A woman, victim of the California/Oregon wildfires, says she is moving. She’s adamant about it. “Out of the state,” she says. “Anywhere.” She can’t take the wildfires any longer. The blazes aren’t just devastating they’re deadly. In the recent fires fifteen people died and millions of acres burned. I get it! I’ve never lived near wild fires. On television they look to be awfully scary.
The weather is more threatening and menacing today than I remember growing up. The seasons themselves are confused. Summer used to reside in the summer months of June, July and August. Now it stretches itself into 6 months. Maybe September and October aren’t officially summer but the heat index says it is just as hot into late October.
So, can you really get away from it all?
Let me pose the question. You’ve decided to move somewhere in the United States. Somewhere safe from natural disasters. Where do you go? Whether it’s global warming or not, extreme weather is everywhere.
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. We had the occasional thunderstorm. Some bad enough where we would flee to the basement to get out of harm’s way. Now, deadly tornadoes whip through the Birmingham metro area, leaving devastation, death, power outages and temporary homelessness.
The same can be said for the plains areas of the country. In a news clip, two big monster tornadoes touched down in the same town at the same time; tossing deadly debris everywhere.
Of course there is always the Midwest, Chicago and the like. My wife grew up there. Did I mention winter’s below freezing blizzards and summer’s extreme heat??
I lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years. I moved there a few years after the big Northridge quake in ‘94. The damage was worse than a terrorist attack. My cousin would not go back into her home for 3-months fearing the delayed aftershocks. While living there, I would joke, saying that if I was in an earthquake and I lived, and if my car parked in the underground parking garage of the condo building was not damaged, I’d without any delay, drive across country to my home in Florida. I learned not to kid about it. Asleep one morning in my big solid Paul Bunyan four- poster bed, it started bouncing up and down. Had an automobile hit the building, I wondered? Nope! It was an earthquake. At least it was the aftershocks of one. Before I could jump out of bed and run to the doorway, as emergency management instructs, it was over. The bouncing bed calmed down. Scary? Weird? Different? Yes all of that. Turns out it was the aftershock of a
quake nearly 200 miles away. Wow!
On another occasion, while working at my desk in the upstairs office, the building shook, creaked, moaned and rocked. I recognized it right away this time. But again, before I could react, it was over. Again, it was aftershocks. Glad it wasn’t the real deal.
Which brings me to the Florida Gulf Coast and hurricane season. From June through November I’m a constant visitor to the National Hurricane site on my computer; watching the tropical waves spin off the African coast and into the ocean, hoping they don’t grow into monster hurricanes and come our way. As the babies become teenagers and journey across the ocean, I
read the constant updates from the Hurricane Center. Will it grow into a hurricane? A major one? Will it come our way? Will they name it? Who cares? Are we prepared? We’re always prepared! You better be.
We’ve evacuated once. Took us six hours to drive what had been four hours. We’ve been hit, once. Hard! It was that bastard, Ivan, a true monster. Ivan roared through, flexing its muscle. When it left, it took a third of our backyard with it. Drug it back into the bay creating a ten-foot drop. Destroyed our dock and left us with stories we still talk about sixteen years later and permanent scars on our memory. Strangely, he didn’t damage the house. But we had to live with the butchered yard, the ten-foot drop and the missing deck for nearly a year. Laborers who do the repairs once a hurricane hits, have far more business than they can handle. They’ll
agree to take your job and if they show up within six-months you’re lucky. When hurricanes hit there are bigger fish to fry.
When we finally got the decking and sea wall repaired, within one-week Hurricane Daniel came blowing through. Luckily, he was a smaller category 2 hurricane and more of a blowhard. We watched television through it. Never lost power. The seawall held.
While writing this I sat through Hurricane Sally. Never ending rain, causing the water in the bay to rise to dangerous levels. The hard driving wind took several shingles off the roof. Just for fun, she destroyed the dock, and threw our boat around like it was a toy. I hardly recognized it afterward.
We’ll regroup. But back to the original point of this piece.
I’m not kidding when wondering where the lady is going to move. Does a safe spot exist? When she finds out, I hope she’ll let me know.
It was nearly 7 am in Savannah, Georgia, still dark enough for headlights. I was fourth in line at the drive-through at the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop on Abercrombie Drive. The flashing “HOT” sign lured me into its greedy web.
