A Fearless Life Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

What would you do, if you were given the gift of living a fearless life?

I saw the story on TV last year of a man, who, when circumstances found him trapped, with his arm caught between a boulder and a cavern wall, first cried, then prayed, then somehow found the strength to take out his pocket knife, and cut off his own arm. He wanted to live.

What would I do for happiness, for freedom, for the sweet breath of life – what am I willing to cut away, and when it comes right down to it, do I have the courage, the strength to actually do it?

I want to live the fearless life I once dreamed of. I want to be a courageous woman who is the embodiment of strength. But that’s not who I am, I was not born fearless. I lived a painfully shy childhood. The circumstances of my life however, dictated that I change and there are moments of change throughout my life, which I remember very clearly.

My parents were missionaries so we lived a nomadic life. By the time I was in tenth grade I had gone to 8 different schools, and two of those were 7 years combined. I had to learn to make friends quickly, it was a necessity.

“It’s both the choices I have made, and the choices that have made me.” Casey Black http://www.caseyblack.com

When I was in first grade. The cutest boy in school and I had to stay in at recess and the entire class stood outside, peering through the windows, making jokes, taunting us both. I had a choice and I made it. I finally said one of those clever things that were always in my head that I never had the guts to utter before. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember it shut them up. Now I’m 7 and I’m witty.

When I was in fifth grade and once again found myself the new kid in school. I made a girl laugh until she was rolling on the floor, I felt a surge of power that I had never felt before. I kept making jokes, I didn’t think I was being that funny, but every one around me was laughing, I was making people laugh! I couldn’t believe it. Now I’m 11 and I’m funny.

When I broke up with my first boyfriend, something I actually did twice, I couldn’t even express to him why. It was because in addition to me, he was also dating half of the phone book and not being honest with me about it. It wasn’t that anything had ever been said between us, that we would be dating each other exclusively, but we both knew there was not honestly between us. I didn’t confront him about it, I just said, “I can’t do this anymore.” That was it. I was furious, but not with him, with me. I always tend blame myself for everything. How could I blame him for not giving me what I wanted, I never told him what I wanted.

A few days later it hit me at the breakfast table, as I was talking to two of the guys who lived with my family, that it was finally time for me to be completely honest. One of these boys I considered a friend, one was a complete jerk. You learn through a life of living with a myriad of people not of your choosing, how to maintain an even keel. For the most part I had always kept my mouth shut, but this day I was not in the mood. Eighteen years of this and it was time I said what was on my mind. So I did. For the first time I was completely honest and told this idiot he was wrong, I was right, and that was that. I said it with wit and humor of course, to soften it a little. I remember the look on my friend’s face – something akin to respect. A respect I had never been given before by any one of the hundreds of boys who had lived with us. I knew right then, it was ok for me to speak my mind. Now I’m 18 and I’m strong.

I want; no I need another one of those moments. It’s been years since I’ve changed, become stronger, more courageous. I think perhaps it’s because, for so many years I accepted everything I’d been told was a “normal” life. You’re not supposed to be really happy are you, contentment is enough, and the status quo is – well – all you can expect in life.

But living with the status quo is not really living in stasis. No human being, no relationship, no life can be truly be static and actually be alive. When viewed, through the measure of time, looking back, one will always see that what you thought was static has actually changed through the years. Slipping ever so slightly, moving up, sideways or down, but never pinned to one place.

“I can live like this, it’s not so bad” I’ve said that about many situations in my life. But when I take a look back at where I was two years ago, I can see how that line of what I will accept for myself has moved. And when I remember myself 15 years ago, 20 years ago, I wonder – would I then have walked into this situation and said, “This is exactly what I want”, of course not. So why do I accept it now and what do I do about it? I change it.

A pastor at a church I visited recently said something that resonates in my soul. “I will change when the pain I feel becomes stronger than the fear of change.” Pain is God’s way of telling us something isn’t right. It may start out feeling like a tiny sliver. Learn to accept that pain and it might become a paper cut, on and on until we’re bleeding out. Through time we have a way of making pain bearable, as the pain increases, our tolerance of the pain increases as well. But if we can stop and look at the pain we are allowing ourselves to swim in, drown in really, the overwhelming flood of emotion, at least for me is “Why have I allowed this? How did I get here, this far from me? To this point of tolerance of a situation I would never have accepted out of hand.” Now I must do the unthinkable, I must find the courage to change.

“Yesterday is a kid in the corner
Yesterday is dead and over
This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose”
This Is Your Life by Switchfoot

I have a good friend, who lives in a state of fear. It seems he’s afraid of everything, especially change. Unfortunately his life has not stayed the same and he is uncomfortable, so he hides. He hides from everyone behind the walls of his house. He finds strength in a bottle, courage is there too. But when that liberating intoxication wears off he is even more afraid, because he has, in the haze of that brief abandon, exposed himself, become vulnerable – and now, he is even more terrified. Terrified of what? I don’t know. I don’t think he’s happy, because he never learned to deal with a life that is filled with movement, he wants stationary and it doesn’t’ exist here. I ache for him, he is the embodiment of pain and there is nothing I can do. I want to give him courage like the lion in “the Wizard of Oz.” I want him to know that strength is already inside of him somewhere, he just has to find it. But you cannot by wishing, give someone peace. So instead I pray. The saddest part of it to me is that you wouldn’t know it to talk to him. He’s very funny, smart, charming, and people are genuinely drawn to him. But beneath it all, he is that shy child, the same one I left behind 30 years ago.

Maybe in him I see a part of myself. I remember that pain. The fear as a child of being thrust into a situation I have no control over and having to deal with the terror of the unknown, the new. I have become a person very different from that child, and most who know me today would be surprised if they could see the frightened 6 year old I once was.

