Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29, 2013: R+R=R&R...


Rest + Relaxation = Recharged & Revved up!

Hope y'all had a happy and holy Christmas filled with joy, love, and wonder.  I say wonder because I saw wonder on two fronts, and they were through the eyes of children.

Thank God for children.

The wonder was on the secular front with Santa and on the sacred front with Jesus.  See, both Christmas stories require an essential ingredient, and it's the word that the conductor punches into the boy's ticket in Polar Express…


Neither story has any magic or power in it if you don't believe.

If you DO believe, however, the season is MAGICAL.  The expectation on both fronts creates an anticipation that is palpable in children.  I saw it at church in front of the advent wreath, and while the children rehearsed for their Christmas Eve Pageant, and I saw it at home in front of the Christmas tree.  Preparations were in order, and a level of conscious awareness of "naughty or nice" was heightened.

It was a magical experience TIMES TWO!

Last week was a blast; we spent time with both Ang's family and mine, and Ang and I even got a day and a half on our own thanks to my parents.  We just got home tonight, and Ang and I return to work tomorrow.

I am really excited about 2014!  Life is such a gift.  I mean, think about it.  We have the ability to look at the coming year as a blank slate on which we can create a MASTERPIECE.  We can dig in and work hard at solving big problems, little problems, math problems, boy problems, and anything in between.  Want to fund breakthroughs in science, technology, biology?  No problem.  Want to fund micro loans to farmers in developing countries to help them break free from a cycle of poverty by starting their own businesses?  No problem.  Want to fund a well that will supply clean water to an entire village in Africa?  No problem.

We can do ANY of these things we want.

Man, we are so lucky.

One new venture for me this next year is that I'm partnering with a longtime colleague to teach business skills to clinicians so they can stay in business, make more money, and help more people.

What are YOU going to conquer/accomplish/obliterate/solve/create/provide in 2014?  Post something inspiring below and let's create a DREAM /VISION WALL for the new year!  See you in the beauty.

God night.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013: A light blue Christmas...

Ali's awesome hair for her dress rehearsal of the church Christmas musical…

… and from the front…

First time in a booster and first time rocking the straw!

One of the greatest and best pictures of all time…

Not to be outdone by this one… from mommy's company's "winter open house " (PC for Christmas Party)


Ironically, despite all those hilarious and uplifting pics, I'm writing about a heavy subject, but a subject that none of us escapes.  


I want to start off with an AWESOME quote from Pastor Randy Hill from Healing Heart Ministries in Hunting Beach, CA.  Pastor Hill and I worked the annual remembrance service for Fairhaven Memorial Park two weeks ago.  I led christmas carols and accompanied a soloist on Silent Night, while Pastor Hill gave the sermon.  Here is the quote:

"Great grief is not a sign of poor faith."

It was nestled into the middle of a paragraph of thoughts that Pastor Hill was sharing, and it just jumped out "in bold print" (aurally speaking) at me.  I approached him afterward to make sure I got it right, because it was so profound.  I know I have written about grief before, and I seems like a distant memory at this point, but unfortunately grief itself is not a distant memory.  

Christmas remains bittersweet.  Ali picked out a pair of fabulous socks to put in Bella's stocking today.  Going into the baby aisle at the store and looking at the cute little girl socks and reaching up and picking the ones Ali wanted caused pangs of pain in my chest.  There remains the duality of grief and joy, ever-present.  Missing Bella and delighting in Ali and Julian - simultaneously.  

I was greatly comforted by this quote.  It reminded me that the game is not to try to use some strategy to avoid grief; grief is unavoidable.  It reminded me that grief and faith don't necessarily have any relationship, direct or inverse.  It ISN'T true that "the more faith you have, the less you'll grieve."  And… It's also NOT true that "the more faith you have, the more you'll grieve."  They're just not related at all.  

I think people who think that they have faith and yet find themselves beset by grief may be confused by their own despair… like it's a sign of weakness in their faith armor or something.  This is when the dreaded and useless "Shoulds" can kick in.  Like, "I don't understand, I should be feeling better, after all (my loved one) is in a better place."  or the flip side, "What's the matter with me?  I shouldn't be so selfish and upset, (my loved one) is with God now."  

Or worse, once the shock of the loss wears off, we may feel worse than when we initially found out about the loss.  Then what do we do?  Is our faith slipping?  

Circling back to Pastor Hill and the event where we met… it was a free community event in this beautiful old church that is built as a miniature cathedral… like totally to scale, but maybe only fits a couple of hundred people.  The service was offered over two nights, and both nights, the church was packed; packed with people who had lost a loved one and needed to mourn over the holidays.  Fairhaven Memorial Park, being as awesome as they are, has filled this need for 17 straight years now, and I felt really privileged to minister to so many people that I would otherwise never intersect with.  

