Posted in Savannah Joy

I’m a Famous Fashion Model

Last Friday night I ventured into unfamiliar territory by attending the beautifully chic Looking Back to the Future: Ralph Rucci Evolved fashion exhibition and reception at the SCAD Museum of Art in downtown Savannah.  (Not familiar with SCAD?  It’s the Savannah College of Art and Design, with an incredible campus scattered all over the Historic District.)  Here I am beforehand, perusing the invitation and trying to decide three things.

1.  Who Ralph Rucci is.  I thought at first that maybe he was related to Susan Lucci (aka Erica Kane–All My Children), before realizing I confused the “L” and “R” of the last name.

2.  If “reception” might translate into “jumbo Savannah shrimp and mojitos.”

3.  If (since this was a fashion event) I had anything cool to wear that wouldn’t make my butt look big.  (Could I wear skinny jeans at my age?)

A bit of research revealed that Rucci is a well known American fashion designer, with a line called Chado Ralph Lucci (“chado” coming from Japanese tea ceremonies which pay close attention to detail and expertise).  His work “always embodies the same formula: the collections present the most beautiful rainwear, outerwear, furs, leathers, embroidery and rich hand techniques, dance dresses, and drop-dead evening gowns.”

Not 100% sure why, I decided to go.

I’m so glad I did.

Because now I’m famous.  (More about that later.)

I arrived about 6:30 p.m. at the amazingly beautiful museum, which was created within a crumbling National Historic Landmark railroad warehouse, part of the large Central of Georgia Railroad Depot complex.

<p node="media-caption">Photos by Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News</p><p node="media-caption">”Jewel Boxes” built out of the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art’s exterior help bring the gallery outside along Turner Boulevard.</p>  Savannah Morning News

Here I am with docent extraordinaire Brianne Shew (a SCAD Fashion Design student) who introduced me to the exhibition and explained that “couture” is high-quality, custom made clothing, usually with 80% or more of the piece hand sewn.  (And I finally learned how to pronounce the word: “koo-toor”:

And here I am with one of the mannequins (right before I got a mean look/”no, no” headshake from another docent for getting too close to the mannequin/womannequin).

While browsing through the exhibit, I met a guy with the coolest pants.  Upon introducing myself and my blog, I discovered that Mangue Banzima had recently moved with his family from New York and now owns Qui? Inc., an image consulting firm.  Mangue is married to the lovely Isolde Brielmaier, art historian and chief curator of exhibitions of the SCAD museums.  He writes a fascinating fashion blog: (where you can see many photos from the Ralph Rucci exhibit).  As a matter of fact, at his blog, Mangue welcomes your own fashion photo submissions.

And at one point Mangue took my picture and included it in his blog: (scroll down).  WHY on earth didn’t I dress up more?!  Still, since I’m now famous, from now on please treat me with the respect I deserve.

While at the museum I stuck my head in a couple of the other exhibits.  Here I am sitting in the dark watching a video of frozen shoes sinking into a hole.

And, then, at another exhibit, trying to take a stand and march to my own beat:

But failing and succumbing to the crowd:

Oh well.  Come on, join us.

I really had a wonderful time at the SCADMoA and the Rucci show.  When you can, go!

Leaving, I said goodbye to yet another friendly and helpful Scadite, student Cory Elder, a SCAD painting major.

Moral of story: go where you haven’t gone before, try something new or challenging.  Stretch.  Who knows, you might become famous too.

P.S.  If you have any suggestions for MY new fashion line, let me know ASAP.  Thank you.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Dollar Holler

Today I arrived in Statesboro a little early for the first day of Term A Summer classes at Georgia Southern.  Since at the end of the week I’m flying to Manhattan for a long Memorial Day weekend, I decided to run by the grocery store to pick up a few of those travel size products.  (Did you know they sell Gold Bond Powder in teeny tiny containers?!  Remind me to add that to my Five Friday Happy Bringers this week.)

Waiting in a long line (very patiently I might add), I came out of my daydreaming (about, upon my retirement, the possibility at my age of becoming either a tug boat operator on the Savannah River or a Broadway star) when I heard the following exchange between the Friendly Store Clerk and the Girl with the Puppy Tattoo in front of me.

Friendly Store Clerk:  “That’ll be $5.74, ma’am.”

Girl with the Puppy Tattoo:  “Oh gosh.”  (Fumbling frantically in purse.)  “I only have $5.00.”

[Long silence]

Friendly Store Clerk:  “Uh.  Hmm.  Well.”

At this point, it hit me that I could get us all out of this thickening and beginning-to-get embarrassing plot very simply.  But the following thoughts flew through My Mind first:

My Mind:  “If I take out my billfold, open it and don’t have a dollar, will I turn red?”