“He must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.” G.K. Chesterton on courage

I stepped off the high dive when I was 14, actually I dove off. Not a smart thing to do perhaps, but I was the first person in my class to the top of the ladder, everyone screamed for me to dive, so I dove. I belly flopped actually, a pain I will never forget. I was the only person to dive that day, everyone else, seeing my misfortune jumped feet first. I’m not sorry I did it, I wasn’t even sorry then. I was the only one who was courageous enough, or perhaps crazy enough to dare to do it. I want to be like that 14-year-old girl again. A little crazy, but the first one, the only one, the courageous one, the fearless one.

I have been asking myself lately a question that I do not as of yet have the answer to. “What am I willing to risk to be really happy, to be more than fine?” I need to answer that question and I hope, when I do, that I have the courage to follow through, risk it all, and dive headfirst.

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“A Beautiful Mind” Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

My son Cole has a beautiful mind. It works in fascinating ways that often leave me in awe, but just as often leave me shaking my head unable to understand exactly how to reason and deal with him. Numerous teachers and speech therapist have told me that they have never encountered a child who has “done things” the way he does them.

On his first visit to his speech therapist she was amazed at the patterns Cole made of the stickers she gave him to decorate his folder. At first he did not seem to be making anything in particular, but as she continued to hand him the stickers one by one, each of us could see he had had a plan from the beginning, though his beginning did not start where we would have expected it to. It was complete in his mind and it didn’t seem to matter to him where he started or ended the creation, he always knew what it would be.

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” Albert Einstein

When he started pre-school last year he was almost five. When I went to pick him up at the end of his first day his teacher showed me his work. She had handed him a blank sheet of paper and asked him to draw his face. He drew eyes, a nose, and a mouth. He did not however place a circle around them; he had only drawn the features of his face not the outline. She was stunned, she had never in 15 years of teaching encountered a child who had done that. “It’s as if he has no boundaries,” she said. I was thrilled. I saw it as typical Cole. She asked him to draw his face, not his head, if she had said to draw his head I’m sure he would have encompassed his facial features with an oval. In his mind he had done exactly what she had asked him to do. He is quite a literal individual.

Five months later at the year-end parent teacher conference she showed me the same picture and a recent one he had done. She was happy that now, when asked to draw his face he would first make a circle, then draw all his features inside of it. “See”, she said quit pleased, “he’s learned how to do it right.” I almost cried, it actually broke my heart a little. They had managed to conform him to the “in the box” or rather the “in the circle” way of thinking. I on the other hand have always loved the way Coles mind works; that it doesn’t look like everyone else’s is a beautiful thing to me, even when it frustrates me. He has always made me smile and look at things from a different perspective. Because of him I’ve seen things in a way I never would have if I didn’t take the time, to get down on my knees behind him, follow with my eyes down the line of his outstretched arm to his pointing finger, and try to envision the way those things are appearing to him, translated in his very unique and different brain. I would never want to change that about him.

“Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.” John Nash – A Beautiful Mind

Sometimes my son frustrates me so much it is hard to keep my eyes focused on his gifts. Cole was sick last week with a cold and I had to give him a decongestant before we could travel down the mountain we live on. I usually don’t force medication on him because it is more than a struggle, but this day it was necessary. He first bite my finger until it bled. Then when I asked my mom to help me hold him down so I could force the medication into his mouth he projectile vomited all over both of us and the bed as well. I went upstairs to change my clothes and when I came down five minutes later, he was standing in the kitchen staring at the bottle of medication. I asked him if he wanted to take it now. “Yes.” He took it without so much as a hiccup. Today the doctor told me he has a slight case of bronchitis and pneumonia. We caught it just in time but he will need to take two different medications for ten days, seven doses a day, that’s seventy doses of medication!!! Tonight I spent over two hours dealing with the first two doses; I don’t know how I’m going to get through the week. I love him beyond words, but he is the most contrary child imaginable. He will argue with you that the moon is the sun until you give up, then he will simple look at you and say “Look, there’s the moon.”

Arrogance to believe in the impossible is how we got to the moon after all. The declaration was made that we would land a man on the moon in less than ten years when in actuality we had not one of the tools to do it. And yet it was done, because of tenacity, arrogance and thinking not outside the box but as if there was no box at all. This is the mindset my son has and I pray he is somehow able to keep it and still succeed in life. We will both have to fight constantly to not only allow him to be creative and think as an individual, but to somehow marry that to the way the rest of the world operates.

Dr One: “ What was your last job?”
Dr. Sayer: “Earthworms”
Dr One: “I’m sorry?”
Dr. Sayer: “ It was an immense project. I was to extract one decigram of myelin from 4 tons of earthworms.”
Dr. One: “Really?”
Dr. Sayer: “Yes I was the only one who believed in it. Everyone else said it couldn’t be done.”
Dr. One: “It can’t”
Dr Sayer: “I know that now. I proved it.”

From the movie Awakenings

A few months ago Cole and I were driving down the road and he asked where we were going, I said we needed to go buy a new battery for the car. “The car doesn’t have a battery” he informed me, “the car uses gas”. I tried to explain repeatedly that the car uses gas to go, but a battery is needed to start it. He argued, and argued, and argued. I finally pulled the car over to the side of the road, took him out of his car seat, popped the hood and showed him the battery. “Oh.” he said. That was it. We got back in the car and continued on our way.

My job as his mother is not to change the way his mind works but to teach him how to live in a world that will not always appreciate his beautiful way of thinking. To help him deal with those things that make him different and steer him down a path where his unique abilities will be held as treasures. To keep his tenacity, but to foster in him the ability to work with others while somehow maintaining the arrogance that he is right…until of course he is proven wrong.

