Friday, August 20, 2010


Four years ago this song literally saved my life. You might think it's corny, or overly-sentimental, or out-dated; but that's ok. I had my moment with this song, and it changed my life from a futile existence to a life worth living. I realized there was someone who could save my life and unlock my heart. That person was ME. I found myself, and accepted myself--my pain, my unhappiness, my inadequacies, and my gifts. If your circumstances are less than ideal, what can you do to change them? Start tomorrow. Claim your identity, your destiny. Only then, will it be possible to let the love flow into you and through you. Our parents sang these words to us, "This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine." And parents know best. Let the light SHINE! Have you been saved?

"I'm sleeping with myself tonight,
Saved in time. Thank God,
My music's still alive.
Someone saved my life tonight,
Sugar Bear. (Sugar Bear)
Ya, almost had your hooks in me,
Didn't ya, dear?
You nearly had me roped and tied.
Altar bound, hypnotized,
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear,
'You're a butterfly, and butterflies
Are free to fly. Fly away.
High away.' Bye-bye."

Thanks, Elton John (and lyricist, Bernie Taupin)!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Music has always been a huge part of our family life. Road trips to see our grandparents in Tennessee were highlighted with my parents harmonizing (quite well) to songs like Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Lemon Tree" or worse, a 1970s sampling of the dreaded country music (gag). These were horrifying, groan-inducing experiences for a cool girl of twelve and a savvy boy of ten, but now I think back and appreciate the underscore of our family memories. Mom and Dad would giggle with devilish delight at our protestations from the backseat and seemed to gain fuel for a third chorus of "If I Had a Hammer." On rare occasions, we would join in for a song or two. We joined in most often on hymns--hymns from the good ol' church of Christ hymnal "Great Songs of the Church." (And they do mean "the" church as in: "Is there any other church? No. No, there is not.") The "Blue Book," as we used to call it was full of musically challenging and slightly high-brow offerings for the college-educated worshipper. No knee-slapping Baptist revival fare would be found in THIS hymnal lest we be tempted to emote during a service. But I digress...

No matter how much my beliefs may evolve, I will always have tender feelings for those old songs: "When Peace Like a River," "Abide With Me," "Nearer, Still Nearer," "Just As I Am." Mom had a sweet lilting soprano, and I would sing alto because I knew how and someone had to. Dad sang a strong tenor, and my brother fit in somewhere; sometimes tenor, sometimes lead, sometimes he came up with beautiful harmonies of his own. I loved to hear the blend of our voices bouncing off the upholstery and glass of the car windows, and I would entertain fantasies of our family travelling the world as professional singers. My brother and I could easily take the music industry by storm as the southern versions of Richard and Karen Carpenter, or so I thought. My Mom always remarked, "Rachel could sing before she could talk." I knew this to be true having felt music in my soul from a very early age. I can't remember a time when I was unable or unwilling to sing. Mom must have had something to do with that.

We will be celebrating our little girl's first birthday in a few weeks. Since before her birth, I have attempted to embed music--specifically, vocal music--into her little brain, and I swelled with pride last week when she started singing along to the "La-la-la" part of The Carpenter's, "Sing, Sing a Song." (They sing it a lot on Sesame Street too, so I had been using it as part of my night-night song repertoire.) Her Daddy and I immediately started scheming: "Singing before she can even talk! She's even singing on KEY! We obviously have a musical genius on our hands. We had better start saving for music lessons. Piano or guitar? I hope she'll wear modest clothing in her music videos. I hope she won't take dangerous drugs to stay thin while she's on tour." (My fantasy life is rich, my friends. Rich.)

Since meeting my husband, the songs of Billy Joel have been added to the family repertoire. I fell in love with Josh the night he looked into my eyes and sang "She's Only a Woman," (and yes, he WILL kill me for telling you this, so it'll be our little secret, ok?). I had never listened to Billy very much, but now I can call myself a fan. I have a good head for memorizing lyrics, but not good enough to memorize and sing Billy's "Lullaby: Goodnight My Angel" to our baby. I listened to it on iTunes in the hospital while I was in labor along with other "soothing" sounds. I would love to someday thank Billy in person for writing it.

