Sound Track of My Life

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Welcome to today’s totally self-indulgent blog. Should I become uber famous and “they” make a movie of my life, I want to make sure “they” get the songs right. Here goes–sixteen songs that define my life.

My Tweenage Years

1. Convoy by C.W. McCall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI5eT4UmyFY
CB radios were the craze during my adolescent years, and my neighbor and I spent our afternoons making up new lyrics. He sang. I played guitar. It was just a totally stupid thing to do. Surprisingly, a few kids today have heard of the song because their parents still play it. One of my newspaper kids put it on our classroom iTunes playlist last year.

2. Chevy Van by Sammy Johns  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiEIToOWr64
Remember 45’s? I would put on a stack and turn up the volume then sit and listen on my front porch swing. By far, this song was the most provocative, scandalous song of them all. But it was my favorite. I didn’t have a clue what the song was about. There was also a little boy I liked whose parents owned a Chevy van. He lived across town  near what used to be Dairy Queen. Sometimes his parents would drive down my street, and I always remember looking for his van.

3. The Joker by The Steve Miller Band http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmVusVh4TRQ
Quite possibly, the best song EVER. I think I wore out the album. I spent a lot of time alone, listening to this song, picking the needle up on my record player, starting it over and over and over again. It was so nice decades later to go to a Steve Miller show and to have Steve Miller himself put his guitar pick in my hand. I did a lot of  dreaming to that song.

My Teen Years

5. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TGj2jrJk8
Best birthday present during my teen years? An eight-track tape of Van Halen’s Women and Children First, hand-delivered by a couple of Thieves. Afterwords? Snow falling, a ride home in a shop-painted pick up, and a guitar lesson of Stairway to Heaven. A defining moment.

6. Love Hurts by Nazareth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZhNW_jKrQY
This song brings back memories of The Barn, a backdrop, and a couple of broken hearts. Ah, love hurts.

7. She’s So Cold by the Rolling Stones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrx_55SgwAY
One of the best decisions I ever made as a high school student? Becoming a band geek. When I think of this song, I think about my sisters on the flag corps and a group of incorrigible drummers. I hear us singing this song at the top of our voices and see us trudging out the door to afternoon practices, and remember wreaking havoc on a very young, very kind (and very forgiving) band director who changed my life by opening my door to music.

The College Years

8. The Stroke by Billy Squier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS-oyLm-_fg
I HATED my college years—the music, the clothing styles. I have nothing good to say about this time except for one moment. My friends and I were in B&L Pizza, The place was crowded, and there were these guys there who were ina typical unknown garage band. The lead singer lept up on a table and sang along with the music. I don’t remember the dude’s name, but I remember his very eighty-ish white jacket and white gangster-type hat. I’m sure the moment didn’t happen like I remember it, but the moment was like a music video.

9. Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxdmw4tJJ1Y
I do not know why my roommate and I liked The Scorpions. It was a short-lived infatuation, but I can’t think of college without thinking of Domino’s pizza, braided headbands, leg warmers, and The Scorpions.

10. Celebration of the Lizard King by Jim Morrison http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMDYRNUV7o4
Self confession –I spent a lot of time in my door room listening to Jim Morrison’s Lizard King. Always the loner, I was fascinated by what made Morrison tick, so I tried to psycho-analyze him through his music.

The CCM Music Journalist Days

11. Cross of Gold by Michael W. Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1CI8P1MHS0
When the church convinced me secular music was evil, I shut the door, but then this thing called contemporary Christian music appeared on the scene. Michael W. Smith was at the forefront. I was walking down a Nashville street, and I saw this man who looked me square in the eye and smiled. I just KNEW it was Smitty. Whether it was or wasn’t, the blip in time changed my life. I dove  headfirst into CCM and started writing for magazines. I met everyone and anyone associated with the business and probably interviewed almost all of the artists from the 90s. But Michael W. Smith was my hands down favorite. His love for teens changed my heart. I admired him so much, I named my younger son after him.