“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” –Thomas Edison on building the light bulb

He will make a good lawyer, scientist, or inventor I think. Or perhaps he will become a teacher, and maybe one day a child will come into his class and do something in a way that no one ever has before. I think Cole would be one to appreciate that.

Clarity Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

July 2005

I spent last week being a little crazy and self-indulgent.

In 1985, when I was fifteen, I went with my brother and sisters band to an Alternative Christian Music Festival called Cornerstone. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Three days of music, everything from pop to punk.

I decided last year to go back. A little crazy perhaps for a woman my age, but what the hell, you only live once right. I had a few friends playing there, and thought it might be fun to hang with them and see some bands I’d heard of but never seen. I also thought I’d find some new music and maybe some new friends – you can never have enough friends.

A couple weeks before I was to leave personal issues arose and I almost cancelled the trip. But I’d bought the ticket, had the hotel and car reserved and was still going to see some incredible music. So off I went, with a heavy heart.

Boy did I see some great stuff. Mute Math blew me away. Kids in the Way was the first band to bring tears to my eyes (not difficult these days but still – not a normal site at one of their gigs I’m sure). Sleeping at Last was incredible. So many great bands I could go on all night. But Saturday, the last day of the festival was worth the trip, because I had one of those incredible days where God shows you what a wuss you are.

Before I went, I had gone onto the Choir website and found a couple of people there going to Cornerstone who gave me some survival tips. I met up with them on Thursday at their beautiful campsite – camp 77. They’re all rabid 77’s fans and therefore pretty cool people all around. Now one of the great thing about Cornerstone is the atmosphere. No one is a stranger, everyone is willing to help anyone, it’s just a really cool vibe. So I hung with David Cervantes, Dan, Elwood and Linda as well as a few others for a few hours. I was instantly accepted and Dan and I had a couple good conversations about how the entire world is one big conspiracy. I dig a good conspiracy theory.

Back to Saturday. No need for the details here, but because I don’t always make the best decisions and can be a real bitch sometimes (trust me I can) I was having arguments with some good friends and was generally in a very foul mood! Let’s just say texting can be good, and texting can be very, very bad. On my way to the festival grounds I missed my last turn. When I realized and went to turn around I saw a tiny graveyard next to the highway.

I LOVE GRAVEYARDS. I have since I was a kid, we lived next to one in Malaysia and I used to play there often. I like reading the engravings and trying to imagine who these people were, how they lived, their stories. So I stopped, got out with my iPod, put on my worship playlist, and began looking at tombstones. What I love so much about graveyards is the clarity it gives you.

Now I was having a crappy day, feeling angry, bitter, and more than a little sorry for myself. I hadn’t seen my beautiful boys in a week and I felt like an idiot for making the mistake of coming all that way for a little music.

I looked for the tiny grave markers, I am always amazed at the mothers who buried two, three, four children. I cannot fathom their pain, it’s not even in the realm of my reality. So I sat and cried a little while, for the woman who 120 years ago lost four children under the age of two, and went on to live another 40 years. Did she have more children that survived? I’m still curious about that.

Late that night back at the festival I first saw Bradley Hathaway, a young, very cool poet perform “Hug Me” asking Jesus –“ did you ever just hug people?” The thought of a bear hug from Jesus – HOW AWESOME would that be!! I cried and shared my Kleenex with the girl next to me. Them I went to see Leigh Nash, a beautiful acoustic set, a beautiful woman with a wonderful spirit.

Back into my little story comes Dan, my new conspiracy friend. Somewhere during the end of Leigh’s set he got an emergency phone call. It seems his neice’s ex-husband’s plane had crashed, he was killed as were her two daughters, the step-daughter and her son were gravely injured. Dan, completely shaken and numb, returned to the tent, I’m sure he didn’t know what else to do. As Dan returned Leigh introduced her last song, “It Is Well With My Soul” which she sang a capella with the audience. I cried again, though I didn’t know of Dan’s tragedy yet. A thousand voices singing together :
“That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”
What a moving experience.

I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child, and pray dear Lord I will never know it. So even greater then was the joy I experienced a few days later, watching my children run down the sidewalk towards my car, jumping, screaming at me “mommy, mommy”, grins from ear to ear…what joy is this? What a blessed gift from God.

I looked up the lyrics to “It Is Well With My Soul” the story of it’s creation seems more than apropos in light of Dans story.

I will choose again today to walk in the light, any light God sees fit to bless me with. Whether it be sunlight that burns my skin, moonlight to dream by, or million year old starlight that stirs my soul.

“And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”

The Story:

“In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago as fire ravaged the city. When it was all over, 300 people were dead and 100,000 were homeless.
Horatio Gates Spafford was one of those who tried to help the people of the city get back on their feet. A lawyer who had invested much of his money into the downtown Chicago real estate, he’d lost a great deal to the fire. And his one son (he also had four daughters) had died about the same time. Still, for two years Spafford–who was a friend of evangelist Dwight Moody–assisted the homeless, impoverished, and grief-stricken ruined by the fire.
After about two years of such work, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation. They were to go to England to join Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their evangelistic crusades, then travel in Europe. Horatio Spafford was delayed by some business, but sent his family on ahead. He would catch up to them on the other side of the Atlantic.
Their ship, the Ville de Havre, never made it. Off Newfoundland, it collided with an English sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and sank within 20 minutes. Though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage (one of only 47 survivors among hundreds), their four daughters–Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie–were killed.
Horatio received a horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long: “saved alone.” Spafford boarded the next available ship to be near his grieving wife, and the two finally met up with Dwight Moody.
“It is well,” Spafford told him quietly. “The will of God be done.”
Though reports vary as to when he did so, that belief led Spafford to pen the words to one of the English language’s best-known hymns. Some say he wrote it on the ship to meet his wife, around the place where his daughters died”:
It is Well With My Soul
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

A Storm Is Coming Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

Oct 15, 2006 6:45PM
To Dawn, Janae and Christopher

Something’s coming, can you feel it? It’s like an hour or two before it rains, when you walk outside and feel that there is a certain heaviness in the air. A thickness you’re almost walking through, a mist clinging to your skin.

