Fragments of a Fractured Mind

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Money in the Bank!!


McPhearson’s Pier

Yep. Made me a sale! TWO sales, in fact.  It seems that my online store is officially “doin’ bidness,” as they say down here in Deep Dixie. One customer – in Oklahoma – bought a print (McPhearson’s Pier) and a second customer – in Florida – bought four prints (Control Panel in Red and Orange, Cotton Gin Vent, Rusted and Broken and Jellies on Blue).

Both customers appear to be pleased with their purchases, and I am most gratified to have enjoyed a small degree of success, after several years of trying to develop an online business. At long last, I’ve been able to work my system all the way through, and it appears to function as designed. That’s a bonafide load off my mind.

Control Panel in Red and Orange

I’ll soon be prepping some new images, collected during a recent journey to Charleston, SC, and you’ll be seeing those at https://jaigieesephotoart.com, along with a few others from my collection. Thing is, once you’ve dipped yer toe into the water and finding the temp of same to be just right, you find yourself in the grips of a craving for MORE!  so whatcha need to so is step on over to the JaiGieEse PhotoArt online store and havalook around. You’ll find many images of all different sorts, and you can get any and all of them for your own – as a custom fine-art print – starting at $14 per.  Should you need a nifty image for a project or design, just click on any image whose title includes the suffix “LIC,” and  you can grab a royalty-free license for same.

Don’t forget that JaiGieEse PhotoArt now offers image restoration – to those who have a cherished heirloom or keepsake photo that needs a little help.

Now’s your chance!! You can become my third customer! It’s just a click away, y’know?

 

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A renewal, you might say ….


Gotta keep pushing the boundaries, methinks. Gotta stretch out, to reach for the stars. And so, I’ve added something new to my online shop. Or, perhaps more precisely, I’ve decided to add another of my talents to the mix. And that would be – image restoration. I begin with a question. To wit: Have you a precious image, a faded or discolored photo of a loved one? Perhaps an image from your childhood or a photo of an ancestor? Those images may seem beyond saving, but there may be hope. I just might be able to renew that time-worn image.

I do so by employing state-of-the art software and restoration techniques to bring your treasures back to life.

Give me the opportunity, and I’ll  repair your torn and cracked photos, brighten them up and restore their lost vitality. Plus, I can even colorize a black-and-white photo to create a true-to-life image of a loved one or friend. Things that were once thought to be lost may again be given new life.

I achieve this by working from a high-resolution scan which give me a high-quality and easily repaired digital file. In this manner, I never alter your originals. If I take on your project, I will, upon completion of the work, send a proof for your approval. Once you’re satisfied, I’ll make a high-quality print – same size as your original. I’ll also provide you with a CD containing your restored image – and if you wish – I’ll create a larger or smaller print or a combination of different sizes, on premium media from Red River Papers.

Restoration costs vary with the amount of work required and the cost of additional prints vary with size. If you wish, you may have the image scanned yourself, or if you’ll ship me your original, I’ll scan it for you.

These new services are available – right now – at https://jaigieesephotoart.com.

Click HERE for submission instructions and pricing information.

Our Doors Are Open!!


Civil War re-enactors, portraying Union infantry during an annual event at Port Hudson State Park, Louisiana, are nearly obscured by the choking clouds of black powder smoke generated by their 19th Century style weapons as they assault a rail fence turned breastwork by Confederate defenders.

Civil War re-enactors, portraying Union infantry during an annual event at Port Hudson State Park, Louisiana, are nearly obscured by the choking clouds of black powder smoke generated by their 19th Century style weapons as they assault a rail fence turned breastwork by Confederate defenders.

Well, now, you’re all aware, no doubt, that I’ve not been too happy with the state of the on-line business I started up a few years ago. And so, you’ll probably not be surprised by my latest move. Which is to say, I’ve erased the board, wiped it clean. Not long ago, I began to study the underpinnings of what was, until a coupla weeks ago, my on-line presence. Which led me to the inescapable conclusion that a very serious reworking was called for. So. I took a deep breath, several of them, in fact, and then I jumped right into the proverbial deep end. But before I go into any further detail, perhaps I ought to let y’all in on just why why this latest effort became necessary.

