If We’re Going Out of Business, I Missed the Sale! …


I’m amazed to discover that my last post here was October 14! That’s even pre-election! Sheesh! Well, you missed some important events, so I’ll try to provide a “Cliff’s Notes” summary and time travel us all up to the present.

It seems there’s a lacuna (it’s a PhD word – sorry!) in our historical journey. I left you just after my second cataract implant surgery last June. The day after the surgery, I was helping Alek pack his U-Haul for the moving excursion to his new home in South Bend. As I stood with Aija just inside the garage door watching Alek working at arranging items in the truck, I noticed a strange slurring of my speech. I mentioned it to Aija and we thought about what might be the cause. Naturally, I thought it might be connected to the cataract surgery that took place the day before. She called the eye surgery office and the doctor assured us that it was not connected to the surgery and we should probably go to see our GP. So we did!

There began a series of tests with several physicians, all of which I basically passed. I was finally referred to a neurologist. More tests. Finally, I had an MRI on my brain. The discovery was that I had suffered a TIA which is actually a stroke! Scary … Additionally, the neurologist told me that I had probably had others in the course of my history. I asked what I could do about this problem. Believe it or not, his prescription was, “Lose weight and exercise!” (Where have I heard that before?) So, I immediately hired a personal trainer, set up an exercise program and also arranged to begin a nutrition program. All this was with the wonderful app known as My Fitness Pal! I also began a walking regimen for cardio which I track with the app, Map My Walk. I keep track of my strength training with the app, Trainerize (through my local gym and trainer). I was very concerned about my longevity, if not down-right scared!

[Before resuming the historical update, let me just say that all this is working very well. I’ve lost almost 50 pounds and eating more healthy with a good regimen of exercise – more than ever before in my life!]

So, during the ensuing weeks, the usual and expected activities took place including things like shooting some videos, traveling to St. Augustine for the July 4 fireworks, Getting a new prescription for glasses, seeing the neurologist, showing houses to potential buyers, picking up new glasses, etc.

On July 9, I was in the bedroom preparing to go for a swim. I put my right foot in the bathing suit and then lifted my left leg to insert it into the suit as well. Unfortunately, I caught my left big toe on the suit liner and crashed to the floor. It hurt! Bad! I laid there for a few minutes and then painfully stood up. At that point, I thought it was a bad bruise and I stayed off of it. When Aija came home for showing houses, I related what had happened. As the day wore on, the pain became worse and my ability to put weight on the leg diminished. Finally, in the evening, Aija convinced me to go to ER, which we did. There was severe damage to the right knee. I went to see the orthopedic doctor the next day.

I had been scheduled to travel to Santa Fe to be Grandpa-nanny for Eva. That trip, to my dismay, had to be canceled. My leg and particularly knee were badly swollen and walking was almost impossible! Fortunately, the x-ray and MRI data showed no breaks or tears, but a huge hematoma on the inside area of my right knee. I chose to no have surgery to deal with the hematoma, but to treat the injury and let the blood disperse naturally.

There followed a very long period of recovery first on crutches, then a walker, then a cane, and finally physical therapy. I’m pleased to say that I am fully recovered and back to normal. I certainly dodged a bullet!

During this time, Aija’s siblings Nora and Dainis arrived for their regular summer visit. I was mostly confined to the recliner where I celebrated Birthday number 69! Aija went to Santa Fe to cover some Eva nanny time and I was scheduled to go to Santa Fe later as well. I was hoping that I was able to make the trip.

It came time to have a brain MRI to investigate the TIA incident. It was endurable, but not my favorite procedure! The results would not be read by the doctor until August 17.

I spent July 23-27 diligently trying to rehabilitate my leg in order to make the trip to Santa Fe. Family and Doctors were, at first negative about the flight. I worked hard with PT including swimming and walking. By July 27, I had the medical release to fly. The family still were not convinced that it was the right decision, but for me, personally and psychologically, I knew it was. I made the trip and it was wonderful. Aija and I spent quality time with Eva, we saw the Santa Fe production of Handel’s Alcina, starring Alek and Daniela, and had nice vacation time.

