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Top Ten Tuesday

10 May

My newish friend Amanda inspired me to create a Top Ten Tuesday list.  It is entitled:

Top Ten Times I Asked Myself The Question, “What Am I Doing With My Life?” While Working In Christian Music

10.  The time I received a call from a customer complaining that this album cover was pornographic so the music catalog where it was printed had been burned so the customer’s sons wouldn’t be exposed to said pornography:

9.  The time I almost witnessed an actual conception of a child in an elevator in Philly where a hemotology convention was in full swing.

8.  The time I was asked why I hadn’t purchased billboards all over Nashville for a new release.

7.  The time I had to cut out little Valentine hearts for a radio promo.  LOTS.  OF.  VALENTINE.  HEARTS.

6.  The time one of my artists was asked never to return to a well-known organization’s chapel service because she wore open-toed shoes there, to which I nearly said, “focus on your OWN damn toes,” but didn’t.

5.  The time I received a call from a customer that this album cover was pornographic so the music catalog where it was printed had been burned so the customer’s sons wouldn’t be exposed to said pornography:

4.  The time Andy Griffith left me a mean voicemail after I did exactly what he asked me to do.

3.  The time took an artist to get a mani/pedi just before a video shoot.  Which is why I can relate to this:

2.  The time I was asked to purchase BLUE Gatorade for an artist and when I could only find RED Gatorade I was chastised accordingly by the artist’s road manager.

1.  The time I was asked to find hot tea for the same artist, only to find out it was really only for the artist’s road manager with the thing for BLUE Gatorade.

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NERTZ!

10 May

“It was not facing what life dealt that made you crazy, but rather trying to set life straight where it was unstraightenable.”

 -Anne Lamott – Blue Shoe

 I spent last week in the Dominican Republic with some amazing newish and longish friends.  I was showing them the work of World Vision in that impoverished country, wracked by HIV/AIDS, high unemployment and the many other challenges poverty has made a habit of generously bestowing upon people.  The days were hot and humid, physically and emotionally taxing, yet full of the hope – and the joy – of people whose stories were heartbreaking and inspiring.

 Two of our evenings in Santo Domingo were spent playing Nertz with a small group of those who weren’t charged with blogging the day’s events.  Greg, Laura, Lee and I volleyed snarky trash talk at each other as we displayed our cat–like reflexes to lay our cards on the table first.  The holy grail of screaming “NERTZ!” was intoxicating, beckoning each of us to dart our eyes about the table in search of the next opportunity to play all of our cards and score big.

 We all wanted to believe (or have the others believe of US) that the key to winning the game was about how amazing we were at playing all of the cards in our Nertz pile first.  In reality, most of the key to winning depended on how our cards were shuffled and dealt each round.  Winning was more about seizing the opportunities that matched the cards we had available to play at the given moment than any kind of expertise.

 I was blessed to have two very wise grandmothers speak into my life.  During my last visit with my grandma Minnie, we had a conversation about the trials she endured in her life, especially as a young Russian immigrant.  I remarked at her resilience and she said to me, “I just decided to play the best I could with the cards I was dealt.” 

 She did not try to change her hand.  She did not wallow in the longing for a different set of circumstances.  She recognized that in order to stay afloat she had no choice but to lean into the life given to her and make the most of it.  She used it to her advantage.  To swim against the current would mean certain death.

 And so here I am, looking 40 in the face.  Increasingly I ask myself the following questions.  And yes, sometimes I ask out loud.  How am I playing the cards I’ve been dealt?  Am I making the most of the opportunities in front of me?  Am I leaning into the life God has given me with courage, confidence and a keen eye?  Am I the husband, father, son, brother, uncle, boss and friend I should be?

 I’d like to think that asking myself the questions is a good sign, and it probably is.  But I don’t think it’s enough.  There needs to be an intentionality, a vigilance and a tenacity to living one’s life that isn’t always easy to achieve.  Those are things that can’t be measured by fortune or fame, but by legacy and by joy.

(By the way, I DESTROYED everyone the first night of Nertz.  Not that it matters.  Just sayin’…)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe for @Pink

12 Dec

One year ago this weekend, I was in San Francisco at an Over The Rhine concert with World Vision.  P!nk happened to be in the audience and showed her true colors by sponsoring several children that night.  Very cool lady…

On Twitter, she makes me hungry on a regular basis posting her food porn on a regular basis.  Tonight, P!nk just asked for the world’s best cheesecake recipe and I think ours is pretty fantastic.  P!nk, thanks for your heart for children in need and for tempting Twitter food porn.  This is my way of returning the favor.  if you try it, let us know what you think!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust

2 cups Lorna Doone cookies

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

Mix crust ingredients and press into a greased spring form pan.  Place spring form pan on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Filling

4  8oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened (Philadelphia, of course!)