My Mind:  “What if she thinks I’m a dirty old man?”

My Mind:  “What if Friendly Store Clerk gets unfriendly and belligerent?”

My Mind:  “I’m too shy to do this.”

My Mind:  “Which would bring in more money, Tugboat operator or Broadway star?”

(Okay, kidding about that last one.)

Well, I looked at my shoes, and decided to Just Do It.  I opened my wallet, breathed a sigh of relief that I had a one dollar bill and (feeling like an adult child of Mother Theresa and Donald Trump), handed GWPT the dollar.  Her eyes increased in wattage as she took it and presented it to the SMILING Friendly Store Clerk.

“Have a blessed day, sir,” the Girl with the Puppy Tattoo said.

And that was that.  I walked out with my teensy powder,  having answered a dollar holler.

Posted in Holiday Joy

Mama — Tell Her Now!

“Mama.”  Perhaps no other word in our langauge evokes such tender and loving feelings.

My mom turned 85 on May 2.  Here she is with my dad (88).  They have been married for 65 years!

Geneva Mae Reavis Saye and Harold Hulon Saye Sr.

If I had to answer the question, “Neal, what’s the greatest lesson your mother has taught you in life?” I would have NO problem at all answering.  I learned the lesson so, so early: the power and authority of humor and laughter.  Some of my greatest memories growing up consist of roaring with giggles and laughter at some of the silliest things.  My mother is a master at seeing the lightness in situations.  The Christmas when I was about six, I asked for a real juke box, and FOUND IT it my parents’ bedroom closet on Christmas Eve.  Mama thought it was hilarious when I started yelling in confusion, “WHY is my juke box in your closet??!!”  She said, through fits of unrestrained laughs, “Santa wanted your dad and me to try it out first.”  (That Christmas began my distrust of Santa.)  Or the time when I asked for (and finally got) a rocking chair for my sixteenth birthday (don’t judge me), and she (like you probably) laughed and said, “WHO wants a rocking chair on their birthday?!”  I still get teased about that very practical and emotionally calming gift.

Or her ongoing confusion with the words “veterinarian” and “vegetarian.”

Or the Christmas when I was about eight and had this obsession with making sure the ornaments were placed perfectly (in my opinion) on the live tree branches.  I had gone to bed, but thought that maybe I should check the tree one more time for spatial accuracy of the bulbs and tinsel.  A big round glass ornament on a limb just out of my reach needed attention.  Reaching up, I grabbed the branch, too hard I suppose, and pulled the ENTIRE tree on top of me, electric lights and all.  Screaming in holiday terror, I flailed at the evergreen monster till my mom and dad ran into the living room.  I distinctly remember my dear mother hooting with laughter and saying to my dad (far too loudly), “Just look what Neal’s done now!”

Or her ongoing advice throughout the decades:  “It’s really not that important, Neal.  You’ll laugh about it soon.”  And I usually did.  (Except for early Christmas memories.)

What an incredible privilege and joy to have a mother who taught me when I was younger and who continues to teach me to this day that happiness is a choice.  That laughter is an answer, a solution, medicine.  That humor is a gift to get and to give.

My advice on this glorious Mother’s Day:  Don’t wait till your mom and dad walk out of your lives forever to tell them, show them, how very much they mean to you and how much you love them.


I dedicate this beautiful version of the song “Mama” by Il Divo to my mom and to yours.  And remember to tell her now!

Posted in Humor

Staring Contest #2

Since after 14 hours I finally won Staring Contest #1 a while back, I decided to challenge a master, former GSU legendary head football coach Erk Russel in Staring Contest #2.







Oh I forgot to tell you, before the struggle of the two titans began, I invoked the time-honored tradition of rubbing the coach’s head to ensure victory.

(Hours, days pass.)

Yes!! Triumphant once again! So why is his name still up there?


Posted in Breaking News, Encouragement

Symbolize Materialize!

I know that sounds somewhat Harry Potterish.  But I NEED A SYMBOL!

Let me back up.

I have always found the subject of symbolism fascinating.

Dove as a peace symbol


Venus (female)

Dollar sign

Olympic rings

I bet you know what they all stand for, right?  No?  Can’t quite place the last one?  (Hint: “Purple Rain”)  (Follow-up to preceding hint:  I would say that Prince is a strange character, but that would make me hypocritical after yesterday’s affirmation, so I won’t.)  Symbols are ubercool–instant communication without words.

Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I looked up “symbol” on, and here’s a sampling of what I got:

Symbol:  A friend added in Facebook strictly for use in a Facebook game.  ”I got several collectible tree gifts from my symbol friend.”

