All The Boys And Girls

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Children In General.”

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:4-7

I have nothing to say about this one. I sort of exhausted the topic in the things I didn’t write about last week. Other than that, what’s there to say? Children? I’m for ’em. I believe that children are the future. Etc. etc. etc. I may revisit this one at some point in the future when I have something more to say, but that day is not today.

Jewel Update

Quick note — A limited number of tickets to the Jewel concert at the Von Braun Center I wrote about yesterday will be available for only $10 each from 10 a.m. today until 10 a.m. Saturday. They’ll be available through Ticketmaster.

May 27

NOTE: I originally published this a year ago today. I’m republishing the post as it appeared a year ago, with a few additional thoughts for this year.

One of my quirks, I remember dates. They get lodged in my head, and I can’t get them out. Some useful, like birthdays (though I’m getting worse with adding those), and some not, like the anniversaries of days certain things happened. It’s a reflex, to the point where, apparently, it can be annoying.

Anyway, May 27 is one of those dates, from events that occurred in two consecutive years.

On May 27, 1992, I graduated from Huntsville High School.

Doing the math, I graduated from high school 17 years ago today, when I was about two months shy of my 17th birthday. In other words, high school is now just over half my life ago. I’ve lived more since that day than I had before. It’s just weird to think about; I certainly don’t feel twice as old as I was then. I’ll admit that my days at HHS are a distant and remote memory at this point, but I’m still young, right? From graduation until our 10-year reunion, sure, a good bit of time passed. But the reunion was hardly any time ago at all. And now the 20 is just around the corner. Where does it go?

On May 27, 1991, Beth Ladner died.

Beth was a member of my class at Huntsville, was a fellow part of the staff of the school newspaper, and ran against me for senior class vice-president. She was brilliant, pretty, and a genuine and easily likeable person, with a promising future, most likely as a marine biologist. She died in a car accident right before final exams.

And that fact has always stayed with me. This was high school, and final exams were huge — the studying, the stress, the work. If the accident had occurred a week later, she would have gone through all of that. And still been dead. The effort all in vain. We all know we’re going to die, and that it could happen at any time, but Beth’s death was such an object lesson in that. We strive, we struggle, we hurt, we laugh, we dance, we love, we cry — all for a tomorrow that one day won’t come.

Beth’s loss made us all the less. But the rest of us took final exams, and went on. And went to college. And married. And divorced. And had kids. And got jobs. And strived and struggled and hurt and laughed and danced and loved and cried. More of us have been lost along the way. But the rest continue to continue.

And hopefully the world is better for it.

May 27, 2010 coda — Since I wrote this a year ago, it has become one of the most-viewed posts on my blog. Someone even linked to it yesterday, and it was viewed a few times because of that. Because of that, I decided to republish it today in hopes of these words continuing to find homes.

It being a year later, I have to add a couple of additional thoughts since I first wrote this. First, and obviously, Beth was loved. I wrote this purely for myself, to let out what was in my heart, some of it had been with me for quite a while. I never really thought about it resonating with anyone else, and certainly never imagined people sharing it with others. But it’s been amazing to see how many people still remember her and still care. It’s an incredible tribute to who she was, and the lives she touched.

Second, perhaps less obviously but more importantly — you are loved. I can’t imagine it; if things had been reversed, if it had been the other candidate for senior class vice-president on that road that night, I can’t imagine that 18 years later anybody would be writing about me, and that so many people would still be reading that 19 years later. But, you know, I doubt Beth would have imagined that either. She’s been gone from this Earth now longer than she was on it. I doubt she would have dreamed that she’d touched so many lives, that so many people cared, so that more than her lifetime later, people would still be remembering her fondly.

The lesson of all of that? Yes, that Beth was loved. Yes, that she was special. But, also, this: Right now, there are people out there whom you have touched in a way you have no clue about. Right now, there are people out there who care about you more than you realize. Right now, there are people out there who will remember you long after you could dream they would.

Right now, you are loved, more and by more people than you know.

My Favorite Concert

What’s your favorite concert experience?

It’s entirely possible that I haven’t been to my current favorite concert yet.

