"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

God’s Got My Playlist

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I love starting a new year.  The first few weeks of the year are filled with anticipation for getting a fresh start in life.  It’s like a brand-new notebook with blank pages to fill.  I love getting a new calendar and getting all my colored gel pens out and planning out my dreams for the year.  Things left unaccomplished the year before can be revisited; a new year always holds such promise for good things to come. 

Last summer, I had made plans to run a half marathon in the fall.  The MO Cowbell Race is the first half marathon I ever ran, and it’s held close to home.  For me training in the summer is a challenge because Missouri summers are hot and humid.  I started training in June, a few weeks before our summer vacation, and disappointingly, did not continue once we got back.  I was filled with good intentions and equally reasonable excuses—it was hot, I was too busy, I was lonely running by myself on long runs—crowned by my favorite, this year was just not my year for running.  My long runs on Sundays had been replaced with attending worship service with Mom in the nursing home with my dad.  I could not rise to the challenge of training because I convinced myself the timing was all wrong.

Fall came and went, and I put running aside.  A friend of mine texted me in early November asking if I had planned to do any spring half marathons.  She had just signed up to do the full marathon and hoped we could encourage and hold one another accountable.  I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit to it.  The holidays were on the horizon and I didn’t want to agree to something I couldn’t keep up with again. The fear of failure stymied me.  What if the timing wasn’t right in 2019 either?

Fast forward to the fresh page of January on the 2019 calendar.  After eating (and drinking) way too many calories over Christmas and New Year’s, the notes and pages of dreams and promises I was making for myself glared at me almost as harshly as the bathroom scale.  I missed my Saturday morning run that I’d planned because the bed felt much better than lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement.  It turned out to be a beautiful day, a rare 60-degree January day, and I spent it lazing around the house curled up with my thoughts and my notebook.  But instead of finding joy in my journaling and planning, the realization hit me that life happens whether you plan for it or not.  I can doodle my ideas in one hundred different colors, but that is all they are, ideas.  I was full of ideas, but unless I took action, they remained there on the pages on a notebook.  If I stumbled on this notebook in two years, would I be proud of what I did with those dreams?  Or would they serve as a reminder of when I thought the time was just not right?  What if there was no perfect time, and I just needed to suck it up and start doing instead of dreaming?  If I waited until I was ready I would never get started.

Determination brewed out of disappointment in myself, and Saturday night I laid out my running clothes, set my alarm and selected my “Getting Started Again” one-off workout on my running app.  My plan was to keep it simple—take my tried and true running route I always run when I’m trying to just get in the miles and not think too much.  But I couldn’t let it be too routine.  I didn’t want to fall too much into a routine I abandoned before.  My answer was a brand-new running playlist.

There are songs I always put on my running playlists, but I wanted to have some new ones to freshen it up a little.  In addition to my tried and true song additions, I added a few just because I liked the title, and hey, if Spotify thought it was a song I’d like, they were probably right.  This was a new season of training and I wanted to shake it up a bit.  My taste in music tends to run the gamut, so I never know if I’m going to hear cheesy pop, inspirational, classic rock or alt metal next during my run.  I went to sleep pleased with my plan and my newly-found motivation.

When I got up Sunday morning, I followed through with my plan and got myself out the door.  It was another gorgeous day for a run, and I started my slow trek up the street thinking that this would be the start to many weekend runs over the next few months.  My workout plan guidance barked out the walk/run intervals I’d set up the night before.  They weren’t overly ambitious, but I needed to feel like I could start at this place near the bottom and feel encouraged when I improved.  The first running interval, my lungs burned, and my knee wanted to protest, but I kept it up until the walk interval kicked in and saved me.     

My playlist was spot-on, too.  I was rounding the corner, starting on the third running interval, when one of the songs came on that I picked based on the title without ever hearing it before.  If I hadn’t been trying to keep up my pace, I probably would have stopped dead in my tracks, but I plodded on, listening in awe to the lyrics.  On a playlist with songs one would be more likely to find on Hair Nation or Ozzy’s Boneyard than Joy FM Christian radio, one of a handful of inspirational songs came on. It was called “Get Your Hopes Up” by Josh Baldwin.  I’d never heard the song or the artist before, and had added it on a whim.  The song lyrics began:

 Get Your Hopes Up*

I see the sun waking up in the morning

Reviving dreams

I feel the wind on my back with promise

Reminding me

There’s a garment of praise for heaviness

There’s a new song burning inside my chest

I’m living in the goodness that He brings.