August 3rd we returned to Valdosta and prepared to undertake Fall season. I think I’ll stop here and pick up the history of the next few months in the next installment. If you’ve trudged through this so far, you have my thanks! Meanwhile, check out the other pages on this site. They are much less pedantic! See you next time!  Cheers!  -Jim

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South Bend<--->Ann Arbor, who knows …


I took a little time off for a quick, but intense trip to South Bend, then Ann Arbor, then South Bend, then Ann Arbor, then Detroit! I was on Eva duty as designated Grandparent as Alek taught opera classes and rehearsals at Notre Dame and Michigan (subbing for Matt Ozawa). I finally got to see the new house in South Bend. It’s wonderful with lots of space, an interesting floor plan, and a great view of the St. Joseph river. The house sits right the river bank and we were able to watch people in canoes, kayaks, and even some fishing boats, one of which anchored right in view of the house! It’s a great location which feels like you’re in the middle of the forest, even though you’re actually in the city!

It’s about a three-hour drive from South Bend to Ann Arbor, so we put lots of miles on the rented Kia Sportage! Alek had to teach in Ann Arbor on Tuesday and Thursday and do a South Bend rehearsal on Wednesday, hence the travel time! Eva, as always, was amazing. We had two great picnics at a small playground on the property of Matt’s condo. We flew out of the Detroit airport on Friday the 13th (I know, right?!) with Alek and Eva to Washington DC (where mom, Daniela is performing at Kennedy Center with Washington National Opera) and me to Valdosta!

I’m here for ten days and then I go to DC for more Grandpa duties. More about that later!

Now, back to the historical diatribe …

I left you on May 5 just after our anniversary dinner. Nothing much to report the next week or so – just the usual real estate business, a couple of doctor appointments, etc. On May 18, Alek, Daniela, and Eva arrived for an extended visit. This was in preparation for the big move to the new house in South Bend. The packing/sorting/discarding commenced in a big way! Aija and I were thrilled to take care of the little one while mom and dad packed and stuff!

May 23, Alek had to fly to Notre Dame for some meetings and I took my first Real Estate Continuing Ed class. Next came a series of celebrations: May 26 for the Alek and Daniela anniversary; June 2 for Aija’s birthday; and June 11 for Eva’s second birthday (where the parents gave her a shiny red tricycle!).

Between those two birthdays, I started the journey to cataract surgery on both eyes. The left eye was done on June 5 and the right eye on June 17. Meanwhile the truck had been packed and Alek was set to drive it to South Band on June 20. But then, a series of major events were about to take place that affected the entire family. Stay tuned …


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What happened next?


So, I left you in the Boston airport on April 25 after the successful recording, editing, and mastering sessions of my Really Short Opera – Frogs Always Get You in the End. (Go over to the music/opera page to hear it and see some details.)

So Aija flew off to South Bend to be the Grand-Nanny for Eva while the parents did some house hunting. I should say here that the reason for the house hunting was that Alek had accepted a position as Assistant Professor and Director of Opera at Notre Dame University! While he will continue his singing career, as will Daniela, they will put down some roots in South Bend as Eva approaches her second birthday. Here’s Eva and Grandpa this summer in Santa Fe!

Anyway, Aija is off from Boston to South Bend and I am returning to Valdosta.

Once again, I returned to lots of real estate activity: showing houses, videos, paperwork, meetings, etc. The most exciting event on the real estate front was the annual Realtor/Affiliate Fish Fry Dinner which I attended by myself since Aija was still on Nanny duty in Indiana. At this event, you walk around visiting all the Affiliate vendors that we work with each year and leave your business card. Later, after the fish fry meal, each Affiliate pulls out a business card and awards a prize to a lucky Realtor. Well – I hope you’re sitting down – I WON! I won a great new Apple Watch, which I love! Many of the colleagues immediately sent text messages and photos to Aija to mark the celebration!

In addition to real estate activities, the VSU Blazer Softball season began (I am a huge fan, with season’s tickets), and my personal swimming season opened in our wonderful pool! (I don’t get in until May 1!) This time was also marked by three regular doctor appointments and the return of Grandma Aija from South Bend.