There are two different types of experiences I enjoy in a concert. It’s not my preference, but there are times when I enjoy a concert just for the pure spectacle. The best example of that for me was U2’s Vertigo tour. It was just a really good show; an incredible entertainment event. They’re amazing performers.

The other experience I enjoy is when you come away from the concert with something unique, something you’re not going to get on the CD. I’ve seen some artists I love do concerts, and they put on great shows, but they’re so literal in their performance that it’s almost like listening to a recorded version while watching them.

I loved it at the Simon & Garfunkel concert I went to a month ago when they paid respect to the fact they were in New Orleans by turning Cecilia into a Zydeco song. I love when artists throw in non-album cover tracks to entertain concert-goers. I love patter; I love when the artist talks to the audience, tells stories about the songs or just about their lives. I wrote recently about the Rachael Sage concert I went to when she name-checked me several times from the stage, and sang something just for me. Yeah, that, for me, is an awesome concert experience.

But, at the end of the day, when I go to a concert, ideally, you’re not just in the same room as the artist at a concert, you’re actually sharing a personal experience with them.

And that’s why my favorite concert may be about to happen.

Jewel is coming to Huntsville on June 13.

And not only am I going to the concert, I’m getting up-close seats and backstage passes, and getting to meet Jewel and have a picture made with her.

I’ve been in the front row for a concert once, when Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers played Tupelo. I’ve been backstage at a concert once, when Ladysmith Black Mambaza played Cleveland, Miss. And I’ve meet B.B. King multiple times when he played his annual homecoming festival in Indianola. But I’ve never had an experience that combines it all together quite like this.

And I’ve never been to an exclusive short mini-concert by an artist, either. That should be kinda cool, don’t you think?

Jewel’s concert is being sponsored by COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States as part of Road Trips and Guitar Picks, which includes Jewel’s tour and Jason Aldean’s Wide Open tour. Road Trips and Guitar Picks lets fans become involved in the tours — you can become a Roadie to be eligible for prizes, and there’s a sweepstakes to win an all-expense-paid trip to one of the concerts. Oh, and they’re getting ordinary people involved in promoting the concerts by selecting bloggers in the tour cities to get to go backstage and meet the artists, etc. So, um, guess who was one of the bloggers selected for the Huntsville show?

So, yeah, I’m totally selling out. A little. They ask that I mention that I was selected as an official blogger, and that’s why I’m getting the access, and now I have. (I’m including their logo at the bottom of this post, and will do so for any posts that I write as part of this opportunity.) They ask that I write a few posts about it, but don’t specify what I have to say. And they provide some post ideas that were interesting enough prompts that they’ll be fun to write even without the cool extra stuff. I’m hugely honored to be chosen, and I’m really looking forward to everything.

So that’s the story. I’m really excited about it. Not only should it be a really unique experience, but it’s cool to be offered this opportunity with Jewel in particular; this will actually be my second time seeing her in concert, but that’s a story for another post.

So, back to the original question — what was your favorite concert?

If you’d want to come to the Von Braun Center show, and aren’t able to win free tickets, tickets are, of course, available via Ticketmaster.

Lisa Loeb — “Best Friend” Lyrics

Another from my iTunes collection that didn’t have lyrics online, so I transcribed them. More lyrics I’ve transcribed are here.

Lisa Loeb — Best Friend

Your hands were in your pockets,
Your hat over your eyes;
You didn’t seem to know anybody
And neither did I.

Then they started introductions —
The name game all around.
Everybody else took it seriously,
But you and me, we laughed until we cried.

When I first met you,
I didn’t think I liked you.
But now that I know you,
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.

I am from the city,
From the middle of nowhere,
And we don’t talk to strangers;
Don’t talk to anyone who’s there.

I like dogs and you like cats.
I wear lots of colors, and you wear only black.
But we don’t take things too seriously,
So you and me, we’re the perfect pair.
Yeah, you and me, we’re the perfect pair.

When I first met you,
I didn’t think I liked you.
But now that I know you,
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.

And then in a while,
(And then in a while,)
We’ll look back and smile.