Those words were exactly what I needed to hear.  I wanted to know that I wasn’t in it alone and that it was okay to aspire to things within times of uncertainty in my abilities and circumstances.  I wasn’t too old for new beginnings, and I wasn’t out of line to dream outside the box. I wanted validation, and a simple, randomly shuffled song on my playlist during a run was where I found it that day.  It went deeper than just the running, it was a rare moment that filled me with peace about where I was in my life in that very moment.  It’s only when doodles and thoughts on notebook pages become action that life happens, in spite of loved ones on Hospice, kids leaving home and getting older.

I have twelve weeks to get ready for this half marathon. This time I signed up to train with a running group on Saturday mornings so I can’t talk myself out of those long runs on the weekend.  Because I’m terrified of getting left behind somewhere unfamiliar on a group run, I know I’ll be working on keeping my pace up, too.  Nothing like a little peer pressure for motivation to not slack off. 

Oh, and a good playlist.  I have an awesome, eclectic playlist to keep me going that seems to have been divinely shuffled.  Everyone needs one of those.

*written by Josh Baldwin, Bobby Strand, Nate Moore, Tony Brown

© 2016 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP) / Bethel Worship Publishing (BMI) / Mouth of the River Music (BMI) (admin by Bethel Worship Publishing) / Tony Brown Music Designee (BMI) (admin by Bethel Worship Publishing). 


A Poem 50 Years in the Making

My brother turned 50 in April, and I decided to write him a poem for part of his present.  Don’t worry—I got him some tacky 50th Birthday gifts, too, to go along with this cheesy little ditty.



Kevin and I many moons ago. Judging by our faces, I’m guessing they might have startled us with a squeaky duck or something else equally ominous.


I know an old, old geezer

His birthdays more than mine by far

His foolish youth I still remember

And how he built me my first car


Now I can’t get sentimental

That just wouldn’t fly

Cuz my older brother’s

Just not that kind of guy (in public, anyway)


The Three Stooges still can make him laugh

As can Smoky and the Bandit

Buford T. Justice chasing that black Trans Am all around

The point?  I’ll just never understand it


But there are many things about him

No one really knows but me

Like when we were kids at Grandma’s

We each had claimed a maple tree


His grew up a little taller

Its branches higher up the trunk

While mine housed the homemade swing

Played on ‘til the sun had sunk


Like most older brothers

He liked to aggravate

From pulling off my Barbie’s heads

To stealing goodies off my plate


I never will forget the time

He wiped boogers on my wall

His made up lyrics of victory

Ensuring I would squall


But there were times aplenty

Partners in crime were we

Sneaking peeks at our Christmas gifts

Before they appeared under the tree


Easter around 1974


Growing up I idolized this goof

Wanting to be just like him

I even tried standing up to pee

Much to my mom’s chagrin


The music in his teenage years

Influenced me as well

.38 Special, ELO and Billy Squier

And of course, “Highway to Hell”


He still likes his fancy cars

And watching Cardinals on TV

He likes drinking nasty Natural Light

And plates with roast turkey


I’m glad I have a brother

Who taught me to be tough

A guy who likes to share his beer

And on the outside seems quite gruff


But you see I know another side

As sentimental as can be

And I hope that turning 50

Is an awesome memory

Happy Birthday, Kevin!



Kevin and his kids around 2001. I like this picture of him because it shows him smiling.

The Story of the Family Fiddle

It’s a fiddle. I can’t call it a violin because it has rattlesnake tails inside of it. Any self-respecting violin would not be found near a rattlesnake, but a fiddle would. (Betcha fiddles have more fun though.)

Growing up, I heard glowing tales of how Pappy, as my mom’s grandfather was called, had a priceless Stradivarius violin. I had fleetingly wondered how an expensive violin found its way to a farming family in rural northern Arkansas, but did not question it. After all, it was well-known that my great grandfather had been a talented musician who “could play anything that had strings.” Sadly, this is not a genetic trait passed onto me—I have to be satisfied just to be a great appreciator of music.

The story, which I’ve heard in various bits and pieces, was that he got the instrument from a Sears and Roebuck catalog back in the day. (Can you see why I questioned it being a Stradivarius?) I’m thinking it had to be in the 1920s sometime, because it had to be before the Depression, but after my grandfather was born in 1915. In today’s world we’d find it in the marked down section because it had some sort of cosmetic flaw or something was broken on it, and Pappy was able to fix it. I’m not exactly sure how that worked with catalog orders back then, so I wonder if there’s some mixing up of stories there. Or maybe he actually got it from a store in town and not a catalog.

