Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas that Almost Wasn't

"The  Christmas  
that  Almost  Wasn't"
(c) DeNeice Kenehan

My childhood was blessed. Mama and Daddy had both endured extremely difficult childhoods. Daddy's father died when he was just five years old. Mama's parents were both alcoholics, and she was living on her own at age twelve. 

          So when they met in Denver after high school graduation, they discovered a shared dream of creating an ideal family life. And their desires assured that my childhood was especially sweet and satisfying.

          My family always had so much love, not much money but lots of affection. Daddy was a young "entrepreneur," Amarillo's "lawn,  tree, and shrub doctor" and "creator of a greener Golden Spread." He was proud that he had made his own way in life.

          When I was five, we left the Methodist faith after visiting my grandmother's new church, a small New Thought movement called "Unity." Mama had discovered a local study group that met Sunday mornings in a cozy house in a quaint old neighborhood. A small sign on the front door said "Unity Center of Truth." And the sermons were called "lessons."

          The minister was a gentle, tiny white-haired angel named Eugenia B. Lane. She had been a member of Myrtle and Charles Fillmores' first prayer group in Kansas City. The Fillmores began the Unity movement. Mrs. Lane valued children so much that she taught our small Sunday school. It was an invaluable experience that contributed greatly to my sunny outlook on life.

          Mrs. Lane's daughter and son-in-law, Dr. Ann and Dr. Lee, were the royalty of our little congregation. Both chiropractors, Dr. Lee was a Shriner clown who always had a Keep Smiling pin on his lapel and  Double Bubble gum in his pockets.  Dr. Ann bellydanced with the Shriners' auxiliary, Daughters of the Nile. She had huge rhinestone jewels for her belly button and led yoga classes. Everyone adored them.

          I will never forget their home -- an immense, impressive, romantic antebellum estate outside the city near the country club. Complete with a carriage house where their maid lived, a winding "Gone with the Wind" driveway, a goldfish pond with lily pads and frogs, a fragrant rose garden on the five-acre grounds, and a dumbwaiter inside the red brick three-story mansion.

          Every Christmas they hosted a fantastic open house where the congregation joined their hundreds of patients and friends to toast the Yuletide season with Dr. Lee's homemade "adult" eggnog. And years later, when the Unity youngsters matured, Drs. Ann and Lee chaperoned the youth group's annual trek to Unity Village in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

          So rich in such memories, my childhood seems totally carefree. But a few years ago Mama reminded me of our hardships as she told me about a Christmas that almost wasn't.

         One winter in the early '60s was so cold Daddy couldn't find any work. He was the young kid who knocked doors to see if people needed their trees trimmed, shrubs sprayed, or lawns mowed. If they said "yes," he could pay the rent and we didn't eat leftovers.

          And in the frigid Panhandle winters, folks said no more than yes. So my parents had to borrow money from the bank to make the mortgage payment for our humble two-bedroom home. We had family meetings to discuss how to save money by turning off lights, dressing more warmly, using more blankets.

          I never knew that there was no money for Christmas dinner that year, that there would be no Xmas tree, no turkey, no presents. Mama had placed a prayer request in the church basket. She asked for "Santa for DeNeice."

          A few days later, mixed with the holiday mail was a plain white envelope without a stamp. It was from "Your Secret Santa"  and a generous amount of cash was enclosed... enough money that I never knew about the Christmas that almost wasn't. 

       And our Secret Santa never revealed himself.

          When I was a senior in high school, Dr. Lee died in a car accident. Dr. Ann was heartbroken, moved from Amarillo, and disappeared for several years. She returned when I was a sophomore in college and lived with my family for about six months. I was occupied with college and courtship and don't recall her extended visit.

          But Mama tells me that Dr. Ann had met a young man who had conned virtually her entire estate and abused her. She was penniless and hairless.

          Daddy says he used to sit with Ann every day for hours at the kitchen table, counseling, praying, participating in her healing process. And when she was strong enough to leave, she moved to Baltimore and spent her last years with a wonderful man. After she made her transition, her husband Don told my mother and father a beautiful secret.