There’s a storm approaching. The desert lightning is striking and bursting the forest into flames. But the rain is coming, can you feel that too? The rain is coming.

There is a storm coming and it is almost here, I can feel it. Stand firm and wait for it. You have been put here on the front lines, so don’t turn your eyes – look forward. There are warriors behind you to put out the flames. Keep your eyes fixed on Him.

I had to stop on my way to church last night to write that down. I had an overwhelming feeling of pressure, not just stress but also a physical pressure as if the barometric gauge had just bottomed out through the floor. The past month has been almost unbearable. Not only have I been feeling intense stress and this pressure but I have been witnessing the same things happening to so many of those around me. It almost feels as if every person I’ve spoken to recently is having troubles in their relationships, be they romantic or platonic, business or personal. Even my tiny little church has suffered the seemingly inevitable fate of a split right down the middle of it. Something quite disturbing for a place we don’t even like to call a church but a ministry- so desperate we all are to keep away from the trappings and pitfalls of religion.

I spent one twenty-four hour period two weeks ago not only dealing with serious relationship issues of my own but having not one but three friends pour their hearts out to me, all of us ending up in tears. It just wouldn’t stop there either, my sister, my niece, my nephew, another good friend, all being thrown into turmoil, rejected or attacked by those they had only loved and cared for, suddenly and without warning.

My ex brother-in-law had taken his kids and my sister to lunch last week and told them, “When you have a ministry that is effective you must be ready for the attacks. You all have an important ministry, that is why you are being attacked.” I love Wesley to death but don’t usually expect great depth and spiritual insight from him…it’s just not his style. But he’s right. The lightening and fire is hitting right now, and they are meant to distract from the task God has placed in front of us all. But the rain is coming to douse those fires. A battle of the elements is on its way. God is about to pour out upon us His mercy, I can feel it coming though the battle is not yet here, it is about to be fought. It is patience and prayers that are required right now. “Arm yourselves”, is what I keep hearing from everyone around me.

When I did finally get to church last night, Tommy got up and started, as he sometimes does a little sheepishly. “I’m not sure about this, if it will mean anything to you but…” Every time Tommy says this my ears perk up a little. It usually means he’s got something to say that isn’t coming from him but directly from God. Last night was no different. He talked about walking through Hollywood a few months ago and feeling a physical pressure, an overwhelming sense of compromise. Like he could become anyone there, just disappear into it and no one would ever know. “When in battle, archers would shoot flaming arrows not at the front lines but over them. They did this to start fires behind the leading troops to distract them, to get them to turn around, to keep them from moving forward.” I began to cry…I had seen not armies but a storm, I had not seen arrows but lightening. But it was the same pressure, that same “something is about to happen” that Tommy was now speaking of that I had been feeling all night.

“In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Ephesians 6: 16

Satan is frightened I think, and the arrows and lightening will continue to come. Mine showed up today in my living room, it burst into flames. I could feel it coming, yet somehow I was still not ready. Will I ever be? I can recognize it for what it is, but I’m still terrified and crushed by it. I have a battle to fight that is ahead of me and I need that rain, I am praying for a torrent of it. To not only drown the flames but my enemies as well.

Just as Christian in Pilgrims Progress we are stopped for the night atop “The Hill of Difficulty.” The full armor of God is ours, all we have to do is put it on. Steady Christian, the battle is coming. Steady.

“See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, 
a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked.” Jeremiah 30:23

“My Favorite Things” Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

And on the lighter side…

A few years ago my father began a new Christmas tradition at our house. We don’t spend Thanksgiving forcing all at our table to share what they are thankful for, but this Christmas, with the fresh booty still strewn about the living room he wanted to tell everyone what some of his “favorite things” were.

Remember the song in “The Sound of Music” – A Few of My Favorite Things? None of my fathers favorite things had come in a package that Christmas. He pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket and a few of the things he read were:

Old Cars

Watching TV around the fire with Sharon

Exploring old mines

Camping with Sharon and the grandchildren

Old Barns

Sunrises and Sunsets

Rainy Days

Waking up to Snowfall

The Lakers

Exploring old roads and towns

We’re never expecting the obvious things,” My kids, my family, my friends” Those are all wonderful but it’s the little things(or big things) that give you a warm feeling, a simple sense of joy.

At one of these Christmas’s about 4 years ago my niece Janae began to share her favorite things, she put her head down slightly, looking at the floor then at me. “ One of my favorite things is talking to Beth,” she said. I sat stunned. “I always learn something…” she started to cry, and couldn’t finish. I went and hugged her and we both cried….THAT was one of my favorite things. Here are just a few others off the top of my head:

Dove Dark Chocolate covered Almonds

Climbing into a freshly changed bed made up with high thread count cotton sheets.

Finding a song that inspires me and makes me believe – Plan B (Mute Math) is the current favorite for that.

Going to see a movie with my kids that we all end up loving

When it gets cold enough to light a fire in the fireplace again

Watching the flames of a slow burning fire consume the wood

When it gets warm enough to wear shorts again

Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Looking at a self-portrait of Van Gogh while listening to “Vincent” by Don McClean

Stumbling across a band I’ve never heard before and being blown away at a concert

The sound of the snare and the floor tom on “Waiting for Your Love” – Toto IV (Thank you Tom Knox- where are you man?)