“I’ll only get three,” I told myself. “Three hot glazed,” Mmmmmm. I could taste them, already. “The last time I had some was the last time I was here, some four months ago,” I rationalized.
Waiting, I rested my arm on the stomach I had grown. My own personal armrest reminded me of the continual promise I kept making to myself. I would lose weight by getting back to eating to live rather than living to eat.
The nagging started.“This Monday will be the start,” I once again promised myself, “I’ll do it this time.”
The drive-through curved to the left and led to the pick-up window on the other side of the building. An adjacent road to the right, led back out into the street and in the direction of my hotel. I was literally at the fork in the road, or at least the fork in the drive-through.
I debated myself. “I could continue on the path I am on,” I thought. “Get my three Krispy Kremes.” I could still taste them!
“Or I can just win this moment,” I thought.
“Maybe this moment won’t be life changing but… if I win this moment…!”
I tried to turn away from the Krispy Kremes but I couldn’t. “Glazed,” was winning the moment, “Mmmmm!”
The debate continued. Could this moment be the start to the rest of my life? Would I let it slip away? I have a photo someone sent, of me in my football uniform in 1976. I am an athlete in top condition. I can be again I tell myself. No, not an athlete in top condition, but be conditioned through exercise and putting the right foods into my body.
Can I do it?
I won that small battle with the drive-through. At 7:05, I turned away from my three Krispy Kremes.
Is it a life changing moment? We’ll see.
When The Communicator told me… yes, that’s her title… anyway, when Emily told me that it was time for me to write another Blog, I didn’t jump and down for joy (laughing)!
“I just wrote one,” I whined.
“That was in April,” she laughed.
Sigh…Groan… “But I don’t know what to say,” I tried again.
Still laughing, she replied, “No, that’s the name of your Blog, not the subject of your next post!”
“Fine!” I huffed, “I’ll try to think of something.”
Always on her game, The Communicator said, “It’s July, Independence Day. Write about that!”
Eventually, after much procrastination, my brain finally started spinning. What do we really know about the US Independence Day, The US Flag, and the US National Anthem? Sure, we’ve all heard the stories about Betsy Ross sewing a flag for General Washington, or Francis Scott Keys writing the Star Spangled Banner, or even that the Declaration of Independence was written on July 2, 1776. But do we really know how it all happened? I was a woman on a mission… I had a puzzle to put together!
Let’s start at the beginning, with Independence Day!
Did you Know That…
So, if you want to be an Independent Sprit and confuse a whole lot of people, you could always celebrate on July or August 2nd and technically, you’d be right. Of course, you might get some strange looks if you had a parade!
Once the fledgling Nation had it’s independence, it was time to consider a flag. Not just any flag, it had to signify that a new Nation had been established… in addition to the 567 Nations that already existed among the 6 million indigenous peoples who greeted them when they arrived… but that’s another Blog!
Did You Know That…
Next time someone tells you that the US flag was designed and made by Betsy Ross, you can tell them that it was actually Francis Hopkinson and that he asked for wine as a payment! Bet that will get you some strange looks also, especially if you are marching in a parade on August 2nd!
Finally, the US established a National Anthem 155 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. Before that, many songs were used as “anthems” for the US, including Hail Columbia, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, and America the Beautiful. Even today’s Star-Spangled Banner has had an interesting and varied history since it’s creation in 1814!
Did You Know That…
Whether you sing Defence of Fort M’Henry or The Star-Spangled Banner you’re singing the same song. Also, because Congress has never passed a law to enforce the code of behavior during the performance, everyone usually does whatever he or she was taught in elementary school during the National Anthem, and that’s okay by me.
So there you have it, all the information you didn’t know that you didn’t know about the establishment of US as we know it today, the flag of the Nation, and the National Anthem! I had fun doing the research and learned things I never knew about the traditions most US citizens celebrate on July 4th.
When I gave it to The Communicator, she smiled and said, “Your next one is due in December.”
Sheesh, some people are never satisfied!!!
Most of us have several names, other than the ones we are given at birth. Throughout our lives, people give us names of affection, nicknames or abbreviations, diminutives and more. What do all of our multiple names mean? What messages do they convey to others and to us? I think they tell a lifetime of stories!
When I was born, my parents gave me the name “Joyce Karen Gillie.” I’ve been called many things during the years between birth and today. Each of my names has a story… I’d like to share a few with you and hear the stories of your many “names.”