I began, well, right here, with this WordPress blog, several years ago, hoping that this bit of on-line frivolity might lead some folks to hire me for graphics design work or to purchase prints of my photographic endeavors. But I had to tread lightly, as this is a free blog, and WordPress requests that I not to get too overt in my efforts to generate revenue.

That led me to sign up with a coupla print-on-demand websites. Seemed like a no-brainer at the time. These folks would allow me to upload high resolution jpegs of my images, and they’d give me a page on which to display same. I’d set my profit levels, and they’d handle printing, packaging and shipping of my product, and payments for same. All I had to do was to provide the images and then sit back and watch as the orders rolled in. Trouble is, they didn’t, those orders. After a lengthy time passed with no sales, I conducted a bit of research, which led me to an uncomfortable truth. Seems these outfits, the both of them, each use their own proprietary search engines. And those engines are weighted to favor contributing artists who’ve sold a fair amount of product. It was, in fact, a galactic Catch 22. You can’t sell unless your products are seen by prospective buyers, and you won’t be seen unless you sell.

Short of buying several dozen of my own image prints, or convincing my family ands friends to do so, in order to raise my level of sales enough for those search engines to notice me, I wasn’t gonna see any appreciable success with these folks. And that reality prompted me to move my effort to another website host, one with some similar features, but with at least one very significant difference. As before, I’d need to upload high-resolution jpegs of my imagery, and again, this company would handle printing, payment, packaging and shipping. But in this case, there was no in-house search engine. My website, my on-line shop, was set up so as to be independent. It was designed to use the standard on-line search engines – Google, Bing, et al. There were some improvements with this new site, but also some drawbacks. Promotion was left up to me. I’d set a profit level, as before, to which they’d add a fee. The cost of mounting – matting and framing of images – all went to the company. This had the tendency for my imagery to be a deal more expensive than I’d prefer. And they offered templates which I’d have to use to build my site, and there was only a limited ability for customization. I wasn’t allowed access to the HTML coding for the site, so I was unable to tweak it as I would’ve liked,

So, I set off again to find a better way to do business. My journey led me to a company called Shopify. Here, again, I was provided with a set of templates, but this time, I’ve full access to the coding for same, so I’m able to tweak the site, add features and so on. But the best part is that I can produce my own product. Those other web hosts? They required me to pick from a handful of pro labs, who’d print my work – which is why I had to upload high-res images. With Shopify, I can print my own work, which means I only have to upload low-resolution, watermarked images for display. Besides saving me a tremendous amount of time – and internet bandwidth –  this has allowed me to significantly lower my prices without affecting the quality of my product. Bought a nice new high-end inkjet printer for that purpose. I have to handle my own packaging and shipping, but I’ve found some very good ways to do this last bit at low cost and with little effort. The other business needs? Payments, and so on? Shopify has provided me with an excellent and effortless means of dealing with payments. And on top of that, I’ve been able to establish sales channels with Pinterest and Facebook, so in addition to my primary website, you can view my offerings and purchase them from either of these two places.

So here we go …. again. You’ll find my new on-line shop at the same address as before – http://www.jaigieesephotoart – and to get to the other places, on Facebook, look for my business page – Fragments of a Fractured Mind – https://www.facebook.com/JaiGieEsePhotoArt/?fref=ts – and on Pinterest – look for my business account  – https://www.pinterest.com/jaigieese/.

Oh, and for those of you who’ve been on my mailing list – I’ve started up a newsletter. It’s called the Mill Creek Monitor, and if you were on the mailing list, you’ve already received the first issue of the Monitor. If you weren’t already on the list, you can subscribe – for free – on my primary shop. Look down near the lower right corner of each page for a place to enter your email address and subscribe to the Mill Creek Monitor.

Hope you’ll have a look at these new efforts. Hope you’ll like whatcha see – mebbe ’nuff to actually BUY something, y’know?

