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Happy 39

November 4th, 2013

Tech Tower

I’ve developed a habit of having some pretty awesome, amazing, epic birthday weekends and they are almost always unplanned, they just seem to happen. This year was no different. The week started off a little stressful with a work deadline to meet but Halloween night, while the girls were out trick-or treating I was handing out candy at the door and wrapping things up. That cleared the decks for the weekend so I didn’t have any work issues to worry about.

Adriene left on Friday to drive up to North Carolina to meet some of her friends for a weekend to celebrate our friend’s last chemo and radiation treatment. We are so excited for her that she has fought a hard fight this year and it looks like she is emerging the victor. However, that meant I was on my own for my birthday. Adriene even protested a little when invited for the weekend, “but that’s Jeff’s birthday” and Alisa replied, “tell Jeff I had cancer.” Well then. No matter, my girls and I went out for dinner (they insisted on something “fancy” for my birthday and I suppose Macaroni Grill counts as fancy, at least in their minds) and then on Saturday we drove out to visit my parents. I left the girls with my parents and went downtown for Homecoming at Georgia Tech. I’m glad I arrived early as I had time to visit with old friends, some I hadn’t seen in several years, and also wander around campus to take photos of all of buildings that have changed so much since I was in school. The game was pretty exciting as well as Tech won a hard fought game over Pitt. Sunday was fun as well as we visited my parents’ church and enjoyed a potluck lunch that reminded me of so many lunches at church during my childhood. Also, the girls spent large amounts of time outside in the incredible weather, which makes everybody happy. They even slept in to a decent time when we fell back an hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time. If that isn’t a birthday gift right there, I don’t know what is.

So, here we are a year short of 40. My mom insists the forties are much better than the thirties and I’m inclined to believe her. I used to post a lot about how difficult life had become during the first years of having babies and then toddlers, but the last couple years I can definitely feel the slow easing off of difficulty as they get older. I had the girls to myself for the last two weekends and it is noticeably less tiring than two or three years ago and there are so many more laughs and jokes now.

I love these epic birthdays and I love that they seem to come out of nowhere. I also love how they set up Thanksgiving and Christmas as the year begins to wrap up. The 40th birthday has a lot of work to do to live up to these last few birthdays.

My photos from Homecoming and the football game are on Flickr for your perusal.

Blue Jean Sky

September 11th, 2013

The cherry tree in our front yard has already lost all of its leaves. It is always the first tree to bud flowers in the spring and lose leaves in the late summer. Like me, it is always too eager to finish off winter and summer and get a start on spring and fall. I can’t blame it. I’m not going to use all of the cliches about fall (one of the funnier retweets going around Twitter this past week: “If you look in a mirror and say ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ three times, a white girl in yoga pants will appear and tell you all of her favorite things about fall.”) but if you know me, you know how much I love this time of year.

I don’t know why the weather is always so spectacular on September 11 here in Atlanta, but it seems like it always is. We say “Never forget”, but it’s hard to forget about that day twelve years ago when it feels just like that day outside. September is always a month that is both a little somber and filled with a little anticipation. Everything is about to start moving a little faster at the end of the year.

The title of this post is from Over the Rhine’s new album Meet Me At The Edge of The World

I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You

September 3rd, 2013

We have become experts at being outraged. There is an entire industry making money off of making you outraged. Outrage is an easy response to all of the wrong in the world and there are plenty of things wrong. However, it is much harder to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you.” and admit that maybe we too are a part of the problem. This is where we find Derek Webb, now ten years deep into a solo career after a successful career as a member of the band Caedmon’s Call. Around 2002, Webb quietly started distancing himself from his CCM machine about to release another album and entered the scene on his own with She Must And Shall Go Free The album was Webb’s observations on a church culture that needed reorienting and release from an intertwining of material cravings.

Now, looking back on that initial album, Webb has returned back to speak to the church again, perhaps a little humbled and bloodied from fighting a battle on many fronts. The last few albums have worked further and further out onto some shaky limbs accompanied by distorting melodies and dissonance in the sound. It’s not necessarily that Webb was straying into extremes, despite what some bloggers would tell you, but that it was more and more challenging to listen to his works. This is not such a bad thing as I thought the CTRL/SOLA-MI combination was a powerful commentary on our growing addiction to social network and one of his best pieces of artistry yet.

At some point however, the rubber band has to snap back and Webb has realized he needs to give some reassurance to his longtime listeners and also his vocal critics that he’s “Closer than you think” So, just as Stockhholm Syndrome was a jarring sound from his previous works, this album can be a little jarring as well, dropping layers and layers of sound to give more straightforward major tones and melodies. In some ways the album incorporates bits and pieces of previous work, the title track is a retrospective of him looking back on his career and is the thesis of the album. From there, he continues with some themes of reassurance with “Lover Part 3″, the third part of what Webb came to realize later was a trilogy of songs about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

“Heavy” is a confessional where Derek gets more personal than he has in many albums, but before the listener has a chance to get dragged down “Everything Will Change” is an appeal to drop cynicism and apathy. I particularly liked this song, “it’s hard to keep showing up…”, but the hopeful message is that ultimately everything will change and every sad thing will become untrue.

