Guitar Picks

The Evidence of Music
a.k.a. Guitar Picks in the Dryer

The pile by the door was everything he needed. An amp, guitar cases, backpack, stage cases, and a computer. The morning sun wasn’t up. Wind and snow whistled by the door as it opened and closed and opened again. The pile shifted from our door into the back of the pick-up. My son’s life shifted from our house to the road.

Goodbyes. The same backpack that followed him around the world with V-Team is now going with him on tour with a band. A trip across America has different risks than a global journey. And I have to be honest, it’s much easier to watch my oldest son leave this time than it was the last. Hopefully, these young adult good-byes will become familiar and maybe a little less sad with each departing. I have no idea. I’m new at this season of parenting.

The day before he left, I stationed myself in the house. I wanted to be around for a full day of music... a day to listen to his voice. Andrew’s guitar has become his voice. He started dabbling with guitar in 1st grade. He got an electric bass when he was 9. Like most instruments with kids, it got set down and picked up now and then. 7th grade was his turning point. It got serious and stayed that way. His guitars have moved on and off stage with American teen bands, touring Brazilian dance bands, and worship bands in Uganda . He has played in front of thousands of people in India, and clusters of friends around camp fires. His inner music has traveled and grown. He's been on a long path with it. In the last few months, his life has felt like a waiting pattern. Between trip and college, he’s been like a grounded airplane, waiting for take-off.

And, in the waiting, his guitar started to play voices I didn’t recognize.

He came home from the world trip playing the blues. I think his life circumstances, and a double slam of mononucleosis and malaria gave his blues depth. His summer job leading worship pushed his voice out in front of his guitar, and somehow it was an entirely different voice than I expected. Hour after hour, day after day music poured out of his life-on-hold. Wafting around the house were his versions of songs by John Mayer, U2, Thrice, B.B.King, Bach, The Fray, Dave Matthews ... everyday some different artist, and a bunch of original ideas dumped out of his head and into the house.

Guitar Picks. For the last few weeks, he’s been preparing to go on tour professionally, as a lead guitar player. The living room has been full of music gear -- amps, processors, cords, guitar stands, the Mac, and pages full of music notation, and guitar picks. Guitar picks are like Legos. They are everywhere and always with us. Typically, picks get shoved in pockets, and end up in the bottom of the dryer.

He usually sits on the couch with a guitar pick between his teeth, working on the music. Day before departure was no different. I orbited and listened. It’s hard to explain how sweet it is to have Andrew’s music playing. And I’m going to miss it, like I miss his voice. Sure, there are still three brothers at home. But, the quiet absence will be obvious for a while. The atmosphere changes when someone walks into your room and turns off your music.

In a bigger way it’s all good. It’s right to watch him finally get clearance for take-off. It’s what’s supposed to happen.

Our kids grow up and fly away. They take their music with them when they depart. And hopefully there is a process for acclimating to quieter living rooms, and cold early morning good-byes. But, I think there will always be Legos under the couch, and guitar picks in the dryer. I’m not sure about that last part. Like I said, I’m new at this.


Today was a crash not a spill. Nobody was hurt. The damage can be fixed and something very important was exposed. It all started with my winter storm car crash.

It was supposed to be a sharp right turn but my steering wheel couldn't navigate the slide. My car careened across the ice. I took my foot off the brake and tried to steer with the slide. No results. I resigned to the crash and sat between moments; sandwiched between choice and outcome. I felt more like an observer than a participant. Time matrixed into a slow frame by frame. The car slid across the road, off the edge and headed for a barbed wire fence post. Outside my window, fence post and car seemed to be skating at each other too fast, like bad ice dancers. I watched them both collide with a hard metalic crunch. The post crashed into the fender between my front tire and driver’s door. The barbed wire scraped my red paint grey where steel met steel. The airbags did not go off.

Nobody was around. I got out to survey the damage and calculate how to dislodge fence post from car body. After a successful battle against my impulse to cry, I manuvered my injured 'Vibe' back on to the road and headed into the consequences.