 

New Directions….


well-usedSometimes you have to let go of an idea. One thought I’ve clung to for some years now is that I could attract a audience – a BUYING audience – in my beloved home town – Columbia, MS. Hoping to bring this idea to fruition, I exhibited at a very fine local gallery for two years, or thereabouts. During that  time, I exhibited differing sets of prints from my collection of imagery. I sold exactly four prints – all at once – to a lady from a western state, who was in town to visit friends. This was almost a year ago. To the locals, I’ve sold – nothing.

So. Last August, I decided to try a new tack. I closed my gallery exhibit and then, in November, I began to show my work at another shop in Columbia. This new exhibit included a few of my prints and a calendar I’ve created, one featuring images from Columbia and Marion County. I’ve sold a few calendars, but not enough of them to cover my production costs. Prints? I’ve sold none. Not a one. That exhibit closed this week.

I dunno. Mebbe it’s my work. Perhaps I’m not communicating to good effect. But then, I DID sell a set of prints to the lady from out west. So, it could be that I’m just not communicating LOCALLY. Or mebbe the folks here in my hometown and county aren’t interested in purchasing quality art at professional prices. Not photographic art, at least.

So I’m thinking that it’s time to get my work in front of some new eyes. And actually, even  THAT is not a new effort. I created a website a little over a year ago – http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com – in an attempt to extend my reach. Haven’t had any luck there, either. Yet.

Now, I am told that I am possessed of a stubborn streak. I do tend to vigorously defend myself if I feel I’ve been wronged, often to a fault. I’ll expend the same energies for other people and other causes if I feel that these are deserving of my support. And I do NOT like to give up, to yield what I see as a valid point. Or points. When I was a kid. my brother sometimes opined that I’d argue with a fence post. Which I will, mind you, IF I think the thing is worth the trouble.

So here we go again. About a month ago, I began to post low-resolution images from my portfolio to my own Facebook page and to a page I manage – “Fragments of a Fractured Mind” – and to, as of this writing, five different Facebook artist and photography groups. And I’m looking at a few other groups, as well. I’ll not list them here just now, but if you’re REALLY interested in where you may find these posts, well, then, drop me an email at jaigieese@icloud.com, and I’ll send you a list.

I’m posting, roughly, an image a day, and it seems to be getting somewhere. I have gathered a nice set of likes and comments and some little praise. One hopes that someone out there will be captivated enough by my work to actually BUY some of it. Will this work? We will see, won’t we?

The song plays on.

Avoid the Rush!


The Magnificance of Cades Cove
Some parts of this great nation are bracing for intense winter storms, some of these even now dumping loads of snow upon already ice-laden towns and cities, and other strong storms are set to make their appearance just as millions of people get on the road over the hill and through the woods to grandmas’s house. It’s Thanksgiving!

That also means that folks all over the country are about to embark on the annual Black Friday frenzy – massing into brick-and-mortar retailers and onto myriad websites in hopes of finding a great deal on goodies for one’s own self and for loved ones. We’re already seeing news reports of people camping out in front of “Big Box” retailers, hoping to get their expectant hands on dirt-cheap items, most marked “Supply Limited.”

Hey! There is, you know,  a way to get a nice gift for anyone on your list, or perhaps that just-right something to brighten up your home or your office for the holidays without sleeping on a sidewalk or rasslin’ with sometimes unruly crowds -AND –  there’s no worry about finding something you like, only to find that it’s out of stock. All one needs to do is click on over to JaiGieEse PhotoArt (See the link above on the right end of the toolbar) and once there, have a look at our selection of fine art photography. There’s a lot to see at JaiGieEse PhotoArt and we’re about to add even more to our collection. And we don’t have limited anything.

See something you like? Just click on the handy “Buy” buttons and you’ll find a selection of print sizes and papers – glossy, matte, metallic, canvas, and so on. You can buy the print and have it shipped to the destination of your choice and then frame and matte it yourself – OR – you can choose from a nice selection of mounting styles, mattes and frames, and have a ready-to-hang print on your doorstep soon. (You choose your shipping options.)

You can even use our on-line wizards to create custom greeting cards – your choice of style, image and message, nicely printed and shipped with envelopes.

