Seasons

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?  ~ Stevie Nicks

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I’m an American Idol fanatic. What can I say? I love music. I love young people. I love seeing people’s dreams come true. So, yes. When Stevie Nicks appeared on the show, I was drawn to the screen like a moth to a flame.

What a voice! What an impact on American music! True, she and I may not agree on many things, but music is a common denominator. If you want to find a common ground upon which polar personalities can agree, talk music.

Since I’ve been working with Harmony House, my personal music venture with the mission to put music in the hands of anyone with a dream or a yearning, I’ve really been tuned into my own abilities. So Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Stevie Nicks, I’ve turned to you for inspiration. Especially you, Stevie Nicks. I’m an English major. Of course, I love your poetry, your lyrics. “Leather and Lace”? Great message. Marvelous symbolism. And “Landslide”? I can’t get the words out of my head, especially your lyric about “seasons of my life.”

I know all about seasons. I get it. Ironically, the seasons of my life have come full circle, and I’m ALMOST where I wanted to be when I first stepped into adulthood. Sometimes I go back and read my senior yearbook. I think about the young woman I used to be and the seasoned woman I am today.

Life hasn’t changed me that me much. But I’ve come a long way on my journey. I miss the people I grew up with. But we all change and go our separate ways.

I’m a people watcher. I’m a writer. Just about every character I’ve ever incorporated into one of my stories is an incarnation of someone I’ve met. Everyone I have ever interacted with leaves something with me. Gee, I even modeled a character after a waiter at the Red Robin restaurant in Murfreesboro after one visit.

That’s what I like about writing. Control. I can make anyone do whatever I want him or her to do.

Lately, I keep coming back to Stevie Nicks’ song “Landslide.” I think about the seasons in our life. People are like seasons too, you know. The people we meet, the characters we create, share the characteristics of the seasons. I think if we examine this analogy a bit more closely we can add depth to our character development.

Everyone has his or her own perspective about the seasons. That’s great. I think we writers should follow our own guide but stay true to the individual rules we create.

There are four seasons: summer, fall, winter, and spring.

For me, summer characters are the most difficult for to define. I see summer as static. Everything stays the same. Summer is romantic. Summer is predictable. Summer is fun. Summer is carefree. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a teacher. I can’t wait for summer. When I think of summer, I don’t think of the hot sun beating down on hayfields and children’s playgrounds. I think of summer nights.

Blame it on an experience I had in high school. I was never much into the dating scene. I had my own ideal of the perfect guy, and few measured up. But I did agree to go on a date with a very cute boy on a picnic down by the AEDC lake with a group of his friends. He was quite the gentleman, by the way

Even back then, being a writer at heart, my mind was drawn to the lights shining off the lake. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I still carry that memory. For years, I’ve tried to go back to that spot, to recapture that moment, but I’ve never been able to find the place. It’s just not the same, even though I know the exact location. It’s just not the way I remember it.

I think summer characters are romantic, but predictable. They are what they are, static yet fleeting. When I think of summer, I think of romance, romance novels to be exact. We can predict the ending, many times, but the story is so satisfying.

Summer characters remind me of comfortable journey, one that leaves us with a memory upon which we can conjure and relive whenever the need be.

I have an autumn personality. I can identify with characters who are cool on the outside, like a frosty morn, but with a core that warms up like the heat from an October midday summer sun. Autumn characters are both dark and light. They can carry the mystery of a Samhain night, or they can be the harvest moon among the darkness that shows people the light.

Autumn personalities are mysteries waiting to be solved.

Winter characters can be cold and detatched, or they can be warm and inviting–as can be the season of winter. It all depends on the personality of the beholder. Some people see winter as a time of death and decay, a frost-covered earth, icy and forlorn. Other people see winter as a time of hope, a waiting period for rebirth, a time for family gatherings around a warm fire, a warm cup of cocoa or spiced cider.

Winter characters are polarized. But what makes them that way? A turning point? Winter characters are projects waiting to be devoured, dissected, and discovered.

