Happy Birthday Dad

My Dad, Joseph Henry Cunningham, would have been 67-years-old today. That is young in my book, too young to die for sure. Dad had just retired about this time last year. I’d talked to him about throwing a BIG retirement party but he talked me out of it. That is a decision I regret. Maybe he was talking himself out of it because he really didn’t want to retire after all. His two excuses for not having the soiree:

  • People would not show up because it was a Friday night and everyone in Carlisle would be at the high school football game – the Bison were heading to the state championship most likely.
  • No one would want to spend their Sunday afternoon at his retirement party at the hall at the church.

Dad died suddenly on May 22nd. He was in Mt. View working on his cabin when he had his heart attack. I still haven’t gotten my head wrapped around the fact that he is gone. Friends who’ve lost parents tell me that I may never get my head wrapped around it.

Cocktail Hour With Dad

Cocktails and Smiles in NYC with my Dad

What I have figured out and wrapped my head around is this. The next time I want to throw a party for someone I love, I’m going to do it. If I want to talk to someone I love, I’m gonna call them. If they don’t answer, I’m going to leave a message. I’m not sending any text messages. I’m calling. My Dad and I played phone tag the week before he died. He left me the sweetest most heart felt message ever that week. Luckily, I saved it and on occasion I’ll listen to it which usually sets off a river of tears and a simultaneous smile. He just wanted to tell me how much he loved me and to call him when I had some time. I am so glad he didn’t hang up that day when I didn’t answer and went on to leave me such a keepsake of a message. I’ll forever be able to hear his voice even now that he is gone.

Usually on his birthday, Father’s Day or Christmas, I’d ask him what he’d like to have. His response was, “just some time with you.” Our last time together, just the two of us, was on March 13th. I’d flown back to Arkansas to hire an attorney after being served divorce papers the day before on the street at 7:40 in the morning after dropping Corbin off for school. Needless to say, it was not the happiest of times for me. But looking back on it now, it was probably the most time the two of us had spent together alone in a long time.

Despite the legal business at hand for me, Dad managed to help me shift my focus for a bit. He took me to his most recent construction site to show me the progress. He’d bought a small lot in a neighborhood that needed a facelift of sorts and was building a really cute house. Dad was proud of it. I was proud of him for taking the risk. If I was looking to buy a house in Lonoke, Arkansas, I would have bought it. It was that cute!

I would give anything to have some time with him today, right now. I would love to be able to sit and sip on a gin and tonic with him and just “visit” as he liked to say. I would love to take that trip to the White River in Mt. View and check out his wood working workshop. He was looking forward to spending time after his retirement in that workshop. The last time I saw him turning wood on a lathe, I was in middle school! That was a long time ago! He was making miniature duck calls then. I wished he could have found a way to work his retirement dream into his pre-retirement life. I’m pretty sure he thought he would have more that 7 months of retirement before he checked out!

For Dad’s birthday, I’m giving myself a gift since I can’t give him one. The gift is this. I’m going to spend more time with my friends and family – at least the one’s I like! I may be sad, but I haven’t totally lost my mind! And to do what I love TODAY, not next week, next month or next year. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Yes, I’ll plan for the future,  but I’m going to make sure I live each day to the fullest. That’s one hell of a gift, I think. Dad would agree, too.

The Skimm on the Oscars

motherofpearl-smallMy friend recently turned me onto The Skimm. It’s just that….a skim of the news, what you need to know, what impact it has on your life, and who the players are in the story. As a journalist, I first thought it was not “good enough” for me. Yes, I know that makes me sound like a total snob. Which I admit I can be when it comes to current events. But here’s a confession – I can’t keep up with everything in full detail all the time and have a life that includes raising an 8-year-old! Ukraine, I hear ya! It’s a mess. But I’m trying to get my son to eat healthy, learn to tie his shoes and master long division!

So, I laughed out loud this morning BEFORE I even crawled out of bed after reading The Skimm’s run down on the Oscars and the best film nominations.The Oscars are on Sunday. And you have a lot of movies to cram in this weekend. Don’t stress. Here’s what you need to know about the best pic noms from The Skimm.

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12 Years a Slave… A man is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Very hard to watch and if you don’t like it, you’re a bad person. Lupita Nyong’o. Know her.

The Wolf of Wall Street… It took three hours for Martin Scorsese to explain why you shouldn’t look up to Jordan Belfort and why you shouldn’t work on quaaludes.

Her… This is what happens when you like Siri too much.

Dallas Buyers Club… It took Jared Leto dressing like Kelly Bundy and Matthew McConaughey losing his entire BMI to become major Oscar contenders.

American Hustle… Bradley Cooper got a perm and made Amy Adams — in a weird accent — con some people. Kind of. Everyone said they really liked it but secretly didn’t.

Captain Phillips… Tom Hanks at sea again. But he’s kidnapped this time.

Gravity… Sandra Bullock desperately misses it when she’s lost in space. This is your worst nightmare.

Nebraska… Black and white. Road trip. Bruce Dern will make you cry.

Philomena… Judi Dench tries to find her son. Everyone likes Judi Dench.

Who will win?  Who cares!  It’s all about the red carpet and what the stars are wearing at the end of the day!

 

Compliments, Comments and Crazy Things People Say

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When someone pays you a compliment, how do you respond?  Do you say “thank you” and return the compliment?  Or accept it and marinate in the nice words?  For me, it is a toss up depending on how the words land, my environment and my mood.  And then there is also the issue of who is paying the compliment to me!  Within one week I received the following compliments from two friends.

