“The beginning is always today.” ~ Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
I had to share so you can laugh with me at the world’s worst camera angle on two people at once (wide angle lens helps with that). By the way, this was not the look, or the picture, I was going for. I don’t remember what I was going for, but this wasn’t it, though I can see a nose job as a real possibility now. And all these years I thought it would be a facelift that compelled me to the surgeon’s knife. I’m kidding, of course. I would never get a facelift. I wear my saggy jowls with pride.
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ~ Roy Bennett
Stacy and I have tried to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve for so long that I’ve lost count of the years, at least 20 I’d say. Our usual ritual involves lunch at Red Lobster followed by a gift exchange and White Christmas. On occasion we attend Christmas Eve service. Some years are better than others of course but this year was special somehow. I remain ever grateful for all of it.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John C. Maxwell
When the winter Solstice arrives, the best possible event is a gathering of women who love me and love one another. You’d be hard pressed to find a hostess better suited for such a gathering than Jeanne Marie Hibbard. Many years ago her kindness opened the door and we all – Stacy Yelton, Annie Bassoni, Deb Chenault and I – walked through. There’s not been a single moment of regret. Our friendships have become a support system I didn’t know I needed. These women make me laugh, they enlighten me, they push me (in a good way), and they delight me.
“My optimism wears heavy boots and is loud.” ~ Henry Rollins
Eric and Bree fixed up a portion of their house for Eric’s Reiki studio. I relaxed the second I stepped into the blacklight glow. They did a great job with the space, and Eric is taking on more and more sessions. He’s one of the most gentle men I’ve ever known, and he’s totally perfect as a Reiki practitioner. I’m mighty lucky to call him friend.
“Don’t think that happiness will be possible only when conditions around you become perfect. Happiness lies in your own heart. You only need to practice mindful breathing for a few seconds and you’ll be happy right away.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Stacy Yelton has a birthday today, and my gift to her was this gorgeous print of her beloved home town by Jon Reynolds. Jon’s work over the last year has grown immensely, and when I saw this image, I gasped (a good gasp) and bought it immediately. It’s been hard to not say anything since I bought it three months ago because it’s so beautiful. But the silence was totally worth it when Stacy opened the package and gasped like I did. Plus, the eight-ply matte came courtesy Letha Drury because she’s totally awesome and wanted to say Happy Birthday to Stacy, too. I absolutely adore my people; Stacy, Jon, and Letha. Birthday success.
“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” ~ Unknown
I pulled up to the house and saw a package sitting on my porch. I hadn’t ordered anything. I looked at the label but didn’t recognize the sender. I took it inside, looking at it over and over to be sure it was my name and my address. I hadn’t ordered anything. I opened it and knew immediately who sent it. Santa Stacy nailed this year’s Christmas gift and it’s only October. And look at the gorgeous gold vinyl of this two-disc set! I invited her down for a listen after supper. This recording is so disgusting beautiful that I now need new speakers because I can hear their flaws. Jason Isbell is one of the most gifted songwriters America has ever produced. This live recording shows off the incredible tightness of his band, and the feel of the Mother Church, The Ryman, is deep in the grooves of every single song. I feel like I won the lottery. Thank you, Santa!
“Be polite. Be blind to the shortsightedness of others. Walking away is not necessarily weakness; sometimes it’s real strength. Very few confrontations are worthy of a line in the sand. Don’t seek to rule others and don’t live as if you’re being ruled. Live a life that’s honest to yourself. Love isn’t what you feel. It’s what you do.” ~ Steven Roth
The Rental Sisters and I were not alone in Augusta our first day and night. Rental Nieces Cassie and Lisa joined us for a rare young mother’s day away from their toddlers. Along the way we caught wind of George Clooney’s side business. We kept seeing signs for Casamigos Tequila throughout town, and eventually learned that this was George’s side business. (Get your minds out of the gutter!) The local pub featured Casamigos straight up and in a variety of cocktails. After a long day that ended with a nice dinner at Moyer Winery, we retired to our respective rooms. The nieces waited for us old gals to go to bed, as we learned the next morning, and then high-tailed it to the pub to try some of George’s side business. The thing I love about these two is how easily they fit in with the old crowd and still want to go out on their own. I’m so glad they came with us. Time spent with them is never time wasted.