There’s a lot of good news in the story. Nobody was hurt. No other cars were involved. My car is running. I was able to get where I was going without much interruption. My husband is on his way home from Boston right now. When he’s settled back in, I’ll say, “Um ... I wrecked the car today.” And I know he’ll tell me it’s not a big deal, and that it could have been much worse. Even so, if given the option, I’d definitely take a do-over.

The thing that lingers with me about the crash isn’t so much the insurance hassle and the rattle in the car door. It’s about that floating moment before the outcome. It’s about the slide. Because that slide is a reminder of larger life-events that happen. I'm talking about the times when all our regular means for steering in a determined direction are rendered powerless. When there are no brakes to stop the trajectory, and we're unable to drive. In that stretch of space, time seems to freeze and the only moving pieces are the things we can’t control. It’s right about then, that an ice cold sliver of reality lodges in the most tender place of a soul and speaks, “You are not in control.” That’s the floating moment. There are no choices to be made. The only option is to ride with the long slide and wait for the outcome.

Sometimes, that slow slide is 1.6 seconds until the steel crunches.

Other times, it is 2 days until the biopsy comes back,

or 5 sessions until the chemo is done,

or 12.5 weeks until a job is found,

or 30 days until the adoption is final,

or 17 years until the prodigal child returns.

Life is full of those times when it’s clear we are no longer really the one who is driving. It's eye-opening, awakening. There is something healthy in the abrasive truth that we are fragile beings in a crashing world.

In that place, something core gets exposed. It's like the barbed-wire-paint-scrape revealing my car's underlying steel. Crashes expose what's underneath -- where I place my trust. So, let's say, to “trust” is to put our full weight down on something and expect it to hold you up or get you through ... like sitting down in a chair and expecting it to carry your weight. We all trust something. We do. If it’s not ourselves, we put the weight of our trust in someone else, something else, or God.

I know where my full weight goes. Today’s icey road reminded me about what I ultimately trust in long sliding moments. For me, that's about my Jesus belief. That's the substance of my trust -- the heavy steel underneath my scraped surface paint. It's what I hope gets exposed when my life crashes.

And I won’t be preachy about it. I'm just saying it because it matters, and the crash brought it on. So, now I'll turn it around and let you reflect on what's under your own paint.

Crash Questions

Food for Thought

When I am involved in a crash in life, what is revealed as the substance of my trust?

What do I trust when life goes into a free slide?

Am I good with that?


This morning on the Peak






Some days, it's good to be reminded.


Photo taken in my front yard today @ 7:30-ish a.m.

A Cup of Matrix

A Big Picture. There is something about the Matrix movies that makes me want to work out until every one of my muscles is visible ('not going to happen). I want to fight for what's right, like Neo. I want to be Trinity. And, it's not just about the cool flowing coats and the slow anti-gravity moves. That story wakes a deep place and makes me long for supernatural ability to fight for what's true. When the end credits roll I am all pumped up to rail against the machine and offer freedom to humanity. It gets me all psyched; reminded that I do have a purpose, a supernatural ability, and something to fight for.

This past weekend included a day of rest, and times of reminding. Yes, I watched excerpts of the Matrix with my older son. But, I also experienced important God words spoken in my faith community, in worship. I heard strong teaching about the importance of fighting well, and not being discouraged. And I also sat in on a support group of healing women. Their stories reminded me that there is reason to persevere. Sunday was a profound and holy day. Because, in many ways I was prompted to remember why I'm on the planet, and what I am here to fight for ...

So, consider this post as a cup of matrix motivation. Here are some Monday quotes to get you going. It's a new week. You're in a new day. Don't give up. Persist.

There’s only one thing that can guarantee our failure, and that’s if we quit.

~ Unknown

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

~ James Michener

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

~ Japanese Proverb

Saints are sinners who kept on going.

~Robert Louis Stevenson

Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.

~Author Unknown

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance, the race marked out before us.

~The Bible, (Hebrews 12:1)

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Why?! Why Mr. Anderson!? Why do you persist!?"


"Because I choose to."

(Matrix Revolution)


Today’s spill in question is another laundry room incident. This one turned into a small flood of water ... and cat food.

