVORITE words:


*  velvet


*  tarantula    Don’t worry, I sent the student to counseling.


*  hyacinth

*  obfuscate   (I had to go to

* shiny


I think my favorite word is Abu.  Ever heard it?  Maybe the monkey character in Disney’s Aladdin?  Or the fifth month in the Babylonian calendar?  The American Board of Urology?  (Google it, if you don’t believe me.)  A volcano on the Japanese island of Honshu?  Nope, Abu . . . is Me!

My grandson Daniel started calling me Abu as soon as he could talk.  This would be cute if it were Daniel’s doing.  Alas, it was not.  Nearly five years ago, when my daughter Amy and son-in-law Ortelio informed us, with much joyful fanfare, that Amy was pregnant, I was shocked, bamboozled (isn’t that a cool word?).  I had not been foreseeing such a life-changing turn of events.  Pregnant?!  But that meant SO MANY areas to be concerned about, such as a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery,  and the full gamut of preparations for the coming newborn.  But NOTHING was more paramount in my mind than the realization that hit me: Amy can’t be pregnant.  I AM TOO YOUNG TO BE A GRANDFATHER!

Amy casually asked one day, well into her pregnancy, “So Dad, what do you want to be called?”  I dismissed “Grandfather” right off the bat because it sounded too much like Grandfather.  Same for Gramps, Papaw (what my daughters call my dad), Pappy, Gumpa (now how silly is that name?), etc.

My brilliant Cuban-American son-in-law Orte saved the day (and my false sense of youthfulness).  He explained that Abu was a common term of endearment for Grandfather in Cuba.  [Abuelo = Grandfather]  I immediately loved the little name.  It sounds so joyful and pithy and fun-loving . . . and most people wouldn’t have a clue what it meant.  I could see it in my mind’s eye:  In the mall one day my little toddler grandson would look up and call me Abu, and any bystanders would smile and think, “Isnt that cute?  That little kid is calling his uncle, who is dressed in that youthful Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirt, ‘Abu.’  So sweet.”

Then Daniel was born, and I fell in love with the baby and with grandfathering.  He brought Abu to life, new life.


What about you, dear bloggers?  What are some of your favorite and least favorite words?

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (2/10/12)

It’s Friday again!  And here are Five Things I am happy about:

1.  Realizing–as soon as I woke up this morning–that it was Friday again.  I love that feeling.  (I understand that “woke up” and “this morning” might seem redundant to some readers.  However, I’m a college professor.  Take a 3:00 afternoon class, for example.  That’s a bit of an early rise for some students (I wish I was kidding), so I’m always careful to add a time indicator after using the words “woke up.”

2.  Savoring these Fresh Gourmet Dipped Strawberries from Shari’s Berries.











3.  Trying to understand why someone would ask for a to-go box for one piece of leftover bacon.  I ate breakfast at The Original Pancake House in Savannah the other day with some friends.  One of them demolished all his food (the silver dollar pancake meal) except for ONE piece of crisp bacon.  Are you with me?  The meal is over, right?  You get up and pay for your meal.  Head on out to the cattle-rustling.

But no, JoNathan, seeing our waitress with the curly letters tattooed on the underside of her wrist, asked for a to-go box.  She looked down at his place, confused for a second, until he pointed nonchalantly to the SINGLE piece of bacon–as if that was a normal request.  At that moment my eyes met hers, and we communicated via eye language (I’m multilingual):  “Is he KIDDING?  Why not just slip the bacon, unnoticed, in his shirt pocket?  And what type box would work?”  Well, she was a cool professional because she returned with a styrofoam hot dog container.









(I tipped her a little extra for her trouble, patience and understanding.)

And to sort of put Item 2 and Item 3 together, did you know you can get chocolate-covered bacon?

4.  Making the right decision about a lady in Walgreens today with toilet tissue hanging out of the back of her pants.  I was minding my own business, sitting in the little waiting area at the back of the drug store, biding time for a prescription to be filled, and reading my new Bloggers Boot Camp book.  (Did you know that with the right mix of “savvy, in-the-now hipness” and “cutting edge techno-go,” I MIGHT BECOME A MILLIONAIRE JUST BY BLOGGING!   But first, I need to find out what “techno-go” is.  Help!  And I guess strangers need to start sending me money.)

Two other people were nearby–a hefty woman about two feet from me, standing at the Inspiration Books display, holding a box of those purple Peeps and looking (I’m pretty certain) in the direction of a thin book on fasting; and a man sitting two plastic chairs down from me in Richard Simmons-ish shorts.  (Can you even buy those anymore?  And why?)  Well, out of the blue this late-fortyish lady with frosted hair, brand new-looking jeans and a black Northface rushed up to the Prescription Pick-Up counter and breathlessly asked if her medicine was ready.  It was (with an added grape flavor, I couldn’t help but overhear).  But wait just a second, let’s back up a bit–as she rushed forward, a couple feet of toilet paper (white, patterned) flew banner-like behind her, billowing somehow from the exact center of her waistband.