“DJ, I would be so proud to be your Mother.”

I was left speechless really, which is not a normal state of being for me!

And then I was told this.

“DJ, you’ve got the brains for business and a body for sin.”  I still laugh out loud when I think about it.  The words were lifted from a movie but none the less, I’ll take them! 

This got me thinking, how many times have we just brushed off a compliment about your appearance or whatever from someone and said something like, “Oh, thanks and you look great too.”  Or just dismissed their words because they made you feel like you were in the spotlight and you didn’t want to be.  So, I asked you guys recently on my Facebook page what is the nicest compliment you’ve ever received?  Or what is the craziest compliment you’ve ever been given? Here they are in no particular order.  Oh, and don’t ask me for my friend’s name or number who evidently has some well executed moves in the bedroom.  I’m not giving her up!

“Wow, she is blonde and has brains”

“I would take someone with hands on, real life experience over all the letters in the alphabet behind a name. I’ll double your salary if you will come to work for me.” I received this compliment after speaking at a national health care conference from an M.D. in the audience

After many years of marriage, I lost several pounds. My husband, who really meant no harm, told our acquaintances that “his ugly duckling had turned into a beautiful swan”…..hmmm?

Seriously

Seriously

I was in line at Raiford’s (the original, years ago-a Memphis institution). I have never been a “thin” person. The African American guy at the door said, “ummm, girl, you thick!” I looked at him as if he had 3 heads. He clarified, “thick like buttamilk!” He said that was “a good thang!” Minorities have always been attracted to me, but I have to say that is one that I will never forget!

I’ve been told I look like Beth Hunt (KATV Anchor/reporter) “I watch you every night”….I just smiled and kept walking…and smiling! What a compliment!!!! –

“You don’t sweat much for a fat person.”

While dating my husband, “He stopped dead in his tracks, took me into his arms and told me I was beautiful.” It was the look in his eye that I’ll never forget.

“Your hair looks great! Is it a wig?”  Said by someone air-kissng me at a luncheon:

No, it's real!

No, it’s real!

“Are you a porn star? Because that was incredible and you did things I’ve only ever seen on film!”

“You could make a lot of money doing the stuff you like to do in bed.”
The power of your words can set a lot of things in motion.  So, choose them wisely.  And the next time some one pays you a compliment, enjoy it! It really is the small things that make the biggest difference.

 

Om Shanti, 80s Music and Bearing Right in NYC

It’s graduation week for me.  “Some one cue up ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, please”.  I wrapped up my second story telling class at The Peoples Improv Theater last week.  The class graduation show was a hit! And I shared my story, “Om Shanti Mother F**ker” that started as a blog post!  You can watch it here!

My second graduation of the week took place on stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade!  I don’t have any video of the performance. Call me a scaredy cat, but you just never know what is going to unfold on a stage in an improv class!  As it turns out, the scenes were full of sex, twisted fetishes and bikini waxes!  Think I made the right call on giving my camera guy the night off!  I do have some photos as proof that the show actually took place though.   And I passed the class which means I’m moving on to Improv 2-0-1 in December.  Who knows, Lorne Michaels may decide he needs a southern belle in the SNL cast next season? Hah!  I won’t hold my breath.

Improv Homies

Improv Homies

That’s What They Said

airplaneviewsmallI left home in New York City a month and a half ago.  I did not set out in July with the intention to be gone for 45 days, but that is how it transpired for a host of reasons. Looking back on my travels and fun times shared over dinner, drinks and road trips with some of my closest friends, five quotes and comments come to mind that have stayed with me. They’ve provided the reason for my gigantic smile and led to some random outbursts of laughter when they cross my mind. The others have stuck around like a warm, snuggly security blanket.  The short list is below. And in an effort to keep my friends near and dear, I will not be attributing any of the quotes to any of them by name!  I’m a vault like that when it comes to my friends!

“Move forward with grace and ease.”

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“When the horse dies, get off.”

DeadHorse

“I should drink more.”

Cucumber Crush Cocktail

“Go where the universe takes you, DJ.”

DJ on Crested Butte

“Dad, does she have super powers?” “Yes, son.  It’s called her vagina.”

wonderwoman

My friends are an essential part of my joie de vivre, y’all! I can’t imagine my life without each and every one of them.

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She’s Got a Story to Tell

My story telling class at The Peoples Improv Theater or The Pit is in the books. My friend, Dana, recommended I take the class and after looking into it, I knew she was on to something.  As a television journalist, I’ve been telling stories for a long time.  However, as a journalist, I was reporting facts professionally with as little bias as possible.  This, however, is just me telling you a story from my point of view and experience.  It really sums up what this blog is about.  Me giving you a look into my world through my lens –  however off the wall it may be!  And God knows some of it will seem off the wall at times.

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After spending the last 8 weeks downtown on Monday nights, I recently performed my story in front of a live audience at The Pit on East 24th Street here in Manhattan.  I was first up and took to the stage just as my nerves began to settle down! Check out the You Tube video below.

My instructors David Crabb and Michele Wallson were absolutely amazing.  With their guidance and critiques during the classroom sessions, I quickly learned the basics of telling a story!  Yes, there is a method to the madness.

I’m hooked.

I’ve got a boat load of material.

And I can’t wait to get back on a stage to tell another story!

Friends and family, consider yourself warned.