‘Cause when I first met you,
I didn’t think I liked you.
But now that I know you,
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.

When I first met you,
When I first met you,
I didn’t think I liked you.
I didn’t think I liked you.
Now that I know you,
Now that I know you,
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.

When I first met you,
When I first met you,
I didn’t think I liked you.
I didn’t think I liked you.
Now that I know you,
Now that I know you,
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.
You could be my best friend.

Lost Possibilities

And, with that, Lost is done.

I’ll probably have a post about the finale or the series or the five years I spent watching it or something before too terribly long; I’ll wait a little while to let people watch it and to process my thoughts.

But, this finale-spoiler-free post is not that. This is my polite request for what I would like to see next.

Oh, sure, the series is over. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have more Lost goodness. In fact, I would argue that rarely has a series done a better job of opening up literally new universes of possibility than Lost has.

These, then, are the Lost spin-offs I would most want to see.

They Call Me Doctor Linus — By day, Benjamin Linus is the world’s most dedicated high school teacher. By night, he’s trying to navigate his way through this crazy thing called love. But who really cares, when he’s also teaches the world’s creepiest high school classes. Dramatic pauses cause basic American history to be goosebump-inducing. “They say that the Civil War pitted … brother against brother.” Every student’s question is answered with another foreboding question. “What were the causes of the Vietnam War, Dr. Linus?” “What makes you think … the Vietnam War didn’t cause itself?” Ben is joined in his school adventures by permanent substitute John Locke, who still teaches school from his wheelchair — until there’s dancing or butt-kicking to be done.

LAPD: Lost Souls — Miles and Sawyer aren’t just detectives, they’re two buddy cops who … well, really, are pretty much like any other buddy cops. But, heck, it’s Miles and Sawyer. That’s gotta be worth something. Miles respects that there’s no crime that Sawyer can’t nickname or sleep his way to solving, but can he help his friend overcome his obsessive secret before it destroys them both?

Stab And Kick — OK, this one wasn’t really a spin-off idea, per se. But in the season premiere, when Ben and Locke pulled the ol’ stab-and-kick to take out Jacob, I kind of liked the idea of that being how they resolved the rest of the series — season six would be devoted to the duo tracking down the remaining characters, stabbing them, and then kicking them into fires. But why stop there? What show wouldn’t be made better by a little Ben-and-Locke-stab-and-kick? An actor on another series wants out of his contract? Ben and Locke show up, and resolve his storyline neatly. They could wrap up other series’ finales conclusively. And, hey, what Conan fan wouldn’t want to see a little Ben-and-Locke-stab-and-kick on the Tonight Show, for example? Or imagine the ending of 60 Minutes — “You know what really bugs me about popular televisi… Ow! Ow! No!”

The Mafia Of Love — With Desmond’s awesome suit, the kidnapping, the money, their elaborate plans, their willingness to do whatever it takes, LA-verse Desmond and Hurley are kind of like the mafia, but the most awesome mafia ever — a mafia of good. By original idea was to turn the basic “Stab And Kick” concept over to them instead of Ben and Locke, with them having a series where they basically keep doing what they were doing in the last few episodes of this season. The crossover-with-other-shows idea had possibilities, too; they could go help characters on other shows learn important lessons — by any means necessary. But then I realized — this one is just begging to be a reality show. People write in about problems they’re having, and then Desmond and Hurley show up in character to help them solve it, whether that means kidnapping them and taking them to a concert, or beating the crap out of them in a school parking lot. You never know what they’re going to do next; you just know, whatever it is, it’s gonna be awesome!!

So, what Lost spin-offs do you want to see?


Heather wanted me to include, from our post-finale discussions, the spin-off that I wouldn’t watch:

Island Rose — Rose and Bernard hang out on the island. Not getting involved. With their dog Vincent. Normal things happen. No one guest stars. Largely unnotable, except for the Emmy awarded to Bernard’s Beard of Awesomeness.

Eye Of The Beholder

OK, I’ve been meaning to write this post since February and have been putting it off, but I can’t write about Jennifer Knapp being gay until I do, so, here goes:

My primary congregation values art.