I’m now officially too old to leave anything unattended. It's dangerous. I can't leave a pot of water heating on the stove if I’m not in the kitchen. I can’t turn on the lawn sprinkler, or leave the car running while I ‘run in’ for a minute. A minute is enough time to forget. And, I do forget.

When I forget, bad things happen. Lawns flood. Gas runs low. Pans boil dry. Cookies burn. I have acquired a wicked little memory loss which causes a wide variety of messes. So, as a preventative measure, it's important for me not to leave things running unattended.

Here’s an example. I’m not going to write it out in tidy paragraphs. This is a series of unfortunate events in list form. It’s my best recollection of a spill due to forgetfulness. And it’s worth remembering, because we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes. Right?

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Setting: Morning. A small laundry room with window, washer, dryer, counter, drawers, and sink.
  1. Turn on coffee maker.
  2. Go downstairs put in a load of laundry.
  3. Discover shirt with grease stain.
  4. Find bucket and stain remover.
  5. Spray stain.
  6. Put shirt in bucket.
  7. Put bucket in sink.
  8. Turn on water faucet to fill bucket, and soak shirt.
  9. Phone rings.
  10. Go upstairs, answer phone.
  11. Hang up phone.
  12. Start breakfast.
  13. Pour coffee.
  14. Talk to sons.
  15. Head back downstairs.
  16. Step off bottom step and experience a soggy wet sensation when foot meets carpet.
  17. Stand still with in an expression of total confusion.
  18. Attempt to figure out why foot is wet.
  19. See large puddle forming in carpet and 2” of water sloshing out of laundry room.
  20. Remember water is still running.
  21. Curse silently to self.
  22. Step into laundry room.
  23. See sink overflowing, shirt floating on the surface, water cascading down off the counter, into an open drawer, then out of open drawer onto floor like a waterfall.
  25. Stand for a moment in utter disbelief.
  26. Remember the floor drain.
  27. Remember that the floor drain was once emitting a foul odor so it is now covered with a baby food dish, and can no longer drain the laundry room properly.
  28. Go upstairs to get something to unwedge the baby food dish.
  29. Take off socks and wade toward the drain while holding a knife and spoon from the kitchen drawer.
  30. Attempt to pry baby food dish off drain with butter knife.
  31. Watch water begin to drain out of room.
  32. Sigh with misplaced relief.
  33. Look to the right.
  34. Notice a 20 pound bag of cat food sitting on floor by sink.
  35. Do not think first.
  36. Impulsively pick up cat food bag in order to get it out of the water.
  37. Watch the bottom of the wet cat food bag disintegrate.
  38. Watch 20 pounds of little brown triangles be released into the water.
  39. Notice how they quickly join the draining water, like spawning salmon in a fast stream headed for the drain.
  41. Lose the race.
  42. Listen to the drain fill quickly and glug to a halt.
  43. Curse silently to self.
  44. Pick up spoon.
  45. Begin bailing soggy brown mush out of newly clogged floor drain.
  46. Wonder what your life would have looked like if you had not gotten up this morning.
  47. Continue scooping brown mush into garbage pail.
  48. Listen with satisfaction as water resumes draining.
  49. Put remaining soggy cat food in a huge garbage bag.
  50. Take heavy garbage bag to garage.
  51. Mop floor.
  52. Sop up water from carpet with a pile of towels.
  53. Put towels in wash.
  54. Dump out full bucket in sink.
  55. Make mental Note to Self: “Do not ever leave water faucet running unattended.”
  56. Forget where you put note.
  57. Hit “Control/Alt/Delete” on the day.
  58. Start over.

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A red light, coffee, and a better path.
This re-run post is about one very significant life spill.


It's hard to lay loved things down. It's hard to start in a new direction -- even if it's a good direction. Sometimes it's brought on by a job, an addiction, or a relationship. There are times when we just know ... that thing is no longer what's best for us. Whatever-It-Is isn't the point. The point is the choice that has to be made.

Sometimes the entire course of a life's direction simply has to change. In times like that, God has had to snap his fingers in my face, to break my stare, and get my attention.