The most difficult characters for me are spring characters, spring personalities. One minute they’re bright sunshiney happy-go-lucky. Then the next thing you know, their personalities turn dark and moody like a stormy sky. Predicting a spring character is like predicting a spring storm. The radar gives us a warning, but spring characters move where they want, when they want, how they want. Given the right factors, a spring character can turn tornadic and rip up everything, or it can blow on by like a gentle breeze.

Spring characters run hot and cold. One minute the reader feels as though she knows the character, but like blackberry winter, the character turns cold. The reader is introduced to a stranger who keeps him or her guessing. We all know real people like that. And truth spawns works of art.

I’m no master novelist by any means, but I encourage writers of all levels to consider the analogy between their characters and the seasons. Perhaps analyzing this analogy can add a little depth to our character developement.

There’s nothing like getting to know a person intimately. And for a reader, the greatest hook is getting into a character’s head and feeling like you know him or her from the inside and out.

Ode to my fairy godmother, by proxy

Have you ever contemplated jail time?

I mean just how bad does the offense have to be before they send you to the Big House?

I’m not planning anything a jewelry heist or embezzlement. I’m not even sure my dirty deed is criminal. But my motto has always been if the opportunity presents itself, then, by George, don’t sit there, man. Do something about it!

I want to meet Steven Tyler, and my opportunities are limited. I think my only option is to rush the concert stage when Aerosmith plays Atlanta.

Surely, I would get off with a plea of temporary insanity. Sane middle-aged school teachers don’t normally risk a record for a photo op with a singing sensation. But then again I’m not normal, and this is no ordinary singing sensation. We’re talking Steven Tyler.

Now let’s get this straight. I am not obsessed with Steven Tyler. I don’t hide the fact that I really, really like his hair and its charms, braids, and feathers. But I do not in any way, shape, or form endorse his beliefs or code of morality, whatever it may be. I do like his bluesy voice. I like his voice a lot. Almost as much as I like his hair.

Steven Tyler is an icon to me, not an idol. I do not worship him. I do admire his talent. I do not want to stalk him. I simply want to mark off one more “to do” on my bucket list. And that, my friend, is meeting him and getting a photo to document the occasion.

I know that it’s standard procedure for authorities to take said mug shot at the station when they haul in the perpetrator, but I was hoping, should I be arrested for rushing the stage, that said authorities might be kind enough to snap my mug shot WITH Steven Tyler before I’m taken to the precinct. Mission accomplished. That’s the plan. Bail can’t be that much. Can it?

I embarrass my children talking like this. Yet, they are just as quirky as I am. Both of them. They’ll understand someday when their opportunities for adventure grow limited, when they have to either deal with their own quirkiticity or lose any creativity they ever had.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m a teacher. I never really have to grow up. Except for a short departure to the Boro, I’ve never really graduated from Central High.

I’ve accepted the fact that my destiny is to be one of “them,” the crazy teachers the students all whisper about between classes. I hear them talking.

 “Did you hear about Mrs. L? Yeah, she’s on that Tyler kick again.”

“Aw, man. I was just getting into our discussion of the futility of the American dream in Death of a Salesman. Now all we’re going to talk about is American Idol. Again.”

But the good thing about being a teacher is that I work with adolescents who have not yet embraced the mature adult state of mind that prohibits quirkiticity and embraces stoic etiquette.

I just found out Steven Tyler is hosting a Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in LA. The thought of spending any time in a Playboy mansion disgusts me. But here we have one more very real opportunity to get a shot with the man.

And that is ALL I want. I do not lust after Steven Tyler. I do not desire his fame, his fortune. Well, maybe I DO covet his hair…and his clothing. My son Michael says we can go shopping together. He’s right.

My family members have been calling the radio station trying to help me win the contest that will send me to said fantasy camp. I’m sure they relish the idea of me just getting this notion out of my system so that I can go on to the next item on my list. Or they just want to get rid of me.