And soon, we’ll begin to unveil a selection of photo books – very nice books, hard-bound and professionally printed books, the kind you’ll love to share with family and friends.

And, y’know, you can get all of this without having to camp out on a sidewalk in the cold, rain and snow! If you’re in the Columbia, MS, area, you can get yerself some instant gratification by stopping in at the Artwistic Revolution Gallery, on Second Street in downtown Columbia, to see a small selection of my work, as well as some fantastic offerings by other area artists.

Come on in to JaiGieEse PhotoArt!

And please do have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas, y’all!

http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com

 

Movin’ on…..


Early Morning GladeWell, now. It’s been a while since I’ve created this little ol’ blog. Lots and lots has happened in my life – got married, moved back to my home town, got a nice, new Nikon camera, and I’ve retired, basically. My lady and I are busily working on our bucket list.

It’s also been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Not that this exercise hasn’t been fun, but the need to keep it up to date somehow got lost in the swing of things. Plus there’s the inescapable fact that while my offerings and ramblings here have generated a smattering of comments, nearly all of them positive, this exposure has done little or nothing for the advancement of my creative pursuit.

And so, I am of a mind to try something new. Thing is, one isn’t really supposed to sell anything or offer services on these free blogs, and I’ve had to sorta skirt around the edges of that small, but important reality. But I’ve found a coupla other places, new outlets, as it were. These are places wherein I can openly sell my imagery. These new places seem to better fit my needs, and they require far less regular maintenance.

However, if you want the real skinny, as in to see my newest work and to discover what I’m up to, well, gee, come and visit me at:

My primary on-0line shop – https://http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com

My Facebook shop – https://www.facebook.com/JaiGieEsePhotoArt/?fref=ts

My Pinterest shop – https://www.pinterest.com/jaigieese/what-i-see/

The new sites are open for bidness 24/7/365. I hope you’ll come and look. (He leans back and quietly mutters, “and buy….”)

See y’all there, y’heah?

Listening to the Muse….


Columbia TankIt’s been about a year now since I came home to Marion County to begin a new life with my Suzy. We live south of Columbia, my home town and south of Foxworth, Suzy’s home town, on a quiet old highway on the edge of the Pearl River Swamp. I live with the love of my life, in the midst of the family I’ve always wanted and never thought I’d have.  It’s a truly special place and time, and it has just become even more special.

You see, I have for some years been seriously fascinated with photography. This particular passion goes back to the halcyon days of my university career at Southern Mississippi. My first efforts at photography were the result of classes I took as part of my major course of study. I started with basic photography class and an old twin lens reflex camera, shooting mostly black and white film. A second course put a 35 mm camera in my hands and led me into the world of color imagery. Not long after I left USM, I bought myself a Nikkormat FT2 35mm camera, with which I lept deeply into the world of photography, going so far as to develop my own film and after I’d put together a small darkroom, making my own prints. That little journey lasted some several years, until the night I ventured onto Pensacola Beach as a tropical storm passed, hoping to get some good storm shots. Did get a few, but the salt spray being pushed ashore by the storm leeched into the camera, and it froze up, never to function again.

“Oh, well,” I said. “I’ll get myself another camera.” And I did just that….nearly twenty years later. By that time, I’d become a graphics designer, and after spending a frustrating afternoon trying to locate just the right image for a project, I decided that there had to be a better way. Recalling that I’d been a fairly decent photographer back in the day, I determined to at last get that new camera, so as to shorten the process of getting the images I needed for my graphics projects. But things had changed a great deal since that stormy night on Pensacola Beach. The tried and true film cameras of old had been supplanted by the newest thing – digital photography. No longer was it necessary to spend hours locked into stuffy darkrooms, immersed in clouds of chemical vapor, trying to create images on paper. The darkroom was gone, as was the film. Images were now captured by electronic sensors and recorded on small media cards. These were then taken into a computer, wherein an image could be shaped and molded without need for chemicals and paper. This opened up an incredible new world to me, one not limited by how many exposures were on a roll of film or how long it took a photo lab to make prints.