On May 5, we went to Steel Magnolias restaurant in downtown Valdosta for a great 39th Anniversary dinner!

Here endeth the lesson …  See you next time! Cheers!

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Back from a strange and intense Hiatus …


It’s been quite a while since I’ve spoken with you. I see the last post is dated April 5 – OMG!

I had been relating that marvelous time in Tucson and Phoenix when I was hanging out with my darling granddaughter Eva, while her parents, Alek and Daniela, performed with Arizona Opera. I flew back to Valdosta on April 10 and was met with an avalanche of real estate work (shooting five videos and taking an advertising/social media class) along with an eye exam, Moxie grooming, and VSU Blazer softball.

On April 20, it was time to fly to Boston and record my Very Short Opera – Frogs Always Get You in the End. We were recording at the Shalin Liu auditorium in Rockport, MA. It is a beautiful 300 seat space with an incredible view (from the conductor’s POV) of the rocky shoreline, crashing waves and all!

The crack PARMA Recording crew was excellent and very well organized. The instrumental trio was outstanding and very flexible. The singers were well prepared and a brief rehearsal was all that we needed to begin the session. I was thrilled to return to the conducting podium where I hadn’t been (and missed it!) for quite a while.

The Princess was Aliana de la Guardia. 

The Frog was Brian Church. 

I was so fortunate to have my wife and partner Aija with me for the entire project. While I was conducting on stage, she was in the control room with the technicians. Her input was invaluable as it has been for the last 39 years!

I have uploaded the recording on the music/opera page in this blog. I hope you will take seven minutes to listen to it. I am in the process of developing a performance package that would include scores, parts, and staging/touring possibilities. I’m hoping that universities and opera companies will consider this piece for community and school touring projects.

Because the recording session in Rockport was on Friday and the editing/mastering session was scheduled for the following Monday, we had Saturday and Sunday off. At first our plan was to be tourists in the Boston area, but we ended up driving our rental car to New Jersey and we spent some great time with daughter Dorothy! It was a whirlwind visit to be sure, but well worth the drive. Conversations during long drives are often the best and the time spent with Dorothy was wonderful!

So we returned to the PARMA Recording home studio in North Hampton, NH and got to visit with technicians and executives as we put together the fruits of our recording labors. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to be able to do more with this exciting company.

After an overnight near the Boston airport, we boarded planes – Aija to South Bend, IN and me back to Valdosta. But that’s the next chapter!

Thanks if you read this far! More coming soon … Cheers!

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Missin’ the Mox …

Greetings all!

Coming to the end of my three weeks in Phoenix/Tucson! I’ve been Hanging out in Phoenix and Tucson with Arizona Opera, represented by Cenerentola (Daniela) and Ramiro (Alek), AND my main squeeze – granddaughter, Eva (22 months old)!

After eighteen days, really missing the Georgia family – Aija (of course!), Valda, and MOXIE!!!



A few highlights so far:
♦ Sunday, 03.19 Arrive in Phoenix – a beautiful mini-hacienda in Spanish style – lovely bedroom for the grandpa-nanny!
♦ Saturday, 03.25 – scratched my Spring Training itch by taking Alek to see the Indians/White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark. [Indians up 7-6 with 2 out in the top of the 9th … BAM! White Sox GRAND SLAM! … Tribe loses 10-7!] I coulda seen this with the Phillies in Clearwater!
♦ Monday, 03-27 – load up the car and transfer to Tucson for opening weekend. Staying next to the opera singers plus one, in my own room at the Courtyard Marriott. [Great to see Andrew Owens (Best Man at the Alek/Daniela wedding) again after several years! He’s alternating Ramiro with Alek.]
♦ Saturday, 04.01 – Opening Night for Daniela & Alek – can’t find a review yet – everyone seemed happy!
♦ Sunday, 04.02 – I’m going to the matinee to see/hear Andrew, et al. Good show! Dean Williamson conducting – Andrew was great!
♦ Monday, 04.03 – load up and drive back to Phoenix (We actually did this on Sunday right after the matinee!)