Fantasy camp is probably a no go. Oh, I clicked on the web site and filled out the online application—except the part where I had to enter my credit card number. The digits came close to $9000. I did not click enter.

So maybe the camp’s out of reach, but the concert is in the bag. Literally. I have my ticket in my school satchel. Notice I said ticket. My family won’t even go with me for fear I’ll embarrass them all, ruin their reputations. Get caught on camera by CNN.

I just don’t get it. I would never do anything lewd or immoral. I just want a picture. Is that too much to ask?

Well, and maybe one of his scarves. A scarf would be nice.

This is MY bucket list. And again, I do not endorse Steven Tyler’s beliefs, his morals, his lyrics.. My pursuit is just a manifestation of my quirkiticity. And I think he does a great job of helping the American Idol kids pursue their dreams.

I don’t want to go to jail. But a girl has to do what a girl has to do. My major concern is that this blog is evidence of premeditation.

But doesn’t premeditation just apply to murder and really bad crimes? I’m really not committing any crime. Not really.

I’m not even stalking the man. I just want a picture. (And maybe a scarf.) Is that too much to ask? I’m an aged, soft-spoken little woman. Do I look like a criminal? Surely, someone will take pity upon me.

I believe in the six degrees of separation.

Perhaps one of you bloggers out there knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Steven Tyler. How hard would it be for one of Steven’s people to send a simple meet and greet pass to a simple school teacher who has given the majority of her life to help build America’s future?

I know how the music industry works. It’s all about who you know. And right now I don’t know Jack Squat.

If only I had a fairy godmother to grant me a wish. But, hey, I believe in serendipity. Perhaps the right person has stumbled onto this blog by accident. Maybe you could make a few calls, and bring a short little woman in a Tennessee hick town great happiness by sending her a meet and greet pass for a little concert in Atlanta,

I’ll let you know how it works out. Otherwise, look for me on CNN.

Walk this way

Public domain photo

I’m not a world famous novelist or journalist. I’m just a simple person. I love God. I love people, especially those who feel unloved, and I want to be an encourager. I write from the heart. But the last three weeks have been so hard that I haven’t felt like writing anything at all, especially anything good or positive.

I shared my dilemma with my journalism students. We often talk about our personal writing struggles. They suggested I use my writing to work through my frustrations. I want to use my words to bless, not curse.

Then one of them suggested I write about Steven Tyler—a frequent topic in our random media discussions. He’s bad…in kind of a good sort of way.

Okay, I’ll confess. I like Steven Tyler. REALLY like. REALLY, REALLY like.

And so not to alarm my “normal” conservative family members and friends, please allow me to indulge in my infatuation from within an American Idol context. Yes, some of his Aerosmith lyrics are crudely suggestive. And yes, while I am adamant supporter of the First Amendment, I cringe when I think about how Aerosmith pushed for funding for federal funding of an explicit art exhibit in 1992. But let’s stick to this context—American Idol. Other than his occasional bleeps, Mr. Tyler is actually a pretty cool dude on the show.

There are two main reasons why Steven Tyler strikes a chord with me.

(Side note:  Despite what some of you might think, I won’t begin by talking about his hair—although I do like his long hair…and his feathers. It took me a while to believe he was actually wearing feathers, but that’s what they are, actual feathers in the form of hair extensions. Don’t believe me? Check out this salon that specializes in them.)

But I digress. Let’s get back to the point of this blog—two reasons why I like Steven Tyler on American Idol.

THE MINOR

The twinkle in Steven’s eyes suggests he’s a mixture of mischief and spontaneity, which if you know anything about me at all you know this is my kind of person. Steven makes the show more interesting. (Some days it’s all I can do to appear the calm, subdued English teacher. But what fun would life be if I didn’t talk my past a security guard into Fenway Park during the off season or if I didn’t accidentally find myself staring at a shiny badge during the middle of drug sting while searching for boxes for a move to a new apartment–just a couple of stories from previous blogs, I think.)

