A Gift, Not a Resolution: Part 2

English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift.

English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my last post I mentioned I was trying to change the way I looked at certain things in my life. I decided to give myself the “gift” of exercise and not dreading it or making excuses for why I couldn’t or didn’t make it happen. Instead I decided to be appreciative that I was capable of exercise.

Maybe that is not a gift you would give yourself. Lest you think I am one-dimensional or a sudden exercise nut, I’ll share with you the second gift I decided to give myself. Now this is not something many of you know, but by sharing something personal you might decide to look within and find a “gift” you really want to give yourself. My second gift is more specific than exercise. It has two parts to it. I can’t really express the first part  in a simple word, so I’ll try three: “continue writing songs”.

I started taking guitar classes a few years ago and then without intentionally doing so, songs began to shape themselves in my head. I wrote down snippets of verses and explored various chords. Over the last two years I have started five songs. They are in various stages of completion.  I have no idea what is holding me back, if anything. Maybe I don’t give myself enough time to dink around on the guitar or experiment with lyrics. Maybe I wait for parts to come to me when I’m doing something mundane like loading the dishwasher.

I could have said I want to finish my songs, but that sounds more like something on a to do list. The second part of my gift is “perform original music in public”. No, I don’t want to be a rock-n-roll star, although I have had a blast playing in an ensemble over the past nine months. A fellow band mate in the ensemble more or less encouraged me to perform a song at a local bar that has open mic nights on the second Friday of each month (Fretknot Friday at Independence Tap in Chicago, if you want to know.) I have yet to accept her challenge even though several other of my band mates have. No one has performed original music for Fretknot, only covers, which is perfectly fine. What counts is they are getting up and performing, sometimes alone and sometimes with others.

I am jealous. I found that through playing and performing with the ensemble, I like being on stage. I like putting on a show. I am also frightened because when you are all by yourself it has to be good because no one can cover your mistakes. So, I’m still working on the material I have. I am proud to say that one of my songs has a pre-chorus. I think what keeps me thinking about music and performing is that more people play live  music but fewer write their own music. I’m more than a little curious about how others will interpret my music. I’ll keep you posted.

And the Winner Is…..

So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star

So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

There was a lower voter turnout than I thought. That’s okay. We’ll do this again another time. But in the meantime, the song that I will blog about to explain why I haven’t been blogging is:

So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star 

Stay tuned…..

Songs to Explain Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

Dear Readers,

How are you? As you can tell from my lack of posts, I have not been blogging. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. It’s because I have been occupied with other things. So, if you’d like to read the story behind one of the reasons, please read some of the titles of why I haven’t been blogging and respond via the blog which story you want to read first. You have until Wednesday to vote for the story you want to read first. You can  respond as many times as you want. Feel free to pass on to friends to vote too!

1. Thirty-One Beatles Songs to tell one story of a project that got out of control

2. Photograph

3. Everyday I Write the Book

4. So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

5. Walkin’ on the Moon

6. The Working Hour

I look forward to writing the post.

