The First Anniversary

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We met with the lead doctor of the transplant team.

He said, “Come back in July and we’ll get her on the waiting list for a liver.”

One year ago today, my wife had exactly seventeen days to live.

No one expected such a timeline.

We received the news in February she needed a liver transplant.

My attention was focused on how our lives would change and what it might be like after the surgery. I had made plans to retire so I could take care of her.

It never occurred to me she wouldn’t make it to the surgery.

Monday, 4-20-15

Bob’s doctor admitted her to the hospital for fluids and tube feeding. Gastric problems had made it impossible for her to gain much needed weight to prepare for the transplant. A feeding tube would bypass the stomach and avoid problems.After four days, it appeared as though the plan was working. She had gained a few pounds and lab values looked good.

Saturday, 4-25-15

X-rays to check on the placement of the feeding tube revealed the presence of double pneumonia.

Bob and I have a mutual friend we both admire and love. Miriam Goldberg has a hobby of watching the news for celebrity deaths. Anytime a celebrity dies, she knows the story. Every time we would ask her something like, “What happened to Merle Haggard? How did he die?”  Miriam would reply, “His heart stopped beating.”

4-27 calendarMonday, 4-27-15 at 4:37 P.M. Bob’s heart stopped beating.
Seventeen days from today, family members will be in town to join me in observing the first anniversary of Bob’s death.

It will be a special day for us all. Not because she died, but because she lived, our lives will never be the same again.What a blessing.

I’m at peace.

 

 

Goodbye

In English literature class, we were taught a pun is a “play on words.” Officially, according to Merriam-Webster, it’s “the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.” The degree of humor varies with the listener. Often times, puns are greeted with groans and a roll of the eyes.

My late wife and I loved puns and often discussed several potential puns as subjects of photography. Some readers may not be familiar with a 1967 hit by the Rolling Stones, the subject of several of our conversations and this photo:

Ruby Tuesday

 

In November 2009, the New York Times reported, “[Ruby Tuesday founder, Sandy Beall] was never much of a Rolling Stones fan; the name for his restaurant was suggested by one of several fraternity brothers who were co-investors.” Obviously, his frat brothers were fans of the Stones. I was (still am.) The first time I heard the name of the restaurant, the Stones’ song came to mind as fast as you can say, Jack Robinson.

The photo above was taken by a Ruby Tuesday associate in the Orlando airport. I was returning home from a four day golf outing with Mickey Mouse et al. The trip was planned months ago as an element of my grief recovery. The loss of my spouse was devastating. The solo trip was healing.

I studied the photo closely and have come to realize something I wasn’t conscious of during the shoot. Once the woman had agreed to take the photo and we had the setup arranged, I got into character. Notice my left heel is lifted a bit, my arm extended, my head tilted back a bit as though I’m straining to see someone in the crowd inside the restaurant. A slight blur in my fingers shows movement in the wave. The carry-on bag shows I’m traveling.

In addition to the obvious pun, I’m waving goodbye to my past.

A constant struggle for me in dealing with her death has been to live in the present while honoring many great memories.

This photo proves to me I’m there.

Blogging in 2016

Blogging 101 – Intro

NOTE: To all my long time followers, I’m beginning 2016 with a course from WordPress to improve my blog. First assignment is this introductory piece.

I’m a father, grandfather, pharmacist, photographer, published author

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Quadruple self portrait inspired by Norman Rockwell’s triple.

and as of 2015, a widower. Home is a one hundred year old farm house in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. I do not live alone. Here with me are dozens of plastic flamingos along with four dogs and two cats—all rescues.

My first published writing was a commentary on self control for Blogcritics.org on October 21, 2009. It was followed by a series of book, audio CD, and movie reviews through May 2011.

My first personal blog article appeared on March 6, 2009 on another platform. That blog is still active today and topics include everything from “attitude” to “zebras.” I have opinions on just about everything although I rarely write about politics.

My first blog on WordPress went live February 26, 2011 and the topic was my efforts in travel photography.

My first novel, The Tourist Killer,  made its debut on Amazon November 7, 2012.

I write for the same reason many readers read—escape. It’s fun to spend time with people whose origins began with the stroke of my pen, or more accurately, the caress of my fingers on the keyboard. Once I’ve established their identity, I turn them loose and see what happens. They tell their stories in dialog and move the plot along. I never know what they’ll do next. That’s the thrill I get from writing.

Fortunately, I have talented associates who read my work (including this piece) for content, grammar, and spelling.

For 2016, my blogging goal is to connect with readers who might enjoy my work and anyone who appreciates photography. My photography and writing influence each other and have proven to be a synergistic combination.

My writing goal is to finish my third novel, A Year Without Killing, which is currently presented in serial form HERE.

Won’t you join me for a year of blogging adventure?

Any and all feedback is appreciated.

Art Ambush Founder Interviewed

A sixty-nine year old woman sits in her late husband’s favorite easy chair.

The only sound is the crackling of the dry wood in the stone fireplace.

The flames provide her only light in the early winter morning.