The entire creative process now rested within my hands. I discovered that I was limited only by my own imagination. I got my hands on a Sony DSC-F828 camera, one which gave me a great deal of latitude. I’ve enjoyed many hours of shooting, sometimes idly and sometimes driven by an insatiable need to create. Time and experience brought forth a catalog of imagery that some deemed worthy of note. There came one exhibition in Jackson, and then another. Didn’t sell much, but I learned a great deal.

Just before Christmas last, I was given a new camera, a Nikon D7000. This event closed a circle. That first camera I’d bought for myself, not long after leaving USM, had been a Nikkormat FT2 – made by the same company as my new D7000. And what a camera this new one is! Where the Sony had limitations, this new Nikon has incredible potential. I’ve been using it a little over three months and already, the Nikon is forcing me to stretch my wings wide, to reach for things never before achieved, and I am only scratching the surface of learning to properly use the camera. It’ll be some time before I can be totally comfortable with the camera. But even as I learn my craft anew, even as the muse whispers softly into my ear, I strive to improve, to get better with each passing day.

God smiles on me again, as he has done so many times this last year. I have come home. I have found the woman of whom I’ve long dreamed, and I’ve been graced with the most wonderful family for which any man could hope. And now, those long-ago dreams, those days spent in this little town, adrift in imaginative flights of fantasy, have led me full-circle to a warmly familiar old street that I know so well. I recall a quotation from an old sixties wall poster, one which caught my eye and my thoughts.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~T.S. Eliot

And so, here I am, in the place from where I began, a place I now know so well, a place I love so deeply, among family and friends and familiar places. . One hopes you’ll find a moment or two to come back here from time to time, to gaze upon the captured bits of the imagination of a man who is so very grateful to have arrived at the place from which he started.

To Jump the Broom….


SuzyMe scanIt’s been almost a year now. Less than two weeks remain until the first anniversary of the beginning of our new lives. It was on February 6 of 2012 that Suzy and I first met – online – and set out on what has been a thoroughly wonderful journey. We both knew something was up when we started to talk online, and on a sunny and bright and VERY cold day last February, when Suzy and I rendezvoused in City Park of my old home town – Columbia, MS – to see one another in person for the first time, the feeling of “rightness” was strong. We had retreated to the relative warmth of my Silverado after a wind-chilled walk at Columbia Water Park. I had something to ask, and the very thought of asking terrified me.

It seemed as though every time I have allowed a woman to know that I am serious and that I have growing feelings for her, she’s upped and ran to get away from me. Often times, I’d start to get to know a gal, and we’d talk and talk, and then, just as we were about to begin in earnest, I’d find myself alone, again, wondering what the futz I’d done wrong. Sometimes it was a mystery as to what had happened and other times I knew the false start had nothing to do with me. Still, if a thing comes apart, the result is the same. One is indeed a lonely number. And I’d come to believe that relationships might not be for me.

Told people at my old church that I felt as though I’d wasted the best years of my life. Back then, I’d come to realize that I was old enough to be a grand-father and yet I had no family. I’d never experienced the simple, yet incredible joy of having a child sit on my lap and touch my cheek and say, so softly, “Daddy.” I’d never watched a son learn to ride his bike, or set out on his first day at school, or fidgeted nervously as a young fella picked up my daughter for her first date. I hadn’t gotten to smile with pride as my kid walked across a stage to pick up his or her high school diploma. Never had I known what it is like to have grand-children. Thought I’d missed it all, lost it all. I’d say this to folks at church and often, someone would smile and say, “It’s not too late….”