Tom Petty’s Girl

Tom Petty and I have a unique relationship. Granted, we  have never met. The closest I have been to him was in row 7 at a concert 10 years ago. My first memory of him was  in a hayloft, on my grandparents farm in Michigan. I remember hanging out with my older cousins.  We spent entire afternoons listening to “Refugee” that summer.
As time went on, I remember  thinking that Tom Petty was a musician that people of my mom’s generation liked to listen to. If anyone my age was a fan, it was because they were a “rocker” (jr. high slang word used to categorize a group of kids who listened to rock music, wore concert t-shirts and smoked.)  I, was not a “rocker”. I have no idea what I was at that age when kids begin to find themselves and want to separate from their parents and their tastes. Duran Duran, Madonna, Wham and Howard Jones held my interest.  Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen were for “older” people.
Even though I was trying to find my musical niche, I was still under the music influence  of the adults in my life. I was like a sponge and absorbed all that I was exposed  to. Well, maybe only the lyrics because if there was one thing I was sure of, it was that these “guys” (Tome, Bruce, Rod, Ric Ocasek, etc.) were not attractive. Rod Stewart in a tank top with shiny, skinny pants singing “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” made me want to vomit first, and then send him some clothes to cover up in.
Fast forward to the adult me. I am all grown up, married with children.  But here’s a surprise: I own more Tom Petty CD’s than Wham, Madonna, Duran Duran and Howard Jones combined!
It seems that I absorbed more than I ever thought I would. It is permanent. I am proud that I am  a Tom Petty music lover. I point out his songs to my kids when I hear them on the radio. I get excited when I get to learn one of his songs in  my  guitar class.
But I have to say, the most intriguing change comes over me when I am alone with Tom Petty. I become his girl. I am the girl he is singing about in all of his songs. I cause him heartbreak. He yearns for me. I am there for him, no matter what. He sings to me, “Our Love Was Built to Last”.
When I am cleaning the house, I put him on. I listen to his sweet, slightly twangy, but edgy Southern voice tell me things that I understand now as an adult. I sing along with him, my words surfacing from a vault in my brain that has collected lyrics over the years.
When I am alone with Tom Petty, I am young and available. I have long, blond hair blowing around me (like in the old MTV videos), tanned and toned legs a mile long perched on high heels. I “bring it”  in a mini skirt and a tank top. I am his “American Girl”. I’m going to save him. I’m the best thing he ever had. I’m his “Honeybee”.
Although Tom Petty will never get a 10 in the looks department, he rocks my world when he sings. He really knows how to make a girl feel special. He makes cleaning the house a pleasurable experience.
I’m off to find my sponge and Simple Green now. I think I hear  someone singing.

Remedial Guitar?

The Cmaj chord in guitar, with bass in G

Image via Wikipedia

I began taking guitar classes last October. I had wanted to learn how to play for many years.  I used two criteria to “pick” which class to enroll in: the time of day and the instructor (his bio sounded interesting.)

Every Monday I went to class and played while pain erupted in the nerve endings of my fingertips.  As the weeks rolled on, I learned new chords, formed calluses on my fingertips, tried to jump my fingers into place (and pretended I was Sheryl Crow.)  I loved going to class and little pieces of  songs started bouncing around in my head.

In January, I had to change class days and instructors due to a schedule conflict. I really wanted to  stay with the same instructor. I liked his style, not to mention his song selections.  My new instructor warbled while she sang. I couldn’t help but think about how my Grandma used to sing. She tried to make us play Johnny Cash. I don’t do Johnny Cash.

My enthusiasm waned as winter set in. I no longer arrived home from class eager to play with lyrics trying to find their chord dance partners inside my head. I made excuses not to practice. When I did practice, I played songs from my old class.  Some of the students in my class whined about playing chords they perceived as difficult. I didn’t sign up to play the guitar with Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. If I wanted wine, I would drink it from a fancy glass, not listen to it sloshing out of mouths while I was trying to play.

I almost took a break from the next session, but I didn’t.  I decided to stick it out, hoping that soon my schedule conflict would allow me to switch back to Monday’s class. Then one day something happened. I took a make-up class and this is how it played out.

“Is this Guitar 2?” I asked before class began.

“It sure is,” the instructor told me as he handed out a course packet. (My instructor for the last 2 sessions did not even have a course packet. She just handed out sheets of music.)

I scanned the song selections and began to feel nervous. I saw notations for finger-picking. I saw songs indicating the need for a capo. I saw F chords. I began to wonder if maybe I had walked into an Honor’s Guitar class.

It was too late to leave, so I tried to strum softly to cover up my many mistakes. I felt awful for the man who sat to the right of me. I confessed that our class was not playing at the level that his was. He patiently showed me some of the finger picking-patterns his class was working on and gave me other tips. I survived the class and thanked him for all of his help. He smiled and said “you’re welcome”, but I’m sure he was saying a silent prayer that I would never set foot in his class again.