12. This Is Not My Home – Three Crosses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzkfZziiZqM
Serendipity, my favorite word, comes to play here. I went to a bookstore with a meet and greet because the store was giving away tickets to a MWS concert. We won! My son had his picture made with the lead singer of Three Crosses. I bought the CD and absolutely FELL IN LOVE with the music. The vocals were/ are IT, everything I like in music. As for the serendipity part of the story, my son now frequently works with the lead singer. I’m still the geeky fan.

13. Black Bird by Third Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmZ38HehKxE
Other than Three Crosses, I had never heard a CCM artist sing songs the way I like them, i.e. a bluesy rock style. Third Day introduced me to the Black Crowes. As I mentioned, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting just about every 90s CCM artist, but Third Day was a special treat. Even though I don’t listen to CCM much anymore, I will forever be a Third Day fan.

My Journey to the Crossroads of Rock and Blues

14. Crossfire by Stevie Ray Vaughan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p77e2_0fUyo
When I finally realized that God would not send me to Hell for listening to mainstream music, I finally realized my true passion was The Blues. My all-time favorite is SRV. I think Stevie had a gentle spirit with a troubled soul. But he found his way back to God. I will meet him someday.

15. Voodoo Chile (blues version) by Jimi Hendrix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C6wSGcFEmA
Another troubled soul. Another life lost too soon. I can’t tell you why I like the blues, but I can show you—Jimi Hendrix. Mystery. Imagination. Fodder for my creative writing.

16. Thorn in My Pride by The Black Crowes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmWtBTX8rhc
Some of you wouldn’t put this song in the blues category, but it is my all-time FAVORITE song. I melt.

P.S. Anyone who knows me well, may notice I left out one very important artist–Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I’m still waiting on Steven’s personal visit and phone call. I wouldn’t call myself desperate, but….take a look at this video and, you’ll see how desperate a teacher can be. No students were harmed physically (can’t guarantee emotionally) in the making of this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D_n6nTn1AU

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Suppose someone stumbled across your diary and decided to make a movie about your life. Create a soundtrack for the movie of your life. Be sure to comment on WHY these songs mean something to YOU. And share! We all love comments on our blogs. Comments remind us SOMEONE is reading.

FINAL THOUGHTS

BBK

Am I a failure?

EpicFailure

Am I a failure?

Sometimes I have to ask myself that. Things never turned out the way I planned, but they didn’t turn out bad. I guess I need to keep things in perspective.

I want to write. I’m a writer. I tell other people’s stories. I don’t get paid much, but it has never been about the money. I could be a biography channel junkie, so when I am privy to a “famous” person’s life, I get giddy. That feeling is a GIFT. But the real gift is the lesson the person I interview delivers to me. I get to share it with other people who need to hear it as badly as I do. That’s not failure, is it?

I wanted to write a novel, so I wrote a novel. But it sits unpublished. I don’t even have an agent, but I never pushed to sell it. My parents died. I lost my drive. I guess I figured that in a serendipitous sort of way, an agent and I would cross paths, and everything would fall into place. It hasn’t happened. Am I not working hard enough? Will the story be continued? Or have I failed?

I never wanted to teach, not really. I feel really bad saying that because there are so many very dedicated teachers out there who take pride in what they do. Teaching was my Plan B. I was a RIM major at MTSU. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was a terrible RIM major. I had no direction, no prior knowledge. I just loved music. But I got married in college and faced the harsh reality that I would probably be living on a farm the rest of my life. Farm living was not for me. I live in a subdivision now. I guess nothing ever turns out like we plan. Now my older son is living the life I dreamed. He’s making music videos and has a writing job that PAYS WELL. I write for pennies per word now. He is worried about being a failure because he feels where he is in life is not enough.

