Tag Archives: school

Over and Over Again

IMG_6370

Over and Over Again

There is something people don’t really think about when you go into a situation where you want to record music you have written.

This stuff doesn’t magically just appear on acetate or hard drive or in the cloud or wherever it’s stored today with perfection and  bliss.  This is something taking preparation and arrangement.

I am lucky in that I have this group of amazing people who, even with little time on their hands, are willing and able to meet to settle those arrangements for music before we go into the studio on March 28th and 29th.  This is a particularly interesting thing because, though I can read music, I cannot write out charts and give full transcripts of all the stuff I have written.  I even have to look up some of the chords I’m playing because I honestly have no idea what it is I’m fingering, it just makes some sort of logical sense.

Then there are bass parts and keyboard parts and rhythm/lead guitar and what breaks we put in and what ones we ignore and . . . you begin to realize just how much more work there is than just “writing” your song.

Part of all this is playing sections of your song over and over again.  Some of you may have been through this if you ever sang in choir or were in the high school band or marching band.  You mess up a section . . . you do it over and over and over again until you no longer mess up that section.  With the help of technology today we can get those arrangements going and suddenly . . . we have a recording from a cell phone.  No, it’s not one you’d put on the record itself, but you can share it on a cloud-based drive, share that with everyone in the band, and suddenly you all have access to what the arrangements are.

Repetition might seem like it would get monotonous, but it actually is inspiring, particularly with talented people.  We suddenly have breaks where I had put none.  We suddenly have harmonized guitar lines and backup vocals . . . something I’m particularly poor at arranging, harmonies.

It’s been an amazing thing just to arrange two songs.  You might think that sounds a bit strange, only two songs in two days.  It’s not.  First you set up everything, and drums are the biggest thing to set up.  You mic up all those things, instruments, do a scratch vocal track while you play.  You will put a backing track with everyone.  Then you’ll do lead guitar.  Maybe acoustic.  Then vocals . . . then more backing vocals.

By the time we are finished I’ll be thrilled if we get these two songs completed.  The next step will be learning a few more . . . then a few more . . . and so on.

In the midst of what in years past would be one of the hardest months of the year – March, when my wife passed away – this is turning out to be the most ambitious we been through yet.

And it’s not even the end of March yet!

More updates later in the week!

Advertisements

Standing on Shaky Ground

IMG_6126

Standing on Shaky Ground

The picture is appropriate for the title, I think.  There’s a kid, standing on a group of large rocks, the soil underneath made less stable by the wash of water that has just run down the creek.  My son was trying to cross and simultaneously keep his new shoes clean and avoid falling into the water.  The ground is shaky and unstable.

It is a metaphor, by the way.

That same boy has had myriad problems at school this year.  The bigger issue isn’t what’s going on with him it’s what his father can or cannot do about it.

I have twin boys.  One is a complete extrovert, a flirt, on student council, can talk to even the most silent and stoic of people.  The other is an introvert, shy, reserved, likes movies and video games and would prefer to run around acting silly to running on a football field and getting tackled.

The lack of athleticism, or for that matter, the complete lack of interest in athletics at all, leads to problems.  In an area where soccer, football, baseball and basketball are staples and kids are enrolled in early leagues, rec leagues, competitive leagues and . . . oh yeah, the regular school teams . . . he is the odd man out.  I don’t honestly believe he’s not able to do any of the stuff it’s that a) he cannot stand when he isn’t successful instantly so screws around and b) the other kids ridicule him constantly for being unable to play at their level.

This also leads to his getting bullied at school.  He’s been hit, had his PE clothes stolen (twice) and his water bottle taken, lunch taken away and eaten, and been made completely miserable.

I have to say here that I understand what he’s going through, though nothing like the degree he faces.  When I was little I was sick a lot, had asthma when it wasn’t really a known illness, and truly didn’t have as much athletic ability.  I played basketball and tried to play football, but I actually enjoyed it.  I was made fun of because I would talk about things that fascinated me but they just didn’t fascinate anyone else.