Future highlights:
♦ Friday, 04.07 and Sunday, 04.09 – Daniela/Alek performances
♦ Monday, 04.10 – Everybody to airport; me to Valdosta, the other three to Houston!

If necessary, I’ll fill in details of the above in another post!

Let’s go around the categories!

Reading List:

Spring is only ten days old and I’m well ahead in the Spring 2017 reading list. Two contributing factors – I finished the winter list early, and – I have a lot of time to read here in Phoenix/Tucson when I’m not on Eva duty! I have added several new entries including some novellas which I’m happy to put paid to my complete reading list. So far this Spring,  I’ve investigated diverse crimes with Tom Gabriel (Tim Ellis – Games of the Dead), Hubert Schuze (Michael Orenduff – The Pot Thief Who Studies DH Lawrence), John Rebus (Ian Rankin – Rather Be the Devil), Milan Jacovich (Les Roberts – Speaking of Murder), Joe Gunther (Archer Mayor – The Catch), and now I’m in England with Alan Banks (Peter Robinson – Blood at the Root). Still to come are visits to the Scottish Highlands (MC Beaton – Knock, Knock You’re Dead), England – (Tim Ellis – There Is No Fear in Love), Philadelphia (Jane Haddam – Baptism in Blood), Arizona (JA Jance – The Old Line), Seattle (JA Jance – Ring in the Dead), and finally Amsterdam (van de Wetering – Just a Corpse at Twilight). Lots of adventure and travel. Join me …


Doing some score preparation on the Frog Opera to be ready for the Boston recording session on 4/21. Once I get back in the studio, I’ll continue work on the Georgia Ambassadors repertoire and look ahead to the next holiday publication season.

Real Estate:

I’ve been doing quite a bit of long-distance work from here in Phoenix/Tucson. Several closings and a listing await my return to Valdosta. The learning curve is not quite as daunting as it once was and I’m guided by my brilliant mentor, Aija.

I’ll sign off now, but with anticipation that the next post will have details of the Boston trip, perhaps some vacay sight-seeing, and the recording activities. Cheers!  – Jim

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I knew February was short, but … did it happen?

Greetings all!

I sit here observing the beautiful rose bush embracing the mailbox in the front yard, and realize that it’s March 7 – egad!

We had a great Minneapolis/NYC trip to hear Alek (Soler – Diana’s Garden), Daniela (Dvorak –Rusalka), and Dorothy (Rachmaninoff – Midnight Vespers). Of course, that was all topped by the quality time we spent with Eva, or, as she calls herself – “Vavi.” We stayed at the Beacon Hotel at 75th and Broadway, a short two block walk to the Alek/Daniela/Eva abode, and a short cab ride to just about anywhere we were going. We also took Eva to Riverside Park and had some great, albeit a bit chilly, outside time. Musically, all performances were terrific! Alek’s physical comedy is second to none and his voice is finely burnished. Daniela had no trouble filling the Met with her glorious sound, even in the small role of the Kitchen Boy. Dorothy and The Westminster Choir were sublime in the a cappella Rachmaninoff. It was a great start to the new season!

Let’s go round the categories:


Well, the Spring TBR list hasn’t even started yet, but I’ve already finished the first book! It was the new Tom Gabriel adventure by British author, Tim Ellis entitled “Games of the Dead.” Ellis is incredibly prolific and writes in a way that keeps me totally absorbed. I’m also reading his Parish & Richards series, the latest tome of which will appear a bit later. Next on the Spring List is Scotsman, Ian Rankin’s new John Rebus mystery, “Rather Be the Devil.” I just started it this morning, but it’s a page turner like most of Rankin’s work. Later on, I’ll delve into fellow Valdostan Michael Orenduff’s “The Pot Thief Who Studied D.H. Lawrence,” which is the latest Hubie Schuze escapade. If you don’t know this series, you’re really missing out!

Take a peek at the Book Page/Reading Lists on this website to see what else is in store for the Spring.