Symbol:  Superfly guy.  ”Symbol soars through the air hollerin’ with decked out 3′s and 7′s.”

Huh?  What?

Symbol demon:  Person who irritates everyone with cryptic symbols in his/her text messages.  ”Dude! Look at this message – ‘hey WRUD now…coming for DNR2NTE?….TLK2UL8R…CU L8R’ –  this guy is a symbol demon!”

Am I getting old?

After about twenty minutes, and wondering if nearly EVERY word in the English language really has some sexually explicit meaning, I left Urban Dictionary and went to, where a symbol is (a bit boringly defined after UD as) “a visible sign or representation of an idea; anything which suggests an idea or quality, or another thing, as by resemblance or by convention; an emblem; a representation; a type; a figure; as, the lion is the symbol of courage; the lamb is the symbol of meekness or patience; the golden eagle is a symbol of Neal.”  (Okay, that last part might not have been there.)

Finally, here’s the point of this posting:  I WANT A SYMBOL FOR THE BLOG.  Someone suggested Mr. Happy

… but he’s more of the mascot for the blog.  So help!  Give me a few suggestions for a symbol which will represent the focus of NealEnJoy: Exploring and Encouraging a Healthy Life Marked with Joy.

Thanks!  I look forward to reading about/seeing some of your suggestions ASAP.  I always love getting comments and ideas from you guys.

Posted in Encouragement

You Raise Me Up

I love students.  They’re so “learny” and all.  Well today I gave my first of three finals of the week here at Georgia Southern.  My Everyday Creative Writing class is such a wonderfully cool and fun group of students.  (Although I could easily say the same about each of my classes this semester.)

Here they are at the beginning of class today, writing the reflection portion of the portfolio:

Such hard workers.

And here they are, soon after I began a little lecture comparing taking a final exam to running the race of life (Lesson 42 of my Listen to Neal and Learn series):

And, look, here they are when I stood in front of the room and asked them the first fifty-point exam question: “Who is the best professor in the universe?”

They REALLY are a SMART group of students!  I’m just so very proud of them.

And, look again, here they are when they received the second fifty-point question: “Who is wearing the coolest shirt in the room?”

I have to say that some of their facial expressions got on my nerves a bit.  Like THEY had on hip shirts!


One of the most incredible benefits of being a professor is that students teach the prof SO much about life:  about being excited and interested and vibrant.  About believing that all things are possible.  (I forget that from time to time.)  About taking risks.  About taking naps.  About being happy.  About enjoying NOW.  About enjoying hot, fresh french fries from McDonald’s.  About living life with fervor.

Simply put, my students lift me, they raise me up.

(Can you tell I’m sort of horizontal there?)

I dedicate this song to all my WONDERFUL students who daily lift me up.  Thank you.  You add much joy to my life.

Posted in Humor

When Happiness Frustrates (or Was Oedipus Crazy or What?!)

So I’m approaching my 100th post on this happiness blog, which I started at the beginning of the year.  I have tremendously enjoyed writing and researching and taking pictures and being silly and interviewing and hopefully encouraging readers toward happier lives.  It’s SO much fun, and it can be SO … FRUSTRATING!

Let me explain.

(Listen, I just proofread the big tangent talk below, and my advice is as follows:  1. Do not read it if you don’t like getting sidetracked or running down rabbit trails.  2. Do not read if you’re too empathic of others’ pain.  3. Do not read if you’ve ever hurt your eye.  4. Do not read if you enjoyed Oedipus Rex.  And 5, you probably shouldn’t read it if you’re Greek or know a bunch of Greek people or rented My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  If you’re skipping ahead–and by the way, I would probably skip ahead if you are or were a mama’s boy–I placed a line of ******* where you can pick up the story safely.  Okay, there.  Gosh, what I do for my readers.)

Remember that whole mess when Oedipus gouged his eyes out?  Goodness, I just thought about that–and I usually never think about what I write–and had to cover my eyes with BOTH hands to deal with the imagined agony.  Didn’t he use a brooch off his mother’s, I mean his wife’s (oh Lord) gown to do it?  I know he was upset and all, but COME ON.  To get an idea of the horror of this insane act, do this quickly:  put a tiny drop of Dollar Tree shampoo on your right little finger and open your right eye really wide.  Now touch your eyeball very briefly, and see how it feels.  (I have to do this regularly in the spring and fall for my allergies.  Honestly, I do.)  See??  It hurts BAD, right?  (Spring and fall, btw, are my weepy seasons.)  Now help me understand HOW on earth Oedipus could plunge a golden bear claw (or whatever) pin directly INTO one EYEball … and then the other!