I wanted to believe them. I really did. But I discovered that my faith didn’t appear to be strong enough. I knew, I knew that God provides, and yet I was saddened by my loneliness, troubled by matters of money, by employment troubles. I shouldn’t have worried, and yet I did. 2011 had not been a fun year. Even though my relationship with my Lord seemed to grow and deepen, there were troubles aplenty. At long last, this past January, having been told for the second time in less than a month by a potential lady-friend that she couldn’t or wouldn’t see me, having done battle with a nasty and threatening loan company which was threatening to repossess my truck, I was on my last nerve. I was at the end of my string. The only thing that was going right for me at that point was an unexpected and incredible improvement in what had been a severely strained relationship with my older brother. Everything else seemed to have soured. So, one night, after having read an email from this girl I’d only just met, a note in which she explained that she couldn’t see me, I threw up my hands. “God,” I said, “I haven’t a clue what it is that I am supposed to do – not even the slightest hint. Obviously, I can’t deal with this life thing, so I give up. You take the wheel.”

Just saying that felt good. Seemed to take a load off my shoulders, it did. Then, less than a week later, I got an email from this on-line dating service I’d joined. Seems they had this gal they thought I oughta meet. So, with nothing better to do and thinking I could hardly be any worse off than I already was, I clicked on the link….and found myself looking at a pretty country girl. She was wearing a shiny, silky red blouse and a very nice smile. So I sent off a note. She sent one back. Her name was Susan, she said, and amazingly, she lived just a few short miles south of the town in which I’d been born, where I’d grown up. The conversations continued, and they grew longer. And more frequent. Then came the day we decided it was time to meet in person. So I drove south from Jackson, down to the place where I’d begun this life, down to the deep south of the state, to Marion County. To….home. To that moment in my truck on a bitterly cold day at Columbia Water Park.

On that winter’s day, I swallowed my fear and I admitted that I’d had a rough time of it for the months prior, the years prior, and I told Suzy that it felt good, very good to be with her. I pushed my fear back down and I asked Suzy whether she might be interested in making something lasting of our new fling. And she said….yes. That day trip led to an overnighter, and then a four-day weekend. Then Suzy told me that her step-grandaughter was to be married to her beau in a quiet little ceremony in the mountains of Tennessee, near Pigeon Forge, She asked me to go with her to this wedding, to share a mountainside cabin for a few days. Her argument made sense. We’d have to drive 11 hours or so to get there, and then stay together in that cute little cabin for a few days and then make another long drive to get back to Mississippi. If we could do that without wanting to throttle one another, she said, then we’d know whether we had something. Made sense to me, so of course, I said yes. We did make the trip and we did endure. More than that, we reveled in one-another’s company.

Once we’d returned to Mississippi, Suzy upped and suggested that I move to the country, to her family’s quiet little hilltop homestead, to be with her. And her family. Two grown sons. Two almost grown grand-sons. A teenage grand-daughter. A newly-wed step grand-daughter and her husband. Two beautiful step-great-grand-kids, a five year old boy and the prettiest little two year old princess I’d ever laid my eyes on. In short, it was the family I’d dreamed of my whole life. And Suzy was offering it…. to me. Said she didn’t care what had happened in my life before that point. Said I didn’t need money, or a job. All I had to do….was to love her. I knew, actually, that I had already fallen in love with Suzy, but the thought of telling her so frightened me beyond description. But Suzy has this wonderful and gentle way of getting what she wants, and so the night before I went back to Jackson after our first journey to Pigeon Forge, she coaxed it out of me, got me to say those three terrifying words. “I love you.” So I told her just that on that night after Pigeon Forge. Went back to Jackson. Came back to our little hilltop a week later for several days. Returned to Jackson again, and the night after I got back there that last time, I decided that I no longer cared for going to Jackson without Suzy. Told her as much in an email. So a few days later, I mentally cancelled my status as a citizen of Jackson, MS, loaded my truck as full as I could get it and I left for Columbia. Since then, we’ve brought several more pickup-loads and a trailer-load of my stuff down here, and only a little remains to be transported.

Since that beginning, Suzy and I have grown to realize that we are indeed on the same frequency. Often one of us will be thinking of doing one thing or another and the other will suggest that we do just that. We’ve already traveled quite a lot. We go the Mississippi Coast often. We’ve been to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We traveled to West Virginia to visit Suzy’s oldest son, Danny, and his family. We’ve spent a lovely weekend in a wonderful bed and breakfast on the Gettysburg battlefield. In late October, we returned to Pigeon Forge for four peaceful days.