I spent most of the post travel time editing the final scores and parts of my Really Short Opera – Frogs Always Get You in the End (Story by Ian Ruthven). I now have a good set of production materials including a piano-vocal score, a full score, and flute, clarinet, and cello parts. Aija and I will fly to Boston on April 20 to record the opera. I will conduct the recording as well as be involved in the editing and mastering. The session will take place in the beautiful Shalin Liu performance space. The Princess will be sung by soprano, Aliana de la Guardia and the Frog will be sung by baritone, Brian Church. This is a dream come true for me and I am terribly excited about it. After the recording, I plan to make a set of production materials available directly from me, so that hopefully others will produce this little show to the delight of all, especially children.

In other musical activities, I still hope to convince Colla Voce to publish my arrangements of “Watchman Tell Us of the Night” and “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In” for the 2017 holiday season. I think they would have broad appeal to performer and listener alike.

And, I continue to write some new pieces for the Georgia Ambassadors of Music tour of Europe in 2018.


I’ve eschewed the traditional Spring Training (Phillies) trip to Clearwater this year! Instead, I’m going to spend three glorious weeks in Phoenix/Tucson with my darling granddaughter, Eva, while Mommy and Daddy sing opposite each other in Arizona Opera’s production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. I love being the Grandpa-nanny to this wonderful munchkin! I’m sure I will be loaded with tales for this blog – stay tuned! Alek and Daniela met in a production of Cenerentola when they were both in the Merola program at San Francisco Opera. The rest, as they say, is history!

Now, Spring Training is not completely out of site because my beloved Cleveland Indians train in Phoenix! I think I can do two games – Wahoo!

There are many more opera/babysitting travels on the horizon as we follow our two favorite opera singers and their amazing little girl! (I apologize for the over-gush!) More later …

Real Estate

Wow, do I have a lot to learn! Aija is a fabulous teacher and sometimes a tough task-master, but I am slowly figuring out how to do this. In these few short passing months, I have actually listed a house and sold a few more. I find the work falls into two categories, the technological side of figuring out the various computer programs and the servant attitude that brings success with clients and customers. The former presents a somewhat steep learning curve, but I continue to improve and become familiar. The latter, however, is a bit of a struggle for me. This will come as no surprise to those of you who know me. (I think that’s everybody here, I mean, who else reads this stuff?!) Anyway, it’s no secret to many folks that I like to tell people what to do and how to do it! That doesn’t cut it as a successful Realtor! Aija is just about perfect in this profession with just the right combination of pluck and grace. I hope I can come close!

Anyway, money is beginning to come in and my goal of adding to my retirement and social security funds is becoming a reality.


I find negotiating the pathways of a life to be interesting, thought-provoking, joyous, terrifying, sometimes depressing, and always surprising.

If you made it to these 900 plus words, I sincerely thank you. I will ask you to like, comment, and all that stuff because that’s what bloggers are supposed to do. It doesn’t really work here, but I do like to hear from you occasionally.

I’m looking forward to doing more regular journaling as the Phoenix trip unfolds. That’s all for now, except to say that Moxie says, “Hi!”  Cheers!  – Jim

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Well, that was quite a hiatus … !


In case you’ve forgotten, I left you next to the Christmas Tree on December 21! Now it’s January 25, 2017 and much has happened! After Alek, Daniela, and Eva headed for Christmas in Houston, we had a wonderful Yule Celebration with Dorothy and the Latvian branch of the family. Dorothy stayed for the New Years festivities and then we went back into empty nest mode! Obviously given the bulk of my compositional ouvre, Christmas and the Winter Solstice holiday time is very special for us. Added to that was the birth of Alek on Christmas Day in 1981! However, since I haven’t had a church music post for several years now, the holiday has become somewhat private to us which actually makes it all the more special. I carry on my personal tradition of listening to the King’s College Lessons and Carols live every year. I do pull out recordings of some of the Christmas Concerts from my Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Northwestern Oklahoma State choirs. And, of course, those magical holiday services we produced at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland where I served for 17 years! I cannot complete my holiday without listening to Gil Hellwig’s splendid recitation of the biblical Christmas Story. All those things happened this year. I also accumulated some ideas for new Christmas compositions which will go into the hopper for future endeavors. I’m still hopeful that Colla Voce will consider publishing my Watchman Tell Us of the Night and I Saw Three Ships for next year. You can read about them in an earlier post.

