Archive for the ‘folk singers’ Category

I updated my End of the Beginning post and somehow none of it was saved, so, try, try again. The title comes from a song by my good friend and talented singer/songwriter John Flynn : http://johnflynn.net  You can hear the song there.

The lovely and talented John Flynn

The songs resonates with me because I realize there are far more years behind me than there are ahead. I have lost one parent:

Sterling L. Hornsby Sept. 27, 1920-Dec. 24, 2009

My mother is 90 and a half, and I don’t think it will be long before I become a motherless child:

Velma Ruth Stewart Hornsby, April 2, 1921-

Mother and Dad lived for 40 years in the old house where they watched 3 generations grow up:

family on the porch

grandchildren, great-grandchildren, even great-great grandchildren:


Jan. 2010 DFW Cemetery

The time came when Mother could no longer stay in that old house:

Our experiment with sending her to live in a fancy “assisted living” facility didn’t work out. After a mistake with her medication that almost killed her, my sister Gwen took Mother home with her.

Mother's lonely new home

So now I find myself at the beginning of the end, although I hope it’ll be a long time before I get there. John’s song says “The journey of a single step can begin with a thousand miles.” Here was where I started:

Shirley Jean Hornsby Sept. 1946

I grew up, went to college, got married:

Sept. 2, 1967

We had kids:

Baylor and Mom Oct. 1971

Jeff and Mom, Bangkok, July 1973

Then we had some grandkids:

Ashley b. Sept. 1, 1994

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

We got divorced, but later became friends again. I had some adventures, did a lot of traveling, met some interesting people and some great friends, mostly because of Arlo Guthrie:

Shirley, Arlo & Annie Aug. 1989

"Matterhorn" in Okemah, Ok.

Guthrie Center Fall Revival - Blunderites all

Guthrie Center 1996

John Flynn and the Flynettes, Okemah WoodyFest

To quote John again, I’m thankful “for old friends you can count on, even though their ranks are thinning.”

Alasdair and Shirley, Macchu Picchu. Miss you always

Dennis Lachappelle, best bus driver and best friend anyone could ever ask for.

Goodbye, old friend

There are others I dearly miss: dear, sweet Jack Dultz, Gay, who will always be sitting at the front table at the church, Gerry Harper – your daughter grew up to be as wonderful as you were, sweetheart. So many friends and loved ones gone but never forgotten.

Our sons grew up:

Baylor and Jeff

Our granddaughters are teenagers!

So, what happens next? I need to work on that Bucket list – maybe finish the mystery I started writing many moons ago. I have continued to write and get published – here’s the launch of the latest anthology from the Final Twist, Oct. 2011:

Shirley at Murder by the Book

Chorus of The End of the Beginning” “Oh, the journey you make, from the first breath you take, to your last dying day, the mystery will take your breath away …”

Kris Kristofferson, who accompanies John on this song, has a song with a similar line:

From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse, the going up was worth the comin’ down. I do believe he’s right. Journey on …


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John Flynn

The title comes from a new song by my friend John Flynn, a very talented singer/songwriter and a fine human being. http://johnflynn.net

It resonates with me, because I realize, like it or not, there are far more years behind me than there are in front of me. I’ve lost one parent:

Sterling L. Hornsby Sept. 27, 1920-Dec. 24, 2009

My mother is 90 and a half, and I don’t think it will be long before I become a motherless child:

Velma Stewart Hornsby April 2, 1921-

When last I wrote, she was just leaving the old house where she and Dad lived for 40 years, watching grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren grew up:

leaving home

We had high hopes that she would be happy in the fancy “assisted living” facility where she was promised, and paid for, the full level of care. Being almost blind and deaf and in a wheelchair, she was helpless to do the simplest things. Even though my sister checked on her every day, and I made several visits, she did not get that wonderful care, and the staff did not help her find friends. One day my niece found her sprawled, unconscious, on her bed and asked the nurse to check on her – “Oh, she’s fine, she always sleeps like that-”  Terri insisted on having them check her blood sugar. It was 60. Any lower and she would have gone into a diabetic coma and died. Due to a reaction between a morphine shot she’d had at the ER after she fell and hurt her arm and a pain pill she took later, she came close to death. My sister came and took her home with her. She sits in her room, in her chair, listening to audio books. Sometimes I come and take her to the old house to go through all the stuff collected over a lifetime, and she rides her electric scooter through her garden, and that makes her happy – and sad. We are getting ready to sell the house now. A family with one-year old twins want to buy it – it’s a fixer-upper and they have skills and not much money, so it would be a good fit. Mother wants to know that another family will live there and love it like she did.

