Nine Hundred Ten Posts

It’s a little lame to post my 910th post as a post about posting my 910th post.

I’m doing it anyway.

I love this family journal of a blog. I’m grateful for the memories stored here and the joy it brings us when we read back over these memories.

Thanks to those of you who read it and write to me to tell me when something has surprised, inspired, or given you a surge of love. I’m grateful for that.

As your bonus for reading this non-post of a post, I asked google to search my photos to find photos that showed “love,” and here’s a partial display of the fascinating assortment it selected.

An art project Buds and Monkey made for me over a decade ago.

Thanks for reading.

Listening And Learning As A White Family

Since the current administration was elected, I’ve tried to learn to be quiet. To listen and learn from those who are suffering at the hands of the homophobic, anti-any-religion-but Christianity, white supremacists who are currently (mis)leading this country.

Every single day something new and horrifying happens. Just when you think #45 cannot do something uglier, more insipid, or illegal, he does.

To counteract the disgusting sickness of racism that has always been lingering in our country, but was more hidden when we had someone with grace and a modicum of human decency in the White House, our family is exposing ourselves to different resources than we had been previously. We’ve subscribed to new magazines, I’m reaching out to people in new and different ways, and we’re watching for our own blindspots when we can.

I considered making this post about the ugliness that is so easy to see once you begin to look for it. When I’m seeing it as a privileged white woman, it’s disheartening to think about the folks who are having to live in terror everyday because of the Bigot in Chief. I see it because I’m actively looking for it from the safety of my skin. Other folks don’t have that veneer of protection.

Instead I am choosing to share some of the intriguing, outstanding resources we’re learning from.

We now subscribe to Essence magazine, for example, and here’s an article that wouldn’t be found in many publications:

An article I wouldn’t have seen if we didn’t subscribe to Essence.

I read this article in the NYT: N.A.A.C.P. to Missouri: You’re No Safe Space (Still) and my eye was caught by this:

“The advisory evokes an era when African-Americans relied on sources like The Negro Motorist Green Book to guide their travel choices.”

Here was obviously a part of history of which I was unaware. So we purchased The 1963-64 International Green Book to learn more.

Yes, this was a necessary thing.

Consider this for a minute…if you had to have a book that told you where you could eat and sleep without fear of being abused because of the color of your skin. If you are white, in this country, or in most places, this was never, ever a thing you had to plan for.

A good friend did tell me there was a similar publication for GLBT Folks.

A feeling of shock and sickness at how few options there were in Iowa, but then tears of relief and joy and pride fell when I read The Green Book:

So few options in Iowa.

Listed in Newton, Iowa; The Hillcrest Motel.

That was my aunt’s motel.

My cousin could only find these two pictures of pictures to share with me. They show the office/house part of the motel. The motel of approximately 16 units would have been on the right side of these pictures. There was also a small cottage behind the office that she rented out and a mobile home at the opposite end of the parking lot for longer-term renters.

She was my favorite aunt, and I stayed the most often with her and Uncle Bob. (I probably stayed equally as often with Aunt Kathy and Uncle Charles who had my best friend cousins.)

When you stayed with Aunt Lela, you were going to be helping clean the motel, eating incredibly well, and watching as she cared for the many animals she loved over the years.

The one picture I have of the two of us.

I learned a lot from Aunt Lela, including how to crochet, and oh, how I wish I could ask her questions about The Green Book and her place in history. I remember reading a description of the motel in a AAA Guidebook, and it mentioned how spotlessly clean it was.

Consider that, too. The Green Book didn’t even mention specifics about the places because to be a Traveler of Color meant your options were limited, at best.

Another great resource has been the Black History Flash Cards. Surely by now we all recognize that history is written by the victorious, and I’m attempting to address the great gaps in my understanding of the world and history. These have been a fun way to learn things.

I’m reading different websites, learning from different people, listening, listening, listening. And we’re watching for the bias in whatever we read and hear from social media and the media in general. We’re considering the source, always.