Ah, music, my serenity. There was a time when God let me visit the music world on the weekends. I stayed pretty busy as a freelance music journalist until Michael came along. Then the writing trickled to a stop. The boy never slept. The boy never stayed still. All my focus went to him. His dad was busy coaching and being a youth minister, so I became Michael’s personal sports trainer, chauffeur, and teammate. I taught him how to catch and how to throw. I played football in the front yard. I raced him around the house. I took him on adventures in the woods. I camped out in the living room with him when his dad was on trips. I took him to every practice. I learned how to keep the books in baseball, and I worked the fair booth as a football mom. I coached his soccer teams and basketball teams and even his coach pitch teams. When he became older, I dragged him to his first drum lesson and said YOU WILL PLAY DRUMS. Why not? Every part of his body moved in a different direction, but in rhythm. I knew he’d be a natural. He says he likes it, and it’s something we do TOGETHER. His older brother got his writing love from me. Maybe Michael gets the music from me. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to live vicariously through my children. I want them to be happy. I don’t want to be a failure mom.

So I spend my day teaching, but I don’t want to teach. I don’t want to fill out lesson plans. I don’t want to grade papers. I don’t want to lurk behind the lockers to make sure couples aren’t sneaking a kiss or two. I don’t want to chaperone dances, to spend my Sundays at awards programs, to sell tickets at ballgames, or to listen to students tell me how much they hate the subject I’m teaching. Does that make me a failure? My dad never wanted to be a printer. His guidance counselors tried to match him up with a job, and that’s what was left. So for his entire working life, he was a printer. He brought home boxes and boxes of scrap papers and envelopes. I loved to write and draw, so I was never without supplies. I never thought he was a failure, but he never did what he wanted to do. But he helped me do what I wanted to do.

I teach because I have to. But I interact with students because I want to. I don’t keep them at a distance. I open my life to them. I am a firm believer God puts people in our path for a reason. People are treasures. So, okay, right now, I am not living the life I want to live, and I may never live it. I’m getting old. My time is now spent encouraging the kids I teach to find what they love to do so that they’ll never have to work a day in their lives. That’s not failure, is it? Maybe I’m not a failure because I can help others see that they’re not failures. Maybe that’s enough to be a success. Maybe all my creative dreams aren’t as important as helping others.

Today I got a hug from one of my first semester creative writing students. She came back to see when she could take guitar lessons again.

Today I got a BIG thank you from a student because I paid his field trip fee because his cash was running a little short.

Today I got a note on my board from a former student who visited me Friday, the day I had to go home because I had a fever, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and perhaps the flu. Ugg. She said she missed me.

Today I received word that my former student, J., wanted to see how I was doing. He’s working as a Walmart greeter now. I’m so proud of him. He had to overcome so many obstacles in school. He always has a smile on his face, and he always wants to tell me about the last movie he watched. I owe him a meal at the Mexican restaurant. After he graduated high school several years ago, I treated him, and I think it’s time he, his mom, and I went back for some more chips and salsa. Yum!

Today my seventh period students told me what teenagers look for when they read. They were trying to help me become a better writer.

What is failure anyway? What is success?

I haven’t gotten what I’ve always wanted, but maybe God has given me what I need.

Maybe success and failure is determined by attitude, not necessarily achievement.

Sometimes they listen

I often ask myself, “What the heck am I doing here?” I’m an incredibly sensitive, self-conscious mouse that suffers a complete meltdown in the face of rejection.

I’m a teacher. Every day I face a hundred or so human beings telling me to my face that what I value is irrelevant. Kind of a blow to the old ego.

Every day I have to put on my happy face and smile when I hear, “You teach English? I hated English.” And that’s from the adults.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m a lit freak. I like reading. I like writing. I like tearing down sentences the way some of my students like rebuilding engines. I like exploring stories that are challenging, ones with many levels of meaning. I’m kind of like an Indiana Jones of the written word.

My Motlow college students taunt me. “But Mrs. L., does everything have to have a hidden meaning? Why can’t a writer just write? Why do we have to analyze everything? Can’t we just read for fun?”

