More than the quintessential cow girl

COW

The other night I watched The Words (Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, and Zoe Saldana). I didn’t plan on watching it, but any movie about a writer struggling to “make it” begs me to watch it.

The movie bases its foundation on one question: “Just how far would you go to be the person you want to be?”

In other words, would you steal someone else’s story just to be who you wanted to become?

The film portrays an old man who says, “We all make choices; the hard thing is to live with them, and there ain’t nobody that can help you with that.”

Wow.

I write. All the time. Something. Anything. Celebrity profiles. Fiction. Notes on papers I’m grading. Blogs. Texts. A few emails. Poor attempts at song lyrics.

So far everything I have written has been true. I have never stolen nothing, no not a thing—well, with the exception of the deliberate theft of that last sentence. If you know song lyrics, you’ll understand. If not, proceed. It’s no big thing.

I have a new group of creative writing students this semester, and once again, my goal for them and for me is for us to take our writing to the next level, to step out of our comfort zones.

My new class of creative writers has been very good for me. So far my students cut me no slack. If they have to write, they expect me to write. My homework for them? Create a blog with its own unique writing. Their homework for me? Write a blog about them.

But what can I say? I don’t know them well—yet. So far I have met the super intelligent Batman, a Halo freak who shares his cheerios, three musicians, an artist, a baton twirler, Lady Wit, a runaway who gets to stay, and a very shy girl who kind of reminds me of myself.

But when I get to know them, can I say more? If I tell their stories without their permission, will I invade their privacy? Will I steal their stories for my gain? But what happens if their story IS my story? I believe people’s paths cross for a reason.

Never should I define people by the characters they play in my life story, for tomorrow they will grow into somebody else. You change; I change. Not everything about us, just some things.

I, for example, will always love God, my family, and the Red Sox. I can’t imagine ever giving up writing or music. And I won’t give up the people I love. I do, however, abandon certain fads. I left the leg warmers in the eighties, and I don’t perm my hair.

I’m what they call a “seasoned teacher.” You can’t fool me. That’s just another way of saying old. No matter how you say it, I have been a supporting cast member in the stories of many students’ lives. I don’t mind. I just don’t want them to sell that chapter as my entire story.

When I first started teaching, I decorated my classroom in a black and white spotted motif. The next thing I knew I became the crazy teacher who liked black and white bovines. I like cows, but they don’t necessarily moooove me. I have, in fact, ridden a cow backwards across a barnyard. That, my friends, is another story, one better left in the barnyard.

During my “cow phase,” I acquired a lot (literally) of Holstein items, including a stool with udders, which I thought was utterly hilarious. Heck, even the baseball coach brought me a cow ink pen from a coaching clinic. The cow lady. That’s who I had become.

During another phase, I was the crazy lady who loved Julius Caesar. I still do. I received anonymous letters from students warning me to “Beware the Ides of March.” While some teachers had to be on the look out for yard rollers on Halloween, I had to keep up my guard the night of March 15. But that’s okay. My rollers and I are now great friends. But they should remember the evil that men (and women) do lives after them. Paybacks are killer.

At another point of my career, I voraciously taught my students the importance of vocabulary, and we started with the word QUINTESSENTIAL. Every student I had during this phase used the word either to impress or distress me. And even now, my co-workers smile when they use the word around me. I think it’s funny, especially when QUINTESSENTIAL shows up on my Facebook timeline.

There was a time when Michael W. Smith was my favorite singer, and, yes, in fact, I did name my younger child after him. I didn’t just like Michael W. Smith; I wanted to be like Michael W. Smith. I wanted to own a place like his Nashville-based Rocketown so that I could positively impact kids’ lives with music. I still do.

And now I’m the crazy Steven Tyler stalker. I don’t know why. I just am. I guess Steven became a symbol for me, a reminder that regardless of one’s age, a person can never be too old to act a little crazy,  to love music and to love people, the latter, I think, Steven Tyler maybe too much. But again, there’s another story, and we haven’t the time.

If I become a character in my students’ memoirs, I have no idea which persona I will portray. I hope the writers paint the truth and avoid portraying me as a one-dimensional character.

All people leave their colors on other people’s canvases, some more vividly than others. And believe me, whether or not it’s in print, we read each others’ stories daily. We should be careful to avoid over generalizing and assuming.

I have stories about my life I can’t tell, won’t tell, because my life isn’t its own. I am a vault. I could never make it as a member of the paparazzi.

I also don’t want to be painted as the crazy cow-loving cat lady who stalked Steven Tyler in the most quintessential way. I’m a whole lot more than that.

