Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Beatles - Yesterday

The Dilemma

As I sit here writing this today I'm facing one the biggest ethical, moral and challenging dilemma's of my life. How did I arrive at this point? Let me give you a brief biography:

Me: I have approached what most people would optimistically consider the halfway point in life. I'm a professional. I have worked for a very well known company for a long time and have thrived. Up until maybe seven or so years ago, many would have opined that I had a great life. And I did. Happily married for a very long time and with three beautiful kids to boot, I was also active in the church and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Then, IT happened.

My beautiful wife was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. So the doctor's appointments began, along with the medications and the chemotherapy.

My wife was a great mother, fantastic spouse, and good Christian as well. She was a stay at home mom, but with three kids it could easily be argued that she had a more taxing job than I. I definitely worked a lot, but her job was certainly more important than mine. There was laundry to be done, meals to prepare, messes to clean and homework help. Of course, there was all the driving around to school, the sporting events, the music lessons and the sleepovers. Wow, she put a lot of miles on the vehicle and still found the time to do all the other things that go along with being a great mom. In retrospect, it really makes you wonder. HOW do they do it all?

Unfortunately, my wife's condition slowly began to deteriorate. There were some signs of hope. At times we were optimistic that she could beat this beast called cancer. Ah, remission....that's the word you want to hear, but remission doesn't mean it's gone forever. Sadly, cancer continued to invade my wife's body. She was fighting the good fight, but slowly beginning to lose the battle.

Oh, and our kids. We had to stay strong for them. Of course, as they got older, the more they understood the seriousness of the situation. While we didn't want them to carry any extra burden's, there came a point in time when we had to be honest about the inevitability of the situation. Yes, my wife had terminal cancer. It was not a question of if she was going to pass on, but when.

Therefore, I found myself in the unusual position of grieving for my spouse before her death. The process was grueling. I had to work, be strong at home for the kids and support my wife right up until the very end. What could be worse than what she was going through, though. Thankfully, my wife also was a very religious person and was also close to the Lord. As difficult as this all was, without God I don't know how we would have gotten to this point. After battling for about five years of being terminal, she relinquished herself into God's hands.

I was devastated not only for myself, but more so for my kids. Mommy is gone from this earth, but she is in a better place. How many times did I say that? Well, we did what others do when something tragic like this happens. It's not like you are given a choice. You have to pick up the pieces and keep going. I have three kids to be concerned about. Little did I know, but that in a few short months I would be facing "The Dilemma."

Her: "Her" is someone I have known for a while. She has two kids. They are similar in age to mine. One day her husband had come home and said, "I don't love you anymore. I want a divorce." This came as a total shock to her. She thought things were going pretty well. He actually stuck to his guns. They got divorced and she was alone to take care of her kids. I can just imagine the pain she was going through. Her husband comes home and apparently is having a mid life crisis and wants out. ALL the way out.

She and I began to talk and confide in each other. In a way, we were in similar situations. We had both lost the love of our lives. As we began to talk we found we had more in common. What started out as someone I could talk to about my situation, quickly developed into a good friendship.

I'm not going to be dishonest. I almost immediately began to have thoughts of being together. I know this may sound awful, but frankly I had been unable to be intimate with my wife for maybe five years. Yes, I feel guilty about it, but don't I have the right to make a life for myself again? Someone please show me the book that states how long one is to grieve and how long I'm "supposed" to wait to get involved with another woman. Rightfully or not, our relationship grew into more than a friendship.

We both decided to take the honest approach with our kids. We told them what was going on. Predictably, they were highly upset. Have I made some mistakes along this path? Of course. I vividly remember having a conversation with one of my one of my children where I intimated on this particular day, being with "her" was more important to me than going to one of my child's school activities. I wish I could take a mulligan on that one.

The fact is that I'm in love again. It's terrible timing. It's tough on all of our kids. My kids expected me to continue mourning the loss of their mother. Who could blame them?

There you have it. I'm in love and want to be with this woman. I also want to be a good father to my kids. Should we have to wait for all of our kids to get out of school? One of them is in elementary school still. I will pray to God for guidance as to what to do from here.

take the honest approach

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Voice of Truth lyrics - CASTING CROWNS

The Saving Suicide Scene

“We rarely do the suicide scene. It only works if we have an overly dramatic actress,” my brother in law said when I asked him which acting parts are available in our church drama. He wasn’t supportive of me auditioning for the play, but I knew this one was set up by a Heavenly Agent.

