Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (3/1/13)

It’s Friday again! Here are a few Happy Bringers.

1.  Samples of some of my SCAD international students’ work turned in this week. The assignment is called the Visual Essay and is based on a book we read, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  After reading the book, the students choose a theme, a character, a symbol, an idea, etc, and “make” their essay, using the composition concepts of thesis, structure, organization, support, and detail to get their point across.  Here are some completed projects.

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2.  My obsession with Irish blessings, quotes, and anything Savannah-St. Patrick’s Day-ish:

“May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”

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3.  My brand-spanking-new NealEnJoy blog card holder (and cards):

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4.  A picture that doesn’t make me look too fat:

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(Can I wear skinny jeans at my age?)

5.  Taking my ENG 193 (Composition for International Students) classes on a really fascinating docent-led tour of the exhibits at the SCAD Museum of Art during the recent DeFINE ART event (which was actually held at three of SCAD’s campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong).

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[More complete blog post on the museum tour to follow soon.]

Have an Artfully Beautiful Weekend!

Posted in Humor

NONCMA (Neal’s Online Norton Convo with Mark Anthony)

Recently my laptop somehow got a Most Terrible Virus which shut my e-world down for a while.  My first thought: “Why me?!  What have I done to deserve this?!”  (FYI:  When distressing things happen to me, the idea of a Happiness Blog completely escapes my consciousness.  Happy?!  Are you CRAZY?  And I start to think about writing a Pity Blog or a Hate Blog.)  

On a tangent, I wailed the exact same “Why Me?” refrain, only louder and with man tears, when they cancelled Cop Rock back in 1990.  You don’t remember Cop Rock?  Fine, here’s a clip from the show–which has been listed among the Five Worst Television Programs of All Time.  That really hurts my feelings BECAUSE I LOVED IT!  What’s not to love?  Cops singing, Gleefully, the storyline!  Hello.

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Anyway, my computer got sick, and I sure didn’t feel like singing.  I had to restart in Safe Mode and do all kinds of actions, such as holding one finger on F7 while I balanced on one foot.  Nothing worked.  I even asked Jesus for help.  Finally, frustrated and lonely, I somehow made an online connection (Jesus’ help?) and started frantically downloading antivirus software right and left, kind of like Kathy Griffin making fun of Oprah and yelling in a frenzy, “Look under your seats!  Tickets for everybody!  You’re all going with Gail and me to Bali!”

An hour later, with my computer running smoothly, I regained my balance, on both feet.  But it seems I had downloaded a few too many antivirus programs, including Avast!, McAfee, Trend Micro and Norton, most of which offered trial versions and then started to charge after a few weeks.  So today I realized I needed to do some cancellation, or get another part-time job.

I contacted Norton, and here’s (finally!) where my story begins.  Unable to get ahold of a literal person (is “literal” needed there?), I made a sort of appointment for an e-talk chat with a Norton customer service representative.  Here’s what I initially saw on my screen:

“Thank you for contacting Norton Support. We are currently experiencing longer than expected wait times. You have been now been placed in a queue and our next available expert will be with you soon.”

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A few minutes later:

“Thank you for your patience. One of our experts will be with you soon.”

[To be honest, I didn’t really have to have an “expert”–just anybody who knew a little bit about cancelling my trial version would be cool.]

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And soon after:

“You are now chatting with Mark Anthony.”

[I felt like I used to feel when my time finally arrived to sit in Santa’s lap.]

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Neal Saye: I am trying to cancel my Norton trial version.

Mark Anthony: Welcome to Norton Support! My name is Mark, I’d be glad to assist you with regards to canceling your trial.

Neal Saye: Thank you.

Mark Anthony: Neal, may I ask why are you canceling your trial?  Are you no longer using the Norton product?

Neal Saye: I already had an antivirus package on my computer.

[I was too embarrassed to admit that I had a Bali trip worth of antivirus programs protecting my laptop.]

Neal Saye: So I do not need another.

Mark Anthony: I understand Neal, but under this account nsaye@georgiasouthern.edu, I don’t see any trialware on it.

