Paparazzi Prodigy?

13 May

Greyson Chance is 12 years old and is UH. MAZE. ING. Ellen even had him on her show today. Check him out!

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The Great Language Barrier

13 May

I love Japanese food. I was not, however, an immediate convert. The first time I was exposed to the exotic fare was in a funky little restaurant in Capitola Village that was situated directly under an enormous train trestle that spanned the San Lorenzo River. I was there with my mother, my younger stepbrother and another friend. I asked for pointers from my food senseis, but they assured me that I’d like nearly everything on the menu. Worry free, I perused the menu. After all, it all seemed harmless enough. For example, who doesn’t like teriyaki? It’s sweet. It’s salty. Everything you could ask for in fine cuisine. Even the California Roll was an intriguing combination. Especially because it had avocado in it. I love avocado. Mild, creamy and refreshing, I’ve even been known to make an avocado sandwich with nothing but bread, avocado and a thin layer mayonnaise.

I was eyeing the large hunk of avocado that was nestled aside the little delicate green plastic sheet cut to resemble one-dimensional blades of grass. Thinking the minty-colored morsel had broken free of the tightly rolled coil of seaweed, crab, cucumber and rice, I grinned from one side of my mouth. “I’ve got you now,” I whispered under my breath. Sneaking up from the rear, I awkwardly snatched up the rogue ingredient with my chopsticks and quickly deposited it on my tongue to savor the gentle flavor.

Imagine my surprise when the pretty pastel wad attacked with a ferocity I had never before experienced with any other edible substance. In my inexperience with cookery from the land of the rising sun, I mistook a nearly lethal amount of wasabi for my beloved avocado. Panic set in as the effects of the fiery substance spread from my tongue southward to my throat and northward to my unsuspecting nasal passages and tear ducts. It was as if my head had spontaneously combusted (a phenomenon with which I am a tad obsessed) yet I was still alive to experience every painful horrifying moment. The heat subsided within seconds but the memory is still enough to elicit a sweat moustache. Nobody else at the table had seen what I had done, but all six eyes were staring at me as I composed myself. “What did you do?” “Did you choke on something?” “Why are you so red?” “You’re sweating. Are you okay?”

Once I retraced my ill-fated steps there was a moment of silence, followed by an eruption of laughter that could only have been drowned out by a train crossing the great rusty steel structure overhead. It’s one of those stories still recounted at every family gathering. It’s not the only story about me to be added to the familial arsenal over the years (Heaven forbid we should forget the time when I was a pre-teen and tripped up my grandparents’ stairs holding the Thanksgiving pumpkin pies), but one of their favorites to be sure.

I’ve acquired a taste and a healthy respect for wasabi since that time. My family now eats Japanese food on a regular basis. Just tonight, my mom, whom Jacob and Andrew have lovingly renamed JuJu (her given name is Judi), was visiting from out of town and we took her to one of our favorite sushi spots. Jacob wanted some crayons so he could draw something, most likely a scene taken from his exciting other life in outer space. When the waiter arrived at the table to take our drink order, we all told him what we would like and then my mom asked for some crayons. “We have ah Sprite,” the waiter replied in his best broken English.

“No, I’m sorry. My grandson would like a crayon.”

“We only have ah Sprite,” responded the waiter again with a smile.

“No. A craaaay-onnnnnn,” responded JuJu patiently.

“Ahhhh, no. Only ah Sprite.”

“No, not a drink. A crayon. Something to draawwww with.”

There was no verbal response from our waiter. Only a forced yet pleasant smile and a slight nod. There was an uncomfortable silence, and then he walked away, half grinning and half gritting, showing just a little too much tooth. And JuJu was left at the table, forever crayonless and looking at us in disbelief. We were witness to a complete breakdown in communication. The great language barrier had reared its ugly head, leaving both parties confused, frustrated and unsatisfied.

We all fall victim to a great language barrier. Not like the kind in Babel or at the sushi bar that night, but the everyday kind that makes us feel alone. How many times do we reach out to another person, only to be disappointed? Feeling misheard. Unsatisfied. Yearning for a connection, only to be left with a puzzled look and a view of the back of someone’s shaking head. And how many times are we the one leaving the other person wanting more, not grasping what it was they were asking of us? Or perhaps not really caring. How many missed opportunities for relationship have we stupidly grinned our way through, simply agreeing to give up on each other, never giving or receiving that which is most dear to us. Acknowledgement. Respect. Love.

The next time you need a crayon, an encouraging word, or especially some advice on sushi condiments, just let me know. I’m here for you…

Pomplamoose’s “Telephone” Cover

12 May

It’s a great song anyway, but this cover is pretty amazing!

Soul Tattoo

12 May

I recently went through the process of hiring a new World Vision artist rep. All of the applicants were amazing, but @L_Bro was (and IS) the perfect fit.

I ended each interview with, “What is your motto, your mantra?” I wanted to know the adage by which they live their lives. The answers were very telling, very powerful. Some people struggled to answer the question and others gave an immediate response.

Then I asked myself the same question. What is the thing that little voice in my head whispers to me? What kind of internal direction/feedback do I give myself? What would I want tattooed on my body as a constant reminder of how to conduct myself?

I came up with two answers. The first was “Never let them see you sweat.” Not really tattoo worthy, but something that has served me well over the years. You will rarely see me lose my cool or fall apart. I tend to be steady as she goes on the outside, even if I may be FREAKING OUT on the inside.

The second answer was Micah 6:8, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” I think this is more of a challenge to myself, something to strive for. To be just, merciful and humble all at the same time is a delicate plate-spinning, flaming torch-throwing balancing act for me. I’m all about justice, but usually at the cost of mercy and humility. I know others who are merciful or humble, but sometimes at the cost of justice. To be all three…well, that is quite a feat for me.

So I’d love to know, what is YOUR mantra, your soul tattoo? (And if you were to ACTUALLY tattoo it on your body, I don’t need to know WHERE…)

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.

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.