Well, yeah, kiddos, of course, you can. But don’t you get chills when you find the hidden gem in a poem? Don’t you dance to the cadence of well-written prose?

Never mind. I know the answers.

But occasionally, one or two students will approach me after class and say, “I get it. This stuff is really cool.” Of course, they wait until everyone else has left the room. It’s just not cool to like what some old dead guy wrote decades ago.

Several years ago, when I was working as a freelance music journalist, I met the Smalltown Poets, an Atlanta-based band, whose members were inspired by their creative writing class.

I guess that’s why I’ve always wanted to teach creative writing. I like being a bridge that links people to their dreams.

I did a little research and found a quote from Michael Johnston, Smalltown Poets band member, who explained how his teacher’s words inspired him.

“Our teacher said, ‘the best writing is honest writing.’ If you’re being vulnerable about who you are and let that come across in your writing, then that’s going to move people.”

Yes! That’s it. I envy Michael’s creative writing teacher. I wish I my words could move people. I wish I could make my students FEEL something when they read.

Yesterday one of my journalism students and I were discussing classic novels. He brought up 1984, Brave New World, and Animal Farm, which he has yet to read.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “Animal Farm, you have to read that one.”

And then our roles reversed. My student became the teacher.

“Hey, Mrs. L, did you know Pink Floyd’s album Animals was based on Animal Farm?” An avid Pink Floyd fan, my student spouted off a brief history.

Huh? You mean Roger Walters actually paid attention to his English teacher? He “got it”? Wow.

Our conversation inspired me to do a little digging to discover other music, inspired by lessons in literature.

  • Both David Bowie and Warren Zevon were inspired by the works of Lord Byron.
  • The Beatles included an image of Edgar Allan Poe on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and John Lennon referred to Poe in “I Am the Walrus.”
  • Both Tool and Brittany Spears referred to Poe’s “dream within a dream” in their works.
  • Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy includes several quotes from “The Raven” in “That’s How the Story Ends,” and members of the Christian heavy metal / thrash band Tourniquet wrote “Tell-Tale Heart” as a tribute to Poe.
  • Sheryl Crow’s song “All I Wanna Do” was inspired by the poem “Fun” by Wyn Cooper.
  • “All along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan (and also recorded by Jimi Hendrix) was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The song also makes references to the Book of Isaiah.
  • Guns N Roses recorded the song “Catcher in the Rye,” inspired by J. D. Salinger’s novel by the same title.
  • Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was born from Albert Camus’s The Stranger.

Wayne Kirkpatrick has penned and co-penned numerous songs for artists of many genres—Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Little Big Town, Bonnie Raitt, Garth Brooks, and many more, including Eric Clapton, who recorded a Grammy Song of the Year, “Change the World.”

I was talking to Wayne during an interview several years ago. Nay, I was gushing during the interview—I really admire him. I asked Wayne about songs from album The Maple Room, particularly “That’s Not New Age.”

Even today I’m intrigued by the song because, one, it responds to the religious critics who questioned his relationship with Christ just because of his art, and, two, it includes the following line: “This won’t be another Salem/That was inexcusible/You won’t be my Cotton Mather/And I won’t be your crucible.”

Wayne Kirkpatrick, thank you for reminding us we aren’t God and we can’t judge another because we can’t see into anyone else’s heart. Thank you for following your convictions. Thank you for listening to your English teacher. Thank you for appreciating literature.

So what’s the take away from this rant?

I can’t make my students like or even appreciate literature. But sometimes they do. It just may take them a while to digest what the writer has to say.

I’m not a famous or important anything, but I am somebody who benefitted from lovers of literature and writing.

Thank you, Charles K. Wolfe, for publishing my first work and inspiring me to write about music.

Thank you, Pat St. Clair, for inspiring my voracious appetite for grammar. Because of you, I’m confident I can write ANYTHING. My college professors told me so.