Let’s do a roundup of the categories:

Author Stuff –

It gives me a touch of melancholy to announce that I have suspended my activities as a writer of mystery novels! Nick Flemons and Adrian Stone will be in a state of suspended animation for the foreseeable future. They have become victims of time, or rather, lack thereof! I really wanted to sink my teeth into authorship as a logical companion to my avaricious reading habit. Alas, the lacunae between writing sessions became wider and wider until the momentum was lost. I still hope to return to see where my two acquired friends go and whether they are successful in their crime-fighting solutions, but, for now, I must bid them farewell.

Reading Stuff –

I am well into the Winter TBR List by now. I will probably finish before the March 21 deadline. So far, I have enjoyed anew the adventures of Parish & Richards (Ellis – Dominion of Darkness), The Pot Thief studying Escoffier (Michael Orenduff), a brilliant Jack Reacher (Child – Night School), Bruno, the French policeman (Walker – The Children Return), Gregor Demarkian (Haddam – One to Grow On), and currently I’m about to finish a new adventure with Inspector Bill Slider and his team (Harrod-Eagles – Body Line). Only one more on deck and that’s another UK Inspector, Alan Banks (Robinson – Innocent Graves).

I’ll illuminate the Spring 2017 TBR List in a future post. I hope you will consider reading along with me. There are some really good new books coming from some of my favorite authors – stay tuned!

Composing/Recording Stuff –

I am into the third edit of my “Really Short Opera” – Frogs Always Get You in the End. You can see and hear a production over on my opera page. The reason for the slight revision and new edition is that I will be recording and conducting it at the end of April in Boston. This will be under the auspices of PARMA Recordings and I, with them, am trying to collect enough recording minutes to develop an entire Shrader CD. I have really drilled deep into the eight minute piece and paid attention to every nuance on the written page. The marvelous story/libretto is by Professor Ian Ruthven. We have yet to choose the instrumentalists and singers, but we will begin that process as soon as I can complete the editing and prepare the piano-vocal score. It’s very exciting and I’m thrilled to be working with PARMA again!

I’m also working on some choral things for the Georgia Ambassadors of Music Choir, a group which I hope to lead and conduct a bit on the 2018 European Tour. More about that later …

Travel/Opera/Family Stuff –

Well, you know about Alek’s Japan visit (Cosi fan tutte) and Daniela’s Fort Lauderdale jaunt (Carmen). Now we’re off to Minnesota where Alek is singing Endimione in Martin y Soler’s Diana’s Garden with Minnesota Opera. We leave very early on Saturday morning and we’ll see two performances. Then we’ll join Alek and fly to New York to be with Daniela as she makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in Dvorak’s Rusalka. We’ll be in the house for opening night (always very exciting at the Met). I’m also really looking forward to hearing the Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role. To sound out this family musical adventure, the next night we’ll get to hear Dorothy sing with the Westminster Choir in the Rachmaninoff Vespers. Of course, the highlight of our NYC days will be the quality time spent with our darling Eva! The adorable munchkin just passed her nineteenth month. She’s been in  New York with Dani and Dorothy and we’ve had many, many facetime sessions, but there’s nothing like the real thing!  I can’t wait …

There’s a lot more opera/travel/grandpa stuff coming later in the year, but that’s for another post.

Real Estate Stuff –

It’s quite an escalation and education as I learn this new (I’m certainly not retired any more!) phase of my remarkable life. Aija has been an incredible mentor! I have been taking videos, showing houses to prospective buyers, and I actually have a listing! Getting me up and running with all the necessary accoutrements has been a time-intensive activity, but it’s starting to fall into place. It looks like I really will be able to pad my social security and pension allotments and continue to be a contributing member of the family! If you want to see my listing, click HERE. (BTW – Wanna buy a house?)