My son would be happiest if everyone just left him to himself.  I wasn’t that way, I actually did want to play with the other kids and play basketball and such.  When it came to that I wasn’t the brunt of the abuse my son gets, I did try and wasn’t as upset when it didn’t go well.

My dilemma is the fact I don’t know how to help him.  He hit the point of it not being safe and he’s had one situation rectified.  But how do I give him the tools to get better?  How do I inform him that people like this are going to be around all his life?  I tell him, but how does he see and realize it?  Does he learn guitar more and more and show them up in a couple years when he’s screaming a solo like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?  Does he ignore it?  Do I get him boxing and build up his muscles so he can stop them in his tracks?

What we came to in a middle ground was he has to be comfortable with the solution himself.  He can certainly run and work out with me and get stronger.  He needs more confidence, which is something I didn’t have myself at that age.  It’s jr. high.  Nobody has confidence.

In the end . . . it’s as much about my finding my way with him as it is him trying to survive the battlefields of middle school.

That may just be the scariest part of all.

When You’re Home, Are You HOME?

I'll Sleep when I can . . .

When You’re Home, Are You HOME?

One of the things I’ve learned in the last few years was a harsh lesson about something I hadn’t always done in my kids’ early lives.

I work in a job that can be moments of tedious combing through numbers and data followed by moments of sheer panic when breaking news hits and you have to race out the door at a moment’s notice.

My own children now have been groomed to an almost Pavlovian action of acceptance when my cell phone rings.  They’ve seen the result of that phone call time and again. My oldest more than the others, as in previous jobs I wasn’t just a producer and writer I was also a photographer.

On an early evening, a celebration of wonderful accomplishments by my oldest daughter when she was very little I’d made a commitment to go out to dinner at her favorite restaurant. Instead, I called home because I got sent to a standoff. A man held himself at gunpoint and we all knew it was going to end with him surrendering and the day’s work amounting to about 30 seconds of airtime. At best. My wife was furious.

My daughter simply accepted it, though disappointed.

On 9/11 I was in a car on the way to the airport after the first plane hit. I was supposed to fly to New York to cover it. A couple weeks later I was in Washington, DC covering the aftermath. My daughter was supposed to have a play.

We were out at a family outing when the Space Shuttle Columbia went down. I spent the next two days in the piney woods of East Texas in what forever thought was the most depressing story I ever covered.

Even on days when things weren’t insane or tragic events, the idea of chasing all this was exhausting, both mentally and physically. My kids would ask: “can you play a game with me” and I’d inevitably be nearly catatonic or asleep.

I wasn’t terrible. On the days this didn’t happen I was there, invested, and involved. I made dinner most evenings, as my wife wasn’t fond of cooking. I made their desserts. I planned birthday parties that cost me too much money. Yet I always knew that when things blew up I’d just drop everything and go.

So four years ago when I became a single dad that changed.

The job I have has been wonderful. When my son needs to go to the doctor . . . they know I have to go to the doctor. When I’m out with my family, I’m out with them. It’s certainly the lesson I learned from my time growing up. My father worked . . . but when he was home with us, he was home with us. He may have worked on home repairs but if we wanted to help, we helped.

“Dad, can I help you make that dessert,” my son will ask, and the answer is always “yes.” My oldest, in college, says she has a performance to show what their grant proposal was and, hard as it was to arrange, I was there. No complaints.  (Well, except for the hour I waited in line at “Voodoo Doughnuts” to get her doughnuts for the evening. I still am not sure that was worth it)

I still have my moments.  I’ll walk in the door and be asked “want to play a game, dad?”
“I’m making your dinner!”
“Oh…”
“Oh?”
“Later maybe?”

Later certainly seems tiresome and I sometimes say I just am too tired. I work my job still, am committed, and if the world explodes, I still go in without hesitation. Yet if nobody can watch the kids. . . they know I have that issue to attend and if I cannot, they may be frustrated but understand. That’s worth its weight in gold.