In any event, he used his excellent carpentry skills to make it just like new. In addition to being able to play any instrument, Pappy could build anything, too. When I was a kid I remember there was a porch swing he made from a boxcar that had been broken up in a train derailment. In talking to my mom’s cousin, Ruth, it sounds like the swing I thought it was wasn’t the same one, so I’m not sure whatever happened to it.

Somewhere along the line, rattlesnake tails were added to the violin. My grandpa always said it had been done because doing so supposedly gave the instrument a better tone. Out of curiosity I looked it up to see if that was a prevalent thought, and it turns out that some people do believe it makes the sound sweeter. Other reasons for putting in the tails were for good luck, and my favorite, it kept rodents like mice from making a home inside of the violin. I like to think it made for a lucky, great- sounding instrument.

Ruth said that back in the day in a rural area such as Rector, Arkansas, people would go to each other’s houses and play music on Saturday night.   Another of Mom’s cousins, Steve, who is related through my grandmother’s side of the family, said that Grandpa and Grandma’s fathers would play the violins while others in their group played guitar. When I look closely at the neck of the violin, I can easily see the worn places where Pappy’s fingers held down the strings. I can picture in mind these get-togethers of neighbors, singing and having fun together on a Saturday night and it makes me smile.

Pappy is on the right, his brother Harry is on the left.  I can definitely see the family resemblance with my Grandpa Long and his dad.

Pappy is on the right, his brother Harry is on the left. I can definitely see the family resemblance with my Grandpa Long and his dad.

At my parent’s house somewhere, there’s another of Pappy’s instruments—a banjo he got in a bar fight. This story goes that the “country boys” were in the bar playing music, when some “city boys” decided they were going to show the country boys how things were done and a fight broke out. It ended when one of Pappy’s friends, the banjo player, broke his banjo over one of the city boy’s heads, nearly killing him. His friend took off after that, and apparently Pappy helped him get out of town on a train before he was lynched, promising him that he’d fix his banjo and give it back to him when he returned. He never came back for the banjo.

Ruth told me that by the time she knew him, Pappy’s playing days were behind him. He hurt his elbow hopping off a freight train and could no longer play. In her memories, as well as photos of him he had a bent arm that he held close to his body. I find it a strange coincidence that my mom also holds her arm in next to her body—her doing so as the result of a stroke, not from jumping off a train.

About a month ago, my parents came over to give me Pappy’s violin. My mom was so excited to share it with me. I wanted to learn all that I could about it. As I suspected, although labeled a “Stradivarius”, it was not a violin worth much in monetary value. The Stradivarius name was used by everybody, and from what I can tell it was more of a student version of the instrument. Not that it matters to me—I wouldn’t sell it. The sentimental value of a family heirloom that was once treasured so much means more to me than what it would sell for.

I’m planning to take it to a gentleman who builds and restores string instruments. But only if he promises not to smooth out those spots where the finish is worn from where Pappy’s fingers once pressed the strings. Oh, and I’m keeping the rattlesnake tails too. After all, no self-respecting fiddle would be without them.

Guest Post: Tyler’s Class Project

So Tyler and his buddies had to make a video for his speech class.  What makes me laugh–more than the actual video content–is that Tyler has my warped sense of humor.  If you’re watching this, and you don’t know our family, you will most likely be unimpressed.  After all, I’m a blogger Mom basically posting my kid’s artwork on the fridge.  But listening to his friends while they were videoing it, and hearing their “logic” behind it, I just saw a sliver of my goofiness in him.  The ability to be a bit ridiculous and actually bask in the silliness of it all. Tyler’s the Richard Simmons-like guy in the short shorts and Bro shirt.

When I told him I wanted to put his video on the blog, I figured he’d be appalled, but he was actually pleased.  So here’s Tyler in his acting debut.  A non-politically correct way of dealing with bullies.  By the way, I posted his senior pic below so you can see him as the savvy business-looking dude he’ll be someday.  I am Mom, after all.

Boss Man T

Boss Man T

B-Sides and Angry White Man Music

Joe and the Boys back in the day...