Joel's ballad elevates the singing of a lullaby to immortal status. The song helps us view the simple act of singing to a child as an invisible and timeless thread--an unbreakable bond connecting parent to child to grandchild through life and death and life again. This thought comforts me in moments when I want to violently rail against the circumstances of my life today: My daughter will never hear my Mother sing a song for her. She will not watch from her highchair as Mom hums along to Alan Jackson, her gooey fingers rhythmically patting out rolls to the throb of country bass. My chest aches when I think about it. I need to remember; the "Song" Mom put in my heart is being sung to my daughter every night. Night after night after night, my mother's sweet soprano voice still echoes against the pale pink walls in my little girl's room, because when I sing to her, I hear Mom singing to me too. Her presence resonates deeply in those tender moments before my girl drops her head on my shoulder and releases her body into my arms. And long after I'm gone, the Song will be in Graceanne's heart to comfort her too. She cannot lose it. She will not forget it. She will sing it for the rest of her life. She will sing it to her little ones someday, and I will be with them just as Mom's Song is with us, embedded upon her little heart and singing through mine.
   Someday we'll all be gone,
   But lullabies go on and on
   They'll never die
   That's how you and I will be.

Thanks, Billy.

Here's Billy Joel's "Lullaby: Goodnight, My Angel" in case you've never heard it or haven't heard it in a while. It's worth a listen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Mom Grace
Delivered by her daughter on February 18, 2008

(My brother Josh told me I should go ahead and share this eulogy I wrote for my Mom in 2008. I was hesitant to publish it, but I think Mom would approve.)

I want you to know how comforting your presence today is for our family. On this day, when it is almost blindingly painful for many of us, it’s finally clear to me why we perform this ritual of gathering together to celebrate a life that is gone. Your presence is your love in action, and I want you to know that your love has been deeply felt by our family. Your prayers, cards (we have mountains of them at home, by the way), food brought to the house, pampering gifts for Mom, visits, emails, and calls throughout Mom’s illness have strengthened and sustained this family through our darkest trial.

Throughout my life, Mom constantly impressed upon me the importance of showing gratitude for the blessings of life and the many ways people around us go out of their way to express their love for us. When I complained as a willful teenager, she constantly reminded me of the good in people and the details around me that I should find gratitude in. She impressed the importance of gratitude with her actions, not just her words. She was so thankful for the many family members and friends that filled her life, and one way she showed this was through her famous habit (skill, talent, obsession…whatever you want to call it) of sending cards, notes, and letters on anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and birthdays. Sometimes she sent a letter “just because.” She probably wrote thousands of cards and letters throughout her life, and although I have an equally famous reputation for dramatic histrionics, I’m not exaggerating.

When I was with her this past Christmas, I sat down beside her bed to file her nails. I took her hand in mine, and as the fingers of our left hands intertwined, I was struck by how similar our hands looked. It was almost like filing the nails on my own hand, and I began to remember how many times I have heard people say, “Rachel, you look just like your Mom.” In that moment I was so full of gratitude for her hand of influence in shaping my life. As I worked, I began to reflect on the kinds of things those hands had done; the letters written, babies rocked, construction paper projects made for 2 and 3-year-olds’ Bible class, the dishes washed (she stubbornly washed her dishes by hand in case you didn’t know), the baby blankets she embroidered, the rolls folded over and pinched into that perfect moon-shaped pillow of southern buttery goodness.

I could go on and on with an endless list of the things about her that I am so, so thankful for. Whether you knew her for 33 years or three years, you are here today because you are thankful for my Mom, Grace, in some way, and so this comforts us today. And while I have to admit that I am still very angry at the cancer that has taken her away from us, I know that eventually I will be able to allow my gratitude to bury my anger just like she taught me.

Thank you, Mom. I love you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

john lennon- Oh My Love Digital Remaster (2000)


I have not posted on this blog in over two years. Since I last wrote, I quit my excellent (and easy but boring) high-paying job, moved to another state to start my dream career (or so I thought); got fired from my dream career know what? No one ever told me why, so I’ve just been assuming it was stupid academic politics (i.e. the person I replaced decided she DIDN’T want to stay home full-time with her baby after all, so they fired me for vaguely-stated reasons and let her have her job back…correction: they let her have MY job back. Smug Christian BASTARDS!) So I moved HOME, got married, had a beautiful baby, and LORD JESUS, help me! It’s been quite a busy two years. So, I thought a good way to return to my blog might be to share a few things I learned since I posted the last time. It’s just my round-about way to catch you up-to-date. (Accept my apologies in advance for the all-caps. Here’s my formal apology: If you don’t like all-caps, too bad. This is my blog, and I speak in all-caps sometimes, so why can’t I write that way? I always picture the Ten Commandments in all-caps, and these are my personal commandments):

I am not assuming you need me to teach you any of the following. Enjoy.