Conclusion –

Well, friends I’ve reached the 1000 word limit I set for myself in these tomes, so, until next time, I wish you all the best for a blessed and prosperous 2017. Please tell your friends about this website and like or leave a comment. See you on this page in a few weeks!  Cheers!  -Jim

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There I sat, all broken-hearted …


So, if you remember from last time, I was stuck on side of I 75, 39 miles from home, with a blown tire. I had just passed the state realtor license exam, and, with license in hand, was on my way back to take my place among the legions of realtors in the pursuit of happiness.

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a locked lug nut, I had to call for roadside assistance to solve my dilemma. After a bit of a wait, help arrived, I embarrassingly discovered that the key to unlock the lug nut was in the glove box, and, after due payment, I was on my way!

The next few days were spent in various technical meetings establishing business emails, joining realtor groups, getting my lock box card verified, printing temporary business cards, and, in general, completing the final preparations to begin actual work. My first assignment was to take a series of ten videos of properties under consideration by a military couple moving to Valdosta (Moody Air Base) from Alaska. They bought one!


The next big event on the calendar was the arrival of Dorothy, Alek, Daniela, and Eva who rented an SUV and drove in from Jacksonville having flown from Newark. Dainis also arrived that day flying in from Baltimore. All had assembled for the Thanksgiving Day festivities and then Alek, Daniela, and Eva would stay on to have a very early Christmas celebration since that were spending the actual Christmas holiday in Houston with the Mack family. At least that’s what we thought was going to happen!

Immediately after the Thanksgiving feast and the next-day hanging of the outside Christmas lights (Dainis and I had our traditional cigars!) as well as the trimming of the
tree, the following events unfolded quite rapidly!

Alek was called to replace a colleague in Cosi fan tutte with the Tokyo Symphony. That’s Tokyo, JAPAN! This involved driving a rental car to Atlanta, getting papers at the Embassy and flying to Tokyo the next day! To top it all off, the next day Daniela got a call from Florida Grand Opera in Ft. Lauderdale to replace a colleague in the title role of Carmen. Daniela flew to that assignment and Aija, Valda, Eva, and I rented a mini-van and drove to Southern Florida to see the show and allow mommy and daughter to be together. Aside from spending quality time with Eva, there were other great perks! I got to see the show on Thursday night, Aija and Valda saw it on Saturday night, and all day Friday we had a great time at the beach!

We hadn’t abandoned Christmas plans altogether, and, after returning to Valdosta, Dani and Eva stayed with us until December 9. This gave us an opportunity to have a lovely Christmas with Eva. Alek and Dorothy even face-timed in so that, thanks to cyberspace, we were all together for the gift giving. The next day, Dani and Eva flew to Houston where they met the returning Daddy and settled in for the rest of the Christmas holiday.

We were now almost half-way through December, we had made adjustments to holiday plans, there was a new president-elect on board, the real estate business continued to prosper, and we looked forward to another Christmas celebration with the Jirgensons side of the family (plus Dorothy) right here in Valdosta. That is actually underway as I write these lines. But that, friends, is the topic of another post – hopefully before Santa gets here!

Ho, Ho, Ho!  -Jim

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November? What November … ?

Greetings long, lost friends!

Here I sit in my new home office, Christmas Tree up, outside lights a-glow, and a frigid 73 degrees ushering in the season to be jolly. To be fair, today dawned very overcast and rainy (after weeks of drought).

November literally took away the time spent on my computer in the pursuit of this series of epistles. Here’s how it happened …

Since I last entered these pages dealing with hurricane Mathew, there has been a new category in my life – it is REALTOR!

We have often talked about how I might help Aija in her burgeoning real estate business which she has steadily grown for the past ten years. I have occasionally accompanied her on missions to erect signs and other ministerial (that’s real estate terminology!) designed to be helpful. However, without a real estate license, I was not able to take on any significant tasks. Sooooo …

In mid-October, I enrolled in an online class dedicated to providing me with the necessary brain material to successfully pass the final exam for the class, as well as be prepared to pass the state board exam.  Now remember, for the past 30 years or so, I have been GIVING exams, not taking them! The difference was illuminating for me. After finding the first few lessons of the class somewhat daunting, my OCD kicked in and I devised a daily schedule where I would work the class material in several different ways.