This was one of those days. I think God used a spilling coffee cup to get my attention. But it wasn't about the coffee. It was about one of those things that wasn't best anymore. I had to let go, and lay it down in faith, so new life could begin. It was a radical redirection. And honestly, now I'm more willing to follow where He points, because of this red light spill, and where it led me.

So, today, if you are at a crossroads ...
if you know, somewhere down in your soul, that you are being asked to lay something down so new Life can begin ...
if you feel that quiet inner nagging to trust and obey what you know God is asking you to do, then maybe you need to hear me say this. Lean in close and listen.
"Just do it."



I could not make the choice
until God landed me at an intersection.
He told me to stop
and follow a different direction --
not left, right.
180 degrees. Opposite. Repentant.
And in the tension of halting,
it became apparent:
I had been driving on my own chosen road.
I had become a junky of my own making --
A mental prisoner in need of freedom.

As I was literally approaching a main stoplight in town,
He spoke through a woman’s words on the radio,
“Sister, if you know God is asking you to do something,
trust and obey.
Just do it.”

Five times over
With Nike determination
“Just do it.”

"Trust and obey ... just do it."
In my heart, in that moment, I knew it meant

The yellow light in the intersection turned red.
Brakes screeched.
I lurched forward.
The coffee cup in my hand spilled wildly.
The chaos of a burning mess caused me jump, and wake to the danger of my course.
The scalding was confirmation;
The answer to many questions.

What spills out of my cup
when my life’s direction comes to a screeching red-light halt?

The contents of the cup that I hold and carry always with me.
The cup from which I constantly sip.

What is in it?
My daily dose of addictive, soul-revving contents.

What is distracting me from my Jesus path?

My daily fix.
The thing that beckons every morning as a friend,
But secretly means my misdirection.
The thing that preoccupies my steering hand and steals my focus.

It is the thing I can no longer carry with me.
I can not drink it in, and expect to be able to drive my own life.
Set it down, dump it out, give it up.
Lay it down again and do not pick it up.


My first response after obeying the stoplight edict
Was longing;
Longing to catch-up to the car I was following
and re-engage, re-ignite, reclaim that road.
A nagging lure to go back and regain what was lost,
traveled with me,
Awkward and uncomfortable.

But, over time, on a new path
I discovered a clear and confirmed grace.
In the providence of God’s redirecting voice,
there is preservation, strength, transformation.

Stopped. Spilled on. Scalded.

This is God’s real grace and love for me.
It is God at the Stoplight,
And me, covered with providential spills and stains
A humbled mess
waiting for directions.
willing to follow
a better road.

"Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure..."

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses




This is quite unplanned. The Spill is now in a series about things that spill. Because, frankly, things have been spilling. Yesterday, it was potatoes. Today, it's bleach.

A Difficult Morning.
We are experiencing alarm clock dysfunction. Between 5:45 and 6 a.m., three different digital horns beep to deaf ears. It's probably my fault. I've made myself the final answer for the problem. At 6:05 I wander into three different beeping bedrooms, turn on the light, and announce that it's time to get up (I need to get myself out of this loop). After the alarms are turned off, each zombie son gets up without words and heads for a shower.

They are a quiet morning bunch. They get where they need to go, and do what they need to do. It's just the initial jump start that's a challenge right now. Somehow, today's jump start didn't happen for Isaac. At 6:50 I wandered downstairs to change over laundry, and noticed he was still sleeping. This doesn't normally happen. He hates to be late. Estimated time of departure is around 7:05 a.m. So, at my voice, he startled and jumped out of bed. Things got worse from there.

The Spill.
After a fast shower and a search for socks in the laundry room, he bounded upstairs into the kitchen in a total panic. "THE BLEACH SPILLED ALL OVER THE PLACE!" I caught his panic and ran with it. We both flew back down the stairs.

He was right. The bleach had spilled. In the sock hunt, the bottle was bumped. The lid popped off when it hit the hamper. As Murphy's Law would have it, I had just told everyone, "Bring your dirty clothes down to the laundry room." Which they did. Which meant that two hampers and a pile of clothes were sitting directly in the path of the bleach flood.