          And I thank you, Dr. Lee and Dr. Ann, for being my secret Santa so many years ago. And more importantly, all these years later for giving me the greatest gift of unconditional giving. You knew that the gift was in the giving, not in even receiving our gratitude or acknowledgment of your generosity.

          So many families have faced a Christmas that almost wasn't. So I decided about six years ago to continue Dr. Lee's and Ann's legacy of the Secret Santa. I started an angel tree at my church, where every holiday season members of the First Church of Religious Science in Las Vegas buy clothing and toys for several dozen children at the city's most economically disadvantaged grade school.

          The Christmas that almost wasn't turned out to be the best Christmas of my childhood, maybe my entire life.

© 1997 DeNeice Kenehan, all rights reserved

The author. Christmas 2011

POSTSCRIPT.  DEC 23, 2011.  Have you seen the moving Pay-it-forward "ONE DAY" video?

CLICK! IMAGINE a day when everyone gives spontaneously to another...and themselves.

This video has generated stories about how we are blessed by giving to and receiving from others.  Several weeks ago, I was passing through Eugene, Oregon on an extended road trip.  We spent my birthday in a cozy saloon called CORNUCOPIA, which was filled with wonderful things, including our rambunctious, colorful waitress "Mama Kay."  She promptly arranged for my free birthday burger. And when Rob complimented her gorgeous glass beaded choker... she removed it from her neck and gave it to me.

Had I ever been so randomly generous?


I recall a Christmas season when a woman standing near us in a long line exiting a church holiday service complimented my new winter scarf.  I'd bought it as a memento during my milennium visit to The Big Apple. I bought it from a street vendor.  And the only thing that made me happier than wearing this fun scarf, of course, was sharing it with this stranger whom I bet was more touched by the giving...than the receiving.

My childhood friend from the Amarillo Unity church shared a story today on her Facebook wall.  She handles disputes in a bank's credit card department:

"My Christmas was given to me today. Received a letter from a customer who I had to reverse the refund I gave her as she lost her dispute case. She asked if I could put back just $100 of it so she could get her kids Xmas gifts out of layaway. My manager approved it and we will take it back in increments. She left a message on my phone while I was on break just crying and thanking us...she was full tilt bawling and thankful. She even said we could take it back a week earlier than we had told her. This is why I love what I do and why Zions Bank is still a caring hometown feeling bank wrapped into a large Corporation. We haven't forgotten who keeps us in business and we prove it. MADE MY DAY AND MY CHRISTMAS."

Another dear friend emailed this Christmas morning with this similar report of an anonymous angel, after reading my story:

" I read your blog about the Christmas that almost wasn't.  I loved it.  Reminded me of a Christmas I had about 6 months after my first baby, a daughter, was born.  My husband and I were dirt poor and I'm not making that up.  He being in college full time and working fulltime.  And me...staying at home to take care of a little baby. No extra money for much, especially not a dress for my little Emily at Christmastime to wear to church.  One crisp and cold morning I found a package outside our frontdoor and inside it was a lovely hand-stitched red dress with a sweet white-laced pinafore.  I just cried. A new dress for my daugher!!  To this day I still don't know who sent it to us.  But I have never forgotten the kind deed. "

Do you want to eperience the Christmas spirit more profoundly?   It's about giving.  The US Postal Service has a department that helps fulfill the holiday wishes of children who have written Santa.  CLICK HERE! if you want to be part of this unforgettably enriching project

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let them have wine baths!

Blogger DeNeice Kenehan loves bubble baths.

"Everything is a miracle. 
It is a miracle that one does not dissolve 
in one's bath like a lump of sugar.
Pablo Picasso
"Existentialism means that no one else 
can take a bath for you."
Delmore Schwartz 

My recuperating friend recently suggested that epsom salts in her bath seem to reduce flu symptoms.  I instinctively wondered about the health benefits of, say, "bathing in wine."  All great minds seemingly think alike, for just five days ago, the UK's Mail Online similarly had inquired, "Can bathing in wine make you younger and cure cellulite? (Click for information about this alternative spa therapy)

Oui, oui, according to France's first wine spa in Bourdeaux. Its vinotherapy and grapeseed oil products are said to slim wrinkles, cellulite, drooping faces, while boosting energy and spirits at the18th Century chateau. 