They had a "roll call" where you could fill out a form about your loved one, and they would read their name and the small details about them… like a micro-ulogy, and a family member could come up and collect an ornament to hang on your Christmas tree at home in remembrance of that person.  I thought it was so sweet.  When I asked the lady about the forms, she said, "Would you like me to fill one out for you?"  (She didn't realize I was working there) and I said, "Yes."  I gave her Bella's info, and when she asked me what did I want her to be remembered for, I replied, "for inspiring the world."

During the role call, my job was to play gentle instrumental guitar in the background.  They told me it would be about 15 minutes, so I prepared a 3 song medley that is roughly that long.  As I was playing, I heard Bella's name called, and the man reading recited what I asked them to say.  The tears came as I played my guitar…

… know what song number 3 in the medley is?

"Bella's Song"

"Bella's Song" began as an instrumental piece, and for a long time, I played it that way to Bella while she was still in the womb, and it was only with Ang's encouragement that I finally set lyrics to it, with her and Ali's help.  So, it was a bittersweet moment to be playing her song while we remembered her… none of the people there knew who she was, and none of them knew the song I was playing, but she and I knew what was happening.  The event coordinator who hired me for the service was very sweet; when the service was over, she walked right up to me with an ornament stretched out in front of her and gave me a big old hug.  I really appreciated that acknowledgement.  She knew my story, and while she didn't recognize the song, she recognized a daddy who was missing his little girl.  A lot.  

Great grief is not a sign of poor faith.  

It's a sign of deep love.  

Wear your grief proudly.  Feel it deeply.  You've earned it.  You've risked it all and loved.  

For if you haven't loved, you haven't lived.

Merry Christmas and God night.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15, 2013: SHOUTING TO THE ROOFTOPS...


This post is a straight up honor and shout out to Christie Zink.

Christie is the Relationship Manager at PUCK, and an absolute Saint-in-Progress.

Christie organized and managed a fundraising event in Minnesota yesterday called Wings of Hope to continue to support Dr. Tolar's research to find a safe, effective, systemic treatment for severe EB.  There were 50 guests, and from the photos I've seen on Facebook (thank you to Trisha Knuth, Vanessa Delgado, SooAnn Roberts Pisano, and Amanda Clark Pfeiffer for posting pics!), it looks like it was totally warm, fuzzy, yummy, moving, inspiring, and every other juicy word I can think of.  Not only that, but it looks like, thanks to an unbelievably generous matching grant, more money was raised at this single event than at any PUCK event to date.

Christie, I don't know where you find the time or energy, but you are just about the most passionate person I know, and I am so honored to work with you and I am so inspired by your commitment to Dr. Tolar cracking the code and delivering a treatment to this amazing community of EB families.  We both know that it is SO much bigger than that, though.  We KNOW that this line of treatment has the potential to open doors of treatment to so many more than just those with EB.  It's bigger than any of us.  Thanks for being able to see the view from that high elevation, and still able to get right down into the trenches of the tiniest and thoughtful details.

Thank you for all you do… not just what you do, but how you do it.  You have a GIGANTIC heart that is LITERALLY overflowing with love.  It spills out onto all whom you touch.  It is humbling to witness.  All of us who are lucky enough to know you are better men, women, and children for it.

I just returned home from a seminar that I first attended 3 years ago at this time to learn how to share Bella's journey from the stage and raise money and awareness for Dr. Tolar's work.  In 2010 and 2011, I was given the opportunity to speak on this stage in front of 600 other speakers, authors, and entrepreneurs by the generous host, James Malinchak.  Yesterday, I got to sit in the lobby and report to one friend I met there 3 years ago that Dr. Tolar has received over a million dollars in funding for EB since he and I first met.  Who cares how much was given by whom, that's not the point.  The point is that the Dr. who is breaking new ground in EB research for severe EB has the funds he needs to stay on course and 'stay in business.'

The reason I mention that is because there was another guy there this weekend who also ran a small charity, and in that same time period, went out of business.

Thanks to people like Christie Zink, I don't go to bed worrying about that happening to Dr. Tolar's EB lab anymore.

God night, and God bless you, Christie.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013: God Has a Plan… right?

Catching a little "Polar Express" before bed time.  Ali has her "Polar Express" hot chocolate mug in her hand from when we went on it in Colorado… and yep, it's full of hot chocolate!

Happiest kid in California on his tricycle…


"Don't be afraid, God has a plan." 

- lyric from  one of the songs from Ali's Christmas pageant.

