Please Remember My Friend

My good friend Mark Mills (the most talented man I know) is having surgery this morning to treat cancer. Mark comments here as “Warrior”. Please keep him in your prayers, especially today around 11:00. We already know he’ll be all right and that God is in charge – communal prayer is just icing on the cake.

He’s got a great attitude about this – some of the jokes flying around in emails amongst X-Alt members made me laugh so hard I almost got in trouble at work.

Of course, we pray that they will get all of the cancer (the prognosis is VERY good), but also, he’s going to have a rough recovery time. Please keep his wife Barbara in your thoughts as well – she’s got a rough road ahead of her.

God is good – all the time.

You Never Forget Your First

This means nothing to you, but it means quite a bit to me.

I discovered blogging, like I’m sure most of you did, quite by accident.  I followed some search results, who the heck knows what the search terms were, and I ended up at a blog called “A Small Victory”.  Its owner was a Long Island native, Michele Catalano, was approximately my age, and quite possibly the most compelling writer I had ever seen. 

She was, personally, a trainwreck; she was filled with angst and bitterness, and her writing literally screamed off the screen.  Yet, you could every now and then catch a glimpse of humanity – a vulnerability that few people are willing to display.  I have modeled my own blogging after what I saw at A Small Victory; if you sometimes want to shout “too much information!” at me, you can blame Michele.

Reading her blog was addictive, and I went there literally every day.

Then one day, she just disappeared.

I found out later that she was going through a MAJOR transformation in her life.  But I missed Michele’s daily writing and photographs.  I just found out that she’s blogging again.  In fact, dammit, she’s been blogging again for a year, and I missed it!

Let me just say that the transformation in the style of her writing is extreme – this is the kind of change you usually don’t see unless a person has had a religious conversion.  She went from being full of rage to a quiet optimism and appreciation for those around her.  She didn’t have a religious conversion, she found love.  Good for her.

And her writing in this style is just as compelling.  She can be incredibly funny:

The bathroom stall is a place of sanctity. It is not a living room parlor. It is not a coffeehouse. It is not a party room. It is a place where I perform the bodily function of elimination. It’s not a chat room. If you want to talk to me while I’m washing my hands, that’s all well and good. I’ll just go ahead and nod and mhhmm you as if this wasn’t the fourteenth time you were telling me the story about how your adorable little snowflake once saved the life of a cat who fell down a sewer. But I swear on my Star Wars figures that if you EVER again try to tell me that story while I am locked in the stall, I will wait until you get to the part where your kid gets a medal of honor from the town councilman and just as you start the phrase “standing ovation” I will let out the loudest fart you’ve ever heard in your life. It will leave you breathless and unable to finish your damn story.

Michele, you probably don’t remember me from Adam.  But, you were the person who introduced me to this whole world.  I’m so glad you’re back.  And like the new you. 

It’s Like An RV, Only Softer

A co-worker, who shall remain totally anonymous, has a beautiful 20-something daughter.  As a co-worker and a father, I’m really not supposed to notice these things, but this girl is drop-dead gorgeous.  But, apparently, her daughter thinks some improvements could still be made.

 This young lady is going into serious debt to get a boob job.

I told her mother that the best advice she can give her is financial:

Never borrow money for assets that depreciate over time. 

Misc Stuff

Lintilla and I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of our heart for your kindness and well wishes.  They lift us more than you’ll ever know.  You are a blessing beyond measure.

Today is the craziest day known to man.  I have to “electronically” fill out an FMLA form, I’ve got to do it today, and the online system we use to do that with is down.  Pah.  We’ll be in Birmingham tonight and Florida tomorrow.  I haven’t packed yet.  I have to drop off the dogs at the sitter’s after I pick up the kids from school. I’ve got insurance companies to call, and who knows what else I’ve forgotten.

(To would-be robbers: go ahead and break into my house while we’re gone if you must.  You think I give a crap?) 

About half of our men’s rooms at work have the automated faucets; the other half are manual.  I wonder if I’m the only one that stands there looking like a fool with his hands under a manual one, waiting for the water to come out.

What the heck is ABC thinking, having a new Ugly Betty on Thanksgiving?  (Before it was ‘work’, I would have been quite pleased with this).