When I heard Reality Ministries was coming back to our church to put on the drama 'Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames' I trembled with excitement. I had always loved acting and was disappointed that my night shift job had kept me from being in the play the other times we did it. But this time I had a day job that would allow me to participate.

However less than a month before the production came to our church, I changed jobs and found myself back on the night shift with no promise of getting time off. So I prayed, “Lord, if You want me to do this as much as I want it, You’ll have to do something about the schedule.” Then I left it at that.

My first answer to prayer came when I ended up with a week of daytime orientation that happened to be during the exact week the drama was at our church. My evenings were free. So there I was reading lines for a part in the play. The directors took a lunch break and asked us to pray that they would cast the right people in the right parts. So we did.

After lunch they began handing out scripts, calling us by name. But each time they didn’t say my name, my heart sank a little deeper. “Lord, if all you want me to do is pray for the others I would be glad to do that. Sad, yes, but willing to…”

My second answer came as a voice broke through my silent prayer. “Pam, the suicide scene.” As the director handed me my script, I cringed, “Does that mean I am overly dramatic?”

I read the script to myself and threw it down. “Oh no, no way, I am NOT doing this scene,” I muttered. My heart pounded and my hands grew sweaty. The character was a lady who had become an alcoholic causing her husband to leave her for another woman. Desperate and broken, she rejected Jesus and pleaded for her husband to come back. When he wouldn’t she decided to let him live with the guilt of her suicide. This scene was much too familiar. It hit too close to home. I couldn’t do it.

Nearly eleven years ago I had been rejected and abandoned by my husband. I had tried hard to deal with the hurt and anger on my own. I thought maybe I was over it all, but as I read the lines, that hurt and anger resurfaced and I wept. Ready to quit, a silent tugging at my heart caused me to persist. I knew my Heavenly Agent had picked exactly the right part for me, I just wasn’t sure why.

I soon found out. When I went onstage to perform, I became the woman in the play. I wasn’t me anymore but a character in a play.

As I screamed, cried and delivered my lines, something miraculous happened. A warm, soothing balm flowed over my aching heart as I recited the words on my script: “I don’t want Jesus, I want Mike back.” I instantly realized I no longer felt that way. I didn’t want the man who had hurt me; I wanted Jesus! Amazing. My heart didn’t hurt as much.

How could it be that in the eight minutes it took to perform my small part in a church drama that God would instantly heal a broken heart I had tried for 11 years to fix myself?

Simple: I prayed. God answered.

instantly heal a broken heart

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jodeci - Forever My Lady

The Infinity

The cold misty November morning engulfed us as our pure joyful bliss warmed us to the core. I never even felt the cold around me or the moisture touching my skin as my heart pounded like a big bass drum pumping raw emotion through my body. “Remember your vows! Remember your vows! And for GOD’s sake whatever you do, do NOT be sick from nervousness. Not here, not now.” These thoughts played over and over in my head as the time got closer for us to bring this entire relationship to fruition. I heard the words coming from the minister as I held my bride’s hands tightly. She is a cool, calm and collected customer to most but I know her better than most. I could feel her nerves through her fingertips and could notice the rhythm of her heart beating intensely through her blouse. Yeah, I felt a little more at ease knowing she was just as excited and as nervous as I was; one more thing that we seemed to be in sync with. The perfect bride on a perfect day; what could possibly go wrong? Just then, it was time for me to recite my vows. I gathered my emotions and opened my mouth but I paused for what seemed to be an eternity. “Oh my GOD, I think I forgot what I am supposed to say!” As I thought of what to say, my entire time with this phenomenal woman replayed in my head at the speed of a hummingbird’s wings. It was almost like those stories you hear of people saying about their lives flashing before their eyes in split seconds but feeling like it lasted forever. Time paused for a moment as I saw, US.

January 18th, 2010. Another MLK Holiday to most people but for me it was also another work day. The office was quiet and I was the only one there. I got my systems up and running and was ready for another awesomely, exciting day as a real time energy trader. Ok, so that was a weak attempt at sarcasm but I think we all can relate to a job we do really love but have some boring days we try to make more exciting. Anyhow, everything was running smoothly and the TV showed nothing but boredom. I decided to do what most of us U.S. workers do at work, yep that’s it; I logged into facebook.