Chad Butler’s groove (the drummer for Switchfoot) – he rocks and makes me happy

When my kids use a word that has more than three syllables (and use they it properly)

Seeing the UPS truck driving down the street

Taking pictures of my kids

Getting a flash of inspiration

Going to church, singing, worshipping, crying

Those moments when I’ve caught a glimpse of who God is and how much He loves me

Being completely honest with a friend and having a real intimate conversation

Garage Sales

Finding the perfect gift for someone

A moonless night when you can see the Milky Way

A really good kiss – or at this point the memory of one!

Hugs

Maybe when I’m in a better mood I’ll post a “Things I Hate” list. But right now focusing on the little things that make life beautiful seems more appropriate. So what are some of your favorite things?

Don’t Just Sit There It’s Rock-n-roll! Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

I screamed! I got chills. I jumped up and down. Not only was I watching Heart do a kick-ass version of Zeppelin’s Black Dog but also I was watching it with two “kids” who were even more excited than I was. Heart is their favorite band and this was the first time they had ever seen them. They were more than overwhelmed, so was I.

Cheez is nineteen and I have no idea how a band that I started going to see when I was 16, yes 22 years ago, three years before he was even born, became his favorite band. But the boys got taste I will give him that (tonight he’s off to see Pink Floyd).

I have seen Heart play at least 12 times over the years, and they’ve always been excellent, but this was the best time I’ve ever had at one of their concerts, perhaps any concert I’ve ever been to, because Cheez and Johnny could not, would not contain themselves. If fact the police almost threw us out.

If you don’t know anything about Heart, this year is the bands thirtieth anniversary, which means that Ann and Nancy Wilson, the two sisters who front the band must be in their fifties. These chicks can rock and I’m sure could kick my butt any day of the week. They are great musicians, born performers, rock as hard as they did 30 years ago and are both ravishingly beautiful – still. They did not disappoint but the audience sure did.

As I said, we almost got kicked out. America may be the birthplace of Rock and Roll, but as far as I can tell if you’re over thirty rock might as well be dead!

When I came to pick them up Johnny and Cheez were writing in black marker “ANN” and “NANCY” on each of their forearms. Johnny had “bedazzled” his jeans with the bands name, and Cheez had brought the covers to his vinyls – the original ones he’s managed to find in used stores over the years-, which he showed to every one he saw that night. He thought he might get them signed as we hoped to meet the band after the show, my sister knows the manager. I think it best we didn’t meet them that night though, I’m not sure the girls would have made it out alive.

So there we were, in the cheap seats, still $28 bucks a pop, and these girls are kickin’ it hard. After about three songs the chubby old man behind us had had enough, he asked us all to sit down. My 17 year old niece had already done so, she hates confrontation, Dawn and I are really too old to give a crap, and I guarantee Johnny and Cheez never would have been able to survive Barracuda or Crazy on You sitting on their butts… I don’t see how any one who is a true fan of rock and roll could. Until the day I die I will never be able to reconcile the picture I have in my head of 5000 people casually sitting on their butts watching Ann Wilson cover Misty Mountain Hop (Zeppelin again) as if they were watching the evening news. I have seen these people get more excited at their kids pee wee soccer games for goodness sake or for that matter when they get a free 5 gram sample of cheesecake at Costco!

So off goes Dawn to find some help before Cheez gets punched out. She found a couple of police officers and explained the situation to them and asked what we should do, they told her to sit down. I didn’t know this and when I saw them approaching us went over to get their help as well. I asked them if there was something that could be done and imagine my surprise when I was met with “He needs to sit down.” To this I replied, “It’s rock and roll and we paid $150 for these seats.” Their response “Well you should have paid more.” I stood for a moment in stunned disbelief, “But it’s Rock and Roll.” I said, “You can’t make us sit down. It’s a rock concert.” I went back to my seat dejected and told Cheez, “They said you have to sit down. Don’t worry if you get arrested, I’ll bail you out.” About this time, Dawn returned, bloody and screaming…she’d found seats in the back row. (No, she had not been punched but had fallen down the stairs; Cheez happily smeared the blood on his jeans as a souvenir.)

We enjoyed the rest of show from the back with a few other people who had moved back there as well to jump, scream, and pretty much experience the sheer euphoria that only a great kick-ass rock concert can give you.

I remember going to see Steely Dan in the 90’s, it was as if I had died and gone to heaven. It was something I thought I would never see, I mean Steely Dan didn’t tour even when they were an active band. Of course it was easier to believe what I was experiencing with the amount of pot smoke floating gently over the lawn – it made it an even more surreal experience. All smoke gives me a headache but it just wouldn’t have been right to sit on the grass and watch Steely Dan performs Hey Nineteen, hearing fifteen thousand people sing “The Cuervo Gold, the fine Columbian…” without a little bit of a buzz I guess. I think you must be suffering from a contact high to get the true Steely Dan experience. It was the same when I saw the Eagles. I’ve seen Steely Dan, The Eagles, Iztach Pearlman, Miles Davis, Eddie Van Halen, two of the Beatles and might be seeing Bob Dylan next month…wow – I’ve been so lucky to see some of the best.

I now go to shows with kids half my age and sitting down is not an option, generally there are no chairs. I wish I could jump with them, but I’m old and I have two bad knees, so I jump in spirit. But I still fondly remember the days of my youth, when my friend Van and I would always run to the “dance” floor every time a certain punk song would be played so we could bang our heads…I would always end up giving myself a headache but it was worth it.