Y’all, mark this date: December 1st.  New Beginnings Church is having another coffeehouse, but this one is different.  It will be Christmas based, for one thing.  There will be no cover charge.  X-Alt will be singing many familiar Christmas songs.  Our friend, the incomparable Jim Weber will be there again.  Channel 4’s Jennifer Herron will be hosting again.  And, we’ll have a a huge treat:

When X-Alt played at Word of Life Christian Center a bit ago, we were blown away by a choir called “Sounds of Life”.  There was also a 3-man group called Men-U (Men United) that had the tightest harmonies I have ever heard.  Well, folks, these two groups are going to be at our coffeehouse!  It’s going to be so great have such a wide cultural and musical diversity on Dec 1.

I’m telling you, you don’t want to miss this.  Many amongst us have had rough times this year; some of us are going through them right now.  What we need right now is overwhelming Joy.  I can tell you right now – I’m a little ticked off.  My family is under attack, in health, spiritually, financially.  Many others are too.  But, whatever our demons…

We can let go and be overcome with Joy.  No preaching, no pressure – just a night of therapeutic music and Joy.  You know you need it – Lord knows, I do.  There are some of you who have never come to an X-Alt event. We don’t care if you are Christian, we just want to play music for our friends.  No charge.  I might even let you crash at my house, if you feel Bellevue is too much of a drive.  I’d just love to have you there. Some of you hard cases, whom I am disappointed to never see at these events,  can expect an email from me soon.

Let’s tell all that negativity in our lives to kiss our collective butts and kick off the Christmas season right!  Mark it down – December 1st.

Finally, I’m going to Costco during my lunch hour.  Anybody need me to pick up anything?

It’s Never Easy

Y’all give your prayers and good thoughts for my friend and frequent STM commentor Warrior, and his wife.  They lost their longtime companion, their dog Bo.  He had been sick for some time, and lately seizures were coming more frequently.  He was suffering horribly, so they had to have him put down.

Yes, Bo was an old dog (15 years); yes, he had been very ill.  But losing such an intregal part of your family as Bo was to Warrior’s is always rough.  I know that they both loved their friend and companion deeply.

Please keep them in your prayers.

Screaming The Right Way

I went to the Colts/Titans game with Warrior, frequent Shoot The Moose commentor and musician extrodinare.  Here’s the funny thing.  The first time Diva Manning gets the ball, I start my usual screaming.  I mean, it’s what we do at LP field – we make a lot of noise and make the life of the opposing QB miserable.

Well, Warrior is not only an accomplished musician, he’s a voice coach.  It was the strangest thing: he corrected my form.  “From the top of the throat!” he says.  “Use your diaphram!” 

It reminded me of the Monty Python’s Holy Grail, when Arthur corrected Bedevere on his “Nee” technique.

I can tell you, we were the best sounding screamers in all of LP Field Sunday.

I Think It’s Terrorism

Every single female I know in person is testy right now.  REALLY testy.

Except for Susie; I’ve known her for a few years now, and have never seen her grumpy.  Only a little perturbed, but never testy.  That’s amazing, when you think about it.

Anyway, this is unavoidable: I work with women, I’m in a band with four of them, and I live with two.  My personality makes me the “guy women like to treat like one of their girlfriends”.

Many of them are currently engaged in a contest to see which one can bite my head off first.

Something in the water supply, maybe?  I don’t know.  But, if you know me, you know that I am quite understanding and patient about these things.  But, usually, I’m dealing with one cranky person at a time.  This feels more like a siege.

I think it’s time for a guy-blogger only camping trip.  We need to talk about football and cars and hot women, and NOT talk about sex except in vague inuendos.  We need a weekend of parallel play.  We need to settle disagreements with fistfights instead of talking about our feelings, and once the fighting is over – no hard feelings, we’ll have a beer together and laugh about it all.

I need to be recharged in a bath of testosterone.  Then I can go back to being my usual, “guy that women like to treat as one of their girlfriends”.

I mean no offense to my female friends, who are the majority of my readers, but I’m having a hard time coping with this right now;  there’s no chance to come up for air between barrages of snippiness.

And interstingly, I don’t seem to have this problem in the virtual world.