Thanksgiving was – well, she put it best, when my cousin called to ask about it -” pitiful.” Only my sister, brother, and niece were there, and the dinner was store-bought. Mother was horrified that the cornbread dressing had sugar in it. Horrors! My oldest niece wrote on FaceBook that it was the first time she could remember when we didn’t gather at Granny and PaPa’s house. Seems like when my dad died, the heart left our family. Mother declared that we WILL all gather there for one more Christmas, and I hope she gets that wish.

The end of the beginning … my sons are grown, I’m not likely to have any more grandchildren – but I do adore the three I have. I have wonderful friends, but some are not doing well and some have gone on to the next world. As John says, “old friends you can count on even though their ranks are thinning.” If I want to achieve the things on my Bucket List, I need to get busy.  “The journey of a step can begin with a thousand miles.” Here I go, taking that step. Maybe I should start with finishing that mystery I’ve been working on for … a good long while.

Book launch Oct. 2011

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My last couple of posts, about my mother’s unhappy experiences in moving from her home to “assisted living,”  have been downers, and it’s time to talk about lighter subjects. During the last two weeks of March I had some fine adventures out in the Texas Hill Country, back in Houston, and up in Dallas.

First off, my friends Loretta and Beverly and I went to New Braunfels to see Arlo Guthrie perform at Gruene Hall, one of the oldest dance halls in Texas.

Standing in line at Gruene Hall

The show was great. The lovely and talented Burns sisters, Arlo’s son Abe, and his band opened the show – for two hours!. Then Arlo came out and they all performed for another two hours! I met up with my Dallas friends Jay and Shelley, my dear friend Doris Judd, who I met at a writing workshop, and spent some quality time afterwards with The Burnsies, Jimmy LeFave, Kil.Ler, Arlo’s former bus driver, now an agent for musicians, based in Austin.

The Burns sisters, Jimmy LaFave, and Killer

Doris, Shirley and Jay - Gruene Hall

Arlo and Shirley Gruene Hall March 2011

Shelley, Killer and Shirley Gruene Hall

A good time was had by all. Next morning, the Three Musketeers traveled farther west to visit my friends Nancy and Tony Parker-Simons, who manage the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, founded by Kinky Friedman. I’ve known them for several years, and two finer people cannot be found. We spent the afternoon talking, eating, laughing, touring the ranch, visiting with the animals, and laughing some more.

Beverly, Loretta, Shirley and Nancy at the Ranch

Tony Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch March 2011

Tony has become an excellent photographer. He showed us some postcards he’d made that were National Geographic quality. One took my breath away, literally – a hummingbird caught in mid-flight. He has an eye for capturing nature – plants, animals, and oh yeah, even people – he took some that made me look good, and that’s not easy to do!

Nancy in Outer Space March 2011

In addition to being a Fine Human Being and one of my long-lost sisters, Nancy is a story teller, a writer, and a kind and loving woman with a heart bigger than Texas. Do I love her? Indeed I do!

Reluctantly we said goodbye to Nancy and Tony and all the critters and made the long trip back to Houston. But the fun wasn’t over yet! The next Tuesday Loretta and I attended the opening of a new play, “Becoming Kinky” – the story of Kinky Friedman in three parts. It was truly a great show, and we bonded with the couple sitting next to us, Mark and Joyce, then got to visit with Kinky and his sidekick, Jeff Shelby, aka Little Jewford.

Shirley, Kinky, Loretta, McGonigels Mucky Duck March 2011

Loretta, Shirley, Little Jewford, Joyce, Mark, and Kinky

We closed the place down, and as we drove away I saw Kinky in a meditative mood – or was he just wishing Jeff would hurry up and take him home?

Kinky Friedman after the play - March 2011

The fun was over for awhile, and it was back to work. In my next installment, I’ll talk about my mother’s 90th birthday party, and update her status on the “assisted living” experiment. There will be some good parts and some awful parts … but for a few weeks, my world was full of friends and fun and Texas in the springtime.

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I’ve finally recovered from the shock of actually being outdoors in Okemah, Ok. in 105 degree heat – with the wind chill factor, that was about 2000 degrees F! Surely, you say, being from Houston you should be used to that? And I say, “don’t call me Surely” – that joke just never gets old 🙂 and no, Houstonians, unlike mad dogs and Englishmen, don’t go out in the noonday sun. We rush from our air conditioned homes to our a/c cars to our a/c offices and rarely spend more than a few minutes in the sauna that is Houston from June through September.