Her trusted hound snuggles against her feet.

She isn’t sad, she’d grown accustomed to living alone years ago. She smiles and lays her head back in the wingback chair. A conscious reverie segues into a rare morning nap–and a dream.

Luger’s bark at the mail carrier awakens her and she pats him on the head, “Let’s go check the mail.”

She didn’t have to go far.

Tony left her mail on the front porch.

In boxes.

Three boxes, each a bit larger than shoe boxes, all full of mail, and one package.

She called out for him, “Tony!” but he was gone. “Surely this can’t all be for me.”

But it was.

She was the victim of another “art ambush.”

Cards, letters, small photographs, and one original oil painting had arrived to show her she wasn’t forgotten.

Anonymous expressions of care from artists (and friends of artists) all over the world.

If she had known who to thank, it would have been Lisa Brandel.

We caught up with Lisa last week for a brief telephone interview.

Welcome, Lisa!  We’re excited to find out more about Art Ambush.  Once our readers are familiar with your project, the name will be obvious and quite descriptive. Tell us how the project was born and how the name was chosen.

Well, I am an insomniac and one night when I couldn’t sleep I was searching for

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Art Ambush founder, Lisa Brandel

inspirational quotes to use in the Widow Lady-to write about- and I found a picture of a man who I thought I needed to paint him.  I started doing the painting and someone asked me what I planned on doing with the painting.  I said I was going to send it to the man (who happens to be a stage actor) as like an ambush of art he didn’t expect.  Then my friend, who was also an artist, sent me some art and I sent him some art all out of the blue and we ended up putting together the page and decided that we’d give this gift of giving to other people.  That was three years and 1500 ambushes ago.

  • How has Art Ambush been promoted and how many active participants are there worldwide?

We have a stable of about 40 regular artists and then we have closer to 100 people who jump in when they see something that pulls at them.  I opened up the ability to ambush to ‘non-artists’ or people who don’t want to be listed but want to give and it’s been incredible the response.  It is now growing all the time and we have artists and non-artists in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and all over the U.S.

  • How are recipients of Art Ambush’s attention chosen?

People nominate them to me.  They send me an email on FB or in my private email  telling me the story of the person and why they feel they should get a bit of ambushed love.  Sometimes we’ll catch a story on the news about someone going through a hard time, or being a hero and the group kind of just calls for the want to give to someone.  So it’s varied.

  • Other than the price of a stamp and perhaps a greeting card, what expenses might a new participant expect?

It’s really up to the giver.  I’ve sent thousand dollar oil paintings at random to people and I know others who have done the same.  We have jewelry artists who send pieces that I know are expensive, but we don’t talk cost really none of us ever have.  So, it’s really at your own comfort level.  If you want to send a card and that’s where you are good, then by all means it is as priceless as what I might send. I see no distinction.  We’ve had some non-artist send art supplies to people, CD…even some of our writer friends have sent autographed copies of their books.  The things sent are as varied as the people we send them to.

Lisa at work

Brandel at work in her Ohio studio.

  • Some well meaning, caring types out there who won’t or can’t take the time to send a card, would take the easy way out and say, “Just let me throw some money at the problem.” Does Art Ambush accept donations and if so how might a philanthropist contribute?

     

We actually have only ever gotten one cash donation and the person just sent it to me.  I used it to help us buy our ambush cards and mailing labels for those who send out packages.  We’ve not asked for donations really even when we’ve sent large boxes of things to groups for the shipping.  I just absorb the expense and that’s fine with me.

  • We suspect there must be associations of artists of all media who could get involved. Which art groups have supported your efforts?

We have supporters all over the place and all over Facebook, but we as a group have kept in the shadows.  We aren’t trying to go viral, nor do we expect or want spotlight for what we do.  That kind of defeats the purpose in some ways.  We like the whole ninja aspect of what we do…we slide out from the shadows, dump some happy on people, and then retreat back to the shadows again.  Our giving is an act of faith.  You don’t see what happens or how it helps people you just do it and hope.

  • What are your future plans for Art Ambush? How big can this become? Do you have any celebrity endorsements or participants?

The Ambush has been gaining ground since it was founded, and honestly keeping it small has been harder than growing it.  People want to do good things and this just kind of gives a direction for it, a focus.  I would like to see in the future a home base for the group, a physical location, things to be more organized on a bigger scale without losing the personal touch, and to be able to employ some people so people can work in something they love, but that is all down the road.  As far as celebrity endorsements, well…We have ambushed some famous people both here and in England, but we don’t advertise that nor do we want to really…it’s a personal experience made person to person without care of status, age, religious leanings, anything really. No one person and no one ambush is more important than another.  We keep the names to ourselves and just do the work.  The work, the art, the giving, that is what we celebrate.

Want to participate in the next ambush? Check with Lisa via Facebook for two current Art Ambushes.

To visit  the Art Ambush page on Facebook, click HERE.

To see Lisa Brandel’s art, click HERE.

Steak Dinner for One (or…I’m Alright)

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This night, I dined alfresco on the back deck.