The album loses a little steam for me at this point, but it starts to ramp back up with “The Vow” which a beautiful statement on a marriage that’s been together for enough years to not be new anymore, but still have a long way to go and then Webb follows that up with a tender song about his wife, Sandra McCracken with “Your Heart Breaks In All The Right Places.”

As someone who loved the density and challenge of Webb’s recent works, I’ve had a little difficulty getting into an album with less to peel back and uncover. Upon further listening though, there is plenty to reward the listener here with each repeat and Webb’s voice has never been better. It’s a most welcome self-reflection that allows reflection into my own life. I’ve spent enough time in my own life making judgments about other people’s life choices and making divisive statements in public places like Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps now it’s time to start mending some fences, admitting I don’t have all the answers, and telling more people that I love them.

Dear Wilderness, be at your best

August 6th, 2013

With all of the rain we have had here in Atlanta and with school starting tomorrow, it feels as if we really didn’t have a summer. Even so, we managed to squeeze in a couple summer vacation trips. We spent a week with Adriene’s parents in Myrtle Beach with trips to the beach, a baseball game, water parks, and even a short visit with friends. This past weekend, sensing that school was looming like a shadow over us, we did a quick trip to Chattanooga to play in the Children’s Museum, go to the Aquarium, and even do the touristy ride up the Incline railroad to the top of Lookout Mountain.

Now, time has run out and delay as we might, it’s time to transition to a new phase of life. Tomorrow the girls begin Kindergarten at the “big school.” We’ve been dropping them off at Pre-K for years now so this shouldn’t feel like such a big change, but it does. We’re going from letting them play in the kids pool to swimming in something deeper and it’s no surprise we’re a little apprehensive.

When Adriene was pregnant one of the songs that went through my head a lot was Sleeping At Last’s “Umbrellas” and the line “You were meant for amazing things” kept resonating through my head as we waited with all of the imagined potential of what our daughters would be. Now, another song keeps going through my head by Sleeping At Last. In “Wilderness”, Ryan O’Neal begs the unforgiving world “though it goes against every grain of your sand, like turning wolves into lambs, be your best for her.” We are prepared the start a new world, but we’re asking, please, dear wilderness be at your best.

No Cornerstone

July 1st, 2013

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Many years this weekend would be spent packing suitcases, getting all of my recording equipment, cleaning the camera, packing batteries upon batteries upon batteries, and making sure all of the memory cards are clear. I’d be hopping in a car and traveling out to the middle of nowhere in Illinois. I’d be sitting out in the heat, the cold, the mud, the rain, the dust, and getting pounded by loud thudding music from Noon to 2 AM each day for a week. This year I’ll be doing none of that.

2012 was the last year for Cornerstone Festival and admittedly, I’ve been a little bit in denial. The 2012 festival was so hot and so draining that I spent more time concentrating on how sweaty and tired I was more than that I was at the last Cornerstone Festival. I kept thinking at some point something miraculous would save the festival. The finality set in when the property was sold. Scott, the festival co-director, sent me photos of the ground flooding with water running down the hill of the former mainstage. Then I saw the photos of fields plowed where tents used to be and it was time to accept that the festival was not coming back.

So, there are no tents. There are no bands. No lemon shake-ups. No ribeye sammiches. No awkward conversations with musicians. No late drives back to the dorm giggling uncontrollably about some dumb joke. There is no long road-trip and saddest of all, no gathering of friends out in a field miles from anything. I’ve been mourning in my own way, watching some beautiful videos of last year’s festival and listening to some of my recordings. It’s been a big year of transition for our little group, with all the babies (and Lord willing, the White triplets joining the ranks) we’ll have added six children. That’s a lot of babies and would surely have impacted our meeting this year. I had planned to skip the festival in 2012, but went since it was the last, so I’m trying to think of this year as my year off. There’s another music festival starting up not too far away in Champaign, Illinois that will be similar, but not the same. I bought a ticket even though I’m not traveling up there, because I really do hope they have a successful first year. Maybe with every death there is a birth somewhere to make up for it. I don’t know if that festival will become our festival or not, but we’ll have to wait and see, maybe I’ll check it out in 2014.

For this year, however, I’m taking a Sabbath. I’m going to enjoy staying home with my girls as it will be the first Fourth of July we’ve celebrated together since they were 1. Normally, I run the Peachtree Road Race when I’m not at Cornerstone, but I’m taking a break from that, too. We’ll watch some fireworks somewhere (maybe on TV since it looks like it may rain) and we’ll do something fun. That hasn’t prevented the profound sense of loss I’m feeling and I’m a little mopey this week. I’ve had a year to prepare for this, but inevitably when the seasons change and I have those feelings as I count down to the week like it’s Christmas, there is nothing when I get to 0 this year. I’m letting myself be a little sad, as long as it doesn’t bleed into the other parts of my life, and I’m trying to hold on to a little bit of hope. Call me hopelessly optimistic, somewhere in my mind I dream of something that will emerge in the next ten years and some music festival will fill the place of Cornerstone Festival and my children will run around with the other “Cornerstone kids” and tell us all about the crazy bands they want to go see. In the meantime, we’ll tell our stories and try to keep the memories lingering for a little longer.