Tag Archive | veterans

The People You Meet on the Street

Living on three acres for the last 17 years, Halloween night brings zero trick or treaters in our neighborhood. Quiet and secluded, it’s far from an inviting atmosphere for children seeking candy.

Restless and ready to do something different this Halloween, the dogs and I hopped in the car, and met the hubster at a quirky coffeehouse on historic Main Street in St. Charles. Picasso’s was the perfect spot to watch the kiddos in their cute Halloween costumes parade through the streets. There were original costumes for sure, but more interesting were the people we met on the street.

Young children, Millenial hipsters, and baby boomers with dogs stopped to greet our friendly canine fur babies, as we sat at the quaint café table sipping cappuccinos.

Bordeaux, our Bernese Mountain Dog/Aussie mix, whined as a beautiful Spaniel came into view, with its owners. Our mini Aussie, Sabrina, approached the dog cautiously. A few quick sniffs of the dark chocolate and cream Spaniel met with her approval.  Bordeaux was more than happy to lock snouts with the pooch in an all-out sniff-off.

Holly and Tom, the dog’s owners, pulled up a couple chairs across the entrance to Picasso’s to chat with us. A lively conversation ensued, initially centering around the topic of dogs.

Their Spaniel, Jasper, was included in many of their outings, since they were empty-nesters. I shared with the couple, we weren’t so lucky to have children, but the dogs and cats were our spoiled-rotten kids.

We talked about a lot of things, and eventually the conversation lead to favorite vacations, and the perks I’ve come to enjoy writing for a travel magazine.

I expressed my love for Michigan, and they let me in on a secret about Seattle and the San Juan Islands. They mentioned I should visit Reno and Lake Tahoe, and I wouldn’t shut up about islands in the Caribbean.

I discovered they were florists, whose family had been in the business for more than 85 years. Turns out, we even know some of the same authors. Their greenhouse, Parkview Gardens, hosts an author event in September. They suggested I drop by the shop for a visit when I’m in the area.

Chatting for more than an hour…the conversation flowed naturally. Time passed quickly, and the sky morphed from yellow-orange to blue-violet. Lights entwined on nearby trees twinkled and shimmered on cobblestone streets.

Holly and Tom graciously acknowledged it was time for Jasper’s meds, and they should probably head home.

While my conversation was coming to a close with the couple, my husband was actively engaged in a talk with the male patron at the next table. Over coffee and a cigar, the man spoke about his third round of chemo — his battle with cancer. The hubster shared with the man, our friend Dave’s story – diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. With three months to live, three years ago, Dave beat cancer – a walking miracle. The man occasionally scribbled in his notebook as the two talked. Later, hubby learned he was a writer.

Part of talking is listening. If you listen, you’ll realize there’s more to the person on the street than meets the eye.

Sometimes I’m guilty of not listening. But I’m working on it.

So take the time to listen to people’s stories. From their words and stories, you might just find off-the-beaten places to explore, like funky coffeehouses or restaurants, and their love of animals.

Who knows, you may find a deeper connection with this person, and learn about their quest to stay alive.

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” 

Andrew Zimmern

Some people I’ve met on the street….

Jean Cruguet, Triple Crown/Kentucky Derby Winner, jockey for Seattle Slew.Met in Lexington, KY

DSC_0567 Jean Crugeut and me copyr

Lukas, a sand castle builder. Met in Sunset Beach, NC

DSCN0848 Lukas and sandcastle

Skully, an Australian vet, who walks in support of the “Run for the Wall” event originating in Rancho Cucamonga, California, ending in DC. Met in Wentzville, MO

DSC_1128 skully copyright

 

 

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Proud to Be in Proud to Be: Volume 3

Last week I received my contributor’s copy of PROUD TO BE: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 3. 20141202_110742 cover volume 3

I am so proud to be included in this volume, edited by Susan Swartwout of Southeast Missouri State University Press in collaboration with the Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance.

Proud to Be is a way for veterans, and families of veterans to share their personal experiences through essays, warrior interviews, fiction, and even photographs.

Apparently, this year there were a record number of submissions for the Warrior Arts Anthology.

The anthology is dedicated to the writing veterans, military-service personnel and family members.

My First Place win for Photography graces pages 66 and is titled “jimmie (pier). My photo was judged by Bradley Phillips, professor of photography, Southeast Missouri State University. A second photo and an interview with Jimmie was accepted for inclusion into the anthology, as well. I was extremely blessed to win this award, for the second year in a row.

jimmie (pier)

jimmie (pier)

But more than that, all the contributions in this book touch on raw accounts of life, war, warriors, emotions, and more. And deserve to be read, and noticed.