Somewhere along the way, I told Suzy that I wanted to marry her. She replied that it wasn’t necessary, so long as we are together, but I wanted to make the commitment. Somehow, it mattered. A lot. And so, in December, just a week or so before Christmas, I put a diamond ring on Suzy’s finger. Not long after, we began the process of setting a date. We’d thought of March at first, but then we settled on April. So we thought. We picked a day, but that didn’t jive with various family schedules. So we tried another. This one didn’t match up with still other family members. We moved on to May, tried two different weekends, to no avail, and then, at last, we found a day that works for everyone.

For the last several days, I have been getting an education in the complexities of planning a “simple” wedding. We talked with one service and another and another and another, until we settled on the one service that seems to have everything we need. And so, on Thursday, we made a down-payment for the services of a picturesque little mountainside wedding chapel in Pigeon Forge. There, in the Mountain Valley Wedding Chapel, Susan Foxworth Smith and Jon Gilbert Stephenson will “jump the broom” on 25 May, 2013.

This little union carries with it a bit of irony. You see, Suzy, as I call her, is Susan. Or Sue. Once we clear that fabled broom, she’ll be Susan, Suzy, Sue Stephenson. My late mother’s name….is Sue. Somehow, I feel my mama’s smile. And I hear my daddy’s laugh. I can see the tears on my grandmama’s face and the quiet satisfaction on my granddaddy’s face (My gawd! The boy finally done somethin’ right….). As I said early on, the feeling of “rightness” continues to grow. Lordy, I hope it never stops….

Words worth repeating….


“Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and schools combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke words of life such as never were spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of any orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art and sweet songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger, and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe. There never was in this world a life so unpretending, modest, and lowly in its outward form and condition, and yet producing such extraordinary effects upon all ages, nations, and classes of men. The annals of history produce no other example of such complete and astonishing success in spite of the absence of those material, social, literary, and artistic powers and influences which are indispensable to success for a mere man.”

~ Phillip Schaff

I wish I could understand….


I had a dream once, many long years ago. It was back when I was young and foolish, and oh, so, painfully naive. And alone.  Didn’t plan to be all by my lonesome. It was just the way that things turned out. The folks had died when I was too young, way too young for that sort of thing. Everyone patted me on the head and said that things would be alright, that I would get over this terrible thing. I didn’t. Still haven’t. It marked me, way down deep, too deep for anyone to see, not even those who cared to look, and there were too damned few of those. I pulled in on myself, withdrew, tuned out. An overly-enthusiastic, irrepressible, hard-to-stifle kid changed, nearly overnight, into a painfully shy and very frightened youngster.

High school turned out to be an adventure I’d soon as done without. or most of it, anyways. I was the uncool kid, butt of the jokes, the one who took the brunt of the pranks. Wasn’t much fun. I’d discovered girls, of course. Problem was, I was so terrified of them. A cute chick would look at me and my knees would turn to water. I’d come down with world-class lockjaw. I was just plain no fun for the girls. Which, of course, only made it worse, because by then, the dream had come to me, It snuck up on me one dark night when I was trying to make believe that all was right in my young world.

I began to wonder when it would happen to me, when I’d find a good girl, the way all the other guys seemed to. I’d muse about my wedding day, when it would come, where it would unfold, who my bride would be. I mean, I was so damned naive in the way-back days. I looked at those around me in the insular world of my little home town and I came to believe that life was running on auto-pilot. You were born, you grew into a kid and you did all the kid things, until you developed into a teenager and the things you did were different. Then came graduation day and the doors to the world opened wide. There might be the armed forces, perhaps the university or a job and then you met….her. You went steady, you put a diamond on her finger and then a slim gold band. You brushed the rice from your hair and you bought a house, a car, a dog and a cat and you had 2.5 kids and the dance began anew.

Just one problem with that. There is no autopilot.

The night I realized that, well, just say I was not having fun. I was alone, and the chances for changing that were slim and none. I began to understand that a guy has to fight for his joy. The perfect girl just doesn’t appear in a puff of magic smoke. Building a relationship takes time, building a relationship takes effort, takes an investment. Building a relationship means you take your heart and you put it in someone else’s hand. This requires a willingness to take a risk.

