Then Garth Brooks goes and gives her a big bear hug and a kiss in front of everyone ☺

Like millions of other fans, I love Garth Brooks.

His career choices put his family first, which is a rare thing. He retired, moved back to Oklahoma, lives in a Tulsa suburb where he shared raising his daughters with his former wife, marrying country star Trisha Yearwood in the meantime.

While we both worked, I would do phone interviews that wound up in teasing and laughter.

He invited my husband and I to his big party to celebrate selling 100 million records, thank his song writers and everyone who had helped him get where he was. 

I got a hand-written invitation to come to the party as a guest, not a reporter. My husband and I made the trip to Nashville where hubby wore a tuxedo and I wore a ball gown. We walked down a real red carpet, complete with photographers snapping pictures.

We each got a crystal memento of the evening.

Garth called me on my 50th birthday. I didn't know he knew when my birthday was.

After I left the paper, I pretty must dropped off the face of the earth for five years while my body and mind did some serious healing.

I started freelancing early in 2012, mostly for the newspaper I had worked for.

After the tornadoes hit May 19-20, I was busy writing about the storms, and then the company I work for sent me an e-mail asking me to call a number if I wanted to review the Blake Shelton benefit concert.

It was USA Today.

I was thrilled. My byline would be seen nationwide.

They e-mailed me again and asked if I would review Toby Keith's Twister Relief Concert in the football stadium at the University of Oklahoma. 

I couldn't say yes fast enough.

Besides Toby, performers included Carrie Underwood, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn, Mel Tillis, John Anderson, Wade Hayes, Kellie Coffey, the only rocker  Sammy Hagar and my old friend, Garth Brooks with his wife, whom he calls Miss Yearwood.

For the show, all reporters were kept in the room the Oklahoma Sooners football team have their meetings. The artists were brought in to talk to us and we watched the show on big screen TVs with a direct sound feed from the stage.

Garth was at the show long enough to play. He had to return to Las Vegas to play a sold-out show that night.

I'll admit I've changed a lot in the last five years but when I looked Garth in the eye and asked a question, he answered it without recognizing me. I was a little hurt, but not surprised.

As his time with the press wound down, I walked up to Garth's publicist and asked her if I could say "Hi" to him. She smiled, and said yes.

As he walked by, she said his name and then, "Sandi would like to say hi."

He looked at me and the second the recognized me he grabbed me in the biggest bear hug and kissed my cheek. He couldn't believe I was there.

"I wondered how you were."

About this time his wife hugged me too, kissed my other cheek and said she was glad to see me too.

All of this happened in front of the entire press corps. If they didn't know who I was before then, they knew I was something special after that.

I knew I was something special after that.

I worked 14 hours that day, had one-on-one interviews with Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar, which I'll write about later, but it did more for myself worth than anything has for years.

A long review ran on USA today's site on Sunday and a shorter version ran in Monday's Life section.

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