I’ve been thinking lately that ticket sales should be divided not only by price but also by the type of fun you intend to have. I really wouldn’t mind having an “I paid way too much for these tickets but I’m so drunk I might as well be seeing Air Supply” section. Or the “I’m going to pee myself and puke on a stranger” section. This would save the rest of us much aggravation and dry-cleaning bills. We could also have the “Share your pot”, “Can’t keep my hands off my girlfriend” and the “I’m a loudmouth ignoramus and don’t know the first thing about this band but I’d like to share my ignorance with you throughout the entire show so you won’t be able to hear even one of the songs” section. But most of all can we please, please begin to divide ourselves, seeing that some of you out there are apparently getting really old, into either the “standing, dancing, rocking out and partying” or the “”sitting all night” sections. I’m sure we’d all enjoy the concerts much more that way.

In the meantime, when you go to a rock concert and see a couple of women, who are getting a little older, who seems to be enjoying the show just a little too much for their age, please excuse us, but no we will not sit down. While the rest of you sit on your ever spreading behinds and sip your chardonnay, I’ll be buying my sister a beer and we are going to act like the free-spirited, rock and roll loving Americans that we are. So stay out of our way…. because THIS IS ROCK-N-ROLL BABY!!

“I Need Some Happy” Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

I have over the past month been on a rollercoaster of emotions, brought on by not only difficulties in some of my personal relationships, but comments directed at me because of some of those difficulties.

I am, as one friend puts it “brutally honest.” I don’t mean to be harsh but I often tell people too much and sometimes things I say are too strongly worded. I have had comments dolled out to me recently, in response to things which I have said that were misunderstood. I am one who blames myself, even for things that I am not responsible for, so when I receive a critism, it is not only taken to heart, it is held there, a wound now seemingly self-inflicted that I will revisit and allow to ruin me if I am not held in check.

The miracle of the past month and the harsh words I have not only given but taken, is that for every harsh word there have been fifteen encouraging ones. They have come from every direction, many of you who read this blog have said some amazing things to me recently which I have chosen to hold in my heart along side those destructive ones. When those shadows of doubt about myself arise, when I find myself questioning my purpose and worth, I have in the past week found myself reading again some emails I’ve received which have amazed me.

The first came through MySpace of all places. A woman I’ve not seen or talked to in at least 12 years, maybe more, had found me through my sister and has been reading my blogs and stopping by to say hello. On this particular day two weeks ago I had received an email which sent me into a tailspin. I felt attacked, hurt, angry and almost immediately guilty. Dawn tried to “talk me down” and I knew I shouldn’t let this particular person get to me, but that’s just not my style. As I headed to bed I checked my email one more time, a myspace message was waiting. As soon as opened it I began to cry…

“Beth,

You’re on my heart tonight. Maybe just because or maybe you need encouragement…or maybe a zillion different scenarios. I think God put you on my heart so that I would pray.

So Im praying for you…

Im praying for you to know how thrilled God is that He has you. And that His power in your life would be clear to you and those around you. Im praying you’ll be encouraged and empowered in a new fresh way. Im praying you will have a sense of contentment and fulfillment you havent known before, but be inspired to keep moving.”

I have been conflicted by the words thrown at me recently, but I am choosing to walk forward and not focus on the negative. To listen, not as my human nature tells me to my own self-destructive heart, but as God tells me. I know I have many lessons to learn, that I should be slower to anger, calmer under pressure and gentler with people. Those unfortunately are just a few of the things I must work on. But God has been showing me this week, again, that He is not waiting for me to perfect myself, there is no condemnation in his eyes. He has countered, through dear friends every hurtful word I have received recently.

“You are angry” was followed by “You have a depth of character and a heart towards God.”

“You are bitter” turned into “With you, I can just be the kind of friend I want to be, unhindered. I can trust you.”

“You are becoming ugly”, gave me an opportunity to hear “you are intelligent, passionate, witty, beautiful and sexy.”

“It’s not important, it’s stupid” yet I chose to hear instead, “He must have amazing plans for you. Don’t be distracted by circumstances or people.”

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4:2

I woke up today, hoping beyond hope that the Raiders would pull just one out of the crapper and maybe salvage this weekend for me. I watched the game at my sisters condo and when it became apparent that football would not give me any peace I told her, “I just want some happy, any kind of happy will do.”

She smiled, laughed and jokingly offered me some Kalua. I don’t drink, but she made me laugh, she always does. Three hours later I walked into her new house with my neice to find a surprise birthday party waiting….I had no idea it was coming. Even my boys, who I never get to see on the weekend were there, along with Diggs, Alicia, Ralphie, Ben, Adam…so many great young friends even Dukie and Nick showed up. Thank you all for that by the way, it was exactly what I needed today. It was not a big party, but I have people who love me, seeing that is enough to make this day wonderful.

For those of you who’ve been talking to me, encouraging me, emailing me, praying for me, thank you so much. I cherish your friendships and your kindnesses, they make all the difference in my life. Listen to God’s leading when he tells you pray or write or call.

“The birds may come
the winds may blow,
they’ll never steal
the seeds you sow.”
The Listening

The emotional rollercoaster continues and I’ve actually decided I don’t want to get off. I’m very much a control freak and I don’t like adrenaline rushes, but I’m just going to go with it. This ride of life has not taken me where I expected and sometimes I feel like I’m on Space Mountain. I can’t see the next curve and though it’s driving me crazy, that’s the best part isn’t it. If I had planned my life out and been able to control everything, this is not at all where I would be, and my life would, I think be quite boring. God’s dreams will always be bigger than the ones I could dream for myself.

“I’m excited to see what God has in store for you.” – Toni

You know what Toni, so am I, so am I.