At birth, my Uncle Cal called me “Princess” and treated me as one also. Mommy said that when she brought me home from the hospital, he came into my room, lifted the mattress with me on it, into his arms, and stood there for hours, just looking at me with tears in his eyes. She said that he looked at her and whispered, “She is my little princess,” as he held me. Princess is what he always called me.
From about 18 months until I was 6 years old, my name was, “Oh Joyce!!!” Courtesy of Mommy (smile). She uttered it at least 100 times daily, usually in some variation of, “Oh Joyce! How could you…? Oh Joyce why did you…? Oh Joyce what am I going to do with you…? Well, you get the picture (laughing). Problem was, I really did think that was my name, which turned out to be a problem when I got to kindergarten and the teacher asked us to stand and say our names on the first day of school. You guessed it… I proudly announced to the class that my name was, “Oh Joyce!” My teacher, Mrs. Wilson, said gently in that very special kindergarten teacher voice, “No sweetheart, what is your name? What does your mommy call you?” Wait for it… “Oh Joyce!” I forcefully replied (lol). “Okay dear, it’’s all right, you just have a seat,” she replied as she moved on to the next student. That evening, Mrs. Wilson called the house and Mommy called me from my room. “Joyce, why wouldn’t you tell Mrs. Wilson your name?” She asked. “I did, Mommy,” I told her, very confused. “Well,” Mommy said, holding out the phone, “Tell Mrs. Wilson your name again for me.” Completely confused, I spoke into the phone, “Hi Mrs. Wilson, my name is Oh Joyce!” Snatching the phone away from me and not missing a beat, my mother said, “Oh Joyce! How could you…?” I remember clearly just looking at her and she evidently realized what she had said, because she sent me to my room (as usual). And that was the end of “Oh Joyce!”
I became, “Joyce Karen” from about age 6 until about age 15. I think that was for two reasons, the first was so that I wouldn’t grow up thinking that my name was “Oh Joyce” and the second was the birth of a cousin. She was the third Joyce in the family, Aunt Joyce, my godmother being the first; I, Joyce Karen being the second; and now Baby Joyce was the third. I think the other reason I became Joyce Karen is that it was paired with “Gillie” about 100 times a day… as in, “Joyce Karen Gillie, how could you…? Joyce Karen Gillie, get in here this instant…! Joyce Karen Gillie, what on earth have you done…?” Not much had changed from being Oh Joyce! in that regard (laughing).
During the next few years, I added several more names. I became “Godmother” to Max when I was 15 and later to Ramelle; and had my name legally changed to “joyce karen gillie” when I was 16. People still have difficulty wrapping their heads around that one. My favorite of my two favorite names was given to me when I was 23. “Mommy.” My son, Dixson made me a mother and I cried when he called me Mommy for the first time when he was a little boy (still do, but don’t tell him that). Then at 30, I became “Auntie joyce” thanks to goddaughter Kat and nieces and nephew Jaz, Corey, and later Myko. Along the way I added more godchildren, Jordan, Justin, and Alex and more adopted nieces and nephews, Joanna, Tessie, Crystal, and so many others. I love being Auntie joyce. If you remember the movie and play, Auntie Mame, that’s me! I’m the one who gave the noisy gifts, forbidden candy and treats, planned super fun summer vacation visits, and basically drove their parents NUTS! Great fun! They’re all older now, so I’m just waiting until their children come along to continue the tradition (laughing)!
At 40, I became “The Best Gurl,” and eventually had a business named after me when I crossed paths with Thom Gossom Jr, who has plenty of his own name stories to tell! He introduced me to Alfre Woodard that way at the premiere of the film, Miss Ever’s Boys in Los Angeles. After they embraced and shared warm greetings, he reached for my hand. “Alfre,” he said as he drew me forward, “I want you to meet ‘The Best Gurl in the Whole World.’” I was basically speechless… first because I didn’t know he felt that way, since we had only been dating a short time, and second because it was Alfre Woodard and she is as stunning and commanding in person as she is on screen. That February evening, I became Thom’s Best Gurl and it is my second favorite name, right up there with Mommy!
As adults, Mommy didn’t always call me “joyce karen gillie” or “joyce gillie gossom,” at least not very often (laughter). After our first adult road trip, she started calling me “Louise” and I called her “Thelma”…and she was!! You’d never believe how silly and outrageous she could be away from her school and her staff.