Sojourn displays members’ art in the brewery where we meet, includes video and other art projects in services, and has a creative arts team, of which I’m a member.

A while back, we had a meeting on “The Good, The True and The Beautiful,” discussing what an artist’s intent should be in creating “Christian art.” The title of the discussion reflected what the goal was hypothesized to be — “Our art must be in the character of our God, who himself is good, (Ps107:1, 119:68), true (Isa45:19, Thess1:9) and beautiful (Ps 27:4).” It went on to say that it doesn’t mean avoiding portraying anything ugly, since there can be beauty in truth.

The discussion led into the artists’ intent — “what are 3-5 questions we can ask ourselves that will help us determine whether or not our art is in character of our God who is good, true, and beautiful?” — and about willingness for artists to put together a statement of intent for artwork to be displayed at the church.

The point seemed two-fold. The surface layer is that it would help viewers to understand the artwork; rather than forcing viewers to look for their own meaning and possibly get the wrong thing out of the piece, the artist should provide his or her own exegesis. But the other layer is that it would screen the artwork — It would help prevent things that were created for self rather than God, or that weren’t truly spiritual in nature, from being displayed in the church.

And, you know, that last sentence does a pretty decent job of capturing my problem with that idea. I had to decide which word to use to end that sentence with — “church,” or “brewery.” And for a lot of people, those words make uneasy synonyms. But while most people look at the Olde Towne building and see something secular, Sojourn looks at it and sees something spiritual. So who are we to say artwork can’t be the same way.

I wrote a post a while back on that subject regarding music; that, for me, there are songs that are not intended as spiritual at all, but because they do such a good job capturing the truth of the human condition, they can’t help put have a spiritual meaning if you choose to listen to them that way; so much of what the heart desires on this Earth is a manifestation of a deeper desire to know, and experience the grace of, our God, to love and be loved by Him.

The issue then isn’t the intent of the artist, because focusing on that limits God. The idea that His goodness, truth and beauty can only be manifested by someone who is endeavoring to do so is almost blasphemy. It limits His greatness. He can be seen in any part of His creation, from the beauty of a sunset to the truth of a song written by anyone, since we are all part of that creation.

The trick isn’t to teach artists how to present that truth; in a way, it’s almost inevitable. The trick is to train people to recognize that. Don’t teach Sojourn artists how to create art about God. Teach Sojourn members how to recognize God in the art that’s created.

Because that goes far deeper than just dealing with the art that hangs on the wall of the brewery. A person who has developed that ability has taken a huge step in the path toward better knowing God. When you know how to see Him in the art in the brewery without a statement of intent, you know how to see Him in the art at the Huntsville Museum of Art, not only with a statement of the artists’ intent, but often without the artist even having that intent at all. You know how to see Him in His art — the thunderstorm or the butterfly or the falling leaves. You learn to see Him in human life, from glory to gutter. You learn to recognize how everything from the stars to the sand shouts testimony to His wonder, how the mountains preach the truth of who He is.

His creation is singing to you, singing of Him. Will you listen?

A Worn-Out Lullaby

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Your Children.”

OK, wow, yeah, what a topic, huh? Fair enough, then. Here we go.

I considered making this a three-part series.

The first part would be about nieces and nephews. For all intents and purposes, my brother’s children, Bethany and Nathan, are “my children.” I have no kids of my own now, and love them very much.

The first part would also talk about the fact that earlier this month, Lila Grace Lara and Madison Brooks both had birthdays on two consecutive days. For the first six years of her life, Lila Grace was my niece; the daughter of my then-wife’s sister. And I loved her. A lot. The tragedy is, Lila Grace and I were closer than Bethany and I have been. That’s getting better, but it’s still sad to me. Madison would have been my niece, in a different world. She was the only of Susanna’s nieces that I hadn’t met when the engagement was called off; to some of the nieces and nephews I was already “Uncle David,” which made me very happy at the time and made the outcome hurt all that much more.