Of Joy and Sorrow Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

I believe at our creation God has a path for each of us, that if followed would bring us complete joy and contentment. I also believe that there has never been a human being to walk this earth who has not deviated from that path. The miraculous beauty of Gods grace is that no matter how far off the path we go, no matter how many times we stray from it, He will lead us to a new and still blessed road with the simple prayer of “Father.”

As a parent it’s easy to understand His desire for our joy, but it also makes it easier to understand why we still suffer. When my children are in pain I want nothing more than to take that pain from them, which is exactly what Christ death offered us isn’t it? And yet we still suffer. I allow my kids the continued pain some times, because it is part of the joy, the learning of it. The depths of our sorrow will someday be replaced with more joy than we can imagine, I truly believe that.

We are temporal beings and God is not. That is something I will never be able to wrap my brain around completely, but trying to understand it is the only way for me to get through this life sometimes. I know the suffering will pass, that things will get better, but it is the time it actually takes going through the pain that I cannot handle. I wish I could fast forward through all the bad, but that would leave the good without substance, without merit. Joy would be hollow without the experience of pain.

“Count it all joy.” “ All things work together for good.” In the midst of pain and suffering those promises may appear to be just words and can seem so distant and empty. But joy is still yours and it WILL come again.

One of my favorite books is “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
Of Joy and Sorrow he wrote:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper your sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. …. Some of you say ‘Joy is greater than sorrow’ and others say ‘Nay, sorrow is greater.’ But I say unto you they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

Why do we suffer? I cannot begin to fathom the need for such great grief as I have seen around me in the past few months, but I know my faith is stronger because of it. Why am I told by the Holy Spirit to pray a specific prayer for someone in the middle of the night. Why does God place on my heart the need to intercede on their behalf when he could just as easily take care of the problem without me? He knows what the need is, why is He telling it to me? So I can be used by Him.

“God turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.” Job 42:10

God desires not only relationship with us but for us to have relationship with each other. To be the conduit to Him for others when they have no strength of their own, even the strength to pray. I have been on the receiving end of this “chain” if you will as of late.

This week as I have held my child as he cries himself to sleep every night, finally the realization of what the divorce of his parents means to his life hitting him hard, I cannot bear it. Yet I don’t have to bear it alone, I cry out for help and God sends it. People are praying for me and that comfort has brought a glimpse of the true joy I know will be mine again in time as well as my sons.

“ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed…. In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.” Romans 8: 18-19, 26

James 1:2
Romans 8:28

Requiem For A Planet Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

As of two weeks ago, there are officially, once again, eight planets in our solar system. After years of debate the International Astronomical Union finally took a vote in Prague about the legitimacy of the “planet-hood” of Pluto. To the heartbreak of schoolchildren everywhere, their conclusion; Pluto is a Dwarf Planet not quite worthy of the title Planet. It’s nothing personal, merely a scientific conclusion. So why am I so sad, why has there been such an outcry by schoolchildren everywhere, why are there so many letters and emails being sent to astronomers, astrophysicists and museum curators who have removed Pluto from their planetary exhibits?

Honestly I don’t know, but of course as usual I’ve thought about it as I’ve watched this debate being played out for years, truthfully I’ve probably thought about it far too much. The conclusion I have come up with is that many of us remember clearly the feeling of awe we had when learning about the solar system in grade school. I remember finally catching for the first time, a small glimpse, actually grasping a slight and quickly passing understanding in my mind of the enormity of the Universe. The age of the Sun seemed eternal in my 8 year-old mind, but compared to the existence of the Universe, the Sun at least seemed comprehensible. Likewise, looking at all the planets, Mercury and Venus, cuddled so close to the Sun. The Earth, the only “living” astronomical body we know of, so unique compared to everything else we’ve managed to view. Those enormous gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, that made me feel so small here on planet Earth. But there at the end of the line, was a tiny, almost insignificant little planet named Pluto. Less than half the distance from New York to Los Angeles, so small and far away, barely making a dent in the gravitational wobble of the Sun, and yet, a planet none-the-less.

I was small, smaller than all the people surrounding me, I was last in line in my family and sometimes felt a little insignificant myself. I remember one woman actually asking me at age 14 if I felt unimportant because my brother and sister were up on stage and I was not. In reality until that moment the thought had never even occurred to me. I was perfectly happy when no one was dragging my ass up on stage, I’ve come to accept that I will be there occasionally, but I could really have cared less at that time. Until that moment, when I wondered, for a brief second if what I did behind the scenes really did matter.

I’ve done a little bit of everything it seems, from selling product, to being a roadie, running monitors, lights, or even getting coffee. It may not matter to the audience, I don’t think it ever crosses their minds really, but I have come to realize the musicians on that stage know and appreciate the work of the “behind the scenes” crew even though there is no glory in it. I would take quiet pride in the knowledge that I DID have a lot to do with what happened when the lights went down. I had holes in my jeans in the 80’s, and I earned every single one of them, crawling around a stage or studio so the artists could get the applause. I hope it’s ok with all of you fans out there, that I took a little of that applause for myself.

So I think the main reason we all love Pluto so much, is that in Pluto we can see a little of ourselves. There is a kind of kinship there. She made us realize that no matter what your place in the Universe, no matter your size or the relatively small effect you may have on those around you, you deserve a name, respect.

I think children especially identified with her. Do you remember as a child the feeling that no one saw you? Sometimes I felt as though I made no impact here on Earth. If I was gone would anyone notice. Well the answer seems to be a resounding yes. We love to root for the underdog, the little guy. Why, because we all feel like that ourselves from time to time, which should tell us something. When you feel like your not important, like everyone around you has it together and you don’t, look at the person sitting next to you and ask them what their favorite planet is, the majority will say Pluto. I think we all feel the same way about ourselves, except for the few narcissists out there, which tells me that I just might be making a difference. I definitely see in those around me the enormous difference each of them have made, perhaps they see the same in me. I guess it’s really not so hard after all to understand our affections for the ninth planet, which technically by all scientific reasoning is no more.