I had been on for a few minutes when I found myself on a friend’s page commenting on a thread. As I read through various comments, I noticed responses within the thread left by this gorgeous woman. She had eyes that were so deep that her picture appeared to look right into me. “Who is this beautiful woman?” I thought to myself. I had to attempt to at least find out a little more about her as my curiosity peaked. I posted on a common thread. You know; to be cool about it and not seem “stalkerish.” One of my phones rang as I had to do the old work thing for a few minutes. All the time I kept checking back to see if there was a reply. A few minutes later there was a message awaiting my response on my facebook chat from this woman who had instantly intoxicated me with her essence. Literally I thought to myself; “OH SHIIIIIIII*!!!”

We chatted getting to know each other for a few minutes. “A few minutes???” It was more like we chatted the entire day away. It was almost ten straight hours of chatting back and forth getting to know each other; finding out that we both were in parallel lives going through breakups of equally dissatisfying marriages. We discovered that we grew up less than ten minutes away from each other and shared a ton of friends from the same high school. Hell I know I had said that the year 2010 would be a serious year of change but I had no idea what was about to happen to my life.

We spent the next month chatting back and forth online via facebook and skype as well as lengthy phone conversations before we decided to meet up face to face to really see how things would progress. I was seriously excited. I mean for me that was a big thing because in my first marriage I had grown to become almost robotic with no emotions involved other than anger. On my way to meet her, I felt my heart beating and my palms getting sweaty. Hell I felt like a high school boy going on his first date and not knowing how to act. This woman enticed my senses into an awakening of sorts; and I loved every moment of it.

I got to her place and nervously I approached the door. I dried my palms and took deep breaths. I did the “smellit” test. You all know what that is, right? Cup your hand and blow your breath into it covering your nose to see if you can “smellit.” It was all good. Now it was time to make this happen. I knocked on the door and took another deep meaningful breath. A second or two passed before the door began to open. Everything suddenly went into slow motion. The door opened and there this woman stood as gorgeous as I could have ever imagined. Her hair was long and perfectly in place. Her smile that was so warm and inviting etched into my mind. Her tall beautiful figure was enough to make a grown man fall to his knees. Luckily for me I was too nervous to fall to my knees or that would have been a disaster. I couldn’t do anything but revert back to what I had done for the previous 16 years of my previous marriage; I acted. I gave her a big hug and walked in and started conversation. We talked like we had talked for the past month. Nothing seems awkward at all. We had great chemistry and everything was going well but something was bothering me. I had it all in my head as to how things would be when we first met and to be honest, this wasn’t how I saw it at all. I had to do something about it. I had to stop acting and be me. It was time for a mulligan of sorts but how in the world do you get a chance to make a first impression, a second time? It was time for the real me to come through and hopefully she would follow along.

I got up and asked her to come to the door for a second. I stepped back outside of the door and told her that I needed to start this over again, so please just bare with me and play along. She stood there with her sly smile on her face and an expression of approval. I think she loved the fact that I was a little nervous and was trying something perhaps she had never experienced. I closed the door; her on the inside and me on the out. I paused and took a deep breath; then ran the “smellit” test again. I knocked on the door with a little more confidence and determination that I knew was inside me waiting to come out

This time when the door opened, I walked up close to her assuring to purposely get into her space and have her in mine. We looked into each other’s eyes deeply with full meaning and really SAW each other. We got closer and closer as I could feel the vacuum of our passion sucking every bit of noise and motion completely out of the room. Our lips touched and it was everything I imagined and much more. We kissed passionately exploring each other as if we already knew every little aspect of each other’s mouth. I backed her against the wall and held her hands in mine extended tall above our heads assuring that our lips never lost contact. I have to admit I had never kissed anyone with this much passion. All I can say is it took this phenomenal woman to bring it out of me. We slowly backed our lips away from each other’s slowly while staring into each other’s eyes. Both of us gasping for breath as this kiss really gave our cardiovascular systems a good work out. We smiled with serious approval at each other and giggled with excitement as we gathered our things to head to a nice dinner together.

