Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers 3/4/22

1. HR (Husband Robert) making “Martha Stewart’s Grand Marnier French Toast.” Oh my goodness!

With sausage patties and fruit.

2. Robert FINALLY getting off his post-Covid/pneumonia supplemental oxygen yesterday, a month after it started! He feels free without all that tubing draping around him.

“Our bodies know how to be well and are always trying to move toward wellness.”

“Thank you, but goodbye.”

3. Sitting in Greene Square, a couple blocks from my house here in Savannah, with beautiful red azaleas and a tiny little red house in the background.

4. The luck/great fortune to just be alive!

5. Fresh Blueberries!

Have a berry good weekend ahead!

Posted in Throwback Thursday, Neal’s Post from the Past

Neal’s Post from the Past: “Remembering Peter on this Teacher Appreciation Week”

Here’s a post from back when I was still teaching at Georgia Southern University. It’s about the appreciation of … a life.


It never fails. And I’m glad it doesn’t. Whenever I see yellow gladioli, I think of Peter. I saw some today.


Peter Christopher taught creative writing in the Department of Writing and Linguistics up at Georgia Southern University (where I taught for twenty-four years).  He was a colleague and a friend and the fiction person on my dissertation committee when I got my doctorate.

And Peter died far too early in 2008 of liver cancer.


After his passing, I reminisced about Peter’s impact on my life.  Here’s that remembrance:


Peter, “Something Blooming, Something Found” and the Glorious Gladioli

Somehow, yin-yangishly I suppose, Peter’s smile carries both playful humor and serious authority as he says to me, “Here’s what I want you to do, Neal.”

“Take all that,”  Peter points at the pages and pages of text I have been rather proudly producing for weeks before asking/begging him to be the fiction person on my dissertation committee, “and put it aside–or throw it away.”

My dissertation is going to be an examination of how fiction can be used as a type of educational research, as a way of knowing.  And as part of my work, I want to write a novella which illustrates, through the characters and plot, various educational stances I have studied and enjoyed.  But I’m not a fiction writer, and I don’t really know how to get there.  I want Peter to sort of help quickly guide me through the process, tell me I can do it, be a cheerleader of sorts.

“Uh, well, you mean I’m not going to be able to use this?”

“Maybe.  We’ll see.  But for now I want you to forget everything you’ve written and have planned so far.  Here’s your homework.”  Again the smile–the smile that is beginning to get on my nerves just a little.  “For two weeks and for about an hour or so a day, I want you to freewrite.”

“You mean, just write about this novella idea I have?”

“No, Neal, freewrite about you.  About your life, what’s going on, what’s been, what’s to come.  About your inside life.  Your outside life.  Your family.  Work.  Friends.  Faith.  Anything that comes to mind.  Don’t stop for an hour–just write.”

My thoughts at this moment:  “Peter, are you CRAZY?  I am teaching full time.  I am on a deadline.  I do not have the time or interest to play your little freewriting game.  I just want to get this thing finished.  So no, I CAN’T and I WON’T do that.  And by the way, you’re supposed to just ENCOURAGE me, be my CHEERLEADER.”

My words at this moment:  “Oh, okay.”

After the frustratingly productive freewriting, which ends up changing in wonderful ways the entire story I will tell, Peter and I begin three months of tortuous joy.  I learn from a master.  Our weekly schedule goes something like this:

1.  Neal spends hours and hours and hours writing for a week.  Usually trying to get one scene done.
2.  Neal puts his folder of work (pretty good work in Neal’s mind) into Peter’s mailbox at the end of the day.
3.  The next afternoon Neal gets up from his desk and walks halfway across the hall towards Peter’s office, changes his mind and walks back to his own office and sits down.
4.  Neal feels silly at this childish behavior, gets up again and walks three-forths the way to Peter’s office, then returns to his own office once again.
5.  Neal calls himself all sorts of shaming names and finally walks all the way into Peter’s office, often simply because Peter has seen him walking back and forth, and tells him to COME IN.
6.  Peter smiles.
7.  Peter speaks:  “I can tell you put a lot of work into this, Neal.  But….”
8.  Neal revises.  And revises.  And revises.
9.  Neal realizes Peter is gifted beyond measure.

When we approach the end of the novella work, and I am fretting over a title for it, Peter tells me with a laugh, “Don’t worry about that.  I’m good with titles.  I’ll come up with one.  My gift.”