Saying Goodbye, and Hello

Being the husband of a hospice caregiver, I have resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to find myself talking about death a whole lot.  Not only is it a fact of life, it’s “part of the business”, so to say.  While we were on vacation, for instance, Lintilla lost almost her entire case load – they all passed on in the same week. 

I find it entirely strange that my planning for the time of our family dinner is based partly on who lives and who dies that day.  Trivialities and earth-shattering events converge on a daily basis.

One thing that comes up in conversations about death is this: sudden, unexpected deaths can cause wounds that linger indefinitely, because those left behind never got a chance to say goodbye.

I thought of this last night as X-Alt discussed and prayed about our upcoming show at Belle Mead United Methodist Church.  7 of the current members of X-Alt (I think I’m counting right) were part of the “worship band” at Belle Meade’s contemporary service – some of us for years. 

I will not air the church’s dirty laundry here (I still belong to BMUMC, proudly).  But I will say that during the turmoil, X-Alt became its own entity, a tangible thing, if you will, and “it” was so intertwined into that contemporary service that when it suddenly ended, it was as if a death or divorce occurred – suddenly.

And each of us – individually – felt it.  We grieved as one who has love snatched away suddenly.

As I’ve chronicled here more than I’m sure you’d care to hear, we picked up the pieces, formally became “a group”, and started our music ministry.  We have been blessed greater than we could have ever dreamed, and I think we have blessed others in the process.  I think we are on the cusp of even greater things (more on that in a minute).

But “it” is still sitting out there, haunting us, unwilling to let us move on as we should.  But that is about to change.

Thanks to an extremely gracious invitation, X-Alt will be playing a short concert at Belle Meade on August 29th.  I can say that both sides are heading into this quite tentatively, but trusting in God.

As for X-Alt, what we experienced was both the death of a loved one and a nasty divorce, all in one fell swoop.  In order to move on, I think we need to make peace with our “ex”, and we need to finally lay a rose on the gravestone of our dearly departed.  The only way we can do this, interestingly, is to NOT focus on our grief, our hopes, or anything else about us.  We will start healing if we go into this seeking and praising God.  We need to do what we do.  See Ford Prefect’s thoughts on this.

As for the greater things to come? All I can say is that X-Alt is starting to resemble the jam sessions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  Maybe not in age, yet, but in numbers.  Pretty soon, we’ll only be logistically able to play amphitheaters and megachurches.  We could field a football team.  So, I guess I should tell you:

Ginger has joined us on our long, strange trip.  Her addition to the X-Alt family was also quite sudden, but this time it was a blessing.  She brings a wealth of knowledge, and a heavenly voice to our group.  It goes without saying that I am pleased as punch that Ginger has decided to bless our ministry with her time and talent.  Lord knows, it’s quite a drive she has to make to get to rehearsals.

And we all love fighting for the attention of her beautiful daughter.

Now y’all have no excuse  🙂 Keep a lookout on these pages for dates y’all can come see us play and sing. 

Old And New

Pardon me while I psychoanalyze myself. 

It’s been a few days since I’ve been back from vacation, and I still can’t get my head around what’s happening in the Nashville blogsphere.  I feel like there is a huge storm that’s raging just below the surface, but it’s just a feeling.

I would comment on what’s going on, both at NiT and MCB, but to be honest, I don’t know what’s going on.  I just get the feeling everything has changed, old grudges are resurfacing, alliances seem to be forming, positions dug in. 

I do know that the recent content at NiT just isn’t my “cup of tea”, as it were.  But I know that official change is coming (or at least I hope it is).  I still check to see what’s going on from time to time, but the emotional connection just isn’t there.  Hopefully, that will change in the future.

MCB looks very, very promising; however I feel that site has not yet truly found it’s voice.  At MCB, the “connection” is ready-made for me; I have many friends who are knee-deep in getting the site off the ground.  I have some technical quibbles, but they are small, and I know the site is in its infancy. It will be fun to watch as things improve.  And I say the same thing about NiT.

It’s interesting, I was reading the article about Sterling Marlin losing his ride.  The comments at the Tennessean are mostly insults toward other drivers.  This is what I’d like to avoid, if possible.