Thank you, Joyce McCullough, for Friday vocabulary tests that made me fall in love with words and for the little red journal in which I wrote all my thoughts. You wrote back to me. You were the first person to read my thoughts and to make me realize I might have something interesting to say.

Plinky 11–What drives me crazy

I’m preparing for some intense writing—I should say re-writing—in the next couple of days. Before I get back to work, I thought I’d exercise my impromptu writing, and visit the Plinky prompts. 2011 has almost come to an end, and this may be the last time I’ll get to do a top 11 list. So here’s to Plinky and one of my last, if not the last, top eleven .

What drives me crazy?

Eleven
Driving into work and hearing nothing on the radio but talk or commercials

I can usually get a couple of good classic rock tunes in the morn before I punch in my favorite country station. I have a couple more on standby. WAY-FM won’t come in, so that’s not an option. If all else fails, I’ll try a contemporary station, but I turn it back to the commercials if Lady Gaga is on. Rah rah rah. Blech.

Ten
Reading instructions

I have no patience when putting stuff together. I bought a new desk light for my classroom the other day. I had to assemble it. First step? Toss the instructions. They made no sense anyway. I did fine until I got to the last step of screwing in the light bulb. I could not for the life of me figure it out. I had a doctor’s appointment the next day, so I left a note for my sub and requested help. The next day the light bulb was in. It never hurts to ask for help.

Nine
People assuming I’m stupid because I am instructionally challenged.

Yes, I am blond. Yes, I have trouble with my lefts and rights. Yes, I have trouble following directions. Yes, I have trouble with all of those things, but I am not dumb.

Eight
Not wearing earrings

I have a favorite pair of earrings that I wear almost every day unless I choose another pair that goes with a certain outfit. I can’t stand not wearing earrings. If I start my day without earrings, my day goes downhill.

Seven
Stress eating

I want to lose weight; I need to lose weight, but cortisol consumes me due to all the stress in my life. I really don’t eat much. I even skip meals. (I know—eating breakfast helps with weight loss.) But I turn to chocolate when I’m in survival mode. I’ve been known to beg, borrow, or steal when I’m really desperate.

Six
Skinny women on cop shows

I’ll bet all those uber thin actresses playing cops are like a size 2 or 0. You flaunt the fact that you can tuck in your shirts and wear belts around your flat bellies. Yeah, I know if I gave up the chocolate and returned to regular exercise I could get back to a size four. Those were the good old days and not so long ago. But you cop show chicks make me crazy. Okay, I’m jealous. I’m just not jealous enough to give up the chocolate—yet.

Five
Wearing socks that don’t match my outfit

I like color coordination. My closet is color coordinated. The files in my filing cabinet are color coordinated. When I’m wearing boots or clogs, I like for my socks to match the color of my shirt. It doesn’t matter if anyone else sees them. I know.  Being unmatched drives me crazy.

Four
Mysterious people

This could be good or bad. Everyone who crosses my path is like a character in my book, the life I’m living. I like to understand my characters, the ones I can trust, the ones I can’t. Mysterious people drive me insane. You keep me guessing and boost my imagination, but enough is enough already!  Illusionists drive me crazy too. I want to see what makes the magic.

And now for the top three things that REALLY drive me crazy

Three
Manipulative people

I don’t like being used, and I don’t like being a puppet. And most of the time, I can read manipulative people like a book. Just because I’m directionally challenged, kind, and patient doesn’t mean I don’t know I’m being played. I would rather bear the humilation of brute honesty than a lie that breaks my heart. Okay, I’ll admit I’m naive, super sensitive, and gullible at times, but eventually I catch on. On the flip side, if a manipulative person goes after one of my babies, the Mama in me comes out and whoa be unto the soul that tries to hurt one of my babies–biological babies or my students. 🙂

Two
Arrogant people

It’s simple. Arrogant people make me crazy. No matter how good, how smart, how rich, how talented, etc. Get the picture?

