Kind of a Big Deal

Well. Look at us here on an overcast Monday morning at the Home Office in Gretna, Nebraska. We’re about to get back into a routine, I think. It needs to be a different routine, however. Instead of concentrating on my kidlit, it’ll be my novel.

Why? You may ask. Because I sent Chapter One of “The Freeing of Katie Fitzgibbons,” to the panel of the Nebraska Writers Guild for publication in their annual anthology. It’s a collection of member’s works. It’s how I found the Guild in the first place. The Babe and I were driving back from visiting granddaughter Kayla, and we stopped at a rest area. They sold books, etc. I saw the anthology for that year and purchased it. It started me looking to create opportunities.

By the way, I received an e-mail Friday telling me my Chapter would be published in this year’s anthology. How exciting is that? I’m honored, proud, and humbled, all at the same time. And those of you friends I’ve tagged need to know you’ve all helped me get to this point. The support from all of you is phenemonal. Yes, all of you. If you read, or liked something I posted, whether it a blog post or FB post, it’s all been encouraging. I can’t thank you enough. And Billy and Kate – Thanks for letting me learn the, “Just because it’s never been done,” philosophy. My life is full of doing things never done before. Out of “order.” As a late bloomer.

That said, now the work load needs to shift (I believe the word now is “Pivot”), and we’ll be closer to the end of the book at the end of 2021. We’ve reached a milestone, friends. I’m really beside myself! Thank you all, for reading, encouraging, feedback, and all of you who read quietly in the background (No, General Dennis Luke from Nigeria, who lives in Saudi Arabia now, and asks me to send him a friend request, no, not your kind of background reading!) Don’t be a creeper, or creepy.

Tomorrow is the annual pilgrimage to Hobby Lobby for Mom, so I’d better get extra rest tonight! Just can’t shake this allergy/asthma flareup. So again, I look forward to a new day tomorrow. It’s going to be a great week! Thanks for reading, I’ll see you tomorrow!

Miss Tara Vaughn! She Rocks!

With the sadness hanging over Omaha today for the loss of Corporal Deagan Page USMC, and the Anniversary of 9/11, we need a break. We need a respite. We have one available at the Sumter Ampitheater right now. Go, you’ll become cheered up and healed. From your seat, you will take a trip down memory lane to have your musical life flash before your eyes!

Thursday night, Tara Vaughn opened her She Rocks show at Sumter Ampitheater. I went alone this time, as the Babe had an Honor Guard Meeting at the Post. I didn’t mind going alone, I was there to listen to Tara, not chit chat, you know? As it was just what I needed. It got me through the last couple days. That’s the thing about music. It’s always there. It never deserts you in your lowest point.

Tara’s voice is so rich and has such a depth to it, it’s mesmerising. She can belt out a Janis Joplin song as easily and fully as a Petula Clark song. If you have no idea who these ladies are/were, your parents didn’t love you. They didn’t share part of music’s legacy with you.

Tara has become braver each year with her show (except last year, which didn’t happen – COVID, you know. Oh! And Tara got a cat. You had to be there!) This year, she added more 90s songs to the show, and they were enjoyable. I’m not sure my kids listened to No Doubt. One was into Heavy Metal, one into Pointer Sisters, Boy Bands, etc., the other into Grunge. The stuff I heard from their rooms made quite the noise when they were all still at home. I enjoyed Tara’s walk down her own memory lane. It served as an education into a genre/era I’m not familiar with.

Talk about social distancing! I had the first three rows to myself! I chose the opening night, which was a Thursday, as one that would be less crowded. By the time a few more folks see it, you will clamor to get tickets. It’s a great experience. And it will lighten your soul, as it did mine. Tara had two new members in her band; and I was so glad to see Natalie Thomas Hughes back again. She just became a new Mama, and she wears it well. Her voice goes so well with Tara, and it’s pure joy to watch and hear them together.

Another change from before, Max Meyer was not on Lead Guitar, but I did not catch the young lady’s name. She had a good time. Watching her was fun. And the drummer Adam had a great time. Matthew McGuigan always has the serious, intent on the music look, but you can catch him looking at his brother and can tell they are communicating. They just “get” each other. Ryan McGuigan is a wonder with not only all sorts of percussion instruments, but guitar as well. He lets you know he’s there. Love watching Matthew and him perform. For the first time, the male and female band member count is equal! Don’t think I’ve noticed that before. It was just fun.

