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?

9-11 and Reckless Abandon

I was bouncing on and off Twitter when I saw a tweet from Ellen Hopkins that challenged writers to blog about our freedoms. Actually, I had been thinking about doing so already, but I was a bit hesitant because I have a strong conviction that I should use my words to bless, not to curse. Not that I would ever use my blog to curse, but we all know how easily words can be misconstrued. How ironic I should say that considering this blog is about transparency.

Transparency? The word is probably not what you would consider when you think of 9-11 and freedom, but I am thankful that I have the God-given right—and I do mean God-given—to be transparent –to be me, to not worry about whether I measure up to somebody else’s perception of  who I should be. I am who I am. God gave me free will. However, I willingly gave up the right to make decisions for myself because I wanted an omnipotent God of infinite love to tell me what is best for my life. Not everyone has made that decision.

If I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing, that is keeping a close, daily dialogue with my creator, then I shouldn’t worry that I will compromise my integrity. Am I tempted? Of course. Do I mess up? Sadly, yes. We all do. It’s easy to turn a deaf ear to the still small voice when there’s something we want that doesn’t fit in with God’s current plan. But if we return to our daily, never ceasing dialogue, then we will do what it takes to make our relationship right again.

When I grew up, I thought that for people to become Christians, they had to dress a certain way, wear their hair a certain way, talk a certain way, listen to certain types of music. This perception became quite confusing to me after several people professing to be Christian contradicted one other with their rules. Who was right, I often wondered. Then I went straight to the source—the Bible—and found the answer. God is right. God doesn’t place an emphasis on the outward appearance. He goes straight to the heart.

What matters most to God is love.

So my blog about transparency could just as easily be a blog about love. The freedom I am most thankful for is my freedom to love with reckless abandon. And I do.

I am a people person. I don’t think I can survive, or at least thrive, unless I’m around people. If I don’t have the freedom to be myself around people, I wither. A part of me dies. I think what I have loved most about being a teacher is that I can love my kids with reckless abandon, my God-given right.

I’m glad that God wove a creative spirit in my soul. I’m glad He made me quirky, unique. I’m glad He allows me the freedom to appreciate the music that Joe Walsh, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Black Crows and Sheryl Crow create. I’m glad that God allowed me to follow His team, the Red Sox with Dustin Pedroia, Tek, Youk and all my other favorites. I don’t know if these people (or their fans) have made the decision to trade their free will for God’s guidance, but if they happen to make bad decisions that don’t honor God, I can’t condemn them. That’s not my place. They have free will. I can love them with reckless abandon, not caring what those who will judge will say.

And loving them doesn’t mean that I have to condone their actions or hang out with them if they are in a place where I could be led astray. I can appreciate the gifts God has given them. God is the giver of all good things. And I can open wide my heart to them and love them with reckless abandon.

I think most of us are well aware of the controversial burning issue that was once proposed for 9-11. I just have one question: Where was the love in that plan?

People have free will to choose which house they will serve. It is not the human being’s job to force other people into believing what the Bible says. The Bible doesn’t instruct Christians to hate their enemies. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time, a season, to draw the line, to establish a boundary. If people use their free will to decide to cross the boundary, then they should expect consequences.

To love means to respect people for whom they are and to respect the choices that God allowed them to make—even if we don’t like them. To love means to grant people the freedom to be transparent, to be who they really are without inappropriate censure or disrespect.

I am thankful for my freedom of transparency. I’m glad that God has reassured me that I can wear my tee shirts, jeans and flip flops, I can play my guitar—loud if want, amplified on some occasions, I can write my Young Adult fiction, I can respect and learn from all people, even those who do not share my Christian beliefs. I can do all these things with reckless abandon—without worrying about other people’s perceptions—their perceptions don’t matter, not really.

God knows what’s in my heart, He knows my motivations and God is in control.