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life Making Changes motivation musings reflections

It’s Your World


You may not be able to reinvent the wheel, but you can always put a new tire on it. The same is true for your world. Here’s to a good spin.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music profiles

From a Distance: The Song


A telephone call changed the life of Julie Gold. Although she had solid management, steady gigs, and a powerful repertoire, she failed to progress as a singer/songwriter until becoming involved with the Greenwich Village singer/songwriter scene. Performing at open mikes, Gold was befriended by Christine Lavin, who became her mentor.

When Julie’s parents sent her a piano she played while growing up, the first song she wrote on it was titled “From a Distance.” Lavin sent a tape of the song to a rising star on the country/folk music scene.

While working as a secretary for HBO in New York, Gold received her life-changing phone call from Nanci Griffith. Nanci wanted permission to record “From a Distance” on her cross-over album, Lone Star State of Mind. The album and the song went on to become big hits.

“From a Distance” became even more popular and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year when Bette Midler recorded it in 1990.

Here is my cover of the song accompanied by an original guitar composition.

This blog post is dedicated to Toby Aurora Bentley. Toby was taken from us too soon. May she rest in peace and love until we can welcome her back.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music relationships

Reprise: And I love You So


Even if you aren’t a fan of seventies music, you’ve probably heard Don McLean’s hit song, “And I Love You So.” What you may not know is the song was widely covered by other recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley and Perry Como. Yes, I said Perry Como.

In a career that spanned decades, Don McLean wrote and recorded twenty-two studio albums, four live albums, and 16 singles. He is best known for his song and album of the same name, “American Pie.”

I’m constantly amazed at the way major recording artists create unique compositions to express their music. “And I Love You So” features an original picking method combined with interesting chord shapes. Learning to play a song the way the artist does is a great way to expand your musical scope and technique.

Here is my cover of McLean’s hit. I’ve re-recorded it one fret lower.

Take the next step that’s in your wheelhouse. This is the path to your success.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment children music parenting

Rise and Shine


Singer and songwriter Raffi has conveyed a central message of respect for children and people of all races during his forty-year career of entertaining children’s audiences around the world. The Washington Post has called him “the most popular children’s singer in the English-speaking world.” Raffi has recorded dozens of albums and sold more than fifteen million records. He has also written books for children and adults.

Raffi Cavoukian was born to Armenian parents in Cairo, Egypt. In 1958, the family fled genocide in Turkey and immigrated to Toronto, Canada. Raffi began his musical career singing to children and parents in libraries and eventually in concerts. He says about those early years:

“I thought about who these children were as people. My audience was full of children ranging in age from three to seven years. I wanted to learn about these young people, and the more I learned, the more I was fascinated by how intelligent, spontaneous, and delightful young children are. I was full of admiration for who I call humanity’s ‘primary learners.’ By observing and interacting with these children, I learned something profound: Play is an intelligence that we’re not supposed to lose in our lives. I came to admire and respect the young child as a whole person. That value of respect has guided my whole career.”

Like many parents, I became aware of Raffi’s music when my daughter was a child. Perhaps having a child is a secret door through which only parents and children can pass to hear Raffi’s music.

Raffi has toured the world with his Rise and Shine Band beguiling children and parents alike with his joyful and magical music. His song, “Rise and Shine” quickly became one of my favorites. I played and sang it for my daughter, Danielle when she was a child. Now, it’s my pleasure to play it for my granddaughter, Ashley.

True love does not need or expect reciprocation.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Another Word For Love


You might expect there to be, like the Hallmark cards, an overabundance of love songs about valentines. Well, I’m here to tell you there ain’t. Jim Brickman sought to rectify the situation when he co-wrote the song “Valentine” with Jack Kugell.

“I thought it was odd that for a day or for a word that is such a euphemism for love that there wasn’t a song that celebrated it, considering that most songs are love songs,” Brickman said in an interview. “The word ‘valentine’ is a euphemism for love or a replacement word for love, so I wrote it like, you are my love, only the song says, you are my valentine.”

Jim selected Country and Western singer Martina McBride to sing “Valentine” on his album “Picture This” which he released in 1997. Brickman said he selected McBride because he thought she sang like an Angel when he heard her debut album. I would have to agree with him.

To paraphrase, Brickman has said he feels that his music can go with anyone’s music collection. “We have different songs for different occasions. My songs are for romantic occasions.”

I would agree with Brickman there too. Here’s my cover.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment inspiration music

The Love of My Life


Love In An Open Field

When Jim Brickman began taking piano lessons at the age of five, his first teacher reported to the boy’s parents that he showed little promise as a future pianist. The student didn’t follow directions. He did things his own way.

I can think of four reasons why Jim’s first teacher thought so little of his potential. Either the boy was unusually rebellious, lacking in talent, or mentally ill. The fourth reason proved to be the right one. Jim was born with extraordinary talent. 