I think that might have been the essence of my last post.  However, I have to confess, sometimes I wonder.  I try to wrap my brain around the massive possibility that in all of this madness called life, there is a master conductor above it all, weeping, laughing, and cheering at all of it.  Hard to imagine, right?  I laugh at the audacity of even attempting to imagine it in the first place!

I am reminded of the conversation God had with me back in Minnesota. I'll try to recall it for you.  I'm pretty sure I've shared it before, so it might not be verbatim, but it'll be close.

I was sitting on my morning bench in the park reading all the comments from y'all, and praying for the day I was about to face in the PICU, when God simply said, "I'm taking her home."

"You're WHAT?" I replied.

"I'm taking her home."  He repeated.

"WHAT???  Seriously?!  You didn't just send us all the way here to MN, you didn't send us ALL THE SIGNS to come here… only to take her home!?"  I retorted.

"Look down at the sidewalk." God instructed.

"Okay."  I looked down.

"See the ants going back and forth in the crack?"  A highway of red ants were galloping back and forth in the groove between the two pieces of sidewalk.


"Are they in the same reality as you are?"


"I mean, if you stepped on them, would you impact their reality?"


"Now look up."

 I looked up, and saw the downtown Minneapolis skyline through a break in the tree line.

"Can the ants see what you see?"

I looked back down.  "No."

I got the point.  Just as the ants couldn't see what I could see from their vantage point, I couldn't see what God could see from His vantage point.  I just had to trust.

That was some of the heaviest lifting - spiritually speaking - I've ever had to do.  However, the stakes were SO HIGH, that there was no illusion of controlling her life.  I HAD to turn her life over to God.  Faith and trust in a plan were actually easier for me to employ in that circumstance than in the day-to-day busy-ness that I find myself in these days.

I'll also confess that I have been really reluctant to "try on" faith and trust again.  Here's where I get tripped up, and PLEASE tell me if you can relate to this.  I "have faith" that God will do… my will - not His.  I got tripped up and "burned" in MN because I was praying for my will, not His.

You know what I just realized for the first time?

It may be semantics, but I resist the idea of "God's Will."  Why does God need a will?  He is the almighty all-everything, right?  What could He possibly need/want? Still, when contrasting the phrase "God's Will" with "God has a Plan," I find myself gravitating toward the second phrase… somehow I feel less like a pawn and more like a partner.  Hahaha, once again, there goes my ego… partnering with God.  STILL… part of me wants that kind of relationship… Co-creating as some call it.  Maybe there is some level of partnership available, AND there is a level God hangs out at that is simply too tall to grasp… like the ants trying to see downtown.  There's probably a good song title, book title in there…

The Ants Can't See Downtown, and You Can't See God's Plan… So You Just Gotta Trust.

Don't think that one is making it onto the empowering/inspirational self-help shelf any time soon, but hey, you never know!


God night.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1, 2013: Happy Thanksgiving!


Hope all y'all stateside had a happy Thanksgiving!  We drove out to Phoenix to spend the weekend with my mom and her husband Ralph.  They throw a great Thanksgiving dinner… I'd drive to Phoenix for Ralph's stuffing any day frankly!  Anyhow, we overcame the urge to try to cram in a bunch of visiting with friends as well, and just made one quick stop in to a friend's home on the way out of town to see their new baby.  The rest of the time, we were pretty successful at NOT scheduling anything and letting the mood drive our plans.

What a nice change from the past.

We used to book a lunch with this person, coffee with that couple, and dinner with this family, et cetera, and it would wear us out.  Cheers to slowing down and enjoying leisurely walks with mom's springer spaniel, Max.  Cheers to enjoying a beer on the back patio with Ralph while the ladies shopped.  Cheers to sleeping in.  Cheers to leftovers.  Cheers to watching Ali sew on Nanny's sewing machine.  Life is good.

On the ride out and back, we listened to Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, "David and Goliath."  I've read all his other books, and his formula is beginning to become a little predictable for me, but there are some interesting stories in this one (like all his books).

Here's my question for you, and please honor the community here with your comments if you will…

"What single thing are you NOW thankful for, that when it happened, you never imagined you would be?"

For me, it's probably pretty obvious:

Bella having EB.  So many people's lives have been powerfully, positively, and permanently impacted by her journey, and I only dare say that because they tell us.  It is an honor to be her daddy, and her storyteller.  I struggle A LOT with some pretty heavy self doubt, and she gave me a gift by being our daughter.  I had to "show up" as caregiver, wound care expert, daddy, advocate, etc. day after day, and in that journey, I became someone I didn't think I could.  I didn't think I "had it in me," and now that I know I do, I have a lot of confidence in being a bad ass daddy for Julian and Ali for the rest of their lives and mine.