Folks, just order some tickets. You can take a picnic with you to enjoy on the lawn seating. Or you can have a comfy stadium chair. But go. Here’s a link to Eventbrite for you to buy tickets. Heres a collage or pics from the night I went. I was so into the music, relaxing and enjoying, I forgot to take pictures! Go, have fun. And I’ll see you tomorrow!

Summer Sunday

Last night. What a soul healing experience for the Babe and me. We attended Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra concert at Sumter Ampitheater in Papillion, Nebraska. It was cancelled last Saturday due to impending bad weather (thank you, Kate Whitecotton!), and could redeem our tickets last night. Of course, that’s what we did.

The music, of course, was stellar. We’ve seen this show every summer since its inception. It has experienced some changes and probably attracts a larger audience being more pop and rock from the 50s through the 80s. Once again, my life flashed before my eyes! Many of these songs were recorded with full blown orchestras. They were meant to include brass (saxaphones are my favorite) and strings. I didn’t catch the names of these very talented musicians, but they were wonderful. The ladies on strings strutted on stage barefoot and took their places. It just spoke summer, outdoors under the stars!

Jesse White joined the ensemble and he is exceptional. We saw him in Hegwid and the Angry Inch earlier this year; he is one to be watched. With the musicians assembled last night, he will do very well. He did a Buddy Holly duet with Billy, and it was mind blowing. I’m so sorry we missed his debut as Buddy Holly in the Buddy Holly Story, produced by Billy and Kate. Next year, the Omaha Series must include it! (Please)!

Although Billy and the orchestra played some of his original music (not nearly enough, IMHO), the rock and roll of our youth really shone. Two of my favorite songs of all time were out of this world. “Good Lovin,'” by the Young Rascals (later the Rascals), was spot on. My heart felt as young as when I first heard in in 1966. I was just out of eighth grade, on my way to high school. It brought back the innocence of youth. After a hard week (another friend lost their husband), we needed this night. We needed the music to heal our hearts. And it did.

The other favorite? “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Steve Winwood with The Spencer Davis Group never disappoints. Neither does Billy. Ever. Whatever he does, you leave thinking, “That was so perfect, it just can’t get any better.” And somehow, with McGuigan Magic, it does. Every. Single. Time. I want to write that way. I want to be as good an author as he is with his music. It’s inspiring, besides healing.

The thing that struck me this time out? The intense sense of family. We saw Ryan and his lady friend as audience members. It was fun to watch his reaction to the performance. All he an Billy have to do is look at each other, and you see the love. It was good to see him having fun and living life. It has to be way different watching v participating. He mimiced some fancy footwork and percussion work while dancing in his seat. And Matthew, he keeps playing, whether guitar or keyboard, he keeps going. I love his playing. His beautiful rendition of “My Girl,” reflects his love for his wife. It’s another favorite and I love how he does it. You just can’t beat MOTOWN.

Young Ciaran, Billy’s son, is a rock star in the eighth grade! His guitar lessons from Max are worth millions. (Sorry, Billy). He’s not only getting the tunes down well, he’s developing his showmanship at the same time. What a kick for him, to perform live AND rock out his spotlight solos. He even turned around and played his guitar behind his back and up on his shoulders. I hope I’m around when he’s about 30 years old and he’s still in music, he’s just going to improve. The girls are going to swoon, (or do a Tik-Tok video). As his selection of a song last night he chose an Eric Clapton song. I told you he’s unbelievable! It was “After Midnight.” Enough said. Wow.

I had to laugh, Max’s Mom, Roxann Rodgers Meyer, posted the perfect rebuttal to all those folks crowded into Memorial Stadium to see Garth Brooks (Garth who?). She shared she was not at Memorial Stadium, but she was at SumTur Theater rocking out to Billy McGuigan and Max Meyer. With family. No better place for families to be, friends. I saw Cartney from afar with family members, too. Generations with appreciation for our local musicians. And none of us were disappointed. They’re worth far more than the price of admission, in my mind.