Should someone tell her about the toilet tissue?  If so, who?  I cast my initial vote for Ms. Peeps, but she appeared oblivious to the unfolding drama.  Richard Simmons?  Well, he did smirk just a little when he looked up from his Blackberry and saw Aurora and her trail.  Me?  No way.  I’m shy.  And get my feelings hurt far too easily.  Handle rejection catastrophically (with weeping and nail biting and lashing out at those closest to me).

Four people (five if you count the pimply but pleasant, teenage-looking pharmacist), thrown together by fate at Walgreens.  Not knowing what to do, I quickly txted several friends and family members:  “There’s a lady at Walgreens with toilet tissue hanging from back of pants!  Shud I tell her?”  All said YES!  Except for Riboclavin (See last Friday’s Five Happy Bringers post) who didn’t respond (until hours later).  It makes me SO mad when people do not drop whatever they’re doing and txt me back IMMEDIATELY.  It’s so rude of them.  (I wouldn’t care to bet money Riboclavin was taking his temperature or enjoying a stress-reducing bubble bath.)

To make sure I was doing the right thing, I did the WWJD strategy and decided Jesus would tell her; it’s compassion in action.  I would certainly want to know, wouldn’t you?  (One time–true story–I walked into a class and a courageous girl said, “Dr. Saye, there’s toilet paper attached to your shoe!”  Sure enough, there was.  Don’t ask me why.)

So as Aurora drifted away from the counter and headed toward sure humiliation, I intervened, feeling noble, like Braveheart, and said in a stage whisper, “Excuse me, ma’am, did you know that’s there’s some, uh, toilet paper kind of hooked onto you from behind?”  (I know, I know, it would be SO easy to deconstruct and critique my choice of words, but I was nervous.)  She laughed loudly and shrilly, like she had a nervous disorder, and yelled, “Oh my god, no!”  After she thanked me profusely, balled the tissue up and placed it in her purse, the incident ended.  I felt SO superior to Peeps and Richard.  And that made me happy.

5.  Taking this picture at Party City of a puppy heralding a celebration:

Posted in Uncategorized

I’m Having Twins! + The Naming Contest

I don’t mean me literally, of course.  Really, how gullible are you?  Actually I will be the grandfather of TWINS (!) sometime in August.  My younger daughter Emily gave us the exciting news a few weeks ago.  I simply didn’t believe her at first.  There are no twins in our family that I know of (although one time I saw a guy in Taos, NM, at a teacher’s conference who looked amazingly like me).

I still think of Em as the baby and the little girl who at one time had a collection of over 10,000 stickers (really) and who would count them regularly [truth!].  Hours of counting.  HOURS.  The name “Emily,” by the way, means “the diligent one.”  [“Neal” means “champion of the world.”  Just saying.]

Emily txted me and said it was okay to share the recent sonogram with you.  So here’s what the twins look like:







They are about an inch long here.  But what strikes me most is how intelligent they already look.

Em is working on names.  And I am trying to coerce/manipulate her into using names that I LIKE.  But the whole endeavor is getting muddled because

1)  Emily has always been strong-willed (her first words were “no way”) and for some reason SHE wants to name the babies, like I’m not a university professor and all.

2)  Then there’s the issue of whether the twins will be two girls, two boys or one of each (which in a way seems like a better deal).

3)  You have to decide if the names are going to rhyme (Roy/Coy) or not (Sylvia/Gertrude).  If I had a twin (and some folks believe we all have twins out there just waiting to be reunited with us–of course, most of those same people were simply devastated when Oprah ended), I would not want us to be named something so rhymingly predictable as Neal/Bill.  I would want his name to be cool and hip, maybe Creel or Steele.

If Emily’s twins are a boy and a girl, my first thoughts were Neal and Nealy.  But a problem with that is my first grandson Daniel (see “Introducing Mr. Happy” post) already has the middle name Neal.  Could I have two grandsons with the same name?  Maybe.  It’s 2012.  Two girls?  Nealy and Nell.  Two boys?  Neal and Niels.

I also like the name Thatcher for a boy.  (I actually do.)


I hearby open up a contest to help name the twins.  Like the HGTV Dream Home Contest, you can enter as many times as you like.  The prize will be really, really cool and very, very valuable.

Post your ideas!  We only have about eight more months.