Several times a week, I experience some sort of anxiety or terror inside at the prospect that somehow I'm a grown up now and am somehow supposed to have answers for my kids, when I still feel like a kid walking around in a grown up's body (trying to) fool the world that I'm really not just an overgrown 8 year old.

Bella gave me a chance to dispel all that disempowering chatter.  I could have blown it, I could have run, I could have fallen apart, I could have shrank, but as it turned out, I didn't.  In those times of dark self doubt, I can look back and see who I really was when the chips were down.  Crisis can really reveal a lot about a person.  Watching the way Angelique showed up, day after day, watching the grace Bella showed day after day, inspired me to have the best version of myself show up every day as well.

Best line from Gladwell's new book?

"Courage isn't some thing that you already have, that makes you brave when the tough times start.  Courage is what you EARN, when you've been through the tough times and discover that they aren't so tough after all."

There are still scars and sadness in my heart on multiple levels from the journey, but I am thankful for the scars.  Bella helped me see that I can be more than my doubts.

Yet if I could just wave a magic wand and entertain one fantasy, it would be to have all three kids together at the same time… here.  I would love to see Ali loving all over both her younger siblings as she is a love machine to Julian and was to Bella.  I'd love to see Bella giggling and laughing her big belly laugh at Julian, and Julian smiling his giant grin at her and hugging her.  It's so cute when he says, "HI ALI!" when he sees her in the morning.  The genuine excitement in his voice is just adorable.  What I would give to hear him blurt out, "HI BELLA!"

Still, while I go to bed tonight with a sad heart, I am still thankful for ALL OF IT.

God night.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25, 2013: The Cat is Finally Out of the Bag...


Sorry I missed you on Sunday; I didn't get in from Jacksonville till about 11pm, and I was up since  3am, so I basically set the coffee machine, brushed my teeth, and collapsed into bed.  Then, last night, I sat down to write this, but got totally sucked into "The Blacklist."  I'll tell you more about Jacksonville in a minute… let me get to the real juice.

Ang has been on a secret agent mission for Verizon Wireless since January code named "Atlas." Verizon Wireless made a bold decision to completely redesign their 'destination stores,' which are their flagship stores nationwide.

So, if you ever saw her flying to Philly on Facebook, she was flying into a factory building where they built a complete replica of their new store inside… a building inside a building… so no competitors would see what they were up to.

If you saw her flying to Houston on Facebook… yup, that was Atlas store redesign.

If you saw her flying to Minneapolis on Facebook, yup, that was store number one… Mall of America.

The day finally came last week when the curtains were opened up, the red carpet was rolled out, and Verizon Wireless unleashed the next generation of their stores, and it was AWESOME for all there.  Not only was Selena Gomez their first customer, but Verizon threw a private concert for all the employees that worked their butts off launching this massive project that featured Train and Owl City, and Angelique was in the front row!

Pretty awesome.  So, if you live in the twin cities, make sure to head to MOA to see the new store.  Ang's job was to create the blueprint for the overall training experience, and to manage the curriculum development team that put it all together.

My wife is kind of a big deal.  :-)

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, FL, the American Music Therapy Association held its annual national conference last week.  Usually around 1200 or so music therapists attend, making it the largest gathering of music therapists in the country each year.  Hundreds of classes are taught in the form of pre-conference institutes, workshops, and concurrent sessions.  About 80 vendors come to share their wares in the exhibit hall, and all the committees and assemblies and regional boards all meet to do business to help advance the profession.

The view from over the river of where conference was held…

For me, as a regional president-elect, I have to attend, but even without my participation on the regional board, I'd never miss conference.  I live for it.  I work by myself, and as an extrovert, I am not only energized when around others, but increasingly so when around other music therapists.  After all, their my people!  LOL.  There were many highlights this time around, and it could be said that it was the best conference I've attended.  I taught a 5 hour work shop, and gave two concurrent sessions, one 60-minute, and one 90-minute.  Between the three classes, I probably taught about 150 music therapists business and personal development skills to empower them not only in their own careers, but I also taught a student-specific class that had about 80 college students in it.

However, the professional highlight was when the Executive Director of the AMTA gave her plenary address, and within the first five minutes of it, acknowledged me for my TEDx talk, and had me stand to receive a round of applause from her… and my roughly 1,199 peers in the hall at the same time.  It meant so much to be acknowledged like that.  I was so lucky to be given the opportunity to give a TEDx talk; I was just giving a talk at an event where the TEDx organizer was in attendance, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I look up to so many of my colleagues, and to be recognized by them for a job well done in advocating for music therapy (the video has been viewed just under 15,000 times on the YouTube channel and who knows how many times it was viewed when it was on the AMTA's home page for 3 months earlier this year), well, that just about made my heart burst.