This last year + has been an interesting social experiment for me. I’ve realized it takes effort and thought to SEE and learn outside of our zone of the typical. It takes effort to meet and create new friends outside the zone of the easy connection. And always in the back of my mind is the realization that I’m learning from the safety and comfort of my white skin in my safe, comfortable home. I can’t change that, but at the very least I am learning to recognize the privilege of it.

And when the karmic enormity of it gets to me; when it feels like the world is too ugly and evil and I cannot understand how humans can be so unkind to each other, I try to remember:

Trying to remember this.

Well, Darn It.

People aren’t always sure what they should and shouldn’t ask about my hospice volunteering. It’s important to know that I’ll only share what I ethically am able to, which means no identifying information of any sort.

But here’s something I learned:

My new client is someone I would have been friends with in my regular life. The great thing is, this work allows us to bypass all the small-talk, getting-to-know you pieces of a new friendship. We get to jump right into sharing who we really are.

Then last night I realized, because of the open-heart this calling requires, I have a friend who is going to die (sooner, rather than later.) And I’m going to be a support for them on this journey. I’m honored and grateful to be able to do this.

It’s still hard.

My last client was already non-verbal by the time I joined the team, so this feels very different.

Buds sometimes laughs at me (in a loving, kind way) because of my comfort with death. As I shared some of my sorrow with him last night, he was asking if it was too much.

It’s good of him to ask, but it isn’t too much. This sacred work, it’s one of life’s hard lessons that I will not turn away from. There may come a day when it is too much, but today is not that day.

This is what matters.

Celebration

We hosted a game night/birthday celebration with our best friend families down here, and it was the perfect storm of delightful, safe, insightful conversation, and laughter, games, and stories that we all love.

Let the games begin.

The cake was chocolate on chocolate with chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup available in case you didn’t get enough chocolate.

Everlasting candles provide great entertainment.

Introducing friends to “You Suck At Cooking”

Laughter together

Bonding time

How long does it take a group of UU’s to get a decent picture?

I love these people.

So grateful to be on this journey with these other families.

Teenage Humans

I picked up this book from the library a couple weeks ago, and the teens discovered it last night.

A hilarious conversation ensued where Buster would read parts of it, and he and Monkey would guffaw loudly at this author’s perception of teenagers.

It reminded me, once again, of how outside the box it sometimes feels our lives are. The delight we are finding in these people as they age…I’m continually grateful.

Buds and Eddie had a Virtue Ethics class with just Buster and Monkey at church on Sunday and Buds was so proud and humbled by the ability of Monkey to philosophize with these two adults she feels safe with.

The sheer amount of time we all get together means the luxury of intense connection and discussion. I don’t remember anyone telling me about that as a benefit of homeschooling, but it is the one I am often most thankful for.

Waffles also enjoyed the discussion.

And the takeaway from the book discussion from Monkey, “Treat teens like humans, with the same respect we all give each other. It’s not hard.”

Seems pretty clear.

The End of An Era

First the births ended.

Then the nursing.

The diapers disappeared next.

Car seats and brushing teeth and wiping bums.

Co-sleeping, carrying them on a hip or in a backpack.

All these milestones have come and gone, and yesterday another one passed us by.

Yessa, the youngest, lost her final baby tooth.

I have loved every single stage of this journey, and the older they get, the more I love the people they are. Much like with Buds, I don’t know how I can love them more, then the next day they do something else loving and amazing that awes me.

I’m not sure there are many physical milestones like these left. One of the three has grown taller than me. That may or may not be the only one to do that. All the females in the house can share clothes. I consider that a blessing for the fashion-challenged individual that I am.

Monkey reminds me that someday they will all be drivers. Someday they will all (probably) move out. Someday I won’t be with them everyday.

Onward to the next adventures.

In Honor Of…

I was the only one who attended church this morning, so my surprise for Buds was unknown by the family until I returned home, but our church family loved it.

The announcement in the program at church.

The flowers on the altar.

I was appropriately thanked.

Neurons Firing

Just a typical afternoon in our casa.

Blog posting and snuggles

Buster settled in by Buds.

Then this happened:

Listening…

Buster sat up and said, “I can’t hear any neurons firing.”

He stood up, walked over to look at the clock on the stove and said to me, “Time of death 1:28 p.m.”