Back to WoodyFest 2009. It was special for a couple of reasons – one, it was the 20th anniversary of the trip some of us took to Europe with Arlo Guthrie in his quest to avoid the hype and commercialism of the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. He called the trip Blunderman’s Adventure, because we were all subscribers to his newsletter, the Rolling Blunder Review. Those present for this mini-reunion were Judy B, Margaret B., Annie Guthrie, T-Shirt Cathy, and moi. We couldn’t find anything resembling the Matterhorn, so we improvised, with a lot of help from Shelley C., who wasn’t on the trip but wanted to be. We call it the Blundermatterhorn.

T-Shirt, Shirley, Margaret, Judy, Connie

T-Shirt, Shirley, Margaret, Judy, Connie

Did I say this was special for 2 reasons?, No, it was really 3 reasons.  While some of us were quietly sitting in the audience at John Flynn’s kiddie show:

Flynnettes at rest - Judy, Shirley, Connie, Nancy

Flynnettes at rest - Judy, Shirley, Connie, Nancy

Connie – it would be Connie, always the instigator, starting making arm motions to go with John’s song “Love takes a whole box of crayons.” Of course we had to join in, and John, either totally amazed by our skill and talent or so he could get us out of his line of sight, announced that the audience was about to witness the first performance of the Flynnettes, and next thing you know, there we were on stage!  We’ve been waiting by the phone for John or his booking agent, T-Shirt Cathy, to call and let us know when we’ll start touring with him, but so far, we’ve heard only the sound of silence. T-Shirt, we thought you were our friend!

Nancy, Connie, Judy, Shirley and John Flynn

Nancy, Connie, Judy, Shirley and John Flynn

Now for the third special thing that happened. Thanks to this blog, I was re-united with a relative who’d been lost from the family for a long time. Scott, my first cousin Marilyn’s son, had decided it was time to come home again, and he was searching for information about both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. He discovered my posts about my mother’s first husband, who died in WWII – his great uncle on his dad’s side, and found that we were related on his mother’s side, and he reached out to me. He also noticed I go to WoodyFest, 100 miles from his home in Oklahoma City, so we arranged to meet there.  Out in front of the Crystal Theater (at that time it was the Cry Theater, the other letters being burnt out) a beautiful young lady came up to me and I knew it was Scott’s wife Valerie. We hugged and cried and then Scott came over – 6’4 and the spitting image of his great-uncle Hulbert Robertson, and we hugged and cried some more and then we went into the Crystal to hear Rob McNurlin. I whispered  to Scott that my good friend Rob was a fine Christian clean-living fellow, and then Rob,  that dog, did a song about a chihuahua. Oh Rob …!

Rob McNurlin - he looks so innocent!

Rob McNurlin - he looks so innocent!

We stayed around to hear Annie Guthrie, who was a cute teenager on that Blunderful trip to Europe and has grown up into a lovely and talented mother of two. Then my new-found kin and I took off for lunch and some intense family bonding.

Shirley, Scott, Valerie and Woody

Shirley, Scott, Valerie and Woody

Valerie, Scott, Shirley Christmas in July

Valerie, Scott, Shirley Christmas in July

A good time was had by all. Valerie and Scott took care of me like I was a little old lady – in a good way. I kept trying to prove I wasn’t. All was well until we got to my motel. I got out of the car, started to step up on the curb, and fell flat on my face.  V & S rushed over, sure they’d killed me, and I brushed it off – “I meant to do that to show you how fast I could get up.”  Somehow I think they didn’t believe me. Val & Scott, it was a pleasure and an honor to spend time with you, and welcome back to the family, I love you both.

Finally the show was over and it was time to return to the Real World. As we headed for the cars, we ran into the fabulous David Amram, who hung out with Woody and Jack Kerouac and folks like that, and boy, can he tell some stories!  Here we are:

Judy, Shirley, David, Chuch and Connie

Judy, Shirley, David, Chuck and Connie

I remember a time when I couldn’t see why I’d ever need e-mail, and a couple of years ago when the library staff had to learn the new stuff the kids were doing, I scoffed at Twittering and Facebook and other toys that seemed like a waste of time. I’ve gotten over that feeling. Through my blog and Facebook, I’ve connected or reconnected with relatives, some I’ve never even met in person, old, old friends – hey David and Barbara, I’m talking about you 🙂 and made a lot of new friends.