From that night on, we counted the minutes until we could see each other again. It was a reoccurring thing each and every week. I looked forward to seeing her every time I was off from work. It was almost like the anticipation of a long needed vacation every few days. I worked and lived in Austin TX as she did the same in Houston. Luckily I have a work schedule that afforded us plenty of time to share with each other. Weekly trips back and forth kept our passion growing beyond our wildest dreams. It wasn’t very long into our growing relationship that I knew that this woman would indeed be my wife one day.

We committed ourselves to each other in our relationship and searched for a way to solidify it. We did this by deciding to get a tattoo that represents us. We wanted something to signify our infinite love and respect for one another. We decided on an infinity symbol to be tattooed on our wrists. It was perfect! Now not only could we feel our love within each other, but we could also see it physically on each other. The infinity symbol was now us. It was our way of saying and showing what we felt for one another. We continued to say “I love you” to each other but it just never really expressed our feelings to each other in its totality. Now, we had a word that was ours to fully explain to one another our true love and respect for each other. INFINITY!

We spent the spring and summertime planning all kinds of events to see how we would be able to work as a family. After all, we both had kids from our first marriages. The key would be to see how they (the kids) would all get along. The kids loved the thought of their possible additional siblings. They played hard, they all ate hard and they all fought hard. It was comical seeing the little spats followed by intense play sessions. As the summer passed, they all became inseparable. Everything was going perfectly. Our passion grew stronger and stronger and our kids noticed every bit of it. The “married” comments started to be tossed around by the kids as they expressed their interest in us being married and becoming a family.

By September 2010 we were both finally divorced from our first marriages and engaged to be married to each other. Talk about a whirl wind romance. Everything happened at such a fast pace that it was PERFECT for us. We knew exactly what we wanted in our soul mate and we had found those qualities within each other to share it with. We decided we would be married in Houston and we selected Nov ember 13th to be our special day. Only our really immediately close family members knew the date as we preserved the actual ceremony to be shared with our kids. We decided it would be perfect to keep it really low keyed and to have our kids in the ceremony being we were uniting us all to become one family.

It was exciting picking out colors for the kids to wear and organizing our small ceremony that we were in control of. No pushy family members telling us what we should do or where. No friends telling us when or how big it should be. This was just me and my bride calling all the shots on the joining of our family to become one. I loved every second of this planning and the anticipation of being able to share every day of the rest of my life with my best friend. I bubbled over with joy finally realizing that this entire year was real and was blossoming into what I thought I would never ever feel in life; true love.

We pretty much had everything set and ready to go by the middle of October. We still had three to four weeks remaining before the big day. The time on the clock started to move slower and slower. The previous seven months had flown by so fast and now time was moving as slow as it possibly could. We continued to enjoy each other every week as we had done since first meeting in person in February. It was pretty amazing realizing that once we met in February we hadn’t missed one week of seeing each other. Our dedication and initiative was strong in moving us to travel to each other every single week without fail to just simply be in each other’s presence. This had to be fate.

I woke up that November morning in the same manner as I had so many mornings before. My beautiful lady by my side, the birds chirping outside the window and the hustle and bustle of the kids running through the place playing as hard as they possibly could. As much as I tried to tell myself this was another day to just be with my best friend, my body knew that so much more was about to happen in a few hours. 30 minutes later we were in full preparation mode. The girls were getting their hair ready and getting dressed. I once again was reciting my vows to myself flawlessly but still feared I would forget them under the pressure of having to say them when it counted. Time picked up her pace and started to fly by now. It seemed as though it were only minutes before we were all in the car and on the way to unite as husband, wife and family.

We selected the Houston water wall as our location to be married. It is a beautiful structure that stands tall with lots of straight lines that demands your attention with its beauty within its fluidity throughout itself. The perfectly manicured grass running long ways to the base of the steps to the wall gave the structure depth that would make for awesome photo opportunities. The mist in the air softened the pictures to give them a cloud like appearance that added another layer of beauty to be seen. It was the perfect place for us. I wasn’t nervous one bit as we approached the wall with our minister and meeting our friends there to witness the ceremony. There was lots of laughter and anticipation of the event. Smiles were on everyone’s faces as we approached hand in hand, eyes clear and hearts full ready to take the next step into our beautiful relationship. Today was our future and we gladly welcomed her with open arms.
We took our places and took a deep breath as we began our ceremony. I heard the words being said as if they were raining down upon me from the sky. I stared off in the distance at the Williams Tower and the sky as I tried to take in the moment hoping I would never forget what I am seeing and feeling at this moment as long as I shall live.