The second part would talk about the future. I don’t have children now, but that could change. I had reached a point during my marriage to Nicole that I had accepted that it was never going to happen, that it wasn’t an option. Today, that’s no longer the case. And that’s something I have to consider. And I could easily write an entire post about that.

But, instead, I’m only writing the third part, the one part that I, for myself, need to write.

I’m going to tell the story of Katelyn.

I had learned to recognize Nicole’s “I’m in the hospital” voice. I would say that I frequently knew something was wrong even before I answered the phone, but the truth is probably more just that the phone ringing often filled me with dread. But the voice? Unmistakable. Even just from “hello,” I would know she was in the hospital.

Point being, there was nothing unusual about the call; the fact that it was routine was exactly how I was able to recognize that tone. I’d learned to take it in stride. Calm, cool and collected. It took a lot to shake that. Things had to be pretty bad.

Monday, January 30, 2006 was one of the days that shook that. It still makes no sense what all went through my head in what must have been no time at all when Nicole mentioned the tubal pregnancy. I knew there was no good outcome; it was just a question of how bad it was going to be. I remember the dread at the idea that we would have to give the order, to make the “decision” to terminate a pregnancy that couldn’t be saved. I remember the relief, as sick as this is, at learning that our child, my child, was already dead. There was no happy ending; I just consider myself blessed that I don’t have to carry the burden of having had to tell someone to do it.

It sucked, and neither one of us knew how to deal with it. To some extent, it was another medical issue that had been survived, another trip to the hospital. (I still have the wristband from that hospital stay, kept on the desk in my computer room.) I tried to be supportive of Nicole, but, in retrospect probably failed completely to support her where she must have been emotionally. I cried on the phone with my mom that night as the reality of it overwhelmed me, not only of that day, but of that part of my life I had never dealt with. Nicole and I didn’t have the option of having children; I simply accepted the fact that was the case since there was no point in thinking about it. That day forced me to confront the reality of what that meant, to be aware of what might have been. The next day, I wrote about all of that in my journal, as if it had been resolved. It happened, I cried, it was over. Except it wasn’t. Not really.

The pregnancy, they estimated, was about eight to 10 weeks in at the time, as I recall. We never knew if it was a boy or a girl; I don’t know why we both just knew it was a daughter. We named her Katelyn. It made it easier to talk about, having a name to use instead of the cold “tubal pregnancy” terminology. And it made it a little easier to grieve. In earlier times, when the future was still wide open, we had picked out names, for a boy and a girl, if we ever had kids. We both liked the name Katelyn, a slight homage to my mother. We never dreamed that was how we would use it.

On a good day, I count it as a blessing. I believe life begins at conception. Which means I had a child. A human being, with a soul. Before that day, I’d never really understood the concept of heaven, never really understood the appeal. Eternity seems like it would get very boring, very quickly, relatively speaking. But the knowledge that in the next world I’ll be able to experience what I hadn’t in this world? That I will be able, finally, to hold my daughter in my arms? OK, I would be willing to call that heaven.

And, the truth is, it’s better that way. Nicole and I did not need a child in this world. What would it have been like, to have to deal with the things we had to deal with, but with a child? I can’t imagine having to take care of both of them. I can’t imagine having to tell my daughter that mommy was spending the night in jail, or figuring out how to explain other things to her. I can’t imagine. And where would things have gone? What would the dissolution of our marriage have looked like then. So it’s a blessing; a blessing that we will see our child only when we can love her the way she deserves.

In my head, I mark that day, January 30, like it was a birthday; it’s the day I remember her most. I posted lyrics to a song on this blog that day this year, but with no explanation. I’ve told a handful of people this story, but I’ve never really told it publicly before right now. But it’s part of who I am. But that song is hers for me. Not all of it works, but so much of it speaks to me.

She can run free forever
Still our blood runs us together

Sleep, baby, don’t you cry
Daddy’s got a worn-out lullaby
And I’d live forever dark and damned
To see you spend one minute
In wonderland

That last bit? Yeah, what would I give for a minute, for five minutes, of holding her in this life? To be able to look her in the eyes, to be seen by her? But it’s OK. That day will come.