And then he and I dissolved into laughter while Buds looked up from his writing, confused.

A Bluebird Setlist

The line up.

Our singer-songwriters last night were.

* Jeff Cohen
* Jamie Floyd
* Brian White
* Victoria Banks

(Jeff) Intro

Jeff got into it before we started to take notes, so I can’t recall what he started with.

(Jamie) Mississippi Flood

This song was featured on the TV show Nashville. Here’s Hayden Panettiere singing it. In the show’s world this song charted at #1 so Jamie was pretty happy with her “fake news” #1 hit. Jamie has a bluesy intensity that I prefer to the show’s pop-country version.

(Brian) Drop

Rolling, rollicky, sexy wordplay.

https://brianwhitesongwriter.com/track/658056/drop

(Victoria) The Wheel

One of Ginnie’s favorites. A meditation on motherhood.

(Jamie) Stuck

Jamie had been progressively pulled in to a not yet released movie project staring Burt Reynolds and Chevy Chase. She wound up writing 18 songs and basically creating the entire movie soundtrack.

(Brian) Beach song

This was a fun audience participation song. Brian channels more than a bit of Jimmy Buffet and starts started by asking the audience “Do you ever wish your life was like a Corona commercial?” Well, yeah!! was the response. I can’t find this one but it was a fun, friendly time.

(Victoria) Saints and angels

One of many songs this night that was overtly religious.

(Jeff) Take me away, take me now

One of Jeff’s many songs that’s popular in the UK.

(Jamie) People you know became people you knew

A real soul-crusher by Jamie. She told a story of co-writing (with Loreena Mckennitt?) and unveiling this song to some wet cheeks.

(Brian) Watching You

This was a hit that got a lot of plays. Rodney Atkins recorded it and just try to get over the fact that he looks like Ernest Goes to Camp. We preferred Brian’s fun version.

(Victoria) Drinking too much, not praying enough

This one hasn’t been picked up and that had all the songwriters puzzled as to why. It’s about the age-old intersection between Jack Daniels and Jesus. I can’t find it so will stub in this one.

Drinking with Dolly

This caught my eye.

Songwriters aren’t often contacted at all by the artists who record their songs, let alone included in the process, but Stephanie very kindly invited both Rachel and me to be in the music video. Unfortunately I was out on tour at the time, but click to watch it below and you’ll see some great footage of Rachel and her daughter Olivia right at the beginning!

(Jeff) In her eyes

This one was popularized by Josh Groban. I prefer Jeff’s soulful treatment much, much, much more than this glitterbomb.

(Jamie) Trouble

Lost the thread on this one, my only notes are “get new off your mind” which surely can’t be right.

(Brian) Magic in the air

A beach-y love song from Brian about a love that just misses.

(Victoria) Being a woman ain’t for the faint of heart

This was a co-writing project with Sister C. Victoria shared how it’s hard as a female songwriter when the vast majority of the current country music sound is male voices.

(Jeff) Hallelujah

Another song that’s seen popularity in the UK

(Jamie) The Blade

A lyrically strong song that’s seen some popularity. Here’s

(Brian) Throwing up a Hail Mary

A song Brian wrote for a young cancer patient. This song reflects Brian’s Christian faith, right at that intersection of football and faith in this case.

(Victoria) Ordinary angels

A perfect close by Victoria given Alive Hospice’s mission. This video flips the script.

This is what it’s like to be a songwriter hearing your song performed for the first time. Phil Barton and Victoria Banks watch Tate Stevens sing “Ordinary Angels” at the Key West Songwriters Festival.

Buds and Gin Have A Night Out

We were celebrating the 24th anniversary of the day we met. When the opportunity for tickets to The Bluebird dropped into my lap, I knew it was the perfect surprise for Buds, and it promised to be a heck of a night for both of us.

From the website: “The Bluebird Cafe is one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms and the venue has gained worldwide recognition as a songwriter’s performance space where the “heroes behind the hits” perform their own songs; songs that have been recorded by chart-topping artists in all genres of music.”