[His use of “Neal” started to make me feel as if I was talking to, I don’t know, maybe an old college buddy I hadn’t seen in eons.]

Neal Saye: Well actually that’s what I saw when I looked too. But I got a Welcome to Norton email at this email address.

Mark Anthony: I see. Okay let’s see if the product key for your trial is still on your computer.  Can you check on your My Documents folder if there’s a Symantec folder?

Neal Saye: [Panicking]  One second.

[I had no clue what he was talking about.  “Product key”?  Huh?]

Mark Anthony: No problem, Neal.

[That’s easy for him to say.  He’s a customer service representative.]

Neal Saye: I don’t see one there.

[Embarrassed.  Afraid he would dislike me because I couldn’t find the damn key.]

Mark Anthony: Okay, if you are sure that there is no Norton trial program installed on your computer, and I don’t see any trialware on your Norton account nsaye@georgiasouthern.edu, there’s no need for a cancellation, the one you received on your email is probably a Norton account greeting that you have signed-up an account.

Neal Saye: Okay, but if I somehow get charged, may I get a reimbursement?

[Beet red.  Made me sound SO cheap.]

Mark Anthony: You may at anytime contact us back.  If in any case you get charged, we will be more than happy to process a full refund.

[So happy.  He cares.]

Neal Saye: Thanks. Also aren’t you either a famous singer or a Shakespearean character? What are you doing working for Norton?!

[I don’t know why I say such things to perfect strangers, but it seemed right at the time.]

Mark Anthony: I get that a lot Neal, and you’re most welcome.

Mark Anthony: Anything else I could assist you with today?

[I would like to have engaged in more banter about my singer/character joke.  People close to me tell me that I’m not really a very funny person.  But that I think I am.  And that’s what makes people laugh.  I never know whether to take that as a compliment or insult.]

Neal Saye: Thanks again for helping me, Mark Anthony. That makes me happy. Speaking of happy, I write a happiness blog–check it out sometime at NealEnJoy.com. I’ll mention you!

[Rule of business: Never miss an opportunity to sell yourself.]

Mark Anthony: That’s great Neal.  I’ll be taking note of your blog and will check it out.

[Great response.  We will see if he does.]

Neal Saye: Have a great weekend!

Mark Anthony: Thank you for contacting Norton support, feel free to contact us anytime if you have further concerns. Have a great day!

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I suppose there’s no real moral to this blog story–maybe just this: customer service representatives are people too.

Posted in In Our Own Backyard

88 Reasons to Love the Carters

Last night I drove through the monsoon up to my old stomping ground, Georgia Southern University, to hear former President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter speak.

“An Evening with the Carters: A Conversation with the Former President and First Lady”

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Oh. My. Goodness. What an incredibly encouraging evening. Did you know that President Carter is 88 years of age? And going stronger than ever! (I’m just … “39” yet had to detour through Wendy’s drive-thru and grab a #1 with cheese just to get enough energy to calm my rain-soaked nerves and waddle into the Hanner Gym in some measure of consciousness.)

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I loved how the Carters were both entertaining and issues-specific on point. They divided the evening into segments of their life journey–with the President talking about their early years before the White House, followed by Mrs. Carter discussing their years in Washington. They then took turns sharing about their work with The Carter Center in Atlanta, dealing with many issues which other organizations don’t touch (eradication of tropical diseases, for example). The packed house interrupted the talk with applause at least a dozen times–and deservedly so. President Carter kept emphasizing the dire need for a return to non-partisan cooperation in our political world, as well as the responsiblity that each of us has to hold our politicians responsible for the decisions they make and the laws they pass.

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They seemed SO real, SO logical, SO much in touch with the possibility of changing the world into a better, healthier place.

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The coolest part of the evening: how this couple, who have been married over 60 years, kept deferring to one another. Their respect and love for each other came though so very clearly. (“Asking Rosalynn to marry me was the best decision I ever made.”) (“I grieved when Jimmy wasn’t re-elected. I know he would have been a better president than the one who won.”)