Though tonight my son asked “do you want to take the online quiz I made?”
I was in the middle of making dinner. Yet I saw the hope in his eyes and the spark in there that was proud of what he did. It’s something in years past I might very well have missed.
“Let me finish . . . and then we’ll try.”
I sat down, and my son had made a trivia quiz about “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” I got all but one right.
“Wow!  Good job, Dad,” my son said.

My routine tonight, as it is every night, was to take them up, read them a chapter out of the book they wanted – not because I treat them like little kids, but because they ask me to do it. They like that I make voices and dramatize the books. That’s why they want it.

I hug my daughter at the end of the evening, tell her “goodnight Beastie”.  Then I  text her sister at college, and tell her I love her.

And I go to bed in order to do it all over again tomorrow.

Worrying about the Worryer

2013-08-21 18.16.45

Worrying about the Worryer

Every brood has a child that, at one time or another, becomes the handful.  They want to be the center of attention or be in on the action or just want to be noticed.

When you have a family of five, where four of you are children, the voice becomes that much harder to project.  That’s even more the case when your Dad is the only parent and he’s got the daily details to deal with.  Then you tend to push and shout and be obnoxious in an effort to get attention.

This weekend it was my son.

It wasn’t that he was being noisy or obnoxious or anything.  It’s that I could totally relate to what he was going through and it hurt.

My son is a worry-wart.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  I know of which he speaks, by the way.  When I was little I was shy – painfully shy.  Some of that was just being a know-it-all, at times.  I had no idea that I was being annoying.  When I found something fascinating, I wanted to share it – I assumed the rest of the people around me would find that fascinating, too.  It was a cold realization that you don’t always meet people with the same interests.  I was young, naive, and it hurt.  I grew very shy as a result.

I know you’re wondering, by the way, why choose being in the media then?  You have to talk and meet people.  I overcame most of that shyness.  When I met my wife, Andrea, by the way, I still had a lot  of that.  I was in my late teens and early twenties, and she had none of it.  Took me by the hand and that was it.

Any apprehension that might have remained before 2011, when my wife passed away, vanished.

My son had a birthday party to attend.  For a week he was thoroughly excited.  Then came the day of the party – going to a basketball game – and he was almost in tears.  I didn’t back off, I knew he’d enjoy himself…but he has the unfortunate happenstance of getting the worst parts of both parents.  He’s shy – painfully so – and has that habit of thinking everyone will like his interests.  He also has the tendency to over-worry to the point of near panic.  That was his Mom.

I dropped him off, stayed longer than I should have to that he was comfortable…and then he got to go to a basketball game for a party.

Then I sat and worried.  I worried and worried as I sat for dinner with their sister.  I worried that the phone would ring and he was sulking or said something wrong.

Then he proved me wrong.

After nine I got the text they were on the way back and as he walked in he excitedly informed he how the game came down to the last shot…as the buzzer went off…and the Kings won!

On the way home he was smiling, happy, and had a great time.

I hoped he got the idea…and the lesson that I did at that moment: sometimes you can worry too much.  The rare occasion that something bad happens isn’t the worst.

The worst is the damage you do to yourself when you worry too much.

When Failure Finds You

When Failure Finds You

When is the last time your kid failed at something?

I ask this because I’ve run into more and more parents, read articles online, and talked with enough people to see that failure, apparently, is not an option for many people.  You can take this mentality to any number of degrees, by the way.  You can never fail in parenting, it will ruin your kids!  Your kids cannot fail that exam, they won’t get into an ivy league college!  You can never let your kids fail in sports they’ll be an outcast!

I have seen failure, particularly in my own home.  Not just from the kids, I’ve had my share of spectacular incidents as well.  I made dinners that were spectacularly bad.

One of my twin sons was beginning to dread PE class.  It wasn’t because he wasn’t physically fit – although he could run around a bit more and play video games a lot less.  It was because they were playing football.