1 1/4 cup sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

1/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time until mixed.  Beat in remaining ingredients until smooth.

Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 1 hour.  Turn the oven off and let sit for 1 hour.  Cool completely in the refrigerator.  Top with whipped cream.

A Promising New Business Venture

6 Jul

My dear friend “T” just sent me some info for a new business she and her mother are considering, looking for input from the ever-wise Beonkey.  Yes, her sweet mother “S” has found a second career in sewing baby clothes for adults who want to wear baby clothes (that’s a whole other blog).

Anyway, I think they may be onto something with this new opportunity.  What do YOU think?

———————————-

From:  T

To:  M

Hey! I thought you might be interested in a new product that my dear mother, S, otherwise known as the adult diaper goddess, is considering adding to her product line.

I think it would open the door to a whole other clientele. But, naturally, we thought we would consult with you, given your invaluable interest and advice in her adult baby clothes venture.

Do let us know your thoughts on this matter. Your opinions are like jewels to us, bringing warmth to our…ahem…hearts.

Warmly,

T

allison_peter

From the 1930’s, the Peter Heater  is sewn onto a piece of cardboard, along with the accompanying poem,

sung to the tune of “Happy Days Are Here Again”:

When the winter chill hangs o’er the land


There is nothing that could be sweeter


Than the day you bring out


The long underwear and


The crazy Peter Heater.

With balls enclosed in snuggy wool


And prickering string all tied


One can survive the winter gale


When better men have died.



The old blue nose will glow like fire,


Aged limbs no longer teeter,


And mama too is all pepped up


About the Peter Heater.

———————————————————–

From:  M

To:  T

This would be a legitimate extension of her current line of handmade niche clothing. But I think she will need to charge by the foot (of yarn used, of course).

Naturally, I could never afford her services.

I’m thinking she should require a survey to address various aspects of the job at hand.

1. Accurate measurements are a must – Too big = chaffing. Too small = restricted blood flow.  Poor customer satisfaction either way.

2. Color palette – What if a gentleman was wearing white trousers in the snow? A neon-hued Peter Heater would simply not do. A flesh-colored version would have to be worn.

3. Question #2 would clearly require an accurate in-person match to various fleshy-colored yarn samples. And no, prospective customers cannot submit a photo for her to match. The lighting could throw the whole thing off.

4. Would the customer classify himself as a “grower” or a “shower”? Again, crucial information. She will need to know how much give to crochet into the finished product.

5. Any known textile allergies? I’m guessing wool will be an issue. Synthetic chenille could be a big winner.

Then the standard disclaimers would need to be issued:

1. The Peter Heater is NOT a prophylactic and should not be used as such.

2. The Peter Heater should not be used as a means of affecting the gender of any future offspring. Peter Heater, Inc. will not be held liable for any unusually high instances of female infants.

3. Under no circumcisions, I mean circumSTANCES, should a slipknot be used to secure the Peter Heater.

4. The Peter Heater is not classified as swimwear in 43 of the 50 United States and Peter Heater, Inc. will not be held liable for any public nudity arrests and/or convictions in said states.

5. In reference to #4, the Peter Heater should not be used as swimwear in the other 7 states, especially if it is crafted of wool. Peter Heater, Inc. will not be held liable for shrinkage of any kind as a result of misuse in the water. This includes, but is not limited to, swim meets, diving competitions, synchronized swimming, polar bear gatherings, triathlons, fly fishing, car wash fundraisers and baptisms.

Does that help?

M

————————————————-

From:  T

To:  M

We thank you for you ever-so-helpful insights. Your advice is, as always, invaluable…

The Beachcombers

22 Jun

Walking hand in hand on the beach, Maga and I were on a mission. Our task? Driftglass. Treasure the ocean gives up only when it’s through shaping it. Smooth and worn, standing the test of time, one-of-a-kind creations and ours for the taking. We were the beachcombers, searching intently for any hint of vivid color against the burlap hue of the wet sand.

“You know, looking for driftglass is what keeps me from wearing glasses.”

“Really?”

“Yep. That, and reading a lot of books.”

Maybe she’s right. After all, she always sees the driftglass before I do and I’m only 9. Maybe I should read more…

Driftglass. It begins the journey a cold sharp shard, hard with rough edges. Lucid. Coarse. Reckless. Impatient.

“Here’s another one, Mike! What a beautiful shade of blue. And it’s in the shape of a heart. Here, why don’t you hold it.”

You know, she’s right. It does look like a heart. Who knew glass could actually feel soft in your hand?

The journey continues through water, through sand, through time. Through high and low tides, it learns to weather the storms. Hints of future splendor peek through, but it is still uneven. There is more story to be told.

“Hey, look Maga! I found one! It’s a white one! Where do you think it came from?”

“Maybe it came from a sunken ship! It looks like it’s been in the ocean for a very long time.”