Time paused for me so that I could take this all in. It was as if everything stood still for the opportunity for me to study it all. I stood away from myself to look at us. We are so happy and blessed. Our kids were full of smiles and excited to become brother and sisters. Our friends were beaming with joy as they had witnessed our relationship explode from the very beginning and couldn’t be happier at the outcome.

My beautiful wife stood there looking at me and it melted my heart. Her eyes explained every emotion she was feeling and she for once and for all was not afraid to let it show to anyone that noticed. She is reserved that way in being private and not to let too many people into her world of what she is thinking. Today was not such a day as she let her thoughts be seen proudly. She is the most beautifully amazing, phenomenal woman I have ever met and God has so blessed me to be her husband. Me? Of all the men on the planet, it was me that she had chosen. Eat your hearts out fellaz!!!

Again, I stood there seeing us when all of a sudden I felt my heart pounding and could finally see motion and hear sound again. I stood there looking at the minister as she expressed with her eyes that it was my turn to say something. I finally snapped back to myself and realized I was standing there with my mouth open replaying the past ten months in my head awaiting the words to come out. My vows to my new wife were supposed to come out and I had paused to take in the moment. Finally I began.

“I come here today before our family and friends to give myself to you. Our hand in hand and heart to heart, I promise to always love you. I promise to always respect you as an individual. I promise to always remain faithful to you. With you I will walk my path understanding our strengths and learning from them as well as recognizing our weaknesses and overcoming them together. On this day and every day, I choose you; Jeanne-Marie Listl to be my wife.” The vows started to come out of me with no hesitation except for an occasional dramatic pause as I fought off emotions trying to make me cry. I mean I could never do that. I am way too “RTD” (rough, tough and dangerous) for all that to happen (wink). I completed my vows and took a deep breath as my body just wanted to collapse with raw emotion exhausting me. Jeanne said her vows back to me and made me excited with the thought that we were moments from becoming husband and wife.

We placed our rings on each other’s fingers as we beamed with joy. After hearing “You may now kiss your bride,” we embraced for the most loving kiss that I have ever experienced in my life. We were now husband and wife. And I couldn’t be any happier in my life.

It has now been a couple of months since that wedding day and we are now living together in Austin, Texas. The kids are adjusting quite well and really enjoying every moment they have together. We’ve even enrolled them in soccer and are awaiting the upcoming soccer season in a few weeks.

Happiness is something that I thought happened to other people. It took me a long time to realize that we are those “other” people. Happiness is ours to have but we have to accept it and run with it when given the opportunity. We ran with our opportunity and it has become our infinity. Most stories of this nature are written in an anonymous fashion but I love this woman so much, that I don’t care who hears or reads our story.

I hope that we continue to inspire people as many have come to us saying that our story has touched them in many different ways. One thing I can say is that I, Alton Matthews, love my wife, Jeanne-Marie Matthews and she is definitely my INFINITY!!!


The love that we share knows no bounds. Saying “I love you” never will do our feelings true justice.

Together we will make history as our hearts beat as one. Living, laughing and enjoying our lives is our priority.

As we continue to love each other forever, our love is our “Infinity.”

Alton and Jeanne

November 13, 2010

Update: We often give the kids a chance to tell us what they would like to do for a day or a weekend or whatever, so a recent trip to Target for shopping was a kid’s outing for us. We strolled through the store while the kids looked for items to buy with their gift money. Shoes, toys, toys and oh yeah, TOYS!!! We strolled from one section to another when I heard our youngest saying something to Jeanne. As we continued on I heard “tell daddy” from Jeanne to our little one. The pitter patter of little steps fast approached me from behind before I felt a tug on my hand. I looked down to a beaming face with a big smile, minus a few baby teeth. I mean this child really knows how to work her cuteness. She gives you just the right look and just the right tone to often get her way and whatever she wants. She cleared her throat and in her “I’m going to get what I want” tone, these words rolled off her tongue and through her lips; “Daddy? I want a little brother…”

happiness is ours to have

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mo Horizons - Mambuloo

Performance Piece

I should have been an actor.

