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!

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers — 8/15/14

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I love these lazy, hazy crazy days of summer!  Here’s Nat King Cole singing about them.  Listen as you read the Happy Bringers:

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1.  Friendly dogs coming up to me as I sit and read in Washington Square — “my square” here in Savannah’s historic district.

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2.  Going to the Meet Your Classmates and Teachers Social at Grandson Gabriel’s Pre-K class at Savannah Country Day.

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(My grandies call me Abu.  Read why here.)

3.  Making up a cool recipe the other night — Sautéed Collards with Red Beets and Onions.

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4.  The (frequent) sight and sound and smell of late afternoon heavy rain in Savannah.

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(Outside my living room window.)

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5.  The sheer joy of being enthusiastic.

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Here a wonderful article about that very subject:

Enthusiasm is the Key to Happiness

Have a gloriously enthusiastic weekend ahead!

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Posted in Humor, The Joy and Wisdom of Children

Magic Dream Spray

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Do other folks out there do what my family does?  All get iPhones and set up a little Family Group Messaging System?  Well, my two daughters Amy and Emily, along with Donna (even though divorced now, we remain the best-est of friends) have done just that.  And it’s such an incredibly efficient strategy for staying in touch, bothering each other constantly and having SO MUCH FUN!

The other night, daughter Amy (and mother of grandsons Daniel, 7 and Gabriel, 4) sent us this text.

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I LOVE faith-stretching strategies such as that!  My response:

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A bit more of Amy’s explanation:

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Me:

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End of discussion until a couple of days later when we received this text from Amy as she, Orte and the boys were driving down to Florida for the weekend:

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Family … magical.

Maybe that’s what family is … Magic Dream Spray.

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Posted in In Our Own Backyard, Savannah Joy

Tybee Lifeguarding

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So this morning I decided to “do church” by driving twenty minutes south from my place in Savannah’s historic district to Tybee Island.  Even though the dark clouds kept threatening to open up, I communed with nature and thanked God for the beauties of creation.

(I wanted to take up an offering, but the obviously heathen beachcombers just would not cooperate.)

So I walked.

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And looked.

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And listened.

And then, lo and behold, at one point I glanced up from checking my stock portfolio …

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… and all of a sudden JUST KNEW what my Tybee trip this morning was Really All About:

“Look!  I am meant to Be a Lifeguard!”

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And, clearly, the island is in dire need–the lifeguard stand stands sadly empty.

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“Hey you!  Yes you!”

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“I’m talking to you!”

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“That swimming suit looks ridiculous on you!!  What were you thinking?!”

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And a little later:

“Oh gosh, someone’s in trouble!  I gotta take action!”

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After the life save, I hurried back up to my post 14.

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And then this “official” rescue personage came driving up …

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… and asked me what the heck I was doing on a condemned life guard stand.  Like it wasn’t crystal clear that I was saving lives while he was golf-carting around and looking at girls.

“Sir, for future reference, please do not climb on these old structures.  And be careful climbing down.”

(As if a fit lifeguard like me would have any issues.)

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If you need me at the beach, rest assured, I will be on the lookout.

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Posted in In Our Own Backyard

September Oaks Revisited

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Last Saturday I revisited September Oaks Vineyards— a small but incredibly beautiful boutique winery in Ridgeland, SC.  On my first trip to SOV about a year ago, I fell in love with the place–as well as the fun and friendly folks who work there, especially Nikki Davis …

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Nikki

… a kindred spirit, who at the time of my first trip (and the above pic) worked part-time at September Oaks and taught high school English in Ridgeland.  Thus, we hit it off as fellow English teachers right from the start.  Nikki has since become a faithful blog follower and happiness promoter.

For this second visit, good friends Robert and Edward (such strong, classical names–who names their child “Neal”?  And with an “a”?) accompanied me along lazy U.S. 17 on the forty-five minute trip from Savannah.

The entrance to September Oaks is as beautiful as the place itself.