1. DON’T BUY THE HOUSE OF YOUR DREAMS IN THE CITY OF YOUR NIGHTMARES. If half the population attends the “church of Christ” and the other half is in bed by 10:00, that town is not for you. Church of Christ people need a lot of sinners around to keep it interesting, and trust me, you will need a drink some night when the bars are closed. Rent something close to work, so you can shake the dust from your feet with a lot less hassle when the time comes for you to WAKE UP from the Matrix.

2. DON’T UNPACK IT UNLESS YOU NEED IT NOW, TODAY…You could lose your (expletive deleted) job and have to move again in six (expletive deleted) months.

3. LET THE HOUSEPLANTS GO. Moving them is a waste of time. Give them to somebody who will love them and give them a good home. Don't waste energy feeling guilty. You did right by them.

4. DON’T TAKE THE JOB IF A LITTLE ALARM GOES OFF IN YOUR HEAD during the interview that says, “You can’t work for this guy. He’s a smug, closeted/homosexual, micro-managing, control-freak who thinks you are beneath him. You are clearly NOT beneath him. RUN!” Yeah, don’t take that job. I know it seems perfect, and it’s a dream come true. DO…NOT…SEEK…THE TREASURE. (Thank you, Cohen brothers.) Listen to your inner voice…that’s God trying to tell you not to work at a Christian school. He has much better things in store for you. (I’m not asserting the accuracy of any of the above statements, but that IS what my little voice said in the interview. I heard it. Sue me.)

5. GET MARRIED WHEN YOU’RE READY TO GET MARRIED, not when other people in your family are ready for you to get married. Get married when the time is right, even if someone just died. They would want you to be happy. Who cares if there’s a lot of crying at your wedding? At least you won’t look at the pictures and regret your choices years later. You’ll also have deep-seeded issues with people, the people who “changed” your mind for you. If people are uncomfortable with the circumstances of your life, then…wait…wait just a second…remind me again why they have a say…? It’s your (expletive deleted) life.

6. PLAN THE MOMENT-TO-MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE AROUND WHAT YOUR LOVER WANTS TO DO. (I use the term "lover" here because if you’re not married to whoever your lover is, but instead are married to a cowboy Republican fascist with anger-management issues, then you’ve got a lot of long nights ahead. Divorce that jerk, and find your lover.) If your lover is not available, plan moments around what your kid wants to do. If your kid is taking a nap, plan those moments around what your dog wants to do… and so on… You might be tempted to live for yourself. Don’t be. Yes, yes… Have a healthy image of yourself, do a few things for yourself, get a pedicure every once in a while, but LIVE for the people you love and “living for yourself” will take care of itself.

7. DON’T CLICK “REMOVE FROM MY FRIENDS” ON FACEBOOK, EVER. Facebook unto others the way you would have them Facebook unto you. Forget that button exists or you’ll be drunk with your own power and who knows what might happen then? You might be tempted to remove people who worked at a place where the boss sabotaged you because you are paranoid about what kinds of lies and extrapolations they may or may not have heard about you from the total cock that was your boss (a “cock” is a small rooster who struts around a house full of hens—that’s the cock I mean; however, the double entendre is fortunate here). Instead of “de-friending” those people, hold your head high. Your future success and happiness will vindicate you. While they’re teaching it, you’ll be doing it. Someday their students will ask you for a job. Besides, how will they ever see the photographic evidence of your future success and happiness without Facebook? And they WILL Facebook stalk you. Count on it.

8. IF SOMEBODY OR A GROUP OF “SOMEBODIES” DOESN’T WANT YOU, TEACH YOURSELF NOT TO WANT THEM. This includes churches, spouses, places of business, family members, etc… You might have to teach yourself this valuable skill in EMOTIONAL BOOT CAMP, but learn it, or those close to you will get tired of hearing you moaning and groaning and feeling sorry for yourself. Move on!

9. WHEN PEOPLE ASK YOU… “So, when did you decide you’re not church of Christ anymore?” Say unto them, “I didn’t decide. I just realized I wasn’t.” They’ll think you’ve become a Buddhist, and it’ll be really fun.


Here are a few life lessons that I learned from other sources:

“Just smile, and laugh and talk and be nice to everyone and no one will even notice that zit on your chin.”
–Mom (My mother was a wise, wise woman because this method works even if the “zit on your chin” isn’t really a zit on your chin...let THAT one sink in.)

When the baby cries and cries and cries and you don’t know what to do: “Just love her. Keep loving her.”
–Aunt “Nurse” Betty.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“People who mind don’t matter, and people who matter don’t mind.”
–Anonymous (This one should also be attributed to my Mom. This was one of her I'm not Hindu either.)

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Oliver Wendell Holmes

“It’ll all work out.”
–Mom (Thanks, Mom. It did.)