Luxury wine spas are opening all around the world.  Here is oenophile Joe Fattorini bathing in wine at Argentina's Cavas Wine Lodge near Mendoza.   WATCH Joe take a bath in wine

"Desperate Housewife" actress Terri Hatcher adds a little leftover wine to her baths, following the advice of a pharmacist friend.  But bathing in wine a la Cleopatra is probably unsafe.  Spartan mothers in ancient Greece, according to Plutarch, bathed their newborn infants in wine simply to see if they were healthy enough to survive the process.  Many died, with weak survivors given away to become slaves.

How to NOT take a Home Wine Bath: Watch: Performance Artist Mattress Soup (just weird)   

How TO take a Home Wine Bath:  Watch: '"Minnie Driver- Wine Bath" (weird & funny)

Here's a commercial product for your Home Wine Soak, if you don't want to just pour in four-day-old wine.CLICK: For info or to order Wine Bath Soak


Wine Bath Soak
pure enough to eat!

Focus on antioxidants.
Highest quality all natural premium ingredients.
Full concentration of active ingredients.
No fillers, no water, no thickeners, no harsh detergents or soaps, no sodium lauryl sulfates, no ammonium lauryl sulfates, no synthetic chemicals, no animal by-products.
100% vegan.

If you'd like to plan an authentic Wine Spa experience, read these:  "For Spa-Goers, Wine by the Glass, or by the Bath- Susan Lehman, New York Times and also 10 Luxury Wine Spas
The Kenwood Inn and Spa, Kenwood, Calif. 95452, (800) 353-6966 or (707) 833 1293;    Each of the 30 rooms has a wood-burning fireplace, a view of the surrounding vineyards and lots of charm and character.    The spa offers a full range of wine-based spa treatments in earth-colored treatment rooms and has a cozy relaxation area stocked with local wines where a comforting fire is always burning. Breakfast is served on a stone patio or in the breakfast bungalow. -- The New York Times

"Enjoying a wine barrel bath @Kenwood Inn & Spa in Sonoma. 
The bath is composed of a mixture of organic oils and an extract of finely crushed grape seeds, skins, stalks and pulp." -- Peter DaSilva, The New York Times

If you like the idea of wine baths, consider that two hours west of Tokyo, you can bathe in community in all sorts of odd concoctions -- green tea, chocolate, Japanese rice wine, or hot coffee. VIDEO Report!: "Bathing in wine, chocolate, coffee and tea in japan "- Richard Kimber, TIMES Online

"Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, 
a bath & a glass of wine."
St. Thomas Aquinas 

POSTSCRIPT.  Liquid water discovered on Jupiter's moon Europa for very BIG baths!  CLICK: Big Lakes on Europa

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Panties!!!! Panties!!!! Panties!!!!

Charmed (2000)

Update. June 11, 2013...With the Guardian's bombshell scoop about the US government data collection from the world's cellphone and Internet users, privacy rights have arisen "up close and personal."  This 2011 blog ponders the implications of living in a digital age where a stranger in any public place can silence their cell phone and SNAP... your panties star in one of 65,300 "under-the-skirt panties" videos on Youtube.-dk

remember when panties were fun. They were back-to-school Day of the Week reminders in six pretty pastel candy heart colors, with  wickedly red, lacy Saturday panties.  And I remember turning flips on the monkey bars in the first grade, while wearing one of my new starched school dresses, then shortly afterwards, sitting through that embarrasingly serious talk about “not showing your panties.”

I remember a few years later, as narrator in the classroom play, sitting front and center onstage in the cafeteria auditorium, wearing that Sunday church dress, proudly and successfully reciting long memorized passages, only to be admonished that evening by Mama for not keeping my legs together.  And showing my panties. Again, the panties.  