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So I motored down the old oak-lined entryway and parked Skedaddler.  (My little car’s name.  What?  You don’t name your vehicles?  Well, why not?  And, what?  You think “motored” sounds a little silly and pretentious?  Well, I would too under normal circumstances, but those ancient oaks and the incredible fall weather made me want to talk British-fancy.)

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A special event was going on that day:  A Novel Wine Tasting & Literary Festival, featuring readings and book signings from over two dozen authors.  Such fun!  (More about that later … with a Princess Diana twist.)

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So we sauntered (there I go again) into the tasting room, paused just inside the door because the place was booming with folks at the counter, and glanced around.  But not for long–because suddenly I heard a hooting and hollering, and saw Nikki rushing toward me and giving me a big hug, as if I were, oh I don’t know, a World Famous Blogger or something!  It was so cool to see her again.

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We waited our turn for the tasting and then belly-ed up to the beautiful new counter …

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… which is made from crushed wine bottles poured in layers to give the appearance of a flowing river amid vineyards.  WHO thinks to do creative stuff like that?!  When I think of crushed bottles, I always remember the time as a kid when I stepped on a broken Coke bottle and had to have a terribly painful and tear-producing tetanus shot.  And let’s be honest, nobody wants to see THAT scene worked into a wine tasting counter!

Anyway, we met our pourer Annette (delightful), who led us through three whites and three reds, from dry to sweet.  We were asked to score each wine on a scale of 1-5 points.  And I probably don’t need to tell you, but wine has alcohol in it!  Edward and Robert were SO much better at the taste scoring than I.  Really.  They swirled the wine around, smelled it deeply, commented on its color, and even had exaggerated expressions on their faces after each tasting which somehow seemed to register their definite approval or casual dismissal.  They even made comments such as, “Oh yes, I would serve this one with fruit and chocolate” or “This white would pair perfectly with fresh, local seafood.”  Me?  What was I doing?  Well, before I answer, look at the picture below.  Although the photo is a bit dark, here I am with Edward and Robert.

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My biggest concern during our tasting was not wine aroma or pairing possibilities … but that woman in the right edge of the picture.  See her?  You can’t tell from the pic, but she’s really close (too close in my opinion) to the two heavenly smelling featured dishes at the tasting–southern seafood gumbo, and shrimp and grits–and she’s actually somewhat blocking my path to the food.  All through the tasting I kept glancing over my shoulder and worrying about how I could get past her.

Here’s a lighter picture of Robert and Edward.  I took it mainly to get a better perspective on how to get past that lady.

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I did it!

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Here’s Nikki with Evie Woods, wife of September Oaks owner Grady Woods:

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And here I am with Evie:

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And here’s Evie between two wine bottles:

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And here’s Evie eating gumbo:

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And here’s Evie feeding me gumbo:

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After the wine (and food) tasting, Annette asked if we would like a tour of their new barrel room.  Well, who’s gonna turn that down?

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On your visit (and of course you’re going to visit soon), look closely and you’ll see my shadowy spirit protectively overseeing the oak barrels.

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Oh my gosh.  Look what showed up next in the warehouse area:

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A set of drums!  So of course I had to play a while.

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It would have been so much more enjoyable for myself and the others if I knew how to play drums.  Oh well, we moved on to the big steel barrels.

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Next, we ventured outside to the vineyard and the literary reading.

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Here’s Jack and Robin Firestone, authors of Chasing Diana.  The Firestones were in Paris on the night of Diana’s fatal car crash sixteen years ago … and were in the tunnel … and saw the wreck!  Chasing Diana is their fascinating story.  Here they are reading excerpts from the book.

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And here I am harassing them.

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Evie and Grady, SOV’s gracious owners and hosts.

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What a joyful Saturday afternoon.  I hereby declare September Oaks to be the Official Winery of NealEnJoy.com!

A special thanks to Robert Smith for taking most of the pictures in this post.

Read the blog post about my first visit here:  SOV 1.

Posted in Delicious Joy

Tomato Joy

To me, the perfect picture of summer happiness is this …

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… vine-ripened tomatoes.  The color, the smell, the taste and the memories of tomato summers gone by.

The above beauties went into my okra-tomato gumbo.

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Come on over!