To his credit, when the spill happened, Isaac made a flash swoop to get the clothes out of the way and mop up the mess with a rag. But, the chemical reaction was already set in motion.

The damage wasn't as bad as I expected. After clean-up, the victims were a towel, my only black jeans, a hoody, a couple socks, and the carpet outside the laundry room (which needs cleaning anyway). Later, I did notice a small blotch on my sweats. And I still can't find the cap to the bleach bottle.

The Fallout.
Isaac had wild splashes all over the shorts he was wearing; front and back. They weren't his best shorts. But, they were his only clean shorts. The rest of his clothes were wet and tumbling in the dryer. Which, was a problem because today he had a field trip and the clock on the wall was pointing out that he had to leave in 11 minutes. His mood was a more serious victim of the bleach spill than his shorts. My 13 year old sank down at the kitchen table, with bleach designs burned into his khaki field trip shorts. He smelled like a wading pool, and was generally stunned and immobilized. He was staring at me like an angry cat. We still had to make a sack lunch.
He did get to school on time for the field trip (his friends asked why he smelled like bleach). When the front door shut behind him, the spill affects stayed. Our house still smelled like a public pool. And initially there were residual emotional fumes hanging around. I had a lingering cloud of panic, irritation, and "angry cat" following me around. I finished mopping up and held up my freshly splashed jeans to examine the damage. And that got me thinking.

Today I saw a spill of bleach and mood. Moods and words can set a reaction in motion the same as chemicals in a bleach spill. They are both about relationship -- interaction between two things, or people. So, what if a rotten mood could splash all over anybody near us, like bleach? This is a disturbing thought -- mood stains on people. I mean really. What if?

It took me a while to rinse mine off this morning. So, that leads me to today's spill question.
A little food for thought, or bleach for cleaning:

If your words and mood could visibly splash on the people around you, would you leave a positive impact, or negative stain?


Apparently, I have a potato issue. The grocery store doors slid open, I pushed my cart out into the parking lot, and a small brown object rolled out into the road. Then another ... and another.... and another. There was a small parade of rolling potatoes tumbling across the crosswalk before I figured out that the escaping russets were mine. The bag sitting on the bottom of my cart had come open.

Four or five people scattered in different directions, running after potatoes. The sloping Colorado parking lot outside Citimarket made my little spud incident into kinetic run away. Eventually, the potato chasers all kindly walked back to me with handfuls to return. I stood with the bag open and thanked each one as they dropped my escapees back in the bag.
"Thank you." (plunk)
"Thank you so much for running after that." (plunk)
"Thanks for chasing those." (plunk)
The bag was refilled. It felt like I had been caught up in an odd parking lot harvest ritual.

This isn't the first time I've been humbled by a potato. And I'm not sure what to make of it this repeat occurrence. It's relevant, because my first spud experience really landed me with the premise for this blog. The Spill: "When something is spilling, it merits attention." So, in honor of today's spill, I'm posting my original potato incident.

Who knew it would start with a potato?


(Click the red words, to read the post.)

An update on The Spill Factor (written in 2006). We no longer have a huge GMC Suburban. I no longer have any elementary school sons. And my little economy car actually no longer has a sticky seats, or a flurry of objects falling out of it (Well, more accurately, when it does, it's not as bad, and I'm now the one to blame).

This should be an encouragement to young moms everywhere. In time, motherhood does in fact start feeling a little less dominated by small stray objects. And, the spills change their form. The things I soak up or pick up are no longer oozing juice boxes, dirty diapers, and Happy Meal toys. Our spills are now the outflow of things like music, sports, and a lot of conversation. And, for the most part, my car is better for it.

(I have a couple more posts to go in Memory & Music. Stay Tuned.
In the meantime, as always, thanks so much for reading along!)

Sunday Thought

Silent Monks, singing the "Alleluia Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. Don't miss this. I'm not kidding.

Swing Music

Memory Music: Part IV
Continuing in a series of posts about the way music unlocks memory ... today, I'm strolling way back into childhood.