I sat next to this friendly, talkative couple, Leon and Morrie Shelkoff. Morrie is a school teacher, and Leon ran Leon’s Menswear in the Statesboro Mall for thirty years. They exuded happiness–look at those smiles!

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I drove back down I-16 to Savannah with buoyed spirits and a joyful respect for compassionate leadership.

(P.S. I met then-Governor Carter at a Governor’s Honors Luncheon way back when I was in high school. Even as a teenager, I had great admiration for the man.)

Posted in College Teaching

NealNotes on Neal’s KeyNote

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I had a great time at Friday’s Student Success in Writing Conference here in Savannah.  And I delivered the Keynote Address!

Here’s the blurb from the conference website:

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“Teaching Life: the Heart, the Art”

 Dr. Neal Saye.  Associate Professor Emeritus of Writing and Linguistics Georgia Southern University.  Adjunct Professor, Savannah College of Art & Design

Chair or co-chair of the Student Success conference for much of its 14-year history, Neal was also a key member of its founding committee. He reported on these experiences in “Pearls and Perils of Starting a Conference” (co-presented with Mary Marwitz and Michael Mills) at a Popular Culture Association in the South in Jacksonville, Florida. He brought the same dedication to running this conference as he did to his teaching philosophy. A dedicated blogger, Neal posted to his Facebook and WordPress sites: “My passion in life is learning about/exploring/playing with the subjects of joy and happiness. For the past five years or so, I have used this subject to inform my pedagogy and my day-to-day classroom assignments and activities. What has happened is that teaching about happiness has made me (and I hope my students) happier. Thus my passion spilled over into my teaching, which came rushing back into my life.”

Now an associate professor emeritus after 24 years of teaching writing at Georgia Southern University, Neal has returned to academia as an adjunct professor for the Savannah College of Art & Design. In addition to his well deserved emeritus designation, Neal’s honors and awards include Georgia Southern University Professor of the Year, 2010 and 1993; Dorothy Smith Golden Award for Teaching Excellence, Writing and Linguistics Department, 2003; Georgia Southern University Award for Excellence in Contributions to Instruction, 2001; “Most Approachable Professor” Award, Success-In-U Program, 1994; and “Funniest Professor” Award, Success-In-U Program, 1993. Neal earned his Ed.D. in Curriculum Studies/Cultural Studies in 2002. After earning dual B.S. degrees in English and Biology from Berry College, Neal came to Georgia Southern to earn his M.A. in English Language and Literature.

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Here I am at the podium about two seconds after being introduced:

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Kidding.  I actually loved all 35 minutes of it!  The audience was attentive, fun and laughed and ooohed at all the right places.  I used loads of technology with videos, pics and graphics–which all flowed seamlessly.  I’ll post the text of the talk a bit later (in case anyone’s interested) when I clean it up a bit for publishing.  For now here are some photos.

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The conference was held at the beautiful Coastal Georgia Center.

Here’s what I wore.  Up to the last minute, I was trying to decide between hip or plain ole.

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I know.  Probably too much.  But I wore a jacket over it.  But that eyeball kept looking out at people.

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(Armani, borrowed from son-in-law.)

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I loved catching up with former Georgia Southern colleagues.  Here I am with good buddy Mary Marwitz, who introduced me:

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(Isn’t that a cool scarf?)  And with Interim Writing and Linguistics Department Chair Phyllis Dallas:

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Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Curtis Ricker (and fellow grandfather):

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Chatting with J. Marie Lutz from Continuing Education and fellow GSU retiree Nancy Dessommes:

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And trying to listen in, unseen, on private conversations:

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Where are all the people?  Nobody’s here!

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Another fellow retiree Mary Hadley:

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GSU Provost Jean Bartels:

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Former co-worker and blog commenter Rachel VanHorn Leroy:

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Coolest tie at conference:

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What a crowd showed up!

Here’s a video I used about teachers dancing behind students:

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And here are a few quotes from the address:

“We find what we’re looking for.”