Our Executive Director, Dr. Andi Farbman on stage…

So, all of that is great for Ang and me, but NONE of it would be possible without grandma and grandpa.  Rodger and Carolyn Rhinehart by name, they are the glue that keeps this family together as mommy and daddy attempt to balance simultaneous career growth with family cohesion.  Angelique and I are so lucky to have them just 30 minutes from us, and Ali and Julian are so lucky to have a regular relationship with their grandparents.  Neither Ang nor I got to grow up with regular interactions with our grandparents.  The relationships they are building just warm Ang's and my heart.  There is so much love going on in both directions, and our crazy schedule creates lots of opportunities for interaction! LOL.  We are very lucky in life, and as we roll into Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for Ang's parents, for once again, without them, I don't even know how we'd keep it all together.  We love you grandma and grandpa!

God night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013: Calm Before the Storm...


Yesterday was one of those days that was like the eye of the storm for us.

Angelique got home from a business trip Friday evening, and leaves again tomorrow morning.  She'll be back Thursday, but I leave on Wednesday on my next trip (thank GOD once again for grandma!). Both trips represent kind of a 'professional climax' for each of us, and it's interesting that they are the first business trips of the year that overlap.  We've been amazingly lucky to get this far into the year without this happening yet.

Angelique's trip, well, I'll be able to tell you more about it next week.  The details of it are kinda top secret, so I'll fill you in soon.  I'm heading (back) to Jacksonville for the American Music Therapy National Conference.  I am teaching three courses/sessions there: a 5 hour class, a 90 minute class, and a 60 minute class, plus attending numerous meetings as the regional President-Elect, PLUS launching something rather top secret myself. :-)  Uff da.  That's a lot of stuff between Ang and me.

SO… yesterday was our day to really unwind and be in total kid mode.  First, Ali asked me if I would take her to "Princess Ballet" class, since mommy had taken her the first two times.  She wanted me to see her in action.  No problem.  Well, let me tell you, that girl was IN HER ELEMENT.  At the beginning of class, each student gets a pair of fairy wings, a tiara, and a magic wand… gear we already have at home, of course, so donning any of it was/is second nature to La Princessa Alessandra.  I asked her to come to the door for me to snap a quick pic to capture the moment, and this pose was all her, with no prompting…


Next, it was onto "A Day Out With Thomas (the train)."

We hopped in the family minivan and drove out the the bustling metropolis of Perris (not Paris), California.  There is a train museum out there and they had a whole fair set up with a full size, real life Thomas the tank engine pulling a line of (random) coaches down the track about a half a mile and back through a pretty, well, run down neighborhood.  But forget all that, because with children, the imagination is a powerful thing, so for every functioning or nonfunctioning train we saw, we thought of the train in the Thomas world that it most resembled and we called it that, and you know what?  It worked like a CHARM, baby!  Both Ali and Julian were fully invested in the trains.  It was super cute.

Then, being not too far away from some dear friends of ours, we headed over to their house to see their baby for the first time and eat some grub.  We had a wonderful dinner, and their daughter and Ali HIT IT OFF with their common love of all things princessy… apparently, she is usually around boys all the time, so to have a girl come over and want to play dress up was a pretty amazing thing!  It was great to see our friends, and so sweet to hold a 5 month old baby again!  All you parents know what I mean… once your kid is 30 pounds (or more) of non-stop action, a little tiny baby is just DELICIOUS to snuggle with! LOL.

In other random news, Ali and I planted this morning glory plant from a hand full of seeds in a pot over the summer.  Can’t remember when specifically, but a lot of work went in to cultivating those little seeds.  A lot of work went on “underground/behind the scenes” before we saw about a dozen little sprouts in our pot.  Then, they grew up this little structure we placed in the pot to help them climb.  When they reached the top, I transplanted the lot of them into the ground and prayed they’d survive the move.  Then, they started dying out, but one sprout kept going, and it caught on to the big lattice I placed behind it.  It grew slowly, delicately, and I was a good steward, re-routing the vine back and forth across the lattice.  The vine grew, and the leaves grew, but for the longest time, no flowers.

This photo is what I woke up to this morning.  It is POPPING and EXPLODING!  It’s what Ali and I envisioned all those months ago, and it’s beautiful.

Life is busy, and while life may be full of wonderful things, there are many things a lot less than wonderful that happened this week to friends, family, colleagues, and members of the EB community.  It was a tough week with a lot of loss.  The EB community lost another BMT patient 5 months post transplant; our thoughts and prayers are with his family along with all those who just got hit by tornadoes today, and of course the typhoon in the Philippines.  It's just impossible to make sense of it all, and I'm again reminded of how temporary and fragile life is.  So please, while you have one (a life) LIVE IT UP… don't just survive.  You and I have this precious GIFT.  Enjoy it with a healthy dose of gratitude.  Let your living life to the max be a tribute to those who have lost this gift.