Swing Music

Andee Harty lived down the alley. She had long brown hair, an easy smile, and a golden retriever named Nugget. Andee’s real name is Andrea. We walked 6+ blocks to Roosevelt Elementary school together, day after day, year after year. Sometimes, she had to carry her cello and we walked a little slower. We were in orchestra together, went to camp together, and drew a series of bubble people named “Herschel” in junior high English together. Her Dad had an ongoing boat project docked in their back yard, which made him seem a little like Noah. I spent much time in that back yard, on the tire swing.

Jesus and the Tire Swing.

The tree tire swing was our Starbucks. We’d meet there, and spend countless words and chatter while swinging. Two freaky fridays happened on the swing. I’m guessing we were about 9 or 10 years old. It was Good Friday both times. Public schools were closed the Friday before Easter. It was a three day holiday. "Good Friday" is the day which is historically understood to be when Jesus was executed and I had just learned in Sunday School, that his approximate time of death was around 3 pm.

So, it was 3-ish, when Andee and I were spending our day-off by the tire swing. I was telling her about the Jesus death-time, and feeling quite sad about it. As we were talking, the sky started to get cloudy and dark. A huge midwest thunderstorm rolled in and lightning cracked through our conversation. It was a black storm and Jesus death all at once. We both ran for cover.

A Yearly Miracle.

That very same series of events, happened pretty much exactly the same way, on Good Friday the following year. That day, I decided that I must have somehow missed this annual phenomenon. I believed that perhaps every single year, lightning cracked at precisely 3pm on Good Friday. Perhaps, every year at the moment when Jesus had said “It is Finished” a big storm opened up and rained down on the world. Which, made me seriously question why everyone in entire the world wouldn’t believe what Jesus taught. This was apparently a yearly miracle that no one was talking about. I was perplexed and amazed.


Obviously, the next Good Friday brought disappointing news. No 3 o’clock storm. It wasn’t a yearly miracle. But the tire kept swinging.

Last weekend, grown-up Andee and I stood reminiscing at our high school reunion. Andee asked me about a song we used to sing. We learned it in music class, in 2nd or 3rd grade, I think. 35 years later, all she had to do was sing the first line and it started playing in my head. It was an old english song, meant to be sung in a round. And we used to sing it around and around and around.

“White coral bells upon a slender stalk

Lily of the valley deck my garden walk

Oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?

That would only happen when the fairies sing.”

Yes, it’s a silly childhood song. But, as soon as she mentioned it, I could see the lines in the concrete sidewalks as we walked to school.

And I could hear our small voices singing.

In that quirky moment of reunion,

I was standing in one place as an adult, but in my mind,

I was on the tire again,

with the pendulum swaying

back and forth

in time,



years ...

A tree metronome

swinging the beats between

then and now


what we once believed


what we now know


who we once were


who we are now becoming.


Click here to listen to White Coral Bells.


"Life is a Tire Swing" by Pamela Murphy,

"Lily of the Valley" photo by Erin

Add Huey.

Huey & Me.
Minneapolis, 2006

How did I forget Huey?
A friend just reminded me about Huey Lewis and the News. So now my High School Favorites list has to be revised. Add Huey. But I'm not going to add a youtube of "The Power of Love" or "Do you Believe in Love" or "Walking on a Thin Line." Why? The music is worth turning up. But the video cringe factor is killing me. I just can't watch anymore vintage MTV. I can't stand any more big hair with stiff anti-gravity bangs and clothes in those colors. I'm done with that kind of reminiscing. Saturated.

So, I'll pull Huey into present tense. Let's leave the 80's and head back to the future. I actually met Huey 3 years ago. It was my last gig as a paid musician (flute/midi) with a group called, Stone Table. We were playing in Minneapolis for Westone, an awesome company that makes a variety of in-ear monitor systems. They have a whole slew of music industry clients like Brad Paisely, Flyleaf, Christina Aguillera, James Taylor. The list of artists who use their in-ear systems is impressive. Anyhow, I was there for a convention. And it was a blast.

Huey was there representing a company ... and I got to meet him. We have a hearing impairment in common. His daughter's name is the same as mine. And, yes, he's aged. But, maybe this picture of Huey is an honest barometer of how 80's kids have all aged, right beside him.