Dramatic IRONY (as well as eye fluid, i.e. vitreous humor, “humor”?! really?) basically oozed everywhere in the play.  Seer Tiresias was blind but “saw” metaphorically.  (You are remembering all of this from world lit, correct?)  And that nosey, noisy Greek chorus kept yapping and gossiping, Harper Valley PTA-ishly, about the dysfunctional goings-on.  Like they didn’t have skeletons in their own closets.  That part grated on my nerves.


Okay, here’s the Oedipal connection to my happiness blog: the ridiculous DRAMA and IRONY of me getting so upset and UNhappy from time to time as I am directly in the very process of writing about happiness!!!  And nine times out of ten, the unhappy bringer is technologically produced.  Let me give you a couple of examples.  Source of Frustration #1: uncooperative pictures and images.  For some reason, when I first place them in my WordPress media library, pictures often look like this photo of me when I found an empty but colorfully festive table at the Savannah Book Festival and wished I had a bunch of literary-themed cupcakes or something to sell:

So calmly, and at this point still in charge, I hit the “edit” button and take 60-90 seconds trying to decide which arrow to press to rotate pic in the right direction:

Thanking Jesus that nobody is around to see me messing up this child-simple task so badly, yet at the same time feeling glad that finally I can get the picture straight, I hit the arrow button again:

Finally, in tears and wondering two things: if there would be any reader interest in a hate blog and what on earth possessed me to zip that foolish black jacket all the way up to my throat, I uncaringly and recklessly hit another button:


Source of Frustration #2 is what I call “The Rapture.”  When I was a child, I heard a good bit in church about the rapture–that time when (depending on your pre-, a-, and post- end times ideology) believers will be caught up in the air, and others will be left behind.  It never failed that after I heard such a sermon, the next day I would come home from school and NOBODY would be there.  Terrified, I would grab my obviously sinful cocker spaniel Blondie and, both of us whimpering, canvass the neighborhood frantically searching for mama, finally finding her down the street with pink rollers in her hair, getting a home perm and drinking a Yoo-Hoo.  (Sidebar:  I still get nervous when I turn down a popular aisle at Wal-Mart–Seasonal Candy–and find it deserted.)

Well, my Happiness Blog Rapture occurs when I am merrily typing along and, inexplicably, my fingers touch a key or combination of keys, and I delete EVERYTHING I’ve written.  The first time this happened was when I had just completed four items on my initial Five Friday Happy Bringers post.  Then blank.  Supposedly, WordPress autosaves your work, but not during the rapture, it seems.

One of the truths I have gained from my frustration with this blog is that happiness sometimes requires simple perseverance.  Just doing and re-doing when necessary.  And laughing at the falls.  And accepting “what is” and “what happens.”

Today I read a little of the book my older daughter is currently reading–Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.  In it the author suggests that we Americans could take a French lesson and do a better job of teaching our children how to accept frustration as a necessary and even desirable component of life.  (I probably need a nanny.)

But gosh, sometimes I really want to take the hammer to my brand new laptop!

Posted in Humor

Here’s Where I’m Registered

So yesterday my older daughter Amy took my younger daughter Emily to “register” at Babies r Us.  You may remember that Em is pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl–still need a boy name–send suggestions, even though Emily is very stubborn and keeps rejecting all my perfect names which are derivations of “Neal”).  It seems that a baby shower (well, babies shower) is forthcoming.  You know the drill:  invitee goes to store where female (it’s almost ALWAYS a female who is so feted) has “registered,” looks over list of potential gifts being begged for, avoids the $79.99 item and settles for one between twenty and thirty bucks.  Right?

Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m really happy my daughter is having a baby shower and getting free gifts.  My billfold is also happy.

But I’ve NEVER had a shower.  (Hush, you know what I mean.)  A gift-getting shower.  And since my birthday is January 10, and everybody was out of money after holiday binge shopping, I usually got clearance items for birthday presents when I was growing up …  ALL DONE UP IN LEFTOVER CHRISTMAS WRAPPING PAPER!  (Note to self: therapy talking point.)  There I am, five years old, blowing candles off a hard fruitcake, staring in confusion as my family sings Happy Birthday to me and I try to make sense of my gifts wrapped in Baby-Jesus-in-a-Manger paper.  Didn’t we just celebrate His birthday?

So here’s what I decided to do to correct the wrongs of the past and make things right:  I’m going around and registering myself at various places.  I spent yesterday afternoon doing so.  Here are ten places where I’m registered.  Just saying.

1.  Dunkin Donuts

2.  Moe’s


4.  Armani  (Only if get #3)

5.  Barnes and Noble

6.  The Dollar Tree  (Why pay more for party supplies and hydrogen peroxide?)

7.  Back in the Day Bakery


9.  Delta Airlines

10.  Bank of America

Thank you very much.