One
Mean people

Taylor Swift, you got this one right. I’ve always stood up for the underdog. Mean people are the antipathy of love. Loving people are patient, kind, and humble. Mean people are envious, lying, arrogant, hateful, hurtful, violent, and vengeful. “Why you got to be so mean?”

And now it’s your turn. What makes you crazy?

Where I am now

When I lost my mother on March 25, I fell into a state of numbness. As much as I tried to function in this fast-paced world, I couldn’t keep up. I fell further and further behind. I managed to do my job, to my job well, but I feel as though I failed at everything else. By the time I returned home each evening, I had nothing left. I was an empty shell.

When my father passed away unexpectedly on June 27, my strong emotional pillars collapsed, and I realized for the first time in my life what it feels like to be lost.

If it weren’t for the grace and mercy offered by members of my family and select friends, I think I would be stuck in neutral, totally unable to move. I’m an only child, and I always feared the day I would lose my parents. But that day comes to all of us.

I’ve learned the great toil grief takes on writing. Last year at this time I was on the fast track to learning how to get published. The future was bright. But I’ve been stopped in my tracks in a dark tunnel. I can’t see the light at end. Maybe it’s after the bend. Despite my love of and appreciation for my writing groups, I can’t participate. I have nothing to offer.

I’ve signed up for the writing conferences. Maybe I’ll serendipitously stumble on what I need.

So instead of writing fiction, I have picked up my guitar and have found a different type of outlet for creative expression—writing lyrics. I consider myself one of the privileged few who is on a first-name basis with a a couple of the very best, award-winning songwriters in Nashville. They have what it takes to pen a hit. I don’t. But That’s not my goal. Sure I know you need a catchy riff, a hook, plenty of imagery, a few metaphors thrown in, and God’s grace shining down on you to make a song-writing dream come true.

But all I really want is to tell the truth—to write what I’m feeling even if I don’t understand it. Even if it’s the worst song in the world. Even if my syllables are a bit off and it only has three chords.

Lately, I’ve been on a blues kick as you can probably tell from my earlier posts, so a lot of what I have written lately uses a blues-type progression. But what I write is inspired by life itself.  Life is unfair. Our dreams are unfaithful. Our plans often fail. But there’s always the chance hope will prevail.

If I could write the ultimate song, I would write it for the people who have taken time to listen to me. I guess that’s what all writers want—a good listener. I guess that’s what all friends need, a good listener who really cares, who never lies, and who always understands.

If could share any tidbit of advice with a reader going through a difficult period, I would strongly suggest finding some outlet of expression. You can’t keep feelings bundled up forever.

What you write, what you paint, what you play doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else as long as what you express is the truth and you give yourself a chance to purge itself of whatever you’ve been holding back.

Better late than never

A few additions to my iTunes library

Back off, whippersnappers. You can’t call me an old fuddy duddy anymore. I have officially joined the ranks of iPod users everywhere. Yeah, I know. The iPod Touch came out about four years ago, but I would rather interface with people than machines.

I don’t keep up with the latest gadgets. I still have my hot pink iPod Shuffle, but I haven’t used it much because, frankly, it’s been hard for me to let go of CDs. There’s just something special about holding the music in my hands. It’s almost as if I can touch it the way it touches me.

Plus, I love reading liner notes.

When I was working on my master’s in journalism, I took a creative nonfiction class. We had to pick a place and convey a message about life by SHOWING the details about the place. I wrote about the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd. in California. Inspired by the lyrics of Joe Walsh’s “Sad Café” and the accompanying liner notes, I did my own research and found myself metaphorically there. I wouldn’t trade that homework assignment for anything. And I got an A on my paper!

It’s not that I don’t like anything new. It’s that I deplore reading instruction manuals. It’s slow torture. Blame it on my attention deficit syndrome—my trig teacher actually called me a spaz—to my face. I’d rather somebody tell me, better yet, show me, than have to wade through written details. So I chucked the instructions to the iTouch and asked my techno wizard son to help me.

