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

Neal’s Post from the Past: “Solitude & the Absent Smile”

Here’s a rather messily photographed past post from back in 2014. I may still have had a flip phone. I’m loath to change.

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Yes I admit it, I’m an optimist. Pollyanna’s a very good buddy. We take tap dancing together.

What I actually mean is I’m USUALLY a somewhat cheery person. But not always. A while back, 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 about blogging:

Finally I was called back to the eerily quiet and humanly empty procedure room where I had to wait in nervous solitude for quite a while. The doctor was running way behind.

I got bored pretty quickly and started playing with the IPhone’s … reverse camera capability. Doesn’t that sound better than saying I took a bunch of selfies?

I looked at these terrible 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 … and to be by yourself for a while. Being out of focus doesn’t mean being out of life.”

Posted in The View from Behind

The View from Behind: Introduction

For some reason, I have always appreciated, even revered, “the view from behind.”

As a child, on the first day of each new school year, I was a nervous wreck waiting for the teacher to announce our seating arrangement. Front of the class? 😢 Too much exposure! Too revealing! Too out there! Far too much responsibility to “be.”

A nice, comfy seat toward the back? 😁 Perfect. I get to observe, to “see.” To calmly breathe.

Note to self: ASAP, schedule at least three long therapy sessions to discuss the three short paragraphs above.

But for now, allow me to introduce my newest NealEnJoy blog category: “The View from Behind,” where I invite you to join me somewhere in the back.

Little gator and me, Okefenokee Swamp Park, Waycross, Georgia

Always hold an “alligator” (or any challenging life … critter) in front of you, and if you can, kindly but temporarily tape its mouth closed.

Posted in The Joy and Wisdom of Children

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I have FOUR grandchildren.  (Yes, you’re right, I’m FAR too young.  We all know that.  It’s a given.  But sometimes Mother Nature has a way of bypassing her laws of when people should have grandchildren–and presents them in, well, early, early middle age.)

Anyway, the second-from-the-oldest-grandchild is Gabriel, 5, a rambunctious bundle of pure little boy-ness.  He’s often affectionately referred to simply as “G.”  In his most recent pre-K school report, the patient-as-a-saint and give-her-a-raise teacher wrote that Gabriel is “smart, funny, with many friends … and has a touch of naughtiness.”

Here’s G (on the far right) with a few school buddies,

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And here he is the other night with older brother Daniel (8).

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Today I received this text from my daughter/G mom Amy:

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The brutal honesty of children.

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Posted in Encouragement

Top Ten Happiness Questions

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This past fall term at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design), where I teach composition to international students, my course topic was happiness studies.

Each week, I introduced a new question, which I told the students had the potential to make them happier–IF they took the time to ask and then answer the question.

Here are the ten questions.  I challenge you to ask them to yourself whenever you need a dose of joy.

Dr. Saye’s Top Ten Happiness Questions

1.  Just how important is it?

2.  Do I realize that I can choose to think a thought that feels better?

3.  Why do I sometimes try to control other people? That’s really not my job.

4.  What do I see RIGHT NOW that is beautiful?

5.  Who has helped me recently?

6.  What is a good holiday memory?

7.  What do I really, really love?

8.  Do I realize that I can take three deep breaths right now and center myself? My breath is my life.

9.  Who can I be a blessing to in the next hour or so? How can I do that? 

10.  Am I paying attention to NOW (and not wasting time regretting the past or worrying about the future)?

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I encourage you to print these questions out, put them up some place where you can easily see them, and start asking.

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Posted in Where Happiness Finds You

This Road

Each Monday morning, my former colleague Eric Nelson up the road at Georgia Southern University posts a poem on the departmental listserv.  I love today’s.  It feels a little “The Road Not Taken”-ish but with a twist of its own.

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What If This Road

— by Sheenagh Pugh

What if this road, that has held no surprises

these many years, decided not to go

home after all; what if it could turn

left or right with no more ado

than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin

were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,

that is shaken and rolled out, and takes

a new shape from the contours beneath?

And if it chose to lay itself down

in a new way; around a blind corner,

across hills you must climb without knowing

what’s on the other side; who would not hanker

to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know

a story’s end, or where a road will go?

— from What If This Road and Other Poems (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2003)

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Posted in College Teaching

The Smile — and Happiness Shared

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The students in my English 123 (Freshman Composition) classes at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) are doing what I call Visual Essays in this, their next-to-the-last week of Fall Quarter 2014.  We read two books this term, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Tal Ben-Shahar’s Happier, both relating to our course theme of “Happiness and the Exploration of Joy.”  The Visual Essay project invites the students to MAKE, rather than write, their papers. Traditional essay requirements are still required: a focus and thesis, structure, detail and support, etc.  But this essay morphs into a drawing or painting, a sculpture, a collage, a video, a food, etc.  Basically this project is a visual representation of one topic narrowed into a clear thesis/perspective/idea.  The challenge: how to “show” their thesis.

Debora Jacob (from Brazil) went to Forsyth Park here in Savannah last Saturday.  Here’s her Visual Essay titled “Happiness Shared” on the topic of the smile and its significance.

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Thanks for the encouragement, Debora.

Let’s all SMILE more often.

Posted in Photography 101

Solitude & The Absent Smile

Yes I admit it, I’m an optimist.  Pollyanna’s a very good buddy.  We took tap dancing together.

What I mean is I’m USUALLY a somewhat cheery person.  But not always.  A while back, 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 about blogging:

Finally I was called back to the procedure room but had to wait in solitude 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 … and to be by yourself for a while.

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (10/31/14)

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It’s All Hallow’s Eve!  (Wasn’t it just July 4th last week?)  And I am spookily happy.  Seriously.  Here’s why.

1.  Yesterday going to my grandtwins’ nursery school and carving a Jack O’ Lantern.  Here it is:

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Okay, that’s a lie.  I took that pic near my place in historic district Savannah.  Here’s the one I did:

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Sorry but that’s a lie as well.  (Is that a bat?)  Here’s mine:

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For more decades than I care to mention, my Jack O’Lanterns have looked EXACTLY the same.  But what fun with Matthew and Madison and their little classmates.

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2.  Speaking of pumpkins, here’s my dinner Wednesday night–Butternut Squash Soup in Pumpkin Bowls.

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Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Gourmet heaven.

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3.  The Savannah Film Festival this week, hosted by my SCAD–Savannah College of Art and Design.

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Such fun.

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What incredible films I saw, including a fascinating documentary about Summerville, GA artist Americana Howard Finster and a mesmerizing selection of short films from Ireland.

4.  Singing with James Brown in Augusts, GA.

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We’re belting out “Papa’s Got a Brand new Bag,” followed by “Make it Funky.”

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5.  The joy of holidays.

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Happy, Happy Halloween to you all!

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Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers — 9/19/14

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You know, if you really think about it, we have So Much to be thankful for.  (Btw, even though I’m an English prof, I’ve decided it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition.)

Here’s my short list this week:

1.  Hosting a small gathering to celebrate my parents’ 70th (yes, 70th!) wedding anniversary.

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Harold Hulon (Tub) Saye and Geneva Mae Reavis were married on September 12, 1944.

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Cousin Jennie (below) helped me host the party at my parents’ little house (which, by the way, my father built himself).

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2.  Sleep.

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(Grandson Gabriel)

3.  Celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day today, Sept. 19.

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4.  Starting a new term at SCAD this week with fifty wonderful students from all over the world.

5.  Hearing this quote today at SCAD’s fall quarter Faculty Conference:  “Don’t just Talk about it–Be about it.”

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Be Happy This Last Weekend of Summer 2014!