2014-07-07 20.51.17

My son doesn’t like football.  I know, by the way, the irony there.  I grew up in the Midwest.  Cornhusker football is practically a religion.  I watched NFL games with my Dad every Sunday.  My son, however, simply had no desire.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t throw the football around at the park.  We do that an awful lot.  Still, unlike many Dads at that same park, I’m not training either boy with down-and-out patterns nor am I teaching them the nickel defense or the famous Osborne quarterback option play.  We simply toss it around.  It’s hard enough as this same son spends more time screwing around than learning to catch the ball.

My son knew this was going to be hard.  I offered, too, to teach him better football skills.  I offered to explain the rules, the number of downs, how to cover someone.  He had no desire.  The result, then, was that he was the proverbial last kid picked.  He had no skill other than catching the ball here and there.  His classmates made fun of him and it was hard on him . . .every. . . single . . . day.

I could easily have forced him to learn.  The problem with that is…he wouldn’t have learned.  He tunes it out.  He sits on the ground.  The way to learn . . . is to fail.

A funny thing started to happen.  As much as he hated that the other kids set him up so he would get penalties or play incorrectly and end up in from of the teacher, he realized that he needed to learn the game, too.  Suddenly, one Sunday, when the Huskers were playing, the completely non-athletic kid was sitting next to me asking questions.  We watched the whole game.  He asked to play Madden NFL on the X-Box.  He watched the Chiefs play and be one of the only teams to beat the Patriots this year.

He still has no desire – none, nada, zilch zip, goose egg (get the point?) – to play football regularly.  But he does like to play it if he’s included.  The difference, we both learned, was that while I enjoyed playing it – horrible at it though I was – as a kid, he doesn’t go there as his first option.  He enjoys learning about it, knows what happens, and has accepted the fact that Joe Montana he isn’t.

Sure, he’s more interested in learning about Ray Harryhausen and Laika films, which others around him find very cool (including that PE teacher).  He realizes, though, that he would never have found that he can enjoy sports, either playing them or watching them.  Maybe because he didn’t grow up where football is a religion was an issue…but really, I don’t believe he’d have been into it even if he had.

He would never have learned to try something different, though, had he not failed.  I could have intervened, pushed, angered him, forced him to learn…and he’d have been resentful, hated the game, never wanted to play or see a football again.

IMG_3745

Too many of us want to protect our kids from every scrape, scratch, danger, or adventure.  I know my kids have had them, have a few tiny scars to show them . . . but that’s no big deal.  They love the fact that they get these, after they’ve healed.  They’re battle scars.  They’re trophies of their own little adventures.

They’re proof that, on their own, they’ve learned something.

Humbug!

Humbug!

It would be easy seeing the headline to think I’m turning Ebeneezer-ish on this week prior to the Holiday.  You’d be wrong, though.

No . . . Humbug is a person who behaves in a deceptive or dishonest way.  That’s according to my good friend Miriam Webster, anyway.  In Dickensian terms it’s a fraud or hoax.  “More of gravy than grave,” in other words.

I posted something on Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother on Sunday talking about how you should read aloud to your kids.  It’s worth looking at if you want to hear my soapbox exposition, but for now I’ll regale you of the offshoot to that very post.

Every year, you see, there are two books that dominate the lead-up to Christmas in my home.  The last few days before Christmas, of course, we simply must read Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  We’ll dutifully watch the cartoon as well.

Grinch

Over the course of several days – ususally 5-6 of them – we read from a tearing, beat-up, 1900 American edition of Dickens’ Christmas tales.  It’s blue, the binding fraying, and we don’t care a whip.  It’s the kind of book printed on a real press, the letters and ink thick enough you can run your fingers over the page and feel the letters with your eyes closed.  There are things in that turn of the century edition that don’t appear in other more “modernized” renditions that you simply should not remove.

Sure, there are references to saints and holidays that nobody here in the US celebrates (and perhaps never DID celebrate) but that’s neither here nor there.

When the time comes to read from the book my sons will jump – maybe even leap – at the chance.  My daughters did in years past, yet they seem bored with it this year.
“We’ve heard it, like, 15 times guys…” is their response this year.  That has little change in my demeanor, though.