That’s when I fell in love with iTunes.

I’m not a dummy. I’ve been handing out iTunes cards to my students as prizes and gifts for years, but I have never indulged myself. My laptop and I went for a little visit for coffee and free Wi-Fi, and while I was supposed to be revising my manuscript, I clicked on the iTunes Store.

Like a kid in a candy shop I wandered through the delectable selections. I didn’t realize how easy it was just to click and buy. Click and buy. Whole albums if you want to. Yeah, I hear you. You’re saying, “She’s just now figuring this out?” You’re rolling your eyes too. Stop it. You’re embarrassing me.

My credit card statement hasn’t come in yet. I’m still clicking and buying, but I’m also transferring my old CDs to my iTunes library.As Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” The cool thing is I’ve re-discovered some old tunes that have been stacked up and covered with dust because I’ve been too lazy to trade out the disks in my dinosaur disc changer.

The little listening device is blues heavy right now, and I haven’t even gotten to my Stevie Ray Vaughan collection. I have so much more to load. Back in the late 90s when I wrote for several music magazines, my mailbox overflowed with free CDs sent to me via publicists. (The best perk of writing about music!) I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to transfer all my CCM. My classic rock collection is already there waiting on me, as are Dierks Bentley and Taylor Swift.

The Internet is a wonderful thing for obsessed music fans. It’s like a nice genie that grants unlimited wishes. All I have to do is Google, and I have the lyrics and chords to any song I want. Now I can own my own copy with just a click.

I remember the day I first heard “Hotel California” by the Eagles on the radio. I begged my dad to  drive me to the store so that I could buy it. Back then singles came out on 45s, so I flipped through the record bin, searching for a song with the word California in it. (BTW, Dear students, 45s are round pieces of vinyl that play songs on a record player. Never mind. Go Google it. You’ll figure it out.) Anyway, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the Eagles. Now I have pretty much their whole collection, and I’ve seen them live. And did I mention Joe Walsh called me? What? Did you really think I wouldn’t say that–again?

So what’s today’s pick?

When I was transferring music today, I found a little surprise tucked inside the sleeve of a re-discovered Sheryl Crow CD, 100 Miles to Memphis. I’m talking about her Detours album. Wow. Didn’t know I owned that one. I downloaded it to my iTunes and randomly clicked on a track, and like serendipity I discovered a song that resonates. Sheryl Crow’s “Drunk with the Thought of You.”

So guess what I’ve been doing all afternoon? Here’s a hint: I’m armed with a six string, and I’m sitting in front of a laptop, lyrics, and a tab. I’ve been playing with writing my own stuff, but I like to learn how to play the songs of artists that inspire me. Sheryl Crow is one of those. I may not agree with her politics, but I envy her voice.

So what’s the next step in my better late than never iPod journey? Playlists. But I’ll save that for the next blog. What’s new with you?

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

It’s after midnight. I’m promised myself I’d hit the gym in the morning. I need a routine. I need to follow through. I’m stuck. I can’t move forward.

The thing is I can’t sleep. I have a mess of thoughts whipping around in my head like protons in an ion collider. Yeah, I bet you haven’t heard that analogy before. Me either. Funny what you’ll think of after midnight.

I’m going to the gym because I want to get back on track—literally. My goal is to try kickboxing again. If I can conquer kickboxing, I can conquer just about anything—my writing, my fitness, my fears.

But I’m not ready. Not yet. I need to build up my strength and endurance, starting with the track and then moving to the weights. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll take my new iPod. Music is a great motivator, but you knew I’d
say that. How about a motivator you wouldn’t expect?

How about Facebook?

Not really. I personally believe Facebook is an evil monster that consumes precious time. It’s also a numbing drug that alleviates stress and boredom—to be used temporarily, mind you. It can be habit forming. But
occasionally something good pops up on Facebook’s Recent News. I’m talking about a link to one of my favorite blogs, Parkour Training Blog. The key word? Flow.