Thanks for the reminder, Tass.

The Hello Experiment

My sister Kim, a.k.a. The Human Search Engine, just sent me this link. In this hilarious experiment, several sculptors attempt to sculpt a replica of Lionel Richie's head while blindfolded. It's a re-enactment of the blind sculpture at the end of his famous "Hello" video. Even if you're not a Lionel Richie geek like me, go look at "The Hello Experiment".

Thanks, Kim!


Memory Music: Part III

This 1984 MTV video by Lionel Richie was completely dreamy as far as I was concerned. My friend Maureen Blandford and I had some odd ongoing conversation about this song because I was a dork about it, trying to act like I was already "sick of it" being overplayed on the radio right after it came out. She kept trying to tell me that it hadn't been out long enough for me to be sick of it. Truth is, I loved the song. I was just trying to be so cool and cutting edge. Time outted me. It's now very clear to everyone, my sons included, that nothing about me, or Lionel Ritchie, is cutting edge. So be it.

This music memory is a pop story ballad that launches me back to my senior year. It is Lionel's "Hello" and it comes with a nod to Maureen, who is usually right.
: )


Memory Music Part II:

Continuing in a series about the way music unlocks memory...


I talked about this in my last post. Chances are good, you have a song that sends you somewhere. You have a lyric, chorus or bridge that brings a feeling that you haven’t had since ‘that day.’ It’s a God moment, an unexpected death, a year in school. Or maybe, a romance, a birth, a childhood friend, or just some vague feeling about who you used to be.

Last week, I spent two nights at high school reunion gatherings. On Friday night, I was listening to the radio on my drive to the first and more informal reunion deal at Edison Park Inn. A song by the band Chicago floated into the rental car and I flooded with an old sensation. Teenage adrenaline poured into my system. It had been a while since I felt that physical joy-rush. It’s a feeling that's hard to explain; A mix of something young, and expectant, and humming with ... well... hormones. It's a rush that lives back in high school, and gets replaced when maturity brings a more stable, less-wildly-hormonal, form of joy.

Chicago is a big part of my life soundtrack for high school. It runs as background music for dances, friendships, and TP'ing. And, most sentimentally, one significant boyfriend relationship is woven tight with Chicago songs. So, every once in a while one of their songs will hit deep and trigger a tender place.

The song I heard on the car radio technically belonged to my older brother and sister’s high school playlist. Chicago was a franchise that spanned a lot of siblings. My brother and sisters all liked Chicago partly because the trombone player, Jimmy Pankow, was from Park Ridge (our hometown, and northwest suburb of Chicago). "Saturday in the Park" was supposedly written about a local park we all knew and liked. The songs he wrote were closer to our neighborhood somehow. Over the years, the brass stayed, but the lead singer and power ballads changed.

My sister Kim's era of Chicago wasn't my ‘era’; hers was 1970’s “Color my World” and "Does Anybody ReallyKnow What Time it Is?" -- mine was 1980’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and "Hard Habit to Break." My brother's Chicago wasn't exactly the same as mine either, but there was definitely a lot of overlap. On the way to my reunion, their “Old Days” started to sing to me, and that bold young feeling come crashing into the driver’s seat.

As I was listening to lyrics about the 'good times I remember,' I started thinking about where I was headed. As Edison Park Inn got closer, my nerves started to undermine my confidence. The feelings that came with 'Old Days' evaporated. After circling the neighborhood in search of a parking space a couple times, I called my husband.

"What was I thinking, doing this alone?" I wanted an answer.

He put on his soothing coach voice,"You are doing this alone because you are a confident woman."

"Oh, yeah.... um ... and what makes you say that, specifically??" I needed details, but started to relax.

It took a little bit of mental work, to figure out how to step out of the car and mesh Who-I-was with Who-I-am. Especially since Who-I-Am really had no idea what to expect, or who she'd see, once she entered that place. It took some doing. But somehow my husband's words, and the mood of the music made a difference. By the time I got out of the car I was better ... ready to step into a night full of Chicago Old Days again. Turns out, it was a very sweet and memorable place to be.

My Sister's Chicago