“May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for all beings.”
Staying with the Clooney theme from yesterday, the Rental Sisters and I made our way to a wonderful riverfront house in Augusta, the former home of Rosemary Clooney. She is one of Kentucky’s finest exports. Until George came along she was the most famous of the Clooney Clan and rightfully so. Her voice was simply transcendent. Still is, actually. She lived in Beverly Hills of course, but she eventually returned to her home town of Augusta. As the adorable tour guide below told us, Rosemary called her brother Nick and asked for help in finding the right home to buy. This house was flagged for demolition when Rosemary swooped in and saved it. It’s so close to the river that it has flooded several times (you can see it in the last photo from Friday’s post), but they always do a good job putting it back together. Today, it’s owned by former Miss America, another Augusta native, Heather French Henry (also the wife of former Lt. Governor Steve Henry). The house is filled with memorabilia from Rosemary’s career – from the hit songs to the hit movies. Naturally, one room is devoted to White Christmas. One of the fans from the Sisters routine may have been a highlight for me. Bing and his baby blues in pseudo-drag waving that fan just tickles me every time. The tour starts in what used to be the dining room and it’s here that they display a really interesting Clooney family tree – an incredibly talented family – and some George memorabilia as well (note the football uniform behind Pam). It was a delightful tour and I was really pleased to see how nice they’ve kept it. Augusta sure has a lot to be proud of.
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” ~ Audrey Hepburn
The Rental Sisters knew a lot more about Augusta than I did. We walked into an adorable antique shop on Main Street, of which there are many, to be immediately greeted by a delightful woman and her tiny shop dog named Nate (I think that was his name). Apparently, Nate had had a long day by the time we arrived. Ordinarily, so we were told, he’s at your feet as soon as you come through the door. He greeted us with a yawn from his basket behind the counter. We fawned over him just the same and continued our perusal of the Donny Osmond vinyl, vintage books and toys, and assorted celebrity photos and magazines. I was eyeing a mural-size canvas photo of a young Nick Clooney and colleagues behind an early 70’s-era CBS news desk when Stacy leaned in and whispered, “This is Nina’s store.” “Oh,” I said, as if I knew who Nina was. Stacy, who knows me all-too-well, was quick to recognize that I had no clue who Nina was. “Nina Clooney,” she whispered again, “George’s mom. Nick’s wife. That’s her at the front desk.” “Oh!” I replied, now understanding who Nina was. By the time we left Nina’s shop we’d been treated to smiles and kindness and sweet conversation. Nina was beyond adorable! We assumed that would be the end of Clooney connection for the weekend. Sunday morning, while I was taking pictures of river fog, the sisters had gotten a table at the General Store for breakfast. The first person I saw when I walked in was none other than Nick Clooney. He raised his fork to me with a smile and nod as if he’d been expecting me. And maybe he was. I found the sisters at the table next to he and Nina and two others. (What an opportune time to photograph the sisters, I thought) When The Clooney’s left the General Store, waves and goodbyes were exchanged because, of course, they and the sisters had been chatting with each other before I showed up. Nick, like Nina, was as honestly warm as could be. The Clooney’s are sweet down home Kentuckians that you can tell are pleased as punch to live in their tiny river hometown and show kindness to everyone that visits. It was an honor to be in their company.
“Be who you want to be. Be who God has created you to be.” ~ Tayvis “Tayvho” Akpan
In all the birthdayness and busy of this week I’ve not had time to even look at what I shot in Augusta last weekend. That is, until this evening. There are some okay shots, but the photo above of Pam Bick photographing the sunset stood out to me. The river is peaceful. Pam is peaceful. The sky, the sunset, beautiful. Beautiful like Pam. She’s a special person to so many. I don’t think her sisters could love her any more than they do. They adore her. And I’m very lucky she adopted me. What an honor.