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“Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.”

Caring for Students 101 should be a required course in all teacher education programs.”

“The student is more important than the subject being taught.”

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A great time!

Posted in Uncategorized

Reblog: The Viewing & The Circle of Life

In preparation for tomorrow’s keynote address at the Student Success in Writing Conference here in Savannah, I am reblogging this pertinent and moving post.  We learn, we teach, we learn.  Then we teach, we learn, we teach – indeed a Circle of Life, my readers.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel getting heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

Posted in JoyInciters

Reblog: JoyInciter #3 — The Happiness Box

In preparation for tomorrow’s keynote address at the Student Success in Writing Conference here in Savannah, I am reblogging these three pertinent posts. EnJoy!

 

So far I have introduced two wonderfully effective strategies for increasing the frequency and intensity of happiness in our lives: JoyInciter #1–the Thanksgiving Book and JoyInciter #2–the Walking Into strategy. Are you practicing with either of them? The third JoyInciter–the Happiness Box– is both fun and transformationally creative. Let’s talk about it.

Recently I (along with Mr. Happy) presented a workshop for the Georgia Southern Writing Project and The Thinking and Learning Institute at City Campus in downtown Statesboro. (Gosh, that’s a mouthful.) (By the way, City Campus is a very cool entrepreneurial outreach of Georgia Southern.) This workshop, titled “Happiness in a Box,” is based on today’s third JoyInciter.

(Am I too old to wear that shirt? That VITAL question just occurred to me.)

(June Joyner, the Director of the GSU Writing Project, Mr. Happy and Yours Truly)

Before we discuss the “how” of the Happiness Box, let’s briefly examine two “why’s.” First, theoretically speaking, that which we consistently place our “gaze” upon, we will SEE in our world, in our reality. (And all our realities are in constant morph mode, depending on where and how long we place our “mindsight.”) My school, Georgia Southern, for example, is a party school for those who choose to see it in that light. However, GSU is a rigorous academic institution for eyes which view it from that perspective. I suggest to you (and what I’m about to say is the HEART of this blog) that we need to take great care about where we place our consistent, ongoing attention.

The second Happiness Box “why” is childlike and fundamental: making and maintaining this box is FUN and makes one happier, more excited, hopeful, and expectant of good.

To start, find a shoebox-sized box. You can choose to decorate it if you like, but at least write a Statement of Intention on the box somewhere. Here’s one of my Happiness Boxes:

And my Statement of Intention (written on the underside of the box cover) is simple: “The contents of this box make me happy.”

Next, go through magazines, brochures, newspapers, etc. and find pictures of that which gives you joy. Anything. I suggest that you DO NOT worry about trying to organize or structure this process–have fun with it. Look for pictures, colors, words, abstractions that “light you up” in some way. Cut them out and put them in your box. Also look for photos, little items, paint samples, memorabilia which cause your heart to sing. You have thus started the Happiness Box strategy.

Keep adding to your box, and from time to time, empty it onto your dining room table or your bed or floor. Look at all that you have accumulated. If you are like most of my students (and me), you will see categories of happiness begin to emerge: family, material desires, spirituality, food, goals, accomplishments, hobbies, memories, sports, pets, etc.

The more you add to your happiness box, the greater the sense of joy and expectation. A wonderful added benefit is that by creating the box, you begin to get CLEARER about that which you really want. It’s so much fun to look through your accumulated desires.

Here are some workshop participants working on their boxes.

And here are some Happiness Boxes from students in my English Composition II classes this semester:

(Amanda Hedrick and Mr. Happy at the workshop.)

So there it is, JoyInciter #3, The Happiness Box. I urge you to make one for yourself, and begin to get clearer about what makes you joyful and exuberant.

(P.S. In my classoes at school, there are various writing prompts and assignments connected to this project.)

Posted in College Teaching, JoyInciters

Reblog: Introducing the JoyInciters

In preparation for tomorrow’s keynote address at the Student Success in Writing Conference here in Savannah, I am reblogging these three pertinent posts. EnJoy!

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.