I’ve played the role. Happy housewife. Got that one down pat. I played that role so well that the one person who taught next to me for six years swore I was having a mid life crisis when I finally got the nerve to leave my marriage. Oscar anyone? I learned really early to disconnect. That’s my safety net. Hurt me, and I disconnect. Easy enough. Disconnected I can survive anything. I wonder if I believed that in a previous life? (Hey, who really knows, right?) Maybe I grew up on a stage.

So, my story? What is MY story? Do I actually have a story to tell? Something someone could actually learn something from? My life has been relatively easy. Grew up in a house, two parents, two kids. Dad was military. Traveled a bit. Did the overseas thing. Parents separated when I was a junior, divorced officially my freshman year of college. So did it affect me? Not much.

Or maybe I disconnected so it wouldn’t? I found myself a college graduate in a town that I’d gone to school in so I was relatively comfortable. I had a decent job, lived with good friends, and just enjoyed life. Met people here and there but nothing really connected. Had more than one or two dates that probably should have never been. But we learn and move on. Right? Another disconnect?

23 years old, 24, 25, 26……..working hard, teaching…… nothing happening on the romantic front. Had a friend from high school. We’d dated one summer. It was fun that summer, but yeah, it was a summer. We’d had fun. We spent a weekend Summer of 25 yrs but nothing clicked. Summer of 27 comes around and still nothing.

Getting a little nervous here. I thought to myself wow, am I not going to find anyone? I don’t want to play the single sex and the city girl. This college town definitely wasn’t New York.

So, I decided let’s call summer guy. I called, we hooked up, within a year we were married. It was a whirlwind courtship. That’s for sure. Looking back there were a lot of warning indicators. Why didn’t it bother me that he wouldn’t spend time with MY friends? Why didn’t it bother me that he’d disappear for a weekend? Why didn’t the temper bother me? I learned quickly what role I had to play to become that person to make him happy. After all, I’d get to be married, finally have my children that I wanted. Sad, I know.

Married life? Oh yeah, I played that role well. Happy housewife. Everyone believed it. Dinner every night, house reasonably clean (lol) crafts and creative ideas here and there. Did we have a torrid love affair? No, but we had a working relationship. I took care of the house and he did the work thing. Yeah, I had a job as well that I went to every day, but it was clear that his was the more important job since his job made three times as much as mine. We were comfortable. My paycheck was for me to use. I paid for the children’s purchases and here and there whims. I had it easy. I admit it. I knew I had it good. Maybe that’s why I stayed for so long? I could play the happy role in exchange for comfort?

But then, things started to change and I realized I’d made some major sacrifices. And the biggest thing I’d sacrificed was my happiness. It’s sad when you look forward to your spouse being away because then you can relax and not have to worry about whether or not the kids are too loud or dinner is ready on time or whether he’ll be irritated by something. I knew I had to do something.

It took me three years of really deciding if I could do it or not. I had one of those apartment locator books in my car for a quite a while. Finally, I started the process. Vocalized to a friend how I felt and that I wasn’t happy. Apparently I played the role so well that one of my best friends accused me of having a mid life crisis! Why would I want to leave a home with money, security, everything that reasonable person would ask for? I mean, he doesn’t hit you does he? She asked. Well, this just wasn’t me. This wasn’t love. I knew it. He knew it. We were at the point where it wasn’t even working as a roommate situation. Sad that I could have settled for that but even that wasn’t working. Yeah, it took me a long time to realize it but it just wasn’t me.

So, now, I’m doing me. The divorce is almost finalized and yeah it’s scary. Here I am, alone responsible for the welfare of myself and children who didn’t ask for this, but recognize that life is better. Yes, dad’s still in the picture and yes, they see him regularly. I get reminded regularly that they are HIS children. I wonder why he tells me that….none of this is about them. We all know they are his. And they will always be his. But, I’m not anymore. I’m me. I’m my own self.

And now I'm playing my hardest role. Me.

PS. Funny how things work. Get out of a marriage and randomly meet the true love of my life. Someone who inspires me, protects me, loves me unconditionally, brags of me, consumes my every thought……someone who still takes my breath away every time he kisses me. Yeah, this is what I have been waiting for the last 40 years. For the first time in my life I really feel like it’s me. No script, no make up, no costumes. I’m ready for my close up.

play YOUR role

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rockstar - Nickelback

The Bassist

I'm scared. How do you do what you haven't been taught, and still appear as though you know what you're doing? I've got no problem with the confidence, and the "fake it 'til you make it" concept is down...but what next?