Although the McGuigan family hugs helped these men grow up through many bad things in life, they still do the hugs they thought corny. Bill, their dad, had them group and hug while telling them, “These people, these are the ones that love you and will always be there for you.” I’m going to do one of those hugs with my girlfriends who are now widows. And with our kids. And my brothers. And I’m going to thank God for this example. It’s a keeper for sure. Just like their music is. And them, too.

If you’re in the area, you can attend the last of this series at SumTur Ampitheater, at 118th and Hwy 370. Just past Papillion South High School. It’ll be another beautiful night. It was our first visit for a concert, and we’re sure to be back. Tickets still available. Your week will be better for it.

A Sunday to Celebrate!

I’ve shared with you about the great day I had yesterday. If you didn’t see it, here it is. The day got even better! We got to see these guys with the Omaha Symphony. If you know me at all, you know I love these guys, and the lovely Tara Vaughn. Since it’s been awhile, let me re-introduce you. From the left, Matthew McGuigan, Tara Vaughn, Larell Ware, Ciaran McGuigan, Ryan McGuigan, Darren Pettit, Max Meyer, and Billy McGuigan. A couple guys are new, but they fit with the band like a glove. It’s like they all have McGuigan lessons before they join, yet they all are great on their own. All these musicians are multi-talented. They are all huge personalities. Ciaran is in training, taking guitar lessons from Max at the McGuigan Arts Academy in Omaha. He is indeed learning from the best.

Most of the country is open after COVID-19. Omaha has let it’s Mask Mandate expire. Yes, we’ve heard conflicting information, but the Babe and I had both vaccinations, and consider ourselves safe. I believe all these maskless marauders below had the shots, too. Tara Vaughn hasn’t performed with her boys since pre-pandemic, I believe. It was so good to see her back, and hear her strong, beautiful, resonant voice again. These guys are great alone, but now, the band is indeed back together! It became time to unleash this energy on Omaha again.

And it was epic! The sign on the door of the beautiful Holland Center said masks were suggested. We took note of that, and once inside, saw the majority of folks maskless. I’ve never been in jail to be let out of it (except in Monopoly), but it felt like getting out of jail. We were free for the first time in a very long, time.

The conductor for the Symphony had a spring in his step all evening, too. To hear the hits of the era we grew up in was so cool. They sounded so good with a live symphony to back them. One violin player had a constant smile on her face. She enjoyed it, too! The other members kept their stoic faces. Lots of toe-tapping going on, just not smiling. The music filled the heavens of downtown Omaha. I’m sure their Dad Bill McGuigan, had a front row seat from heaven. I wonder what that is like? If I get there someday, I’ll have to ask him. Remind me of that, ok?

I think I’m speaking the God’s honest truth when I tell you it was so apparant these musicians all enoyed performing with each other for the first time in a long time. Their faces were extra-jubiliant. Their execution was right on! Their knowing looks cast at each other and smiles told you you were seeing them at their best. And with these people, you can be sure of that.

We plan on seeing every show they have planned, whether in Omaha, Glenwood, or Papillion. Go to their website and get tickets for the summer series. You will never go away disappointed. If you disagree, we cannot be friends. Go see them. The sooner the better. You’ll be set free, too.

Thanks for reading. Take care out there. Enjoy the fresh air. See you tomorrow!

About Last Night . . .

A night the Babe and I were waiting for since early December 2020 finally happened. To hear TOGETHER, Billy McGuigan’s live performance of his COVID album released a few months ago. The music is reviewed here. The live performance? It was fabulous. Although I’d listened a hundred or more times (yes, I do that with music I love), seeing Billy McGuigan live is always a top-notch experience. Kevin Klimowski, a fan from Des Moines, and I sat near each other and and commented on how good they sound recorded and in person as well. Boys and girls, that’s the sign of a group of REAL musicians. Billy doesn’t mess around. They will never let the music die.

Although I’ve been a Billy and brothers’ fan for a long time, we are still seeing new and exciting things at any function these guys play. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Carly Frolio’s beautiful voice. She sings like an angel and accompanies Billy well. Unfortunately, we missed the Parking Lot Concerts last summer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. If Carly sang there, we missed it. Sorry! Much like her fellow band mates, she has many creative skills, including photography.