So if you get the chance, pick up a copy of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3 for a veteran, a family member, or a friend for Christmas. It’s a great gift.

~~~~~~~~

 

A Photography Award, a Warrior Veteran, and Proud to Be

Last week I spent traveling through Arkansas for an upcoming story for AAA Southern Traveler and AAA Midwest Traveler. Along the way, I tasted food of all kinds – BBQ, pancakes, the most tender porkchops I’d ever eaten, and some good old-fashioned German chocolate pie with pecans (pronounced pe-cons not pee-cans according to Arkansonians) (did I say that right?).

But nothing surprised me as much as the letter that I received from the Missouri Humanities Council when I arrived home after a week of being on the road.

As I opened the envelope, I thought that it might be the contract for my November 8 workshop with veterans titled “Using Photographs to Tell a Story” at the Central Library in downtown St. Louis. I was mistaken.

Unfolding the letter, a rush of adrenalin overcome me. I let out a shrill scream. I think I scared my husband!

I was awarded First Place from the Missouri Humanities Council for my winning photograph of Jimmie, a Vietnam Vet, fishing on the pier at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. The photograph will be featured in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors; Volume 3. The judge was Bradley Phillips, professor of photography at Southeast Missouri State University.

This is the second time I’ve won First Place in this category from the Council. Last year I received the award for my inspirational photograph of Russell, my husband, penning his thoughts in a journal located at the Kindred Spirit Bench in North Carolina. The judge last year was Destinee Oitzinger, Art Director of the National Veterans Art Museum.

I am honored and thankful for this wonderful opportunity. I’ve also discovered that Sunset Beach is soon becoming MY Kindred Spirit….a peaceful respite….a quiet oasis….my love affair and good luck charm….

Below are the two award-winning photographs….

James “Jimmie” McInnis is a three-time Vietnam Vet, and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart who I met at the Sunset Beach pier in North Carolina. As a hero in action, he unthinkingly pulled four men from an ammo dump that was blown up by a v-device in Vung Tau. Jimmie is a testament to all people everywhere that love this country.

DSC_1606 Jimmie (pier) black and white - by Sheree K. Nielsen copyr

DSCN0300 Russell, flag, Kindred Spirit blkwht copyr

A Radish Lady, Coffee, and “A God Thing”

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copry

This past October I taught a workshop titled “Every Picture Tells a Story” at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Louis.  During the two classes, I met amazing veterans – one I will call Sally.

Fast forward to this week. The last few days brought me medical testing – CT scans, ultrasounds, and biopsies.  By Friday afternoon I was spent.

Although Sally’s week was just as stressful as mine, she sent an email saying, “I’m going to say a special prayer for you, and will continue throughout the day.”  That brought a smile to my face.

A friend of Sally’s gifted her a book,“Coffee with God”.  She mentioned that I should pretend the book was called “Cappuccino with God” (because cappuccinos are my favorite coffee drink.)

The author, Sarah Arthur, reflects with God, prays and explores ways God transforms us through our regular routines in a 365-day devotional.

Sally mentioned the book was instrumental with her New Year’s resolutions – she quit smoking.

The devotional for January 10 was titled “PESSIMISM AND WOBBLE”

I won’t go into detail, but the bible verse that Sally cut and pasted in the email references Philippians 4:6 – “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything.”

That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because I was unfamiliar with this bible verse, but because it was my daily creed.  Whenever a friend is having trouble, I share this verse, recognizing it helps me through my trials.

I decided to go to Sarah Arthur’s website and read more about the book. I hopped onto her blog and noticed a comment she left on a particular day. That day just happened to be my birthday. Feeling like this was not a coincidence, but a ‘God thing’, I searched Amazon.com and ordered the book immediately.

The series of events from the minute I met Sally, all led up to yesterday afternoon.  God’s plan was in motion long before I met her.

Here’s the string of events:

At the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference three years ago, I met Deb Marshall from the Warrior Arts Alliance. Deb recommended I teach the “Every Picture Tells a Story” workshop at the VA Hospital. At the workshop I met Sally. The students asked hubby and I to return and teacher another class. Sally, hubby and I conversed after the workshop outside and joked about the parking situation. I gave her my business card. She emailed me. I emailed her. We kept a string of emails going.

Yesterday, her kind words and thoughtfulness lead to God’s plan. He reassures I’m in HIS care and grace.

My angel-messenger from above, Sally, despite her hectic life, took time to be caring, thoughtful, and positive. And isn’t that what we all should strive to do? EVERY DAY!

Thank you Sally for being there when I needed someone. I’ll try and heed the words from Philippians 4:6.

And by the way ‘Radish Lady’, you’re a fabulous writer!

2013 in review – Sheree’s Top Five Blog Posts

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Community News, an award, and a pinch of inspiration

I’ll make this one short and sweet.

In November, I won an award from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance for a photo taken of my husband on Bird Island, North Carolina titled “Dear Kindred Spirit”.

The Kindred Spirit Bench is becoming my safe place, my inspiration, the ying to my yang….you know what I mean.

Here’s the story behind the photo and the award.  Hope you enjoy.  The photo is on display at the St. Peters Cultural Art Center, St. Peters, Missouri.

Comm News 12-4-13 Sheree copy

Thank you Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance!

Thank you Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance for telling the story of my photo “Dear Kindred Spirit” on your website.  And thank you for the First Place Award in Photography – I can’t wait to meet all the veterans and families at the book launch on November 15 for “Proud to Be: Writings by American Warriors Volume II” at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Hope you like the story behind the photo.  Click on the link below and scroll down to the 7th page.

P2B_Cover

MO Humanities Council Proud to Be Vol 2 backstory