Steven Tyler doesn’t care what other people think. He wears what he wants to wear, he unleashes a quirky sense of humor the audience may or may not get, and he encourages whomever he pleases. In other words, he doesn’t give into the peer pressure of downing contestants just because Randy thinks they’re pitchy. And despite the gibes of his band mates, he followed the decision to do something “normal” like appear on a mainstream TV show.

THE MAJOR

Despite his outrageous rock n’ roll persona, Steven Taylor exudes compassion. He stole my heart the moment he knelt down beside the wheelchair of Chris Medina’s finance,  kissing and hugging her while reminding her how special she is. I also like the fact that, unlike Simon Cowell, Steven applauds the gospel roots of the contestants rather than showing contempt for their faith. Of course, Steven did grow up singing in a Presbyterian church choir.  He gets it. He has even voiced that he “gets it.” I wonder why he wandered away.

So in the context of American Idol, Steven Tyler is no longer the self-centered rock star with the ego-induced attitude. He appears the kindest and most humble of them all. Of course, Steven Tyler is on stage. He shows us what we want to see. We’re all on stage, aren’t we? Only God knows what’s really inside—good or bad.

I’m a public servant, a teacher. I’m on stage every day. Even when I’m sick with a fever or coping with the death of a loved one, I do my best to give my best performance. I shell out hundreds of dollars each year to equip my classroom or to buy things for a child who needs the help. I come in early and stay late and give away my time to someone else’s children. And not once have I ever raised my voice or said any child was “bad.”

My audience isn’t always so kind. Some of them take the term public servant and interpret it as “whipping boy.” They hurl hateful words at us teachers without regard for what it does to us emotionally. We’re the ones punished—or bullied—when their young princes and princesses don’t “make the grade”—literally now days.

What has all of that got to do with Steven Tyler, you ask?

Not much, really.

But on those days when my heart is too heavy to pour out anything good, on those days when the bullies make me their whipping boy, on those days  when I need a miniature vacation—an escape, I can point my remote to American Idol. I can pretend the American dream really can come true, I can listen to great music, and I can see the twinkle in Steven Tyler’s eye. It’s contagious. Before I know it, I’ve got one in my own.

And when I am heart is so heavy with grief and disappointment, I can do something goofy by writing about ceiling ninjas, pirates, or Steven Tyler. Maybe I can make someone smile—or even myself. Life is mean. We have to fight back if we’re going to help others get out of it alive.

And by alive, I do mean make it to eternity. Fighting back means using words to bless, not curse. Fighting back means trying to find the good in people, even when all they have to show is the bad.

Fighting back means not giving into peer pressure, the kind kids go through when they choose to go on a church retreat instead of a party…or the kind adults go through when they refuse to gossip during prayer meetings when their friends bring up so-called “needs.”

Fighting back means letting go of the ego and, instead, offering compassion. Fighting back means standing up to the bullies out there.

Fighting back also means letting go of the fear of being who God has called you to be. I just hope I don’t develop a taste for locusts and wild honey. But I sure do like Steven Tyler’s hair.

Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me I’m wearing feathers in mine.

Plinky 11– Eleven of My Favorite Celebrity Interviews

It’s been a little while since I’ve turned to Plinky.com for ideas. The original prompt was “List Your Top Celebrity Sightings.” Instead of resorting to one of my usual stalking stories, I’ll keep it light and fun and put on my music journalist hat. Here’s a list of my Top Eleven Interviews with Celebrities. (Yes, I am basking in the glory days.)

11. Bob Halligan, Jr. is the front man for the Celtic/Irish band Ceili Rain. I met and interviewed him several years ago. Being a long-time fan of Celtic/Irish music, I knew I was in for a treat. But when we sat down for an interview, he tormented me constantly, picking, picking, picking in a good-natured way. I laughed so hard I could barely get the questions out. My tape recorder wouldn’t work, so I had to humble myself and ask him for help. But overall, it was one of the most fun interviews I ever had. Many people might not recognize Bob Halligan’s name right off, but they may recognize the songs he’s written. His work has been recorded by KISS and Judas Priest. I met him during GMA Week.