One of the young characters in my story, Kellie, LOVES flowers, grows them everywhere she can.  Her favorite is the yellow gladiolus.  (“It stands up in a garden.  It’s not afraid to be seen.”)  And since my tale shows a small group of high school students who come to realize that they have viable voices which are important and should/must be heard, Peter names my novella, “Something Blooming, Something Found.”

I am nervous as the dissertation defense begins.  I have foolishly invited folks from across campus to attend and quite a few are here.  Days before, when I asked Peter his advice about defending, he said that I should forget the negative concept of defense and just let my novella’s characters speak.  So that’s what I do.

I look at all those gathered in the Dean’s Conference Room in the College of Ed, take a deep breath, and begin my defenseless defense.  As I start, I see and sense Peter (“rock” in Greek) confer upon me three things: his trademark encouraging smile; a subtle and hidden to all but me “you-can-do-it!” thumbs up; and the realization, as my characters begin to breathe and speak, that something is blooming in me, and I am finding something, something I have not really grasped or undertsood until this moment in this room: I am a writer, not just a teacher of writing.

The next day, I walk into Peter’s office (without the ridiculous false starts) and present him with a bouquet of proud yellow gladioli.  He hoots in delight.  Hours later I hear a tap on my door, look up, and there he stands.

“Neal, I have been sitting at my desk looking at your flowers.  Really looking at them.  Seeing them.  They’re lovely.  They are so intricate, the way they turn and twist,” he says as he makes a circular gesture with one hand.


“And there’s really only one word to describe them: GLORIOUS. They are glorious. Thank You.”

We chat and laugh a while.  Then Peter leaves.

But that’s okay.  He’s just across the hall.

[I write this in present tense for two reasons:  One, Peter has me write my novella in present tense.  And two, in ways that are important, perhaps most important, transcendent, eternal, Peter is with us.  Ever will be.  His smile that you and I came to appreciate so so much.  His always gentle spirit.  His instruction he gave to so many.  His embodiment of encouragement.  His model of living.  And His beautiful closing for each email and note he penned–“All thrive!”]


Here we are after I defended my dissertation:


On a whim, right before I published this post a few moments ago, I typed “GSU + Peter Christopher” in a search engine.  A Rate My Professor link from 2008 popped up.  One student wrote:

PC was my mentor.  I took every writing class he taught.  Writing was only a minor when I went to GSU… I would have majored if I could have.  He was a dear friend.  He taught me more than just how to be a good writer, he taught me how to love life — to have a passion for life.  He is gone from this earth, but never from my heart.


Rest peacefully, Peter.  We remember you with appreciation and love.


Related Post:  The Viewing & the Circle of Life

Posted in Joy, Humor

Hop Scotch

Since Robert is doing so much better after Covid AND serious pneumonia, he wanted something special, “as a reward.”


(Just between you and me, he’s long past the I-need-a-reward stage. But he is still on oxygen. And sometimes you just go along. But not much longer.)

He didn’t want a new blanket, or a Cadbury egg since it’s so close to Easter, or a new pair of hospital non-grip socks.

No, of course not, he wanted something healthy: Whiskey! But not just any whiskey. He wanted Oban. You don’t know about this Scottish whiskey? Of course you don’t. I wish I didn’t either. It is preposterously expensive.

But I bought it. For my fellow.

Here’s to Robert’s health!

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers 2/25/22

1. Walking over to Sorry Charlie’s here in Savannah for a dozen oysters.

2. Speaking of walking, walking through Savannah’s February blooming.

I love dandelions!

3. Still speaking of walking, Robert, recovering from Covid-related pneumonia, now able to join me for short walks (with his portable oxygen).

And intently taking a picture of this “it-may-be-nearly-spring-but-I’m-not” brown October-looking leaf.

4. Pausing to be thankful for always having enough food to eat. Everybody doesn’t.

5. Opening night of Cinderella last night at Savannah Country Day School— with Grandson Daniel playing the Prince.

Have a magical weekend!

Posted in Throwback Thursday, Neal’s Post from the Past

Neal’s Post from the Past: “A Label-Free World”

Hello out there. I did this blog post quite a while ago, but thought in today’s adversarial political and cultural environment, it might be relevant. We (okay, I!) judge others much too quickly.


Let’s try, in this new year with relatively few mistakes in it so far, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to refuse to label somebody or some thing based on initial interactions or our preconceived notions.