I treat that day like a birthday, but, of course, it wouldn’t have been. The truth is, her birthday would have been very close to mine, in early August. This summer, when I turn 35, she would have turned four. My niece Bethany was born in November before this happened, so it’s very easy to picture where Katelyn would be — she in August would be the age Bethany was in November. It’s very fresh in my mind what a four-year-old girl is like; look at Bethany a few months ago and that’s kind of what Katelyn would be like today.

But she wouldn’t, really. She would look differently. She would act differently. She would be interested in different things. She would care about different things. Partially because all children are different. But partially because she would be mine. Who she is would have been influenced by who I am. Heh. Can you imagine?

And I wonder about that. What would she be like. If. But I wonder something else sometimes. What would I be like, if. In another happier moment, Susanna, who, of course, knew the story, and I were at church one Sunday last June, and she told me she wanted to tell me something, but hoped it wasn’t bad and that I took it the way she meant. Um, OK. “Happy Father’s Day, David.” And, yeah, it meant a lot to have that validated, to have someone recognize that, as silly as it probably is, it does mean something to me. But what if things were different? Who would I be? How would I be different because of the last four years? And I have no idea. None.

When I do see her, what will that be like? Will she still be an infant when I see her? Will she have “aged” correspondingly to how I have? I hope it doesn’t matter. I hope I can be 31 and hold her in my arms as if things had been different. I hope we can both be adults, and have long rambling conversations and get to know each other. I hope we can both be 6 together and play tag on the streets of gold, play hide-and-seek in our heavenly mansions. I hope I can be middle aged, and proud of the young woman my daughter is.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.

Washa Neeba Zow

(Lyrics & story)

Quick Update

It’s amazing how, despite the fact this is my tenth post in nine days, I’m still behind on my blogging. Several things recently that I’ve wanted to write about, and just haven’t. Some of those are idea stuff, but some of it’s just mundane Dave-life stuff. Last Friday was big enough, with the launch and the concert, that it sort of overshadowed other stuff that I wanted to write about but haven’t.

As per the picture above, I went to Theater Huntsville‘s presentation last night of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, assistant-directed by a friend of mine. Good stuff. Sad, but sweet.

My brother graduated from college Saturday. This makes me feel old, for a couple of reasons. Matthew had just turned four when I went off to Ole Miss, and now has graduated himself. Also, at the rehearsal, there was a speaker that I wondered whether he was one of the people they had talked about talking not that long ago, only to realize that the “not that long ago” I was thinking of was when Matthew matriculated four years ago. Sad that I’m old enough that four years is not that long ago. On the plus side, I was stuck with making sure that the most amazing niece in the world was entertained during the ceremony, which I assure you was an incredibly onerous burden. And, oh, yeah, I’m proud of Matthew, too. In all seriousness, very proud. He just earned his bachelor’s in aerospace engineering; he’s going to actually DO the stuff I just write about people doing.

I taught kids at church again on Sunday. It went pretty well. I had to swallow my pride, admit I’d made a mistake, and fix it. When I started doing this, they said they wanted us to pick a costume and character we would use for the storytelling, and I did. I went with a character that I do quite well in improv shows. By the third month, I realized that I’d made a very bad character choice — it worked great in improv, not so great teaching kids — but wanted to figure out how to redeem it. Last month, there were hardly any kids there, and the ones that were were all very young, so I didn’t even worry about it. That seemed to go a bit better, but it was hard to tell, so Sunday, with everyone back, I bit the bullet and just stopped trying to use the character any more. I got called on it — one of the kids was like, your voice is different. “Yeah, I’m happy.” Basically, I ended up just being a little more me, and apparently a little more me worked. I could feel the difference, and that was good, because that’s been my biggest frustration up until now. When I’m playing to an audience, I generally have a good feel for them, and it’s really disconcerting for me when I don’t. With the kids, I had no feel for them at all until this past Sunday. And that makes me happy.

I’ve been involved in some National Space Society policy discussions recently. We’re living in interesting times, human space exploration-wise. I don’t know what the future holds, or even when we’ll begin to find out what the future holds, but it won’t be boring.