In addition to the band, something else new was students from McGuigan Arts Academy as ushers, a wealth of information, and front row fans. Our little girl usher informed us we “could take all the pictures we wanted of Billy McGuigan.” Thank you, honey. She told Kimberly Faith Hickman, “Now, I’m an usher,” before this bespectacled, braided, confident little girl bounced down the aisle, intent on mission completion.” She found our seats with the precision of a soldier on a mission. She waved us over, pointed, and said, “Enjoy the show.” Mission completed, young lady!

All of the children sat in the first row after helping introduce Billy. They all looked thrilled to death. Much like the adults who frequent his shows, they jumped to their feet and danced their hearts out. A new generation of McGuigan’s Minions. Who knew? The Arts Academy is doing great things. Some kids were backstage hands. What a great thing! Hands on learning. Lucky, lucky kids.

Billy’s son, Ciaran McGuigan keeps coming more into his own more and more as a guitar player. Max Meyer, is a lead guitar player, and Ciaran’s teacher. Max does great things with a guitar you have only heard about with the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton. Love listening to you, Max! We even heard him singing, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” I loved the Beach Boys when I was a kid! You evoked some great memories!

Matthew McGuigan is a favorite, too. He is always consistent, steady, and a great vocal back up. He was mentioned as turning 40 yesterday, and with his second COVID vaccine, he took it all in stride. Go Matthew! This is a banner year for you, too! He and brother Ryan McGuigan stayed pretty much in the background Saturday night. It was Billy’s night. And he rocked it. The love of family really stands out with this group. They are their own family! And the fans, we complete that family. Kate Whitecotton organizes the whole lot, and it comes off without a hitch every time. She’s magical!

I keep wondering what else these guys can do that’s not been done before? A whole bunch, all the talents considered. We will be there, Billy, Ryan, and Matthew. We have heard the life story, and we’re glad you’ve used your experiences for good. Not just your good, but for ours, too. Billy started out playing Buddy Holly at the Omaha Community Playhouse. And the rest is history. He is nowhere near done. At 46, he has at least 30 more years of performing ahead of him. He already knows he can do a Sinatra-Buble-Connick, Jr., type of show. And he killed it! When you can’t jump anymore, when you may have trouble reaching for the strings on your guitar anymore, you can croon. Until then, though, feel free to share your life, thoughts and feelings with your family from Bellevue, Omaha, Gretna, Elkhorn, and the surrounding areas. You guys are home with us, and we couldn’t be prouder. You will tend the music and keep it alive as long as we need it. And you. The Best is Yet to Come!

Hedwig and The Angry Inch

See this! It doesn’t matter your age, your beliefs, or your taste in music, there is something for everyone here to appreciate. The Acting. The Music. The stage presence of the actors and the band. Even the pre-show where Billy McGuigan sings some old songs and a few from his new album, “Together.”

It felt good to be attending a live show again. When the Babe retired, we tried new things we’d never done before. We became members of the Omaha Community Playhouse, and saw many plays of high quality, and the annual Christmas Show “Yesterday and Today,” which is a Beatles tribute show performed by Billy and his brothers Ryan and Matthew. A very talented group of musicians. Billy has a pool of amazing musicians to choose from and uses everyone in the best way possible.

The people at the Waiting Room did an outstanding job of only selling 25% capacity for the show. We were more than socially distanced, seated at our table. We could remove our masks while seated, which was good. It was safe and gave us a sense of security with the precautions they enforced. The Waiting Room is in Benson, at 6212 Maple Street. Get there super early! Parking is hard. Doors open at 6:30 pm, Billy performs at 7 pm, show starts at 7:30 pm.

Hedwig has one heckuva voice, whether singing as herself or as himself. The Angry Inch is a rock band who backs up Hedwig, the internationally ignored superstar (in her mind). You learn of her past life, her later life, and her quest to escape East Berlin before the wall fell. It was an historic time for sure. Her desperation to leave Germany was so intense, she resorted to some drastic measures.

The quest to find your “other half” is something we all experience. Hedwig’s was of utmost importance to her. Part stand-up comedy, part rock musical, and part play, it has it all! The female lead was fantastic. What a voice! She rocked the place in fine fashion. And the best part? Evelyn Hill is a senior at Central High School. What a young talent! The possibilities that lie ahead for her!

Jesse White is incredible as Hedwig. The stories and songs tell the story how he started out as Hansel in East Berlin. He came to have a sex change operation, which was botched. No wonder he’s angry!