What an incredible truth!  (And, oh gosh, how it indicts me.)


I LOVE this short video about labeling:



Let’s try to make it a label-free year (at least for you and me).

Posted in Quick Quality Quote

Neal’s QQQ — “Quick Quality Quote” for Today: 2/22/22

A new blog category offering inspiring … or perspiring quotations.

But first, isn’t today’s date so very cool and all “Twosday “?! Ex-wife/retired math professor Donna (I’m still struggling to find a better term than “ex-wife”) explained 2/22/22 on our family’s joint text thread. That’s me saying, “Happy, Healthy….” and then Donna answering:

[Fyi: I had Just finished PREDICTING that I would win tonight’s Mega Millions before reading her text.]


Okay, sorry, here’s the inaugural QQQ:

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.”

Philosopher Abraham Joshua Hershel

Let’s BE.

Let’s LIVE.

Let’s be HOLY.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “NPA — Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety — Part One”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

So, I remind you that a while back my therapist gave me a homework assignment to come up with some strategies for dealing with my anxiety when it shows up, an Anxiety Protocol, so to speak.

“Don’t make it too long with too many items or strategies. Or too complicated,” Rubi advised. (I’m good at droning on and on. And I excel at long lists and complications. I’m actually kinda proud of all that.) He also told me to make sure I begin each of my strategies with “intentionality.” That I need to be deliberately attentive and to intend that each strategy or effort be effective.

Okay, no problem, I can be short, uncomplicated and deliberate, if you insist, I thought, a little peevishly on the drive back from Statesboro.

I divided my protocol into three parts. The first deals with strategies which can help with both the physical and mental aspects of my anxiety. The second with mental, and the third with physical. Of course those divisions are academic only. The mental and physical ebb and flow into and through each other. But it makes for a neat three-part outline, which I will share as a printable handout when I finish posting all three parts.

Today’s blog post briefly examines NPA Part One.


(How I can attend to the experience of anxiety in my mind and my body.)

Meditation — Any of my saved meditations from “10% Happier,” “Buddify,” “Apple Fitness+” or meditation on my own without guidance.

I LOVE the practice of meditation. But I’m TERRIBLE at it. My mind keeps wandering far, far off: “Will Season Four of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ FINALLY address Susie’s sexuality?! Stop it, back to your breath, Neal.”

Seriously, apps actually help me tremendously with navigating the confusing world of meditation. “10% Happier” with Dan Harris is my favorite. It’s a bit pricey at $100 a year, but it’s worth it. The app offers courses on meditation, as well as single, short meditations on just about any subject you can imagine. Also podcasts and lectures. It has been a lifesaver for me.

• Slow Side-to-Side Head Movement — Noticing colors, shapes, pictures, loved items, etc. as you move your head left to right.

This short practice is so easy and simple, but incredibly effective for me. As you begin to rotate your head slowly from side to side, try to notice any items that bring joy or peace or color, etc— inhale as you move your head to one side, then exhale as you turn your head back. Simple, distracting and calming. I love it.

• Inhaling and Exhaling

— “Breathing in, I calm the mind. Breathing out, I calm the mind. Breathing in, I calm the body. Breathing out, I calm the body.”

— In through the nose. Out through pursed lips (like through a straw).

— In, cool. Out, warm.

— In, yes, Out, yes

Joyful, slow, deep breathing. Calming for my mind and body.

• Hot soothing teas

I continue to be amazed at how a simple hot cup of tea can also bring about soothing calm to my mind and my body. Slowly holding the warm cup and savoring the aroma and taste and ethos help to bring about needed peace.

My three favorites: Green Tea Matcha (with toasted rice), Peppermint and Echinacea.

Here’s my Tea Carousel.


Your thoughts, ideas, suggestions? (Was I short and deliberate enough?)

NPA Part Two coming soon.

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers: 1/28/22

1. The ability to breathe. Deeply and fully. Take a deep inhale and enjoy the gift. (But don’t forget to exhale.)

2. My Morning Wall. Okay, that needs explanation. I usually get up before Robert each morning. This is what greets me above our breakfast table. I sit on the couch and stare up at it. It brings me joy.

3. My love of Georgia State Parks.

4. My husband.

5. My connection with you blog folks.

Blessings to you all!

What is a Happy Bringer for you today?