Joe and the Boys back in the day…

Last week Tyler and his friend stopped by the house for a bit around lunchtime. Before they left, he told me that they had been listening to CDs that I’d made on the computer that they’d found in Darrell’s old car that Tyler drives. Apparently his friend was surprised that the music on the CDs was mine. Tyler said, “Yeah, we call my mom’s music Angry White Man Music”. I had to laugh because he actually said it with a little bit of pride. Personally, I can be a little self-conscious about my taste in music because it doesn’t seem very cultured or Mom-like.

For example, not too long ago we were at a get together at our friend’s house and the subject turned to music and old 80s bands, which I love to talk about. I can’t even remember exactly what or who we were discussing, but it was probably along the lines of what bands some musicians had bounced around between and what they were up to now. After a while I looked around and realized that all the women were gathered in the kitchen, while I was in the living room with all the guys. I’m guessing women who are sports enthusiasts experience that kind of thing a lot, but I felt like I’d breached some kind of social etiquette even though they’re all good friends of ours and they love me anyway.

Back in my high school days, when everyone else loved Madonna and Michael Jackson, I was listening to Dokken, Triumph, Whitesnake and hair bands. It was just weird to people that a girl would prefer heavy metal—at least at my high school. (Clarification: what was called heavy metal in the 80s was not speed or death metal like it references more today. I think now it’s classified as “hard rock” and some even labeled—gasp—classic rock). I tried to like the pop stuff, and some I did listen to, but it wasn’t my go-to genre. I think a lot of girls did like the type of music I did, but a lot of them were the groupie types that just liked the bad boy images of the bands. I was not a groupie—I truly liked the music and loved learning the stories of the bands. Although I’ll admit I secretly thought someday I’d meet Joe Elliott from Def Leppard and sweep him off his feet. Good thing that didn’t happen.

Looking back, I think it had a lot to do with my attitude and personality in high school. I didn’t fit into any of the particular “groups” in high school, but I had friends in each of them. I was an Honor Roll student, but I wasn’t intellectual enough to fit in with the Brains. I certainly wasn’t in with the Jocks or Popular Crowd. I wasn’t a Rebel, but I was friends with a lot of kids who were considered a part of that group, even though they really weren’t once you knew them. (Just typing these labels makes me laugh a little—and think of The Breakfast Club.) To me, my taste in music only solidified my identity in that I didn’t really have to like everything that all the kids my age did. Oooh, what a rebel I was!

Before high school, I remember listening to entire albums and always liking the other songs, the B-sides, more than the hits. The B-side of one of my Blondie 45s back in third grade was a song called Suzy and Jeffrey, which I listened to much more than Rapture. And when we got our 8-track tape player in the living room, you were kind of forced to listen to the whole album, or at least how it got divided up into four quarters. If the song you liked was the second song on Track 2, you could push the button to cycle back to Track 2, but you most likely had to listen to the song before it if it wasn’t the first one on the track. And what a shame it was when a song got cut up into two separate tracks!

Today, I have to explain to my kids what a B-side on a 45 was. They know CDs of course, but they mostly download all their music on their phones or iPods. Consequently, I think they miss out on a lot of great tunes because they mostly only download the songs they hear on the radio, and not the entire album. If I were a recording artist that would make me a little sad, because songs that are considered commercial successes by the record companies aren’t always a musicians’ most favorite, heartfelt work. While I’m sure they cry all the way to the bank, it would be discouraging to me to know that my personal masterpiece is buried on an album where only a few people bother to listen to it.

Almost 30 years and three kids later, my favorite satellite radio station is Hair Nation. But I’ve branched out a lot since then—if you look at my iPod you’ll find everything from Alan Jackson singing church hymns to Avenged Sevenfold. Still probably a little light on the pop, but now when I hear those pop songs from the 80s that I got so sick of back then I love them, because they bring back great memories. And they’re much better than I remember.

Nowadays, I like a lot of what’s considered alternative rock bands, like Rise Against and the Offspring. I love to listen to my “Angry White Man Music” when I’m running or working out for obvious reasons. And I confess I’m the Mom who has to be careful what’s playing with the kids in the car. I don’t want one of their friends to report to their parents the lyrics of Panic at the Disco’s I Write Sins Not Tragedies after I take them to Girl Scout camp! I have found some great Christian bands like Kutless, Thousand Foot Krutch and Skillet so I can get the rock sound with more uplifting lyrics at least. Still, when the time comes for me to hit the Retirement Home, I hope they play Breaking Benjamin at the parties instead of Justin Bieber. I’m sure I’ll be in good company, right?

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