10. Toby Mac. I was working on a cover story for Release magazine about artists who formed their own indie record companies. Naturally, I had to interview Toby about Gotee Records. I’ve seen him numerous times, but we talked for just a few minutes via the phone. He caught him at the airport just before he left for London. The whole interview experience was a rush. Loved it.

9. Phil Keaggy. So how often does one get to sit down and chat with such an amazing guitar player. Wow. God sure blessed me with the opportunity. And Phil blessed me with his latest CD. (Trivia tidbit—There was rumor that Jimi Hendrix referred to Phil Keaggy as the greatest guitarist ever. But there’s no real evidence to prove that. But still…cool. Check out Snopes.com for more info.)

8. Sherri Shepherd. Sherri Shepherd is hilarious both on the screen and off. I didn’t get a chance to talk with her in person, but we talked over the phone. She was quite candid about the heartbreaks and obstacles she had encountered in her life, but she gave credit to God to overcoming them. She was also quite humble and reminded me that even during the hard times laughter is good medicine.

7. Randy Travis. I interviewed Randy over the phone. He is one of the nicest, most humble people I’ve ever had the pleasure to talk to. We talked about his wild days and his run-ins with the law—actually the outrunning the law. He was a bad boy, but God turned him around.

6. Charlie Daniels. Charlie Daniels is a man with fire and spunk. We talked via the phone, and he was not one bit afraid to voice his opinions about the politics of the day. Wow. He didn’t hold anything back. I admire a person who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and who is willing to stand for his convictions.

5. Gordon Kennedy. I was writing a story about a new project by Gordon Kennedy, Phil Maderia, Billy Sprague, and Wayne Kirkpatrick (Coming from Somewhere Else), so I had the chance to interview all four. My interview with Gordon was a phoner, but how often does a person get to talk to a person who wrote a Grammy song for Eric Clapton? Star struck I was.

4. Smokey Robinson. What a sweet, sweet person whose life has been transformed through his Christian faith. Every time I see him on TV (as I did tonight on American Idol), I think, “Wow. I talked to a legend. God is so good.”

3. Steven Curtis Chapman. I’ve interviewed Steven on multiple occasions, but my favorite experience was being invited to a private listening party for his release of Speechless. I remember white candles on black tablecloths. The first time I met him, Steven asked my son Josh who his favorite singer was. Correct answer? Steven Curtis Chapman. What did Josh say? Michael W. Smith.

2. Wayne Kirkpatrick. Nobody writes songs like Wayne Kirpatrick. The first time I talked with him was in a suite at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville during GMA. I was in awe. He has penned numerous songs for Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and more recently Little Big Town. If you want to impress me, write a song, a song that can “change the world.” Yeah, he wrote Eric Clapton’s hit with Gordon Kennedy and Tommie Sims. I’ve seen Wayne play more times than I can count. He’s also one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard. He sings and plays with passion. He speaks the truth, and he changes hearts. (And I hope to catch him, Gordon, and Phil during Tin Pan South if my life allows.)

1. Michael W. Smith. Yes, it could be said that I have come close to stalking Mr. Smith a few times. But he is one of my all-time favorite singers. The first time I met him a friend of mine’s mom was doing an interview with him for her TV station in Illinois. She invited me to come along. I was in awe. I had never met a celebrity before. Michael’s publicist gave me a copy of his press kit. I was blown away to find a tear sheet of MY review of his latest album. I felt like a real journalist then. I have accidently hung up on Michael during a phone interview, and I stuttered and babbled in front of him when I went to his album release party at Legends. But he appears to be a merciful, forgiving man. I have also not been jailed.

Shameless reminiscing tonight, folks. No bragging. I just needed some happy thoughts. God allows me to be the vessel to tell other peoples’ stories from time to time. He could have chosen someone else, but he chose me. I’ve had hundreds of interviews, and each one is a special gift. God delivers a special message to me with each one. These are just a few, but I’m just as thankful for one as I am the other.