So forget planet-hood, lets all be happy just being part of the Kuiper Belt; millions of seemingly insignificant pieces of rock and ice, circling the Sun, enveloping all the “real” planets. Alone, yet together, distant, yet still effecting the star we orbit. We rule, and what a view.

There is talk of a tenth planet, which now I guess would be the ninth, but nothing will ever replace our tiny little Pluto. Quiet and unassuming, rotating the Sun at a slightly cockeyed orbit, just a little off kilter like so many of us. Rest in peace Pluto. You will always be a Planet in our hearts.

Jeff Porcaro Thursday, Oct 26 2006 

“I’ll see you soon, soon!” He made me promise. I did, gave him a kiss and a hug. “Soon” he said one more time, scolding, but with a smile. Then I watched him walk out the door. The next time I saw him, he was lying in a coffin. That was 14 years ago.

It shattered me, shook me to my very core, to the point that I’ve rarely talked about it. I stopped listening to music, it was simply too painful. There were still albums being released after his death that he had worked on. I remember driving down the road in Nashville months later hearing a song for the first time, halfway through the chorus I told my husband “that’s Jeff”. “It can’t be” he said, “it’s a drum machine.” We went and bought the album and sure enough he had overdubbed the cymbals on that one song. I could tell by the hi-hat it was him.

I’d grown up listening to him play with Toto, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson; practically everyone in 70’s and 80’s. I learned to hear music the way he played it. I remember being in the studio with an “A” list session drummer and getting frustrated because he wasn’t playing the fills right, not the way I heard it, not the way Jeff would play it.

He told everyone his timing sucked. He said he stole every lick he had from someone else. “ I stole that from Purdie, that’s just a Keltner lick.” But he had a groove like nobody else, that groove was all his. It seemed to come from the center of his body and flowed out to his legs, his arms, hands, feet, fingers. I think he even had groove in his little toe.

I spoke to Doug Matthews a few weeks ago; he had been the live drummer for Liaison, a Christian band in the 90’s. He was remembering the first rehearsal for their tour, playing it down for the first time. He told them “The click is floating, man, it feels like the click is floating.” “Drummers are notorious for blaming the click,” he said. Clicks never float, but this one did, because Jeff had played the drums on that album.

Liaison was the definition of corporate rock. This was the second session Jeff had done for us, but this time it wasn’t a full rhythm session, it was just drums. Nine sequenced songs, bass and keys already laid down in perfect time. I had seen Jeff a couple of nights before, “Nine songs in one day?’ he said, he seemed a little worried. I don’t know why but I tried to convince him it wouldn’t be a problem. As I left the tiny club, I turned to say goodbye, “See you Friday,” he said, “Nine songs?”

The first song set the tone for the entire session. He played it, over and over and over again, but never got through the entire song. The producer wouldn’t let him.

It was a classic Christian rock ballad, right down to the key change in the 3rd chorus, and it just laid there, no emotion whatsoever. Jeff refused to play it straight, to play to the click. I don’t think it was that he wouldn’t do it; I think he couldn’t do it. Everything about him would not allow him to play a song emotionless, he had to play it the way he felt it.

Bill, the producer kept stopping him in the middle of every take. “Try this, change that. You’re not playing it right.” I have never heard so many expletives strung together in so many creative ways. Drumsticks were thrown to the ground. Every time Jeff was just getting going, the tape would stop. “Why don’t you try this right there”? I was beginning to get nervous. Jeff was getting stiff, hitting the drums harder and harder. I had a vision of him cramping up and throwing his sticks through the window. I’d heard stories, they’re legendary, of Jeff’s frustration with producers and artists trying to get something out of him he didn’t have, trying to get him to fix a take he knew was right.

Finally he asked for a break and a few minutes later when he came back told Bill to just let him lay one down all the way through. He played it beautifully – but not to the click, then came into the control room to listen through. Bill wasn’t happy, he started making suggestions immediately. Jeff’s response “ Do me a favor man. Mute everything but the drums and listen to it again.”

This ballad, that had laid there like some carcass on the highway, flat and lifeless, now flowed. The emotional story of the entire song was being told with the drums alone. He had played the song, fought the click and sampled time corrected bass, and breathed life into it. Bill never again told him his timing was off, but instead spent the next two weeks getting the sequenced keyboards to “chase” the drums. They didn’t have a special plug-in for Protools, this was 1989 and they were using 24 tracks of analog. It was hard work, but in the end, it was right.

So Doug Matthews had to memorize the timing of the click for those nine songs, which Jeff managed to put down in just over 7 hours. It couldn’t have been too hard for Doug, he’s got a pretty kickin’ groove himself.

Jeff died on Aug. 5th, 1992. He was only 38 years old, I’ll be 38 in two months, it seems such a young age to die. Jeff had three young boys, as do I, the oldest of which shares the name of my oldest son, Miles. Every August I think about how much time has gone by and how life seems to move so fast. I miss him still. I miss watching him play, his entire body pouring out that groove, a rhythmic ballad. I miss the music he will never create.

Now when I tell my friends, “We need to get together soon” it’s not an empty sentiment. Nobody knows how much time God has granted each of us and I never again want to go to a funeral and realize the last thing I said to that person was an empty promise that I would see them soon. I’m about to turn 38 and I hope my life has just begun, but just in case…call me, we can talk, go out to dinner or play poker…I’ll see you soon, right? Soon.

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