It was hugely entertaining for a chilly Saturday night in Nebraska. It was worth the drive and the price of admission. When it ended, we wanted more. More shows open later this spring and summer. There are post cards available at your seat to remember dates and places of other Rave On Production shows this year.

It’s going to be an exceptional year, being entertained by the genius that is Billy (always up for a challenge), Ryan (he has quite the stage presence, folks! Pay attention, you’ll see why!), and Matthew (the most excellent musical director) McGuigan, Max Meyer (one of the best lead guitarist’s you’ll ever see), Jay Hansen (Superman), and Larell Ware (Drums – my he’s good!). And I have to say, Kate Whitecotton, House Manager and CEO of Rave On Productions, is the most organized person on earth; she excels at coordinating everything for the performers. Kathleen Kersey is the Volunteer of the Year, selling merch at most of the shows. She knows her stuff, and which versions of the bands performed which version of the CD’s.

For your mental health, make a date tonight or next weekend for the remaining shows of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, at the Waiting Room Lounge. You will not be disappointed. Thanks for checking in today. We’ll see each other tomorrow. I look forward to it.

Summery Saturday

Tonight is a special night. We are finally able to go see live music, outdoors, and socially distanced at the beautiful Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, Iowa. We are going to see “Billy and the Downliners,” a/k/a Billy McGuigan and his talented band. It’s going to be great. Although they have performed at the Omaha Community Playhouse as a Drive-In production, we didn’t attend that one. It stinks being in the “old person” category, and having some health issues. It stinks being responsible about it, but I’d rather we both be here in the future to see him perform than go now and be sorry we did. I’ve never seen such talented musicians gathered together. They all have their moments to shine, and together, it’s stuff that you will probably hear from the angels in heaven. The best part of all? They love their fans, and appreciate them. No egos here. Just confident people sharing their gifts with us. How lucky Omaha is to have them. My heart feels lighter.

I’m feeling the COVID-19 Blues lifting already! It’s nice to have something to look forward to, aside from waking up every morning. It’s sure become a habit to sit out on the deck with the dogs every morning. Just watching the sky, the trees, the birds. It’s so awesome. I don’t like to think what we will do in late fall when it’s too cold to sit out there. There has to be something equal that’s inside, and not the morning news. It’s just so dark anymore. I think America as a whole are really trying to be safe in this pandemic. We can’t always get what we want. My generation heard that phrase in a Rolling Stones song back in the day.

Sure we have rights, and with rights come tremendous responsibility. Wearing a mask is in that category, in my humble opinion. My freedoms are still there, I’m just thinking of all of us by wearing one. Please, pick something else to be stubborn about. Don’t get me, my 91 year old mom, my 70 year old husband, or my little grandson (I haven’t gotten to meet yet) sick by thinking you’re proving a point. It’s not worth it. I’d rather live, and I would bet you would too. Help me help you never meant more than right now.

New Words to Live By

Too often we become complacent in our lives. We don’t have to have fireworks and parades all the time. We accept things that are holding us back as people. We accept people who hold us back, too. The best situation for improving your life is to have a partner who has your back. That is rare, especially if you want to do some projects or take up a new time-consuming hobby. That’s when you can really tell if you have the right person with you or not. If they aren’t happy for you in your growth spurt, there could be trouble if they have a temperament that needs their ego fed.

That said, you can be contented and support your S/O if you are secure in your life, your relationship, and are genuinely happy for their future, which is also a part of your future. I re-discovered that treasure in my life this week. After nearly 22 years of marriage, it’s still there, and better than ever. The Babe supports my endeavors whatever they are. He may not want to participate, or understand why I want to write, but he supports me, and I support him, too. He knows writing is important to me. When he told me that this week, I felt like the keys to Fort Knox were handed to me. That’s a huge, huge gift to a creative person. May you all have that someone in your life. And if not now, may you find it soon. You deserve it, too. I’m grateful.

Project for today, in addition to studying more about writing.

Thank you for reading today. I hope you have something safe and special planned. Pop Rock, with Billy McGuigan will play for an extended time at the Omaha Community Playhouse, if you’re up to going. You won’t be sorry, trust me. Dates are August 5 – 23. See you tomorrow, right here. Be safe. Be kind. Be courteous. Let the music blow your socks off.