I take the blue book, open it gently, the spine crackling slightly, and read as the narrator for the open of the book.

“Marley was dead to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.”
“Sheesh,” my son says, one line into Stave one.  “That’s a harsh opening.”
“Yes…it is a ghost story, though.  You’ll see why in a minute.”

Yet my sons are old enough now, resigned enough to the ritual as well, that they pay attention to the verbage.  Perhaps it’s reading A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or other intelligently humorous books, but they catch the sarcastic, droll humor in the book.

“Mind!  I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.”
“Well…yeah, what is dead about a doornail,” my soon asks.

About 5 interruptions into the first paragraph I inform them that if we keep stopping after every sentence we’ll be celebrating the 4th of July before we finish the book.

My point, though, is that sneakily, steadily and strangely enough I’ve inserted Charles Dickens in with JK Rowling and Jim Rollins and Eoin Colfer.  The boys watched the Bob Zemekis motion-capture movie of A Christmas Carol and have realized, very quickly, that it’s more faithful to the text than most other versions have been.

They also know terms like “ironmongery.”

Reading aloud to my children is something I simultaneously enjoy and wonder in as the kids listen.  The boys are 11, the girls 15 and 20 . . . but they still will sound off a line here and there.

“But the Grinch, who lived just North of Whoville . . . did NOT!”

Ghosts, Grinches, Whos and Cratchitts. . . .they all live in our house.  It would be easy to say that in the last three years the holidays would be melancholy.  The first had its moments, for sure, since we’d just lost their mother a few months prior.  But we lived the holidays not in spite of the loss but regardless of it.  The holidays didn’t disappear without her.  By the same token, I celebrated them before I met her.

So Christmas creeps in . . . along with literature.  And we’re all happy to participate.

My boys and me . . . taken by Hannah before the movies one night.
My boys and me . . .

 

You Hope and I’ll Hurry . . .

night before

You Hope and I’ll Hurry

The day after Thanksgiving brings about more than just the anticipation of the forthcoming season.  In my home, with my family, Christmas was always huge.  That hasn’t changed in my home, nor should it.

What has begun to sink in for me is just how much of my own childhood has snuck in and taken root with my own children.  I make no allusions about the fact that I watched entirely too much television as a kid.  Even in an era when we had 3 channels.  (Four if you included PBS, and I watched that every weekend for Monty Python and then Doctor Who)  I don’t pretend that I didn’t nor do I think that it is responsible for my brain filled with miscellaneous information.  My brain was going to fill with useless tidbits no matter what.  So yes . . . I can rattle off just about every line of the mental exchange from the movie The Princess Bride but never could commit the Periodic Table of the Elements to memory.  Thankfully the invention of Google and the proliferation of the iPhone and the internet have helped me to simply look up the atomic weight of Cesium.  (It’s #55 on the chart, by the way, with a weight of 132.9054519.  Told you!)

Every Christmas, for the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, my brothers and I would wait in anticipation of the “Big 3” networks to run their competing Christmas programs.  I don’t pretend this was some “golden era” of cartooning.  We certainly have a lot of great animation today – my sons adored The Box Trolls in theaters and Pixar certainly raised the bar for motion picture storytelling.

Still . . . that’s film.  Television has a thousand channels, generally nothing on them worth watching.  The fact that cartoons are on all…the…time makes it hard to cherish any one of them that awful much.

So when Christmas comes around, the lack of repeating the classic Christmas cartoons I think gives them the same luster and anticipation they had when I was a kid.

The picture up there is from the Joel Grey centered cartoon ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  To this day, at any time, in any season, for any reason, a member of my family might burst into that phrase . . . and end with “even a miracle needs a hand!”

There was Rudolph with our favorite guy – Yukon Cornelius: “I’m just loading up on supplies.  Hamhocks, gunpowder and guitar strings!”  (How can you not love a guy carrying THAT combination on his sled!)