A sunken ship? Wow! Maybe it was a pirate ship. Or maybe even the Titanic! I wonder how long it really did take for this piece of glass to get so smooth, so soft, so beautiful…

And still the journey continues. The water is shallower now. More calm. More peaceful.
The little piece of glass, once so unyielding, is now so forgiving. Its beauty is borne of experience. Its shape is that of wisdom. Its story is etched on its surface, giving it dimension and personality and character. Ready to be discovered. Wondered at. Delighted in.

“Maga, let’s go home and play dominoes.”

“Sounds good. But you know I’m not just going to let you win. You won’t learn to play if I do.”

“I know, I know. But I think I’m going to win this time!”

We laughed as the waves rushed up to us, carrying sand crabs that tickled our feet as they plunged into the soft, wet sand. We were the beachcombers, triumphant in our quest. Mission accomplished and little pieces of history in our pockets. What treasures we had found! Driftglass. Gentle, soft, beautiful. Unique, brilliant, vibrant. Each with its own story. Found.

With one last thrilling ride, the driftglass rushes toward the white sand glittering in the sunlight like so many stars in the sky. As the water retreats, a sigh of relief. This is what it was meant for. For a time such as this. A strong, gentle hand reaches down, cradling the treasure in its palm. Smiling eyes delight in its beauty, its matchlessness, its radiance. A tender finger reads the story impressed into its surface. “Just what I was looking for,” says The Beachcomber in a great, kind voice. “I’ve been waiting for you. Welcome home.”

The Bitter Pill

19 Jun

Imagine you are the mother of a four year-old girl. 

 You are seven months pregnant with your second child, excited by the future of the growing family you and your husband are nurturing together.

 You have a promising career with the UN. 

 You come from a close-knit family.  You, your siblings and your parents all live near each other in the same city.

One day, you are widowed because a neighbor you have known for years murdered your husband.

The next day your parents are murdered by one of their neighbors.  Your siblings have gone missing.

Your entire world has turned into hell on earth.  Overnight.

Determined to survive for the sake of your children, you seek shelter in a hotel with others who share your experience of the last few days.  But the hotel is not the safe haven you expected it would be and becomes clear that you cannot give birth to your baby there.  They are targeting pregnant women at the hotel.  They take them and they kill them.  Slowly.

So you run.

The closest place of refuge is in a town 80 miles away.  You strap your daughter on your back and you walk.  Not on the roads, because the militia are everywhere.  You walk on uneven terrain.  You walk.  You hide.  You walk again.

Soon after, you reach the town, and just in time.  You welcome your second child, a baby boy, into an uncertain world with an uncertain future.

The joy you feel bringing a new life into the world is interrupted by more disturbing news.  Not far from this town over 50,000 people were killed in just two days.  The government told them to take shelter at a secondary school where they would be safe.  They would be protected.

But it was a lie.

And again you must run.

Your daughter becomes very ill along the way but it is too dangerous to seek help.  Then a man, a stranger, finds you hiding and offers to bring your daughter to the doctor and return her safely to you, with the medicine she needs to recover. 

You certainly can no longer rely on the kindness of those you know.  How can you rely on the kindness of a stranger?  Do you have another option?  In the light of the morning sun, you put your little girl in unfamiliar arms, praying to God to protect her because you have no other choice.

And then you wait.

Late that evening, you realize that even though you have not spoken to God in many years He was still listening for your voice.  He heard you.

The unfamiliar arms return with your daughter.  And with more than enough medication to make her well again.

This time you run across the border with some friends you meet who are also running.  One of your new friends knows a wealthy family who is housing refugees just across the border.

When you arrive at the family’s house with your children and your friends you are welcomed with open arms.  Once again you put your little family’s lives into the hands of strangers.  Once again, you have made the right choice.

For two weeks, they buy you dresses, clothes for your daughter and milk for your baby boy.  You feel safe, and for the first time in weeks, you feel loved.

One day the family sits with you and tells you the militia has heard of your hiding place.  You are no longer safe.  Soon they will come to attack your benefactors, your friends and you. 

However, the family has a plan for you and your friends.  They write a letter for you to take to a friend of theirs who lives further from the border.  Further from danger.

One more time, you run.

After many months, you return home to a country you no longer recognize.  Your family is shattered.  The course of your life, unrecognizable.  Yet in the midst of loss, of pain, of mourning, you understand the only way to move forward is through reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a bitter pill, but you know there is no other way to a future made whole.

So you hold your breath.  Close your eyes.

And swallow.

Your name is Chantal. 

You are a survivor.

You are loved by God.

 

 

 

Rwanda #3 – Processing

13 Mar

I just walked in the door of my beloved little house in beloved Franklin, TN.  I have about three entries in various stages of completion but I had to stop and process all that I experienced over the last ten days before I could finish any of them.  Stay tuned! In the meantime, my close friend Tivo and I have some catching up to do…