God night.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10, 2013: Happy Tenth Anniversary!


Friday marked Ang's and my 10-year wedding anniversary!

Where did the time go?  I'm sure many of you can relate to that question, right?  There was a special on H2 last night about the White House, and former alternative icon Henry Rollins was the host, and MAN DID HE LOOK O-L-D.  It was really depressing, because I used to be a HUGE fan of his back in the '90's… of course the '90's were as many as TWENTY years ago already.  Sheeesh…. Ang and I started dating 4 years before we got married, so we actually were dating in the '90's! LOL.

Anyway, grandma watched the kids while we went out for a nice dinner full of uninterrupted conversations!  Isn't that just the best?

Compared to so many couples we look up to, 10 years isn't much at all, but it's still an accomplishment, right?  It honestly doesn't feel like 'an accomplishment,' though, and here's why… when you're shooting for 50, 10 is just getting started. ;-)  Seriously, we are lifers… so no one issue, challenge, accomplishment or event feels that big or significant when looked through that lens.  It takes a lot of pressure off, frankly!  Being a recovering perfectionist, it allows me to make a mistake and not beat myself up over it, and it allows Ang to make a mistake and me not obsess over it.  I like that a lot.  Point is, keeping a big picture, we laugh a lot...  at each other,  at ourselves, and DEFINITELY at the kids.  We'll probably pay for that someday, but it's funny now!

Have I ever shared my song, "Marriage Advice (Yes, Boss!)" on here?  Perhaps tonight would be perfect!  I more or less spontaneously wrote this song at a campfire on the island of Kauai on the night of September 8, 2007, having been the officiant at my close buddy and his wife's wedding that day on the beach of Hanalei Bay.  It's one big goof, and it may be a little hard to picture without me singing it, because it is pretty idiosyncratic, but here goes.  The nylon sting guitar strums in a minor i-iv-V chord progression that evokes a certain "Besame Mucho" vibe…

You think you know how to keep her happy
and always right by your side
You think you have a plan, but you don't even
understand how to turn the tide back in your…. [spoken] back in your favor!

So I'm gonna share a big secret with you
one that will help you out
now that you're hitched for life there is no doubt 
that sometime in your future
These two words…. [spoken] will really come in handy!

YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!

"Honey take out the garbage for me please?!"
"Will you rub my feet?"
"Buy me a new house a new SUV"
"Or something from Tiffany's"
To match the 3 rings…. [spoken] you know…. 

1. the engagement ring
2. the wedding ring
3. and THE SUFFERING!  Ohhhhhh!

YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!

Now we have come to the end of my song
I hope that it helped a bit
It's best if you just hand your (male genitalia) right to her
it will help you to sit
Sit on the bench…. [spoken] the bench outside that really expensive boutique in the mall where she'll be shopping for three hours with your credit card the next time you screw something up!

YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!
YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!


And with that sage wisdom, feel free to pass that song on to the men in your life.

God night!

Fresh from a bath and bandage change, Bella lobotomizes to either Baby Einstein or Mickey Mouse...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3, 2013: Transcendence...

And on the 7th day… daddy worked is BUTT OFF! LOL...


What exactly is transcendence?

How do you know when you've experienced it?

It is a one-time-thing, or can you "make the jump to light speed" many times?

Transcendence is a word that I have been wrapping my tiny little monkey brain around now for probably a good year now.  It's one of those "things" that I knew of, but never really bothered to 'take it on,' until, well, since May for sure, but I probably started seriously reading book after book on it beginning a year ago.

This weekend I had the joy of working an event with my mentor, Christine Stevens.  She led a small team of us in leading a drum circle at a seminar of about, oh, I'd say about 200-300 participants.  I had the joy of playing the bass drum to 'lay down the heartbeat' for everyone to sync to.  Great experience, but what made it really interesting were two exercises/experiences that led up to it.

One of the cooler stages I've seen at a seminar...

The seminar was a multicultural event where lots of thought leaders and spiritual leaders from really diverse walks of life shared different practices and rituals that promote health, prosperity, and transcendence.  Our job was to promote the power of music.  Some of the other speakers were Don Miguel Ruiz, Joe Vitale, Marci Shimoff, and Indian master, Pandit Samavedula.