By puberty, I finally understood that panties had power.  So when my six-year-old baby sister hosted her first slumber party,  I, the elder sister, knew how to keep those little imps entertained by merely uttering a word, repeatedly, "Panties.



Last I checked, there were “about 26,000” videos about panties on Youtube.  Lots of gals all over the world are willing to show you their panties, freely.   CLICK "These panties are too big. These panties are too tight. These panties are just right. Okay, they're too big." 

Some fellas sneak their silenced iPhones under unsuspecting ladies’ dresses to steal an image of some stranger's panties at the supermarket, coffee shop, or tractor pull. 

Just google "youtube voyeur panties." Okay, I'll help you out.  CLICK: if you have time to peek @ 15,800+ "UPSKIRT" videos?  

Every social networker is a potential citizen reporter, and anyone with a smartphone, a potential pornographer.  Ladies,  some creepy stranger with a silenced iPhone wants to see your undies. 

"You already have zero privacy. Get over it,"
remarked Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems CEO,  at a 1999 computer convention.

The explosion of information by WIKILeaks and Youtube suggests there is no longer a reasonable expectation of privacy anywhere, anytime, for anyone.  

CLICK: The Internet & Your Shrinking Privacy Rights: "Anyone can post anything on the Internet without permission...and often with no consequences.  And it's increasingly difficult to establish what's legal and illegal. If that offensive material is out there, by the time you ever get to may be hard to ever get rid of it."

Ayn Rand's frisque libertarian  panties would be in a twisted knot by the lack of privacy in modern society. She wrote: "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

"I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek."
 Molly Ringwald (1984)

You cannot someday complain that you freely showed your panties on a Youtube website which your ex-boyfriend later monetized into millions of hits. And if you are a starlet wanting a serious acting career, for heaven's sake, CLICK:  do not wear ambiguously see-thru panties on your Maxim Magazine cover shoot.  Ask yourself, "Would Meryl Streep do this?" 

"Publication is a self-invasion of privacy.
Marshall McLuhan

Of course, the TSA needs to see your panties. And Jet Blue Airlines cares about them, too, according to plaintiff Malinda Knowles who was thrown off a flight when she would not show hers to the on-flight supervisor.   
Panties are so important, so potent, in fact, that some governments require "overpanties" to cover your underpanties. The Japanese are apparently obsessed with panties-- particularly cotton panties on teens and cartoon heroines-- suggested by gratuituous panty shots ("panchira") in their anime. Censorship law prohibits bare, realistic crotch shots, but mosaiced tight undie shots would be allowed. Turns out that Japanese audiences actually prefer loose panties to what might be under them. The panties themselves have become the objects of desire.   

Comic Bill Maher writes, "I thought that privacy was something we were granted in the Constitution. I have learned from this, in fact, the word 'privacy' does not appear in the Constitution." The implied right was broadly interpreted under the penumbra of the First Amendment in the controversial Roe vs Wade landmark decision, which conservatives want to overrule.  When that occurs, we will

" ...have as much privacy as a goldfish in a bowl. "
Princess Margaret 

Lisa Kudrow surmised we are trading privacy for celebrity, "You become a celebrity, not because of your work or what you do, but because you have no privacy. "  Reality shows seem to affirm this. Metaphorically speaking, she who best shows her panties on the monkey bars, wins.

Here is a closing giggle on the subject. Enjoy!

"From the cradle to the coffin 
underwear comes first.
 --Bertolt Brecht

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Anyone can be American Idol

" I have a simple life. I come out and sing.
 In my job I have a contract that says I'm a singer. 
So I sing."
Tony Bennett

I  love being a singer, but I'm glad that I attended--and finished-- law school.  I don't practice law, but I think like a lawyer. For example, I know the meaning of the word "fungible." 

The term describes goods that are legally equivalent, all the same, virtually identical, so that one is pretty much like the other, eg  grains of sand.

After 17 years of singing, I have decided that most singers are essentially fungible.  Most, not all.  And most audiences, even instrumentalists, can't distinguish an excellent voice from an entertaining vocal presentation.  