We had certainly heard of The Bluebird, but tickets are incredibly difficult to get, so we have never gone. Not knowing what to expect, we asked a couple friends about the food, what to wear, how the line at the door worked, but our most critical insight came from our favorite contractor Weston.

Weston came over on Saturday morning to discuss the basement project, so we plumbed his musical knowledge. Weston had been a touring musician and song-writer, so we knew he had probably been to The Bluebird. He told us about the food, what the seating would be like, the expectations (People go to the Bluebird to listen!).

Then I asked him, “Have you played at The Bluebird?”

“Oh, sure, several times.” He replied.

“What did that feel like?” I asked.

He thought for a minute.

“I have absolutely played in venues where no one was listening, and as a musician it tears a little bit of your heart out. So to play at The Bluebird, where people are truly listening, it gives a songwriter pieces of their soul back.”

That sentiment was echoed by Jeff Cohen, the song-writer spokesperson on Saturday night.

“What the Ryman is to musicians, The Bluebird is to songwriters.”

Last night felt a little like being on hallowed ground.

Ready to go and a little dressed up for us.

It was just getting dark when we arrived and there were two lines waiting at the door. One to the left and one to the right.

Photo from here: https://cdn.styleblueprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IMG_3230-800×600.jpg

As you can see, the exterior is not imposing. It’s tiny (90 seats) and this doesn’t look like a location where magic would happen.

The line to the left is for folks with reservations, and we spent a pleasant hour in line visiting with Cathy and Mike who were right in front of us in line.

Yes, even if you have reservations you get there an hour early because you don’t want to risk your seat going to someone standing in the line to the right. Those poor saps are hoping to get any seat for either the early or the late show.

After we were allowed in (They let you in the door by pairings.) we gave our name, and they showed us to our seat. I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t choose to sit with Cathy and Mike since we had been having such a great visit with them, but when I realized where we were sitting, my disappointment disappeared.

I could sit in the lap of the songwriter in front of me.

We were actually a little shocked. Weston had told us that the venue was small, but it was still surprising, plus the musicians were obviously going to be sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME!

The video above shows the space and also shows me over talking with Mike and Cathy, exchanging contact info. They had great seats, too.

We enjoyed visiting and reminiscing while we waited for the show to begin. We ordered food, but as friends had told us, people don’t go to The Bluebird for the food.

The evening began with a message from Anna-Gene, the Alive CEO. She’s a wonderful speaker and leader, and the way she shared Alive’s mission and the power of the work we do was heartwarming.

Anna-Gene O’Neal, Alive Hospice CEO

The evening was part of the month-long series to benefit Alive Hospice, and Jeff Cohen shared a powerful story of his first experience with Hospice care when his grandfather was dying.

Jeff had been asked to put together last night’s early show (6:30 p.m.) and he reached out to an assortment of his songwriter friends.

The line up.

Being so close allowed us to both hear the music perfectly, as well as hear the interactions between the songwriters, and gave me the chance to be entranced by the hands of the musicians as they played. I’ve been learning to play the guitar, and to watch the easy flow of sound coming from these talented folks and the speed of the fingerings. I was in awe.

These were song-writers. They thought of themselves as technicians rather than (capital-A!) Artists or (capital P!) Performers–a kind of person that they worked closely with. They were trying to find a way to sell this or that song to an audience of one (the Performer) who would then introduce their work to an audience of millions. The songs they played were a mix of songs that had already taken wing and the unhatched eggs. They were collegial and supportive of each other. Laughing, joking, beating their guitars in rhythm when another was singing and joining in light harmony on choruses. And shaking their heads in mournful appreciation; “I just don’t get why an Artist hasn’t picked that one up.”

The songwriters getting set up. The woman in the shot is Victoria Banks.

Our table was the resting place for Andrea Young.

Andrea Young made a surprise appearance and that was a thrill for the other performers as well as the audience. With no preparation she would listen to the songwriter begin to play, assess the key and tone of the song then jump in with her fiddle to add extra ambience. It added so much warmth to some heartbreaking songs.

We left with a sense of quiet awe and inspiration from rubbing shoulders with these hard-working, hopeful, talented, soulful folks.