There was The Year Without a Santa Clause which inspired my son’s Halloween costume this year: Heat Miser!

IMG_3998[1]

But the granddaddy of them all was always A Charlie Brown Christmas.

A_Charlie_Brown_Christmas_(Rmst)

We play the soundtrack every year.  I even found it on vinyl and we use the turntable and listen to it.  The vinyl’s green!

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree” is the go-to phrase for any pathetic looking thing, be it a tree, a cookie, a pie or a toy in our home.  “It’s not bad at all, really, it just needs a little love!”

It’s not religion; it’s not sentiment; it’s not nostalgia . . . it’s just great fun.  We love the season.  I put too many lights on the house.  I let the kids go nuts . . . even though there are clumps of decorations in spots on the tree rather than neatly arranged here and there.  I give presents to my close friends because I thoroughly enjoy seeing the look of wonder when people open that present.

No, the animation wasn’t always great.  No, the mouth didn’t always sync up with Fred Astaire’s words in Santa Claus.  But . . . my kids, like kids and their parents the world over stay up late or beg to sit and eat dinner in the living room . . . because Charlie Brown will cry “learn the true meaning of Chrismas?!  Win money, money money?!”

So watch we will, live, in real time, commercials and all.  Because…

Christmastime is here.  Happiness and cheer.

 

Strange Days, Indeed

My family
My family

Strange Days Indeed

Be thankful, I almost titled this “most peculiar, Mama,” but I didn’t.

There are days . . . and there are days.  This was one of those days.

Distance is a problem, I know that, for the singular parent.  I had to, in the early days of adjusting to being the only parent in the home, balance the distance and the security of being in familiar surroundings for my kids.  The problem with distance, though, is that I have – on a good day – about an hour each way for commute with the crazy traffic and bad drivers in our area.  On a good day there’s some minor crisis affecting one child.  On a bad day it’s more than one.

This was a bad day.  This was one of those days.

Bad days are like thunderstorms.  You see the lightning and then you count, waiting to see how close the storm is.  I saw the bolts . . . I had really hoped the storm wasn’t so close.  I got an email from a colleague from another station.  That was the first flash, and I should have seen it.

The subject of the call doesn’t matter, it took me off my guard and threw me off.  It wasn’t bad news, just not a call I’d expected.

Then another flash, but I wasn’t counting to hear the distance from the thunder clap.  I was in the middle of working, after all.

The call came from another state, my oldest. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, but a problem that affected my daughter’s ability to register for Spring classes in college.  I thought I had another few weeks to buffer that and I was wrong.   So I spent a good deal of time fixing a problem of my own creation and financial angst hanging over my head to allow her to register in just a couple days.

Then came the call from the Middle School.

Flash.

It’s never a good thing to hear “this is the vice-principal of __________ middle school.  I need to talk to you about what happened with your son today.”  That’s how the voicemail on my cell phone started.

And . . . bang.  I didn’t even get a “one” count off in my head.

My son, Noah, is a habitual rule follower.  So when I heard “detention” at the end of the voicemail I immediately called home.  The flurry of high-speed chipmunk-pitched explanation from my son about kids using webcams to take pictures in the classroom and that he’s in one and that he didn’t do it and that he wanted to tattle but he knew that wasn’t good and that he didn’t do anything . . .

I began to realize why Edward R. Murrow probably kept a bottle of Scotch in his desk.

With prodding, interrogating, and calming of mind I found out that on a scale of 1 to 10, his trouble was less than a 1.  He informed me he had to do detention at 2:15, 15 minutes after the bus leaves.

Flash . . . bang.

To my son’s amazing credit he was more worried about the fact that I’d have to leave work early to pick him up from school.

I spoke with his vice-principal who assured me how highly they thought of both my sons . . . and that if my son disputes anything he should take it up with his teacher.