"You have to be able to listen. You have to listen to the singer
and give them what they need to sound good."
Ray Brown 

This means many very talented, highly trained singers often end up working as unpaid amateurs or on the cheap.  A few of the better ones may earn a free drink or two from the house, perhaps a plate of pasta after the gig, a percentage of the band's tips, and/or maybe a Jackson or two or three from the register.  Generally not enough to pay rent.  Musical theater singers in community productions may receive a nominal stipend to subsidize gas, baby sitters, or a wig for the show.

"This is a common fault to all singers--
among their friends they will never sing when they are asked; 
unasked, they will never desist."

I figure there are  approximately a zillion such quasi-pro singers. And 74 percent of these zillion singers appear to be middle-aged women, fighting off that slooow grandma vibratos (wobble) or the really fassssst billy goat vibratos (tremelo) and other aural ills.

And these gals gradually get wrinkling, spotting, sagging, increasingly hairy faces with which to present their repertoire. Finally, these older gals may be lugging around exhaustive emotional baggage from years of  rejection, disrespect, and the no-to-low wage situation.    

They can't be American Idol, but matronly Susan Boyle proved that a great singer can soften Simon Cowell's hard heart on X FACTOR.

And most singers can be better technicians, more marketable just by learning to play some simple chords.  At the risk of should'g on myself, I wish I had learned to play that piano I bought 25 years ago.

A prolific composer friend similarly suggested I would add value to our collaboration by penning lyrics to his music.  But I've been reluctant, intimidated by the high bar set by geniuses like Sondheim, Gershwin, Porter, Hammerstein, Sheryl Crow and Sting et al.

Until today.  

This morning  I nonchallantly opened a link inside a Facebook pal's message, and I just may have clicked onto my path as a future professional lyricist. The link showed a concert video with an audience totally gaga for a folk singer's SIMPLE lyrics:

If just about anyone can sing, then just about anyone can write song lyrics like these. 

I think I can.
I think I can.
I think I can. 

DeNeice Kenehan has been not singing for friends when urged and singing when not requested since her early 40s.  She studied voice in Las Vegas with Greg Enriquez and Rhonda Carlson and in Los Angeles with maestro Seth Riggs. DeNeice performed comedic leads in musical theatre and cabaret before moving to San Diego in the late 90s.  She has sung in San Diego clubs, churches, and at a variety of private and public events. She enjoys singing at Balboa Park--in the domed Museum of Man, at an annual gala in the photo arts museum, at House of Italy functions, and mostly in the Prado women's restroom, where the tiled flooring and walls create amazing acoustics. She says the powder room at the El Camino restaurant, site of a weekly jazz jam, runs a very close second.

Friday, September 24, 2010

my juicy fantasy

... it's round midnight, and night has swallowed everything that was reminiscent of the day's buoyant cheeriness.  This old  city is tired and taking a break. Exhaling. It's quiet, still...and peacefully dangerous.

Grayness wraps everything in mystery-- curbed cars and littered sidewalks and old brick buildings, occasional pedestrians, cloaked, everything cloaked in shadow or blackness like a homeless hobo hidden in a hodgepodge of blankets and rags. It's a scary place, and I'm excited.

I'm just another chick singer who finished a short gig with not enough songs.  So I am still keyed-up.  I want--need --to sing more. And to not care about an audience.  I feel like a pent-up teenage boy. Something inside has to get out.

A flickering neon sign tempts with a wiggly runway blue "Jazz," shaped like a sax.  It's a walk-up bar, where you step down a short flight of dirty stairs you do not want to revisit in the light of day.

A garbage can sits at the top of the stairs, like a sleeping club bouncer, near the open rusting steel stair gate, inviting nocturnal creatures into the basement. It's a late night downtown ritual that lures insomniacs and alcoholics and nostalgic artists into a graveyard time shift.

Inside the club,  the long, old bar, just as you'd expect-- wooden and once elegant, an opulent glass back bar with the army of shapely bottles.  A central casting drunk at the end with a few too many empty whiskey shot glasses.   And two turned-on lovers, oblivious to the world beyond the reach of each others' responsive bodies.