I am fiercely loyal to Brittney Gilbert.  I do not forget a kindness, and Brittney showed more patience to me than I deserved.  We’ve only met in person two or three times, yet I can say in all honesty that there is a part of me that was genuinely hurt, watching what happened in her last days at NiT.  I’m weird that way.

Yet, I do not want to display that loyalty by publicly disparaging other bloggers, in the way my fellow Sterling Marlin fans are insulting Jeff Gordon and others. 

I only mention it because those emotions are a subtext of this whole discussion.  Loyalty, hurt, fear of change, these are present in my mind when I think of the current state of the Nashville blogsphere.  I need to keep them in mind when I make snap judgements about this or that site. 

Everything is changing.  I have to deal with that.  It would be nice to fully understand why.  Farther Along, maybe.

I Get By With A Little Help

Dang.

I have a good friend, bandmate, and commenter here, Susie.  Her and her husband Jeff saved my sanity yesterday.  Let me back up a little.

Some of you know that one of my water heaters died a couple of days ago.  Most of you know that I am absolutely worthless at fixing stuff around the house.  So,we called a very popular plumbing company here in town to come out and look at things.  “When you see the happy face…”

Let me tell you, our experience with this company was right about what we expected. They are exactly what they say they are: very courteous, knowledgeable, and prompt.  The technician they sent out looked a lot like Greg Biffle, NASCAR Nextel Cup driver number 16.  He found the problem (the danged thing had actually caught on fire) , and told us we’d need to replace the water heater.  Now, this company is all those wonderful things, I descibed above, plus one more thing: expensive.  They wanted a thousand dollars.

Uh, no.

He told us we could get a new water heater at Home Depot (the original was still under warranty) – we’d have to go get it, and they’d do the installation for about $500 – better.  Well, to accomplish getting uninstalling the old water heater, I called Susie.  I did this because, like I said, I’m pretty worthless with this kind of thing, and, I have no tools.  I was hoping her husband Jeff (a local contractor) could loan me the proper tools.

Well, being incredible friends and great people altogether, they hopped in the car and came right over.  Jeff helped me unhook the old heater,and told me that it would be ridiculous to pay $1000+ to replace a water heater.  He convinced me that I, with proper supervision, could install the heater myself.  He gave me instructions for what to ask for at Home Depot, and then he and Susie left for a while to do stuff they had to do.

Of course, I had to call Jeff again when getting the hookup parts, and he guided me though.  We get the new heater back (after GE fought with us unsuccessfully about whether the warranty applied), and Lintilla and I, with some struggle, got the heater in place and partially hooked up (thank God for compression connectors).  I call Susie, and she told me they’d be coming around dark.  Why?

They were also bringing us their kids’ trampoline.  Their kids are teenagers now, and they no longer use the trampoline.  It’s got a net and everything.  Folks, this trampoline is HUGE!  Jeff had it on his trailer, and it was hanging off the sides, causing him to use up most of the road on a two lane road.  It was easy to see why they wanted to come after dark.  It was quite an effort just getting it off the trailer and into our sideyard.

But, we get that done (after Jeff reassembled a couple of net poles they had to take off for transport), and then it was onto the water heater.  It turned out to be just like when my dad “helps” me with this kind of stuff: Jeff ended up doing all the work.  Well,  (he) finished the hookups lickety-split, we filled it, and what-do-you-know, it works!  In fact, our hot water in the front of the house (which this water heater supplies) is hotter than it ever was before.

To top it all off? Jeff thinks he may know someone who might want to buy the xB.

Anyway, we just can’t thank Susie and Jeff for not only helping us out of the water heater mess, saving us a LOT of money, but also for the trampoline.  I mean, who has friends THAT wonderful?  At first I was going to cook them a meal to thank them, then it didn’t seem like enough.  So, we’re going to take them to Monell’s.  It still doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s a start.

I’ll post a photo of the trampoline later, after I mow the lawn.  All this weirdness yesterday prevented me from mowing, and I’m afraid the neighbors are going to call codes soon if I don’t get out there.

Susie, Jeff – thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!  Y’all are such wonderful people.  I thank God for your wonderful family and our friendship.  If there’s anything I can do (I’m pretty good with computers 🙂  ) , let me know.

So, that was my Saturday.