Master Samavedula performed a vedic yagya, which was a really interesting experience.  He chanted a mantra 108 times as he ceremoniously added some sort of indian butter to a small fire… almost like he was making incense.  As I was watching this, at first I was just 'watching' it like a spectator, which was pretty boring, let me tell you.  I mean, who wants to listen to some priest chant the same thing in a foreign language 108 times in a row?  Then, something happened.  Can't put my finger on it, but at some point, I got my posture into the meditative posture I use when I meditate in the morning, and I slipped off into a meditative state.  It was really sublime, until two of the production team dragged me out of it with their talking.  Grrr…  Still, there was a moment where 'something' happened in me.  It's hard to articulate.  I went… inward… like part of me disconnected from my body, any yet I was really connected to my body at the same time.  I didn't leave my body or the room, I was really grounded in that very moment.

Is that transcendence?

I had to wonder, as Master Samavedula was reciting this mantra that many times, where was he?  Was he on auto-pilot, thinking about other things?  Was he right there in the moment?  My dad used to pray the rosary.  I prayed it a few times in childhood, but it was tough to stay present for 59 consecutive prayers as a kid.  I wonder, if anyone reading this blog prays the rosary, what is it like for you?  Do you find your mind wandering?  Do you find yourself praying other prayers while you are reciting the Hail Marys and Our Fathers?  Do you ever experience what you might call transcendence when you are 'in' the rosary?

After that, we did a really sweet exercise where all the participants gathered in two concentric circles facing each other.  We were shoulder to shoulder, and about a foot apart.  Our instructions were to get into the circles in complete silence, and once we were all in, we were to look into the left eye of the person across from us without talking.  Just be with them.  Don't 'do' anything.  After about a minute or so, a bell rang, and the inside circle shifted one person to the left, and we did the same thing with a new person.  All the while, a beautiful song with just piano and a female voice gently played in the background.  The song's refrain was singing something about, "You are the face of God."

As I gazed into each person's eye (really great instruction to just focus left eye to left eye, because we really got to 'lock in' with the other person), some really great moments occurred.  First of all, I was struck by how beautiful the human eye is.  I marveled at the beauty contained in each one I looked at.  Then, in other moments, I was able to really connect with the human at the other end of that eye!  That may sound funny, but in some moments I could perceive a whole person.  Other times, I was marveling at the brilliance of the eye itself.  Still others, I could the reflection of me and the room in the person's eye, and almost see what they were seeing.  But finally, for a couple of brief, fleeting moments… I thought I was looking into an entire universe, and in one of those moments, I thought I spied God way off in the distance somehow smiling at me, even though I wasn't perceiving a face… it was just an energy that gave off that feeling.

Was that transcendence?

Whatever those moments were, I was filled with peace, love, and a deep, profound connectedness to these otherwise strangers, and to God.  I was grateful that I got to partake in such tender moments, and it was very mind-opening to be exposed to other ways of reaching that same place, for the master was every bit as reverent and humble as any priest or minister I've encountered.

Many paths?

God night.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 26, 2013: Tag... You're It!

View of Camelback mountain during my morning walk on the retreat grounds today...


Well, another week, another couple of business trips for Ang and me.

I just got home tonight from working on the Grief and Loss Retreat in Phoenix, and Ang leaves for Philly at 5 am.  She gets back on Halloween in the Afternoon, then heads back out next week for Minneapolis.  Then, later in the month, I travel back to Jacksonville for the annual American Music Therapy Association conference to teach, reconnect, and serve as regional President-Elect (read: meetings meetings meetings! hahaha)  That same week, Ang has to travel back to Minneapolis again.

Thank God for Grandmas!

The grief retreat was WONDERFUL.  20 participants, and FOUR of them were men!  That's almost a record percentage... usually we have between 0 and 2 men.  And... the four men all did GREAT work. It was great to watch as the men were all in their 60's and 70's, and men of that generation are traditionally and generally conditioned not to get in touch with their tender emotions, or share/show them publicly.  There were so many great quotes and slides shared... I wanted to come back slingin' quotes for y'all!

The biggest theme of the weekend was that grief is so subjective and personal.  Even two people grieving the same person will grieve differently because their style plus their relationship to the loved one is unique.  I heard a lot of participants having trouble with siblings or adult children wanting them to do grief according to the sibling or child's preference, not the participants.  Further, it was amazing how many people were getting really inappropriate "professional advice" from family members regarding the need to go on medication because it had 'been too long' for them to still be upset.

It was a relief for the participants to hear from each other the crazy things that well-meaning friends and family were heaping on them.  We joked that we're going to make a book compiled from all the retreats called "The Stupid Things People Say..."

Man, do we do grief poorly in our culture!

Why do you think that is?

God night.

Enjoy some scenes from our local pumpkin patch!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013: How fast is your fall moving?