I was chained to my computer.

The first of November arrived and I drove to the Valdosta Board of Realtors office to take my final exam. All by myself in a large room with two pencils, a calculator, and a question/answer sheet – I was surprisingly nervous! This was the qualifying exam to become eligible for the state board. I needed 75% correct answers to move on. When finished, I checked my answers and predicted that I would pass – but barely. I waited for the test to be graded and, to my amazement, I received a 96%! Now, brimming with new confidence, I began preparation for the state board exam which included national and state topics – 159 to be exact. I needed to get 109 correct to get my license.

Once again, I created a work calendar to prepare for the exam. I also invested in two practice exam modules to try to be as thorough as possible. Diligent study ensued!

In the afternoon of November 14th, buoyed by a good final exam grade and many hours of study, I set off for Macon, GA – the site of the state realtor board exam in my region. We had decided that I would stay in a hotel the night before the exam and take the 9:00 am offering which would allow me (if I passed!) to actually receive my license before returning home. One-stop shopping, no waiting!

I had assembled all my credentials before departure and, after a good night’s sleep mixed in with a little review, I drove to the testing location. No cell phones were even allowed in the building! Upon entering, I was given a lockable black bag and instructed to put everything in it including watch, keys, wallet, etc. Before entering the testing room, I had to pull out my pockets to demonstrate that I was free of any means of cheating. The bag was locked and I took it with me into the room. I was allowed my approved calculator, two pencils, and provided ONE piece of scratch paper for notes and calculations. I was seated in an individual “cubby,” much like in a university library. It had a computer with a mouse. This is where I would take the test. The room was monitored via video camera. There was a rest room available, but rest room time counted as part of your test time limit which was four hours. To begin the test, you took a selfie which then appeared permanently in the upper right corner of the monitor (creepy to take an exam with yourself looking on!).

So, still confident, I pushed the button to begin the exam.

About three or four questions into the test, I had some serious doubts. This was not the material I had studied. Stifling panic, I began to wonder what was going on! Then I had it – I had been given the wrong exam. Surely this was a mistake! I looked ahead at a few questions. No, this seemed to be a test about the duties and responsibilities of a real estate salesperson. My confidence was gone! I plunged into the abyss.

I finished the 159th question with one hour to go in the time limit. I was positive I had failed badly. I decided to use my final hour to review each question to ascertain whether I wanted to make any changes. I did make a few, but not many.

Filled with dread and remorse, I picked up my locked bag, calculator, pencils, and piece of scrap paper, and left the room. The test facilitator, had me come sit in front of her desk while she was typing and printing at her workstation. Making a feeble attempt at small talk, I said, “Wow! Those questions were very different from my final exam and my study material.” She replied, “Yes, they can be very tricky, but, you must be a good guesser because you passed!” Time stopped, the angelic choir sang a C major chord, and a spotlight filled the desk area! I was a realtor!

She processed my credentials and printed my license. I called home, shared the good news and headed back for the two hour drive to Valdosta.

About 39 miles from home, on the outskirts of a small town called Adel, I had a flat tire! It was November 15. So you can see how the first half of the missing month transpired. Next post will pick up the excitement from there!

I do hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and, like me, are looking forward to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’ll be back soon …   Cheers!  -Jim

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The Big DASHING Contest!

nv6055 dashing - front coverStarting December 5th and running through December 16th, Naxos will be starting a #12DaysofNaxos giveaway where viewers can have a chance to win holiday albums from the Naxos library and their distributed labels. DASHING (featuring two pieces by James Shrader) was chosen as one of the albums advertised in this special promotional giveaway.

YOU can enter to win these fantastic #Christmas albums, including DASHING on NAVONA RECORDS by clicking on http://woobox.com/9m3hh7 

Merry Christmas and Good Luck!

NEWS FLASH: The promotion for DASHING closed on December 7 – the other three albums are still available. The contest ends on December 16. Sorry for the confusion!


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