This, by the way, was my solution.  He already knew that if he’s responsible and I stood up for him his Dad’s not going to be happy.  Not at all.  But the onus is on him, now.  If he’s even tangentially guilty . . . there will be no discussion with his teacher that alleviates this.  If he isn’t . . . he’ll be able to avoid the whole thing.  The school was great in that they moved his detention to a time during school hours so he can still take the bus home.

I got home . . . fixed dinner . . . and opened a bottle of wine.  One glass would calm me down, I hoped.  I tucked them in, cleaned up the kitchen, made lunches, slowly sipping a glass of pinot noir.

As I sighed, my son finished his half-hour of reading and stepped behind me.  I turned around . . . and he just gave me a hug, saying “love you, Dad.”

And the calm rushed over me.

Most peculiar, Mama.

An Unbroken Internet

IMG_0105

An Unbroken Internet

So much has been made of the “Break the Internet” meme that I decided there was no way in hell I was going to write about, show, discuss or even give credence to the PR machine that is the Kardashian empire.  Make no mistake, by the way, this was no “random” happenstance, it was a full-on PR gimmick.

I joined in the backlash, I’ll admit.  I posted a Tweet: “It bothers me that as a species we landed a ship on a comet.  A COMET! Yet all people are talking about is Kim Kardashian’s a**!”

I’d say I deleted and retracted my tweet but I’d be lying.  The upside to my statement is that by the end of the day, statistics actually showed that the internet trend had the comet as one of the highest shared events in social media.  Kim K was not.  However . . . television coverage was the opposite with gossip and entertainment media near hemorrhaging over the naked behind on the cover of a magazine nobody’s really heard of before.  That, as someone who works in the television industry, makes me really sad.

But as I said, this isn’t my attempt to enter  the fray.  I’m not giving the PR mongers that satisfaction.

This is about my own children.  In my home, the internet was unbroken.

Just this evening my daughter informed me of something made me smile and I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.
“I really appreciate the way you treat us, Dad,” she informed me.  Her next quote gives you context:
“You never told me or Abbi (her sister) that we couldn’t do something.  In fact, if we said we couldn’t you told us that we were the only thing standing in our way.”

She pointed out that when she told friends or people at school she wanted to be a guitar player they scoffed.  They told her she had no idea what she was talking about, “girls don’t play guitar” was the line.

They’re full of s**t, by the way.  I pointed out Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, Susan Tedeschi . . . the list went on.  It made her smile.  I did the same with her sister, who debated with herself as much as others whether or not she wanted to go into theater.  She’s not regretted that decision as of yet.

My son wanted to make animated films.  Stop-frame animation found him ridiculed until he watched a documentary on Ray Harryhausen.  Then the movie The Box Trolls came out and he heard that Leica studios requires lots of stop-frame and isn’t interested in all-digital at the moment.  That movie did well at the box office he felt vindicated.

Knowledge is the key, I’ve always told them.

I see the trend – pop stars and reality show mongers trying to keep their names in the spotlight.  My children are learning the lesson that they should love what they do.  Kim Kardashian taking her clothes off isn’t new, it’s what brought her into the public eye in the first place.  Nobody knew who she was until someone “leaked” (quotes intended) a tape of her having sex with a hip-hop artist that she suddenly came to prominence.  Now their trainwreck of a family is everywhere.  My family, however, sees no interest in chasing fame however fleeting.  That makes me happy.  They want to work at the crafts they’ve come to enjoy and believe in more than the fleeting public spectacle.  They also see the amount of work some are doing to get what may be quick profits and fleeting fame but have seen through our own lives that trying to get quick satisfaction never works out in the end.

I take satisfaction in knowing that my children want to work hard to achieve something tangible, not just to achieve attention.  The one thing about burning brightly, quickly, is that you burn out fast.  I never want or wanted to be famous.  I wanted to work in the medium I enjoyed and make a living at it.  I have outside interests.  I enjoy so many things that one industry never satisfied me.  My children aren’t interested nor do they favor the crazy, pedantic, PR-created plastic idols that the television has created.  Anything created by the machine is bound to break.  Anything showing creativity . . . that’s going to last.