Holy Cow... life is moving so fast.  This past week... WHOOOSH! hahahaha... seriously.  I gotta slow down.  Maybe because it was a short week because of our trip... yeah, that's it... hahaha.  Most likely, it's because of last night and the lead up to it.  Last night, I had the privilege of hosting the largest TEDx Youth event in the world.  Now let me put that in perspective.  In the TED world, there are TED talks and TEDx talks.  About 3 years ago, TED licensed their brand out to independent organizers who had to apply for the right to create their own TEDx talks.  Well, this idea EXPLODED.  Last year, there were something like 6,000 TEDx events worldwide.  Within the TEDx universe, a TEDxYouth galaxy began to grow, with events specifically for kids, by kids, with kids, etc.  That is the realm I found myself last year when I walked out on stage as a TEDx speaker telling kids in that auditorium and online all about music therapy in 7 minutes.

What I didn't realize was that the community that the organizers were building right in my back yard just happened to be the largest TEDxYouth community ANYWHERE.  Just a really cool and lucky break for me to be a part of something like that and have some fun with bragging rights as to being the biggest TEDxYouth community in the world.  It's cool to say that, but look, having 8 year olds sit and listen on a Saturday afternoon to 14 speakers give 7-10 minute talks about all sorts of inspiring topics and ideas... what an amazing nutrient-rich environment for their minds and spirits!  If they are attending TEDx talks at 8,9, or 10... what will they be doing by 20?  Getting to create the energy in the room for the audience and speakers throughout the event was the greatest privilege, because one thing I've learned along the way is that the second most valuable currency, besides time, is attention.  Each of us chooses what we do with our time and our attention... we can invest it, spend it, waste it, but we can't save either, and we can't get either back.  So, when I am on a stage, I recognize that a large group of people are choosing to give me their time and attention.  Last night, that was about 600 kids and adults.  Knowing that the MC is the source of the energy for the event... meaning if the person is lame, the energy in the room is lame, if the person is fun and upbeat, it totally changes the tenor of the whole event... I was really honored to have that responsibility.  Also, since I'm roughly 11 years old mentally and emotionally, I fit right in!

There were so many great moments, too many to mention, but I collapsed in bed really grateful to be a part of such an amazing movement.  If you haven't gotten into TED talks, I recommend checking them out; they are really inspiring.  Just got to and click on a topic that interests you, and listen and learn!

On a different topic, I wanna tell you about two people that make me a better me:

The first person is my wife, Angelique.  I am so proud of her.  She loves what she does, excels at it, and is continuing to grow as a leader each and every year.  It's really great to watch.  Ang is more introverted than I am, but when it comes to laying it down at work, she doesn't hold back.  She is POWERFUL, and not in an egoistic way.  I can comment on this because we both share our home office on a part time basis and I get to hear how she leads conference calls, meetings, interviews, reviews with direct reports, etc, and you can just hear clarity, poise, confidence, commitment to quality, and "I know my Sh_t and if I don't, I'm gonna track it down no matter what" in her voice.  The best thing is what you don't hear.  You don't hear, "I know more than you," "Listen to how smart I am," "I don't like you so I don't care what you have to offer, I'm not listening."

Have you ever 'heard' those phrases in the words of a colleague?  It's like reading between the lines... or hearing what's behind what's being said... I don't know the best way to articulate it, but I think you recognize what I'm talking about.  I never hear Ang's ego talking.  I hear her knowledge, experience, and/or wisdom talking, but not her ego.  It's not about her.  That's a pretty refreshing thing to be around, right?

Another person in my life I get that same vibe from is our praise band director, Dean.  Dean is a world class musician, teacher, conductor, and producer, but there is NEVER any ego present when interacting or working with him on music... only golf.  HA!!!  (Sorry Dean, couldn't resist!)  Seriously, though, when our praise band meets on Sunday mornings before worship, we come in, read through the music once, maybe twice, and then we're ready to rock.  Dean let's each of us pretty much add whatever we hear in the music and is supportive no matter what.  He keeps it fun.  Our banter is always light, goofy, and silly while rehearsing, and I'm always joking that I can't get over how it's 'legal' for us to have so much fun and crack up so much rehearsing for worship!  It's genuinely UP-LIFTING.  I think (hope) that comes across in the music during the worship service.  We genuinely love being there and seeing how we can best offer up the music to lift our congregation.  Our attention is totally on the music... no egos.  It's so refreshing.  The musicianship of the group is really high; most of us are professional musicians and we can still jump in the sandbox on Sunday mornings and play like kids.

Who do you work/play/live with that is like that?  You know, just totally committed to the matter at hand...

Ang and Dean make me a better me.  Who makes you a better you?

God night.

Enjoy... these are from one of Bella's physical therapy sessions... check her out reaching for our PT's watch on my head... working on getting those hips to support her upright... Bella LOVED Eleanor's watch more than any toy!