If we have met, YOU have become a character in MY story. You are paint on my canvas.  And if I do tell my story, I’ll do my best to paint you with an honest brush and to write you with an trustworthy pen.

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.

Seasons

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.     Luke 2:19

I know that I can hardly compare the events in my life to a divine miracle with the purpose of saving mankind. But still, when I think about the little things God has done to make me happy, I’m just amazed.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Really, I have. The times when I wasn’t writing were the times when I felt most empty, depleted.

I’ve always loved music. There was a period in my life when I had nothing to do with music. There was a part of me that died. Then I discovered contemporary Christian music.

I remember sitting at my mother’s house, watching the Dove Awards. Prior to that show, I had no idea that people could actually combine their faith with a Christian message. I said, “Next year, I’m going to be there.” I was. I meant in the audience. But God had other plans. He put me backstage.

There was a period in my life when contemporary Christian consumed my life. Sadly, I wonder if I made it my idol. Every weekend I was at a concert. I had the time of my life. There was not one celebrity I hadn’t interviewed nor one concert I hadn’t attended. Back then. Things are different now.

Today I ponder those things in my heart, like Mary. Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing these minor details to the divine. But God let me live the life I always dreamed about—for a little while.

I’ll never forget all the GMA weeks, especially the first time I met Michael W. Smith, my hero, the namesake of my child. My friend invited me to tag along with her to their interview. I almost flipped out when he entered the room. I almost passed out when I saw the articles I had written about him in his press kit while I was sitting there in the room looking at him in person.

I never dreamed that I would meet him again on many occasions. I never dreamed that he would call my house for an interview—and I would hang up on him, on accident, of course. He was so gracious and forgiving. I never dreamed I would find myself sitting at a table at media event and having someone bring him to my table for another brief introduction. I never dreamed I would get an invite to his album release party. Today I pity the poor man, having to put up with a loony stalker like me. At least I was harmless.

And the list goes on. There are so many little things, things that make me tear up, things that make me smile, things that make me giggle like a little girl. I’ll never forget blinding Peter Furler with the flash of my Canon Rebel during an Atlanta Fest concert—and then he wanted to talk cameras with me afterwards because he was thinking of buying one too. I’ll never forget going to a Newsboys album release event with Shrimp on the Barbie! I’ll never forget Phil Joel, the bass player with the beautiful long blond hair, holding my older son and running about the place, having a blast.

I’ll never forget doing a phone interview with Toby Mac while he was at a London airport or sneaking around backstage at an Audio Adrenaline concert, politely asking Ben Cissell if he would mind posing with me for a photograph. He was my favorite drummer at the time. I saw him play one night at cozy little gathering at Jammin’ Java in Franklin. Ah, fun!

I’ll never forget gawking at all the celebs at the Renaissance Hotel during GMA, especially Christafari. They were so different. I’ll never forget seeing Three Crosses for the first time. I fell in love with their music, and I still listen to them. I think about the blurb I used in the article I wrote about them in RELEASE magazine, something about miles to go before they sleep. I guess we were talking about life on the tour bus.

I remember chatting with Steven Curtis Chapman at his album release party and hearing my older son tell him at the Lifeway store in Nashville that Smitty was his favorite singer. I remember the first time I saw him play live at a little outdoor concert. I still have the BEST photo I’ve ever taken in my life, all blown up into the size of a poster. Thank you Steven Curtis. I wish I could play guitar like you.

I remember running into Brad Olsen at what is now Kangaroo Market in my own hometown. I miss that quirky sound of The Waiting. I treasure meeting Jamie Slocum and Phil Keaggy and Wayne Kirkpatrick and Nicole C. Mullen and all the guys from Third Day and Shaun Groves and Lori and Micah Wilshire. The list goes on.

Oh my, God has been so good to weave all these beautiful people into the tapestry of my life, even for the fleeting moment that it has been.

Those days are long gone. But God is opening new doors for me now. Different doors, but equally exciting doors. My prayer is that I will take each opportunity as a gift. That I will always remember that if anything good happens in my life that I am not the least bit responsible, for without Him I can do nothing. I pray that I’ll never allow my writing to become an idol but that I will take the gift that He has given me and use it to encourage others and to point them to His Kingdom.

Things happen in our lives for a reason. There is a season to everything.

I just found out that one of my stories (not my novel, not yet) will be published in a hardbound collection of stories sold at Barnes & Noble and at Walmart. Wow. God is so good. I wrote that story from the heart on a whim and sent it without worrying about whether or not it would be published. I am floored that I’m actually going to be able to step into a store and see my words in print.

I will treasure the moment and ponder it in my heart. It may last only a season, but I am thankful for every little thing He gives.