So we use the internet for what it’s intended for: news, information, social gathering (virtually) and communication.  The reality is taking your clothes off and oiling up your body, after having been famous for just that . . . is more a desperate attempt to go back to what worked the first time.  Problem is, the world’s seen it all before.

So we’re moving forward, making music; making films; making our world.  That’s far more intriguing.

A Change in Tone

Typing

A Change in Tone

Three years, six months and five days ago our lives changed in an instant.  I’m not counting the days, by the way, I had to grab a calendar and do the math.  I am terrible at math – which is why I went into journalism – so I must have wanted to really make the numeric point, by the way.  Still . . . that’s how long it’s been since life for me and my four children changed dramatically.  My wife passed away suddenly and everything went a bit crazy.

Just about three years ago I started this blog and wrote about difficult events that transpired in my home.  My theory then, as now, was that it was for me . . . a healing process.  I had neither the time nor funds for therapy and wasn’t really looking for therapy, I suppose, not in the typical sense.  Yet . . . I might have benefited from it simply because I knew then that I had issues I needed to get out.  My children had issues and I was trying to hold it all together.

The worst part was the evenings.  My four children would go to bed knowing school was coming all too soon the next day and I would be in the house with silence surrounding me.  Even when you have another person in the home with you, say if they’re sleeping or resting, there’s no complete silence.  You hear them breathing, you feel the atmosphere in the home change.

I didn’t have this.

So when 9, 10 or 11pm rolled around the silence was maddening.  I made lunches, baked, played guitar, wrote (terrible) songs, but none of it helped.

Then someone gave me the idea to write it all down.  It’s like chronicling your life in a journal, I suppose, except the world gets to see it.  My theory was if it helped me it might very well help one or two other people so why not?

What I see now, when I look back at those early posts is how much it’s all changed.

I wrote far more colorfully in those early days.  I also wrote about a lot more issues.  The thing is, as sad and colorful and emotional as those posts were . . . our lives were not as bleak and grey as they appeared in those posts.

I have also noticed something else: the tone has changed.

The language and adjectives are not as colorful, no, but our lives and the posts are more colorful.  There’s far more about what we’re doing than what we did.  There’s a lot more about how we live than how we lived.  There are many more solutions than problems.

This wasn’t a conscious shift.  I didn’t wake up one day and say “damn, that’s bleak!  I need to be happier!”  We just adjusted.  We just learned to live the life we have and not focus on the life we had.

That makes a lot of difference.

Dano

I have written a lot of new music and started the process of demos for  all of them.  I hope to have a Kickstarter after the first of the year and maybe enter the studio in the Spring.

We have been on trips, visited family, moved one child to college . . . life has literally continued.

That’s the thing about it.  I guess it’s safe to say we didn’t fight what was coming, we just let it happen.  If we’d lived totally in the past and continued to bemoan what was missing the tone would still be a bit bleak.  Instead…it’s less prosaic but more colorful.

The tone changed, but I’d argue the people changed a little with them.  Some of those changes had started long before my wife passed away.  Three years hence we don’t talk so much about how much we miss Andrea, we talk about the things that she did.  We talk about the things we did together.

We have seen the darkness and are feeling the light, if you’ll excuse the really bad cliche of symbolism there.

Perhaps, though, the better way of putting it is we’ve changed the tone.  No minor key in a droning dirge.  We’re moanin’ the blues, wailing out the excitement, and rockin’ at midnight, so to speak.  We may have been grey, or blue, in a funk.  The thing about those musical styles, though, is that blues – to quote the King of the Blues, BB King – is “life as we lived it in the past, as we’re living it today, and I hope as we’re living it in the future.  As long as there are people there will be blues and it will live!”

We have our moments of sadness and extreme gladness.  So we write the melody to what we have.  It may be the raucous, lively, happy swing of Caledonia or it may be the sad, droning wail of Nobody Loves Me But My Mother (and She Could Be Jivin’ Too!).  

The tone may have changed . . . but then . . . life changes all the time, doesn’t it?