Fast forward a half-century. Jim Brickman is known as one of the world’s foremost Romantic songwriters and solo pianists.

Brickman started his career writing advertising jingles. To call the man persistent is probably an understatement.  

To his credit, Jim has recorded twenty-one number one albums, thirty-two top radio hits, and he has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. He is also a published author and appears on his own radio show, “The Jim Brickman Hour.” Not bad for a kid with no potential. 

Many of Jim’s songs have been covered by leading pop singers such as Carley Simon, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Logins, and others.   

“The Love of My Life” is one of Jim’s better-known and typically beautiful songs. I’ve adapted it for the acoustic guitar. Here’s my version. 

By Developing the Habit of Focus and Discipline You Will See Your Dreams Come True.

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar folk music Interviews music

An Unfinished Life


“I live for a sense of a feeling of purposefulness in this world, you know, that I could stop my life at any point and feel that my life has been worthwhile; that the people I’ve loved and my children have all reached a point where their lives are now going to come to fruit. And as far as something I live by, it’s to try to be as alive as possible and feel free to make my mistakes and try to be as honest as I can with myself.”

Kate Wolf–Singer Songwriter–1942-1986

Perhaps Kate Wolf had these thoughts in mind when she wrote the song “Unfinished Life.” It’s a haunting ballade filled with hard won wisdom, exquisite beauty, grace, and focused determination. The song is also ironically prophetic. Kate Wolf died tragically of Leukemia at the age of forty-four. Despite her abbreviated life span, she wrote over two hundred songs and performed them at venues in her native state of California and around the world. Kate’s life was, indeed, unfinished, but she left behind a treasure trove of beautiful music.

I first recorded “Unfinished Life” using a free-form guitar strumming method. Recently, while driving in my car, I listened to the song with a different pair of ears. I noticed the unique and highly effective guitar picking technique Kate used to express the words and melody of the song. After some trial and error, I’ve come up with a version that approximates Kate’s unparalleled recording.

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

JOHN SCHAAR

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ebooks fiction humor Novels

The First Day of Forever


This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.

Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.

He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.

He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.

The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.

“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”

“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.

“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”

Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.

The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.

eBook and Paperback Available on Amazon and Online Retailers Worldwide

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folk guitar music poetry Videos

Through Her Music


I choose to wander in sunlight to avoid the riptide of darkness threatening to engulf our world.

I prefer to see and hear beauty.

I endeavor to open my heart to love. Not the love that comes and goes. Rather, to eternal love.

I am human. I need love and beauty as much as air and water.

Lately, I’ve been bathing in beauty, love, and light by listening and playing music. Specifically, one person’s music. Listen to my cover of Kate Wolf‘s “Muddy Roads” recorded on her last album (1986) Poet’s Heart. Tell me what you hear and feel.

“When we are connected — to our own purpose, to the community around us, and to our spiritual wisdom — we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness​.”

MALIDOMA PATRICE SOMÉ

Gratefulness.org

Background Music Credits For Intro Video:

The Edge Will Follow by Javolenus (c) copyright 2012 
Ethereal Space by Snowflake (c) copyright 2011 
Homework by gurdonark (c) copyright 2010  
Reverie (small theme) by ghost (c) copyright 2010 

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fiction humor short stories

What’s At The Bottom Of The Staircase ?


Architecture, Art, Spiral, Curve, Design, Interior, Stairs, Stairway, Staircase, Tower

Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.

Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.

Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea.  I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.

winding corridor to my heart

Finally, I see a doorway in the distance.  The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination.  It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.

Elaborate Wood Door With Intricate Star Shape Pattern

I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute.  No response.

“Anybody home?” I call out.

Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.

“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here.  The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”

I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.

Futuristic Corridor, Heavenly Corridor, Journey's End, Seeking Light, Seeking Truth, Seeking Wisdom, Truth, Wisdom,

I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart.  I’ve always believed this to be true.  I never doubted it.  Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot.  I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door.  I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.

“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door.  “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent.  Can you please give me some material to work with?”

“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.

I almost fall down.  These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years.  It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice.  I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest.  I must take advantage of this opportunity.  I have to get right to the point.  I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy.  I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape.  I can’t risk wasting its time.

The Infinite, Integration, Divine, Divine Human, Nexus of the Divine and the Human, Reality, Peace, Love, Joy

“Okay,” I begin.  “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”

“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”

“Okay, okay.  Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”

“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily.  “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”

There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.

“You aren’t ready to meet me.  And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.

Another pause.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”

“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.

“Good.  Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience.  Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”

“Of course.”

“Then practice it.

I wait for more words of wisdom.  There are none forthcoming.

I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”

I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:

“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:

“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”

“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”