I manage and play bass in a rock band. It's my first, and we're in Austin, TX. We've been together for a little over four years and have little product to show for it. Well, when compared to other bands, we have very little at all. From our own devices and meanderings, we have scraped together enough to record a thirteen track full length and release it on our own terms. It's professionally done, inside and out, and our online image is top tier with a few rough spots.

Our musical abilities? Amazing. No, really - it's not "your friend's band" amazing, but "I can't believe that I didn't know about these guys" amazing. We had a revolving roster for a second, but we've since stabilized. We've lived together, fought with each other and against each other, played together, etc; we're brothers... and I'm the one responsible for getting us places.

I really can't complain too much. After all, I did get myself into this situation by taking the reigns and pulling us forward. There wouldn't have been any forward momentum if I didn't step up and start overseeing everything myself. Delegation is a learned skill that I've
acquiring through trial and error. It's not just who you give the task to, but that you follow up and make sure that they're not killing time getting high, spending time with the girlfriend, or that they didn't forget in general. Having musicians as your surrogate workforce isn't the toughest thing in the world, but it's not the easiest either.

Presently, I'm connecting with you on the precipice of everything we've accomplished in the past four..five years. The CD will be released tomorrow, and there will be a crazy party to celebrate. We will all be broke again, but this time, we'll have a variety of
merch under our belt and a new group of people who enjoy least I hope so.

I also think that I'll be writing about my circumstance a bit more.

fake it 'til you make it

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Billy Joel "The Stranger"

The Stranger

Questions and more questions. There were always questions. But even after being asked the same ones over and over, I was still always surprised if not humored that I was being asked the same questions yet again. “So why can't you wear makeup?” “You're going to Prom? But I thought you weren't allowed to dance?” “I thought you could only wear dresses? Does your preacher know you wear pants to school?” “How many wives does your father have?” “Don't you believe in a different Jesus?”

I found it strange that so many of my high school friends and classmates thought they knew so much about my Mormon faith, but clearly didn't. So much of what they thought they knew was nothing more than rumors, or something confused with another religion. So when the same questions came, the same answers followed.

“I wear makeup everyday-- can't you tell? There's nothing in my faith that says we can't wear makeup.”
“Who told you we can't dance? Our youth group has a dance every single month!”
“There's nothing in my faith that says women can't wear pants. We wear dresses to church, but other than that, we wear whatever we want as long as it's modest.''
The polygamy questions always made me laugh because despite the fact that for thirty-eight years in the late 1800's Mormons did in fact practice polygamy, the idea that my father would, or that any of the Mormon men I'd grown up knowing all my life would, seemed absolutely absurd to me. “There aren't any Mormons that have more than one wife. That was like-- a hundred years ago. The people who still do that aren't even Mormon.”
The 'different Jesus' question was, I admit, the one question that caused me to get a little defensive. I'd been told on several occasions that I wasn't Christian. When I told them I was, the retort was always the same. “But you believe in a different Jesus." The statement probably shouldn't have offended me, still, it did. It was like telling me I wasn't a girl. It was like telling me that my family didn't love me, or that I didn't love my family. I was a girl. I knew my family loved me. I knew I loved my family. And I knew I believed in Christ as my Savior. On the one hand I thought, “Who cares what they think? I know what I believe, and God knows what I believe. What they think I believe doesn't matter.” On the other hand, telling me I wasn't a Christian and that I believed in a 'different' Jesus offended everything I knew and felt, everything I was, and everything I was striving to become.

"A different Jesus? Is there 'another' one? I believe in the One that was born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary. The One that was baptized by John the Baptist and turned water in to wine. The One that cleansed the lepers, made the blind see and healed the lame. The One that raised Lazarus from the dead. The One that suffered for my sins and bled from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane so I could be forgiven. The One that died on the cross and rose from the dead . That's the only Jesus I believe in. There isn't another one." For many, what I said didn't matter. They chose to believe what they heard from someone who wasn't even Mormon, instead of someone who was. Thankfully, there were those who could see through the haze, stood by me, and even defended me. To this day, I'm still grateful to them and how they supported me in my faith, even if they didn't realize they were doing it.