A few months ago, I added my final name so far. Thanks to Dixson and his fiancée Sissy, I am now a “Grams” and have four grandchildren to love and spoil rotten (laughing)! We’re already planning trips to see them and summer vacations with us… parents optional and not necessarily preferred!
What’s in a name? Hundreds of relationships and stories. Many, many facets of a life. What’s in my name? An entire lifetime of love!
What’s in your names? Drop me a line and tell me about them!
“Nine o’clock the next day and I’m ready to go. I’ve got 600 miles to ride to do one more show.”
Those lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s What’s Your Name paint a picture of a raucous band going from city to city performing by night and traveling by day, sometimes on 600-mile journeys to the next evening’s show.
Such has been my adult business life. No, not the raucous, band playing part; but since 1979, starting as a management recruiter for South Central Bell/AT&T/ Bellsouth, I’ve been on the road from one gig to another, making my living as an actor, consultant, writer, or speaker, and then moving on to the next episode.
It started with recruiting new management hires for South Central Bell. It was technically a 9 to 5, however some weeks I left home on Monday and returned on Friday after visiting at least three college campuses. I could offer jobs to deserving young people and that was satisfying.
Later, I added acting in film and television to the consulting work I did in my firm after leaving BellSouth. For six years it was back and forth from my hometown of Birmingham to Conyers, Georgia to work on the television show In the Heat Of The Night. What started as community theatre and consultation has become a 30-year career in film and television and consultation. In the Southeast, I’ve traveled highways between Birmingham, Northwest Florida, Atlanta, Nashville, Jackson, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah, for gigs on movies, speeches and corporate communications.
I’ve flown into airports in most major cities. I flew into Memphis from Los Angeles to catch a connecting flight home only to turn around and get back on the plane to LA, because duty called.
The longest commute began in 1997, Birmingham to Los Angeles working as an actor out of the Los Angeles market. Then came Florida to LA, back and forth and back and forth until we got a place in Santa Monica and used it as our work home. I still enjoy spending time in Santa Monica with friends, Irish Joe, Michael O, and Sterfon.
Into this second decade of the 21st century it’s been, Charleston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Auburn, Birmingham, Nashville, Washington DC, Dallas, New York. I identify cities by the gig I worked there, Atlanta: Containment, Nashville: Sing Me the Blues Lena, Wilmington: Miracle In The Woods, Jackson: The Chamber, Los Angeles: Fight Club, NYPD Blue, etc etc.
The latest gig was in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve worked Charleston now a half dozen times. I could know more about it. I could have seen more, even visited the few people I know who live there, but that’s the road life. Go in do your gig, enjoy the crew and fellow cast members, another temporary family, and head for home awaiting the next episode of life to call. Home for me is the cherry on top of my life’s bowl of ice cream. Home is where I live my life.
How many final checks have I done? You know where you walk through the room and make sure you haven’t left anything, only in the back of your mind you feel you’re leaving something. It’s a road ritual; like zipping up the final item in your suitcase only to then remember something you specifically and meticulously planned not to forget only to have to unzip, reposition and remember what you promised to remember to pack, in the first place.
Leaving Charleston, I fired up some Allman Brothers and headed to Savannah. In Savannah, I stayed in a hotel I’d stayed in before. For every night I have paid for a hotel room, I could own an entire hotel by now. Sometimes I get to mix business and pleasure. In Savannah, I got to visit with Dixson (our son) and his family.
I am working out of Atlanta again. Looking back there is a sense of pride in having made it work. In having honored my commitments, both business and personal.
When will I stop? I don’t know. What I’ve done for money over the years, I’ve also done for free. It’s what I enjoy. I love the actual performing, consulting, and writing.
There is little more satisfying to me than siting in my office in the early hours of morning writing a piece and watching the sun come up over the Bay.
Then the phone rings, an e-mail hits, a text gets my attention.
“Nine O’clock, the next day and I’m ready to go!”
I’ve learned that:
Mornings are beautiful!
Life is good.
The Future is now.
I’ve learned that:
Life is complicated!
Ignorance is not bliss.
Change is messy but necessary.
I’ve learned that:
The grass is green right where it is.
Love feels best when you give it to someone.
It’s great to live life as a free agent.
The back roads of life are as exciting as its superhighways.
I’ve learned that:
Anger doesn’t help a whole lot.
The fruit you reach for is better than that which falls at your feet.
I’m just passing through.