One of Ally’s current piano songs is Bill Wither’s Lean on Me. I’ve heard it a lot in the last few weeks. Like, a lot. And I’m still not tired of it. I’ve always loved R&B and soul music but I think that song might be one of the best, if not the best, songs written in the last fifty years.
It is incredible how simple the lyrics appear to be. Just normal everyday language. The older I get and the more books I write, the more I appreciate how hard and how impressive it is to explain something in simple terms.
His voice was incredible of course, but I think the real power is those lyrics. They are quite literally almost unforgettable.
You know you’re humming it right now. That’s magic. Continue Reading
One of my favorite metaphors for both parenting and writing is gardening and I bumped into another one this week: the rule of thumb for perennial plants, “Sleep, Leap, Creep.”
In the first year, a perennial will focus on its foundation, anchoring its roots. The next year, the plant comes out of a dormant winter and starts to grow. Then in the third year, it takes off and comes into its full form.
That might be the best (generous) description of both a teenager and trying to do creative work that I’ve seen. That or Patchett’s I am a compost heap. Or Eno’s beautiful things grow out of sh*t. Good reminders that any of it takes time and it is always messy. Continue Reading
Two things collided this past week. Cecilia will soon graduate from middle school which led, naturally, to conversations about what she will do this summer and how she might need to start thinking about college prep. This led, naturally, to stress and unhappiness.
Talk of the approaching summer also led to discussions about what we, as a family, are going to do with my sabbatical time. Are we going somewhere? Doing something? Experiencing something? How will we maximize this rare opportunity? This led, naturally, to stress and unhappiness.
I realized later (while not sleeping because I was stressed) that no family is happy all the time. It’s impossible and probably not healthy. Happiness is like a wheel, we cycle through it. It comes and goes, but it doesn’t exist for us in the past or the future. Happiness only exists in the present. So we shouldn’t let the future come at the expense of what is right in front of us.
If we want to be a happy family, we should prioritize just being together. It doesn’t matter where. It’s sort of that simple. And that attainable.
The trick, of course, is holding onto it, because just as you grab it, the wheel keeps turning. Continue Reading
The new book has been out in the world for a little over a month and that means reviews and feedback have been coming in and I realized recently that how I deal with that feedback has changed over the years.
I used to fear and cower from it. I’d have a knee jerk reaction to all of it. Any criticism couldn’t possibly be right. What did they know? I was the author. Now, I listen and I often cherish the flaws more than the praise.
What critics and readers often don’t like or find uncomfortable or different about a work is often the best and most interesting thing about it. Those are the parts worth digging into. Those are the parts that keep a work unique and individual.
They are not always right. Neither am I. But it’s worth listening to carefully. Continue Reading
Happy 90th birthday, Willie Nelson. A favorite artist I find inspiring on many levels: longevity, writing, musicianship, family, advocacy.
I’ll admit church and Willie are not the first things I put together in my mind, though once you hear it you’ll notice the thread of God and gospel running through almost all of his music, but I can now add spirituality to that list after reading about his purchase of his childhood church and what it meant to him and his sister.
Sometimes you find lessons in the most unexpected places.
You can listen to Willie all weekend long on KUTX. Continue Reading
Last week we spent part of the school spring break down in Charleston. It was a charming city and very walkable. And we walked. And ducked down alleys and side streets and tried to take in as much as we could. This led to questions. Quite a few questions from the girls.
When was sugar invented? Why did they paint those houses those colors? What kind of name is Harris Teeter? And many more.
For a long time, I found it mildly frustrating or annoying to have a why child. (Sidenote: of all the parenting industry insanity, I do find the phrase why child rather delightful). A why child isn’t content with simple explanations or the first answer. And this can be a bit frustrating when trying to explain things adequately to a toddler. But now that they are a little older? It’s quite enjoyable to try to answer the girl’s questions as completely as possible. It can lead to further conversational nooks and crannies that you never saw coming.
And curious is better than complacent and annoying is better than ignorant. Continue Reading
When I was in sixth grade, I decided R.E.M. were my favorite band. I had recently burned out on UB40.
Forty years ago, they released their first album. Guitarist Peter Buck commented on the occasion: “If, on the way to the first day of recording Murmur, we had chanced upon a radio rebroadcast from exactly forty years previous, we would have heard speeches from Franklin Roosevelt, news about World War II, and the swinging sounds of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller.”
Time is elastic and weird.
For instance, this past week, I became the parent of a fourteen-year-old.
She cannot fathom how R.E.M. could ever be popular. Taste is wasted on the youth. Continue Reading