FULL MOON CRAZY CONTEST RESULTS
Congratulations Herb Crowder for winning the Starbucks card. (You should receive it soon.) I’m sorry for the delay in posting. Due to the death in my family, I have not been able to work with the blog for a short while. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for my mother and my family. She is resting now. Please remember my father in your prayers.

Full moon crazy

Full moon tonight. The crazies come out.

I’m not sure what that means, but I think I like it. It’s been a long winter full of trouble, and I’m ready for the thaw. I need more crazy, the good crazy, the kind of crazy that brings out the kind of harmless mischief that ignites my creative spirit.

Writers thrive on crazy. Crazy schedules. Crazy thoughts. Crazy characters. And drama. Of course, it’s easy to deal with the drama when you can close the laptop and take a break. And the crazy characters? We can make ‘em do whatever we want. (Don’t you wish we had the power in real life? Maybe some of us do; maybe some of us don’t. Who pulls the puppet strings in your life? Just a side thought.)

Creative people need crazy.

Take American Idol for example. In my opinion, producers can thank Steven Tyler for breathing new life to a dying show. He adds just the right amount of crazy. He is a connoisseur of crazy. Steven refers to it as “goop,” the “stuff you get when you’re creative to get the job done.” But he’s right. James Durbin and Casey Abrams bring the crazy to every performance, and that’s why they make their fans go crazy.

All right, naysayers, chastising me for speaking so lightly about such a serious topic. I hear you. “How dare she be so flippant about the full moon? Hasn’t she heard that more accidents, more murders, and more crime occur during the full moon phase?”

Scientists tell us the moon has an effect on the oceans’ tides, and the Average Joe makes the assumption that if the moon has an effect on the large bodies of water, it probably affects small bodies too. We humans consist primarily of water—about 80%, right? Crazy thought, isn’t it?

I believe people do act a little more strangely during a full moon, maybe even a little meaner. But authorities haven’t agreed whether there is any scientific proof that the lunar phase has any real effect on a person’s emotions. Of course, the debate has gone on for years. Where do you think we get the words lunatic and looney? Full moon crazy.

Pagans have their own beliefs, but I am steadfast Christian. I don’t think full moon crazy stems from religion or science. I think we writers are responsible.

No, there’s not much scientific proof that weird things happen during a full moon, just writer conjecture. Songwriters, screenwriters, novelists, and journalists, we all perpetuate the myth. Thank you, Stephenie Myer for tweeking the moon myth with New Moon. And Warren Zevon, you incited terror in the heart of a teenage girl who listened to your vinyl 45 almost every night, worrying about poor Jim getting his lungs ripped out and feeling sorry for the “little old lady [that] got mutilated last night.”

Full moon crazy. Makes me want to take my new green journal to a picnic bench in the park and write tonight.

By the way, tonight’s full moon is what is referred to as a “super full moon” or a “perigee moon,” noted for its rare size and beauty. The last time we had one of these was back in 1993. Even if you’re more the analytical type with little time for my creative tom foolery, you should take time to see the show God’s putting on tonight. You’ll want to get there just after sunset for the best seats.

And by the way…..

FULL MOON CRAZY CONTEST

I need a little crazy, so in the words of Steven Tyler, give me the “goop.” What’s your best full moon crazy story? What are you going to do tonight? If you’re reading this after March 19, you can tell me what you did. Or just tell me your best full moon myth or trivia. I don’t care. I just need some full moon crazy. I need you.

I’ll randomly pick a comment and treat the writer to a cup of coffee. Don’t worry if you’re across the world. I’ll send you a Starbucks card. (Deadline is midnight, Monday, March 21.)

Congratulations Herb Crowder for winning the Starbucks card. (You should receive it soon.) I’m sorry for the delay in posting. Due to the death in my family, I have not been able to work with the blog for a short while. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for my mother and my family. She is resting now. Please remember my father in your prayers.