Flow is usually associated with Parkour. (If you don’t know what Parkour is, check out the Parkour Training Blog.) Flow, as the author Dan Dinu describes it, is the “harmony of moving fluently.” You see, for a traceur (a person who practices Parkour), moving through an environment from Point A to Point B can be kind of a creative expression all its own. It’s like a dance with life.

I like learning about Parkour because I frequently transfer the principles of Parkour to the principles of life. I’ve been a freelance journalist for a long time now, but the one element that is I hope is characteristic of my work is flow. When I write a story about a person, I like for the parts of the story to flow smoothly from one part to another. In terms of writing a novel, it would be like moving seamlessly from scene to scene.

I’ve had a very difficult time writing lately because I am still negotiating the stages of grief—and not so well mind you, but that’s another story. The words don’t flow. My thoughts don’t flow. My life is NOT flowing. When Dinu talks about flow, he illustrates his text with examples of tango and ballet, “precise and continuous gliding.” Yeah, that’s what I’m aiming for—in writing, in music, in life.

In order to achieve said state of flow in parkour, Dinu says “never train.” When I read this first tip, I knew immediately where he was going. He relates this point to artists like Picasso. People who create are not drained by their “practice.” They are rejuvenated, re-filled.

Let us not forget that when God gave us our talent and passion, he meant for us to enjoy it. It should be gift, not a burden. Wouldn’t it be great if we always considered every moment of life a gift, not a burden, regardless of the circumstance? Some people say just “go with the flow and be happy.” Christian call it joy.

When I pick up my guitar, I immediately know the difference between the two types of practicing. I am NOT a great guitar player. But I do know enough to say that if I have to force myself to play, I’m not playing the way I should. When I play the piece during this type of practice, the notes are stiff, mechanical. But when I “feel” the music, I I find myself on another level of playing. This is the type of practice that occurs when I’m totally focused, totally one with the music.

Dinu refers to the way guitar guru Jimi Hendrix let his feelings flow when he played. Exactly! Hendrix didn’t just play the notes; he felt them. (Good example. I can relate to Jimi’s purple haze. No, the song isn’t really about some pyschedelic drug-induced haze.)

Right now my biggest obstacle in writing (and life) is fear. Of what? I don’t know. Failure, maybe. Don’t we all? The publishing industry has a very narrow gate. Will I ever find myself moving through it? I’m not afraid to write. I’m afraid I’m not writing right. I’ll admit I pray about this problem almost without ceasing, but God doesn’t grant wishes like a genie. He has a purpose, and sometimes He lets us work our way to a solution so that we’ll grow stronger–and wiser.

Dinu says with Parkour, there is more than one way doing something. I have to remember that when I write and follow my gut instinct, I get better results. It’s kind of like playing music. Rather than playing a copy cat version of a song, the really good musicians will make it their own. After all, people are remembered only if they stand out in a crowd. For writers, this means finding their own voice and knowing the right time to break the right rules.

Dinu brings up other pointers too, like paying attention to obstacles and being yourself—knowing where you stand so not to lose your orientation and again, making the song your own, making your writing your own, making your life your own!

If I could offer readers, wannabe writers like myself, and dreamers at larger two bits of advice, I would say this—remember the flow and read, read, read anything and everything well written. You can glean something worthwhile from anything well written. Who would’ve thunk Parkour had anything to do with music or writing or especially life? But how well indeed it does.

As I read the article, my thought processes flowed freely and smoothly from one discipline to the other. I’m inspired. I want to inspire others too.

What is it that you want? Where are your feet? Did you pay attention to where they were so that you can see how you got where you are now ? And where do you need to place them so that you can get where you want to go?

My feet are going to hit the sheets. It’s after 2 a.m. I’ve got to be at the gym by 7:30.

(P.S. Happy birthday, Dan!)