Ah. There’s the rub. In 62 years of searching, I have found…not very many…people who are possessed of such a willingness. Not enough guts to go around, more’s the pity. I haven’t found many who will look a new thing square in the face and say, almost without thinking, “Yeah. Let’s give it a go.” Those that do? Well, sometimes they get hurt. But many’s the time that the risk-takers succeed beyond comprehension. How do the old sayings go? “Y’can’t hit a home run unless you swing at the pitch.” “If y’wanna go for a sail, y’gotta get in the boat.” Yada, Yada.

Me, I am stubborn. When we were kids, my brother would tell me that I would argue with a fence post. I hate to give up, even if there is only there faintest glimmer of success. So I try and I try and I try and….

I’ve been trying my whole life, trying to find just ONE girl. Just….one. One is all I need. I’ll meet someone, somewhere, online, offline, at work, in church, getting left in the lurch, most times. I see, I want, I try, too hard, she goes away. Sometimes I know why, most times I just don’t understand. I wish I could understand….

Sixty-two years old now, and I’m a little gun-shy. But still, they seem to drift by, the girls with….something magical. So you throw caution to the winds and…you try. Most times, you’ll fall flat on your face. But once upon blue moon, it works. Um. Or, at the least, it seems as though it is working. The guy and the gal seem to feel something, they say the right words. The feelings grow and the smiles get broader.  You start to think that maybe, just maybe, this is the one. This is the girl I’ve been searching for my whole life. You feel so good when you think that the hunt may be over, at long last.

Sometimes, for some people, it really, truly is. For some people.

For others, one feels that something wonderful has been discovered. One feels so damned good. But for the other comes a nuance, a lessening, drifting cooling. Circumstances suddenly intervene, distance slyly creeps in between two hearts, and one decides,”Well, maybe not…” It could be that words will be exchanged and it could be that tears will fall. Hearts will break. Oh, how they break. Sometimes, there are just no words. One will decide to go, and they will decide that it is best just to silently drift away. So they do. No explanation, no reasons, just a lot of ice cold gone.

And again, hearts will break, all the more painfully, because one doesn’t know the why of it.

I’d thought I was past all of this. I’d thought that God had strengthened me and cleansed me and rebuilt me until the foolish fantasies and fruitless adventures of the heart would never again overtake me. I was wrong. I chanced to find her, out there on the information highway one otherwise bland evening. She was full of lightning and she sparkled like moonlight on the beach.  Chestnut hair cascaded down her shoulders. She has a smile that will melt the hardest of hearts. She confessed a fear of dying alone, of feeling hopeless that anyone would ever love her for herself.  These last are my very own, time-worn fears.

I knew at once I had to try for this woman. I HAD to. She and I talked and talked and talked and we kept finding that we’d been to many of the same places, we like the same things and we seemed to want the same things. So, of course, I did it. Dammit. I opened my stupid mouth and I told her how I was beginning to feel, the way she had brought light to my lonely soul. I don’t know that any other woman has ever made me feel this way, and I told her so. I was well on my way to putting my heart right in her hand. Told myself this would be the last time, that this would be the one that would work. No more dark and lonely nights, I told myself.  Just me and my lady, hand in hand walking in God’s good sunlight.

Ah. But. The circumstance. First I didn’t hear from her for a day. Felt as if it had been an eternity. Then came a brief email. Her son had been injured in an auto accident, not seriously, but she’d flown out west to care for him. Said she’d call. Two days later came an email. Something else had cropped up, she didn’t say what, but she told me she might be out west for months. About things of the heart that I’d written to her, she said nothing.

When I read that last message, I went cold. Absolutely cold, worse than it has ever been. I cried, I prayed, I went to church and I got on my knees and I gave it over to God- the only thing I could think of to do. So night has fallen in my soul once again. Once again, I feel the weight of a life’s worth of loneliness.  Once again, I have no idea what to do.

I wish I could understand……

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