This dark, dingy little dive bar hasn't been redecorated since the leatherette 60s. And it feels great.  It may not have a public restroom you want to languish in, but this is a cozy place that has inspired a lot of great music over time. You can feel it.

You can't actually smell cigarettes, so much as feel their sticky memory, from decades of nicotine tar on wallpaper and wood and naugehide and linoleum and vintage upholstery.  Just a whisper of tobacco from the vestibule where young hipsters have been taking quick hits during set breaks.

The old-timer male bartender has seen it all.

"Music's over. Blues tomorrow," he growls formally, setting the black paper napkin down, then the oaky chardonnay after I order.

There is no sports tv to spoil the wa.  The bartender turns off the stereo, and there's a spastic eruption of "Rhapsody in Blue" from the other side of the room where a male silhouette sits behind an acoustic baby grand. Likely the house band's keyboardist chilling post-gig. Or a bar regular who appreciates good live music in an age of recorded electronic rhythm with sound effects.

He takes a bluesy pass through "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "My Man's Gone Now' from Porgy and Bess.

"Mmmm, Gershwin," I purr.

"Singer?" bartender asks. I nod apologetically, knowing I am never mistaken as a "real" musician.

"Another singer," he grunts toward the piano. The pianist ignores the interruption, plays on. Improvising.  And increasingly more slowly.  Even more slowly.   And slower, until the tempo leaves huge, ripe chasms for imagination.

"I like a man who goes slow," I tease from the bar, wondering if he can even hear or appreciate the frisque double entendre.

"Dear," he pauses..."I am a man full of innuendos." 

It's my dream, undeniably seeded and nourished over half a century of Hollywood films. Admittedly, so derivative of The Fabulous Baker Boys, that I often see Jeff Bridges behind my piano. One of the most popular films of the 80s, it remains in my personal Top 5. Time Magazine's  critic said the film creates "a gently dislocating noirish mood - not quite menacing but not exactly comfortable either."

And I want to sit-in there.

I don't want to sing in Carnegie Hall. I don't want to sing at the Newport Jazz Festival.  I want to sing where the ghosts come out.

Anyone who works in the legit theatre knows about these ghosts.  You can smell and feel the juicy, creative things that artists of the past made --and leave behind--in these special work and play spaces. This stuff, this mood, this energy, this magic hangs around like that old smoke that's long past.

Contemporary musicians working in the Beatles' Abbey Road studio unanimously report "the feeling" there.

It's palpable.

It lives in the white space, especially round midnight.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Muse Salon: Can you Relate?

The Muse Salon: Can you Relate?

Can you Relate?

Man is a knot into which relationships are tied.  
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It's time to replace current relationship indicators-- "Single," "Married," "Divorced," and Facebook's irritating, equivocating, mamby pamby "It's Complicated." 

These simplistic categorizations are ambiguous at best. They invite curiosity, arouse fantasy, and incite unwelcome intrusions, ie cyber stalking.

So here are my new & improved, get-to-the-point, gluten-free relationship indicators:


* Single &  Not Picky at All, ie Open for B'ness


* Single & Impossible, ie Do not Further Disturb


* Single Hyphenated, ie chased-chaste, just dating-not mating


* Paired but Mess Around, 

ie  It's Complicated *wink* 

NOTE: The "more"-loving polywogs click this:

; )~~(: ~~ ; )~~(: ~~; )~~(:~~; )~~(: ~~ ;)~~(: ~~; )~~(:~~; )~~(: ~~ ; )~~(: ~~; )~~(:~ etc.


* Co-dependent & Indecisive, ie It's Complicated *Huh* ; / \:


* Dazed, confused, oblivious, & krazee-kewl @ karaoke;  ie It's Complicated *Duh*  : O


 and finally...


 * OTHER, ie happily single or coupled.

“When we're incomplete, we're always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we're still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. 

"This can go on and on--series polygamy--until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. 

"Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.”

Thanks, Tom Robbins.