All the way home, I kept thinking about how much harder the class had been. It made me feel as though I had been in remedial guitar class for the past 3 months. I started to worry about my original plan to transfer back to the instructor that I enjoyed. I contacted him and expressed my concern that I wasn’t at the same level that his current students were at. He invited me to visit his class and play.

The material was challenging, but not unmanageable. Once again, I silently applauded his song selections. I knew that if I enrolled in his class I would have to practice more often and catch up. He told me I’d be fine.

A few weeks ago I switched classes again. I looked forward to attending my class each week,  and practicing too. And guess, what? Songs started appearing in my head again. I decided to make them more interesting by using a capo and adding some finger-picking. Good-bye remedial guitar.

Your Socks Are On Fire

Kings of Leon at FIB (Benicàssim).

Image via Wikipedia

As a parent, I am constantly making split second decisions about my children on a daily basis. Can I have a cookie? No, it is too close to dinner. Do I have to wear my hat today? Yes, it is cold and windy. Can we listen to some kids music? No, it’s my turn to choose the music. For the most part, I am trying to impart healthy habits and teach them common sense. Okay , so the last example sounds a bit selfish. I don’t act that way all the time. I just don’t want my  children  to think that the world  is here to cater to them. I think it is healthy when a parent occasionally puts their priorities and interests first, as long as they are appropriate and will not cause harm. 

So, one day, the radio is on and the kids are in the back seat. A great song comes on and I crank it up, because I’m a car singer. My palm bounces off the steering wheel in syncopation to the drum/bass combination. I get lost in the guitar riff and when the chorus arrives, I panic. It’s split second decision time and I fumble for the volume and the fade knob at the same time. I lower the volume of the song emanating from the speakers and from my mouth.

Why? Well, it’s Kings of Leon singing “Sex on Fire”. We haven’t had the birds and bees discussion yet  and I don’t think the car is the best place for it to happen.  My imagination gets over excited from it’s recent 20 ounce latte and takes over right away with near perfect accuracy about what might happen if we drove down that path…..

Fire engines, ambulances and squad cars engage in dueling horn signals to reach the scene of the five car accident along North Clybourn Avenue first. People stare at me, the shaking thirty-something mother of two children,( one of which is asking questions in rapid machine-gun fire), trying to determine if I am the cause of the accident. Crowds of people gather  as the officer asks how the accident occurred. I fumble over my words , trying to explain my explanation about things that happen behind closed doors between  consenting adults while my  talkative child interrupts me to ask, “You do that?” The look on the officer’s face is a mixture between surprise, choked back laughter and sympathy. Onlookers, gape and gasp. The child continues to connect  the neurons in his brain cells.  I stand frozen, mortified, as a news camera microphone is thrust into my face…..

In a split second, I have avoided embarrassment and potential damage to my car, not to mention my reputation. For now, I will use the avoidance and tiny white lie strategy. Should the children ask what they are saying in the song (which they have been known to do), I’ll lie and tell them, your socks are on fire. But I suppose that if I go down that path, I will have to change the lyrics to many other songs that they might hear. U2 will be singing about socks and boots (“Sexy Boots”), George Michael will be singing about wanting someone elses socks ( “I Want Your Sex”,) Pink Floyd will be singing about a woman who needs to take a bath, (“Dirty Woman”) and Marcy Playground will be singing about the great combination of socks and candy (“Sex and Candy”).

At some point, it will be time to have “the talk” with my kids. And at some point I’ll have to explain what some musicians are really singing about. I would hate for them to grow to adulthood, only to find out that they have been singing the wrong lyrics the entire time. Do you how embarrassing it is to learn that it is NOT “The Sultans of Suede”?

Maybe I should have let them listen to the kids music.