Dining alone has never been my first choice. In fact, if pressed to rank my preferences, it would come in dead last. At some point in our lives, I suppose we’ve all had to endure a solitary dining experience. Over the last forty or so years, I’ve had my share of solo meals.

During the last fifteen years, it was a rare occurrence. Now, it seems as though it is my destiny.

Fate stepped in. Seems like that happens a lot to us mortal humans.

I’ve always been the optimist. Not sure if it’s the result of genes or a learned behavior, but I have forever seen that proverbial glass as half full. My feet seem to always find the sunny side of the street and I accentuate the positive. It’s become a lifelong habit.

In a twelve week span that included May, June, and most of July, my brother-in-law, John, and his wife, Veronica, taught me how to cook, plan meals, manage my refrigerator and freezer and gave me some tips on shopping. I now use my slow cooker and rice cooker regularly and freeze my leftovers for later meals. Veronica taught me the importance of an attractive presentation of a meal. That made sense to me. Get the visual appeal in tune with the aromas and flavors.

Last week, I decided to prove to myself that I could do it and at the same time, assure my family and friends that I’ve learned a few things. Planning and shopping started the project. A white cotton table cloth and white “hotel” napkins came from Amazon. At the grocery story, I purchased a bag with nineteen different kinds of lettuce for my salad. Chopped walnuts and dried cranberries have always been a favorite in my salad and I found some Texas toast croutons in the cupboard. Add in the Marzetti Sweet & Sour dressing, and the salad was done. IMG_20150812_193400675

My favorite cut of beef is a rib eye steak. I prepared that on the grill while enjoying a cocktail of Wild Turkey and Coke. After I turned it the last time, I cut a few holes into it and filled them with blue cheese. Voila!  Black and blue rib eye. A can of corn warmed with real butter (it’s better for you than margarine) rounded out the main course. Complementing the steak dinner was a glass   of  Bell’Agio Chianti.

For dessert, I had vanilla ice cream with chopped up Oreos and a fresh cup of Community Coffee. Finally, I finished off the evening with an after dinner drink (Amaretto) and a fine cigar (Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8).

Everything worked out well. While I was the only diner physically present, I’m certain I was not alone. I enjoyed it so much, I’ll definitely do it again. In fact, I’ve purchased a red and white checkered table cloth for the next time. The fare will be Italian—probably pork chops (instead of meatballs) and spaghetti.

Dinner anyone?

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After dinner drink and cigar. (Yes, the photos are out of sequence, but I don’t know how to fix that.)

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Where’s the steak?

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Dessert: vanilla ice cream with Oreo bits and Community Coffee.

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

Management NewSpeak–Orwell was Right (or “How I learned to speak in tongues at work.”)

The Excerpt:    Newspeak-1

Some of my friends consider me to be an anachronism. In  some ways, they’re correct.  In many ways, I’m stuck in the sixties. Some of my mannerisms and behavior from the past  have  carried over into the new century.

I don’t like the new age management jargon that has become prevalent in the last ten years. I prefer the old way of talking.

It was clear.

It was direct.

It wasn’t concerned about being politically correct.

[Some of my author friends may encounter this in their dealings with corporate types.]

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The Back Story:

After the above excerpt, which sets up the blog pretty well, I believe, the article continues with some examples of the language that to me, is anathema. (That’s a big word I learned from a bona fide genius.)

Moving forward, reach out to me and we’ll dialogue about this and I’m sure you’ll be come a champion of the better way of talking with lots of takeaways from the entire blog, which can be found HERE.

Got some words for us? (8-10 sentences)

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors.The  same link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers. For a treat, please check out their work, too.

Many of the contributors to Weekend Writing Warriors alsoSundaySnip

participate in the Snippet Sunday group on FaceBook.

Third Novel Wins Award

904b8-aaa-wwwThe Excerpt:

Watch for a new chapter of my serial novel soon!

Watch for a new chapter of my serial novel soon!

Claudia Barry owned Manhattan’s West 33rd Street.

She stayed close to the buildings, away from the crowds, aware of every face. Every movement got her attention. It was an old habit and hard to break. It had kept her alive. She took deliberate strides toward 8th Street.

The drizzle had stopped, the skies were still overcast, and the sidewalk wet. It would have been impossible for her to miss the action fifty feet ahead of her.

The Big News:

This week’s sample is the first eight sentences from A Year Without Killing (my third book.) It recently was selected as a finalist in the East Texas Writers Guild’s First Chapter Book Awards.

BLUE-FINALIST2015According to Roger Middleton, president of the Guild, “We received an overwhelming number of entries from around the world, including authors submitting from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, South Africa, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.”

Each entry was judged by three different judges from a panel representing, editors, authors, educators, and avid book readers. An additional three judges were brought in to select winners from the finalists.

Read the entire first chapter of A Year Without Killing, HERE.

Share your work with us!

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors.The  same link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers. For a treat, please check out their work, too.

Many of the contributors to Weekend Writing Warriors alsoSundaySnip

participate in the Snippet Sunday group on FaceBook.

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