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As part of the library’s plan to teach us old librarians new tricks, I had to sign up for a MySpace account. I thought I was a bit too old for that, but I discovered many of my friends have accounts, so maybe I’ll keep it going. Some of the best friends I’ve ever had became my friends because of Arlo Guthrie. You have a lot to answer for, buddy! My first MySpace friend after Tom & my library was Judy, whom I’ve spoken of before. We’ve known each other since that fateful European trip in Aug. 1989. That’s where we became known as Blunderites, friends of AG, who named his newsletter The Rolling Blunder Review. Other great friends on that trip – Sherry Hochman, her mom Joyce, and the finest Jewish grandmother I ever had, Pauline Singer. Thanks for sharing her, Sherry. I also met T-Shirt Kathy, Flo, uh, oh, Old Timer’s strikes – Annie G., the Smith brothers, Deb Smith … it’ll come back to me eventually. After a few years, I picked up some other Blunderites along the road, and they are my mysp. friends now too – Connie & Chuck, Shelley & Jay, Kitty West, Rob McNurlin. Ken Boult, where are you? I got to know Abe and Lisa Guthrie, I’ve met Cathy G., and I spent some wonderful quality time with Annie & little Sarah Lee in Florida one winter. Now I’ve met Sarah’s Johnny Irion & their precious Olivia. Oh yeah, and Jackie G., who endeared herself to me when I first met her, and she asked what tribe of Indian I was. I always wanted to look like my Native American ancestors, but very few people ever thought I did.

I started going up to western Mass. to Arlo’s Church Concerts in the fall, and picked up a few more Blunderite friends. Here’s some of them:

Guthrie Center tailgate Oct. 2006

Another new technology I’ve embraced is even more fun, for me – LibraryThing – I’ve been adding all my favorite authors as fast as I can – Bill Crider, Lillian Stewart Carl, Gillian Roberts, Jasper Fforde, Colin Cotterill … and there are many more to go http://www.librarything.com/profile/shwetzel

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How did I come to know Arlo Guthrie, you might ask. It’s a very long story, going back through several lifetimes. Here’s the short version: I always enjoyed his music, but as the years went by after the 60’s ended I kind of forgot about him. My life had hit some pretty big bunps, and I wasn’t feeling too good about anything. One day I read in the paper that Arlo Guthrie was performing at Rockefella’s, and I decided I should go. After all, I figured most of the hippies were long gone and he might not have much of an audience. My friend and I showed up and found it was SRO. We got seats just above the stage, and for the next 2 hours I was transported back in time through those old songs, back to when I was young and happy … when he walked off the stage he looked up, directly into my eyes, and I had the thought that he was gonna be important in my life. Then I had the thought that the other thought was nuts. He was a legend, how could I ever expect to even meet him?

Weeks went by. I started reading about him, and his father Woody, and gained enormous respect for both of them. Woody’s early life was not too different than my own father’s, lots of hardship and tragedy. Arlo’s great-great grandfather, Shadrack Guthrie, lived in Bell County, Texas, at the same time as my Great-Great Grandpa Elisha Erwin Stewart. Small world. I’d signed up for Arlo’s newsletter, The Rolling Blunder Review. One day I got an issue that asked for volunteers to accompany him on a trip to Europe in August, 1989. He wanted to avoid the commercialism of the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, and thought some of us might want to tag along. I thought it was a joke … but what if it wasn’t? It didn’t cost much – but I was pretty low on funds. I threw the paper away. Next day it was back on my desk. Same Day, I got a “pre-approved” credit card application with just the amount of credit I needed to pay for the trip. Who was I to argue with Fate? I signed up. So did 38 other Blunderites. The rest is history.

I’d worried a little that he might not turn out to be the great guy I thought he was. I didn’t need to worry. As soon as I laid eyes on him in the Frankfurt airport, I knew he was everything I’d hoped he’d be, and more … so much more.

It was a life-changing trip. I met some wonderful folks, most of them still friends to this day. Judy B. was one of them. Here’s Judy, Arlo & me at the Guthrie Center, aka Alice’s church in Great Barrington, Mass. Arlo bought in a few years back and now does concerts there. There are community outreach programs, lectures, and other fun stuff there too.Judy, Arlo & Me

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Shirley W., Rob McNurlin, Judy BeislerMy first picturesI will now attempt to upload some of my photos

This is me, Rob McNurlin, and Judy Beisler in 2006, and Arlo Guthrie in concert

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