I recall on one occasion, sitting with my friends at a table in the cafeteria. I was a sophomore in high school, and one of only 5 or 6 Mormons in a student body of approximately 2500, and the only Mormon sitting at the lunch table that day. The others, except for one Catholic were all Baptist. We were gossiping about someone. I don't remember who we were talking about or what we were saying about her. What I remember is the conversation that followed because it resulted in one of those important life lessons that has stuck with me ever since. After saying something about the girl in question, and surely, it was something negative and critical, one of my Baptist friends turned and said, in one of those joking yet serious ways, “Um... I thought Mormons weren't suppose to gossip.” By some miracle, I didn't choke to death on my food.
I can only imagine the deep shade of red that must have been covering my face, though I can testify to the heat that rushed my cheeks. I'd been called to the carpet and I was horribly, but deservedly ashamed.
I don't remember what I said in apology, but I do remember saying, “You're right. We're not supposed to gossip”, and somehow, the conversation turned to a list of things that Mormons couldn't do. As we talked however, a thought occurred to me. A lot of the things that Mormons couldn't do, were things that they, as Baptists and Catholics shouldn't do either. I'd been to church services with my Baptist friends several times. I'd even studied some of their literature. I also knew a lot about Catholicism. My father was Catholic, and to appease my parents, I went to church with them alternatively for a couple years-- one Sunday with my mother at the Mormon church, the next with my father at the Catholic church, and so forth. So I was familiar enough with both faiths to know that they shouldn't have been gossiping either, or many of the other things they were discussing as “things Mormons can't do.” Suddenly, I found myself feeling a little indignant. Not because I'd been unjustly accused. But because I was sitting at table of Christians, though of different sects, and yet I was the only one who was expected to behave as a Christian? That's when I spoke up.
“Wait a minute. You guys are all Baptist, and you're a Catholic”, I said, pointing to them perspectively. “You're all Christians too. I know you guys aren't suppose to gossip either, or do half the things your talking about. So why do I get singled out as the one who's not suppose to gossip?” Then came the answer that threw me for a loop. “'Cause you're Mormon. You're actually suppose to live your religion.” After a moment of dumbfounded silence, we all started laughing at the comment, even the one who said it, realizing how silly it sounded. But that's what had come out of her mouth. Mormons are suppose to live their religion. She didn't realize she thought that way until she actually verbalized it and as we talked they all expressed the same thing! For a reason indeterminable to them, they didn't really expect themselves or others to live up to their religious beliefs, the way they expected me to live up to mine, even though we shared most of them. We all agreed that day, that we would do our best to hold ourselves to our common beliefs and encourage each other to really live them. The conversation was both eye-opening and somewhat life-changing. It's one that I hope has stuck with them over the years, the way it has with me.
Two years later, I was invited to a senior party with kids that I considered “the good kids”. I'd been assured that there would be no beer or any questionable activity going on and that the parents would be home. About three hours in, the teen hostess broke out a bottle of wine. I must have been wearing shock on my face because she looked right at me and said “It's okay, my parents know. And it's not like we're “drinking", it's just wine-- we'll just have one glass and make a toast.” She began filling glasses while others distributed them. Someone I didn't know stretched out their arm to hand me a glass and suddenly people came from every direction saying things like “Don't give that to her!” “She doesn't drink!” “Hey, she's Mormon, don't give her that!” One friend even stepped in between me and the person handing me the glass. No one was making fun, no one was mocking my faith-- they were protecting me. Despite our differing beliefs, despite our different standards, they respected mine and were standing up for me and I didn't even have to say anything, and I've never forgotten that.
I've spent most of my adult life working with teenagers through the youth group programs of the church. To this day, when I hear people talking about the negative impact of peer pressure I have to insert a few comments. Surely, there are a lot of horrible influences on our children, and the negative forms of peer pressure can sometimes pull our kids onto paths we really don't want them to tread. But there is positive peer pressure as well. There are so many good kids out there and they can have a powerful influence. Those same kinds of kids helped me to live up to my standards by expecting it of me, and by supporting me in them and even defending me against those who they thought were trying to sway me from them.
In many ways, what I believed and the way I lived was “strange” to them. Nevertheless, their goodness allowed me to live my faith among them-- a stranger, yet a friend.

there is positive peer pressure