Picture late Spring in 2008. I have just returned from a week long trip in Monaco. Cherry blossoms and tulips are fading while summer perennials make their debut. All on the outside appears splendid. But on the inside, I am dying. It is my quarter-life crisis; the kind where all I can do is think about how to get through the next five minutes. In an effort to regroup, I cancel all appointments and commitments. On the list of people to call is Ryan Tilby (guitar teacher/band member/friend).
"Hey Ryan," I force my fake happy voice. "Hey, I'm calling because, well, I need to simplify my life right now and I just can't take lessons anymore. It's kind of hard to explain," my voice starts to crack, "but, well . . ." I can't hold back the tears.
There is awkward silence.
I say goodbye.
Moments later, a text comes in.
Ryan says: Things happen for a reason.
I take a deep breath and somehow feel a bit better.
That's how my friend Ryan rolls. Low maintenance and easy going, it's near impossible to make enemies with this guy. When I think of my "nicest people I know" list, Ryan comes out in the top five. If you came to the Love for Nie Nie concert in Provo, then you saw him on stage playing bass. But you've probably also seen him on stage playing banjo, guitar, electric guitar, and mandolin with either Sam Payne, Peter Breinholt or Ryan Shupe. The guy has wicked skills.
Ryan Tilby and Ryan Shupe at the "Love for Nie Nie Concert"
Ryan has a sweet wife, Brittney, who is also very musical. Together, they have two children: Westin and Lily. As a touring musician, Ryan is often gone on weekends and sometimes for a week or two at a time. How does he balance this? Our friend, Sam Payne, says of Ryan:
"Tilby's always drawn a hard line on the fatherhood front, and the husbandhood front, and the general integrity front, and it hasn't compromised his artistry--it's enhanced it. Some say that in order to really fulfill one's potential, an artist has to make the art his only master. I hope a million young artists get to know Tilby
before they buy that line."
The Tilby Family
An exciting new element that Ryan is bringing to his career is the release of a solo album of hymns on guitar. If you're looking for a soothing album to bring a spirit of peace into your home minus the frills and cheesy ornamentation (which, in my opinion, ruin the simple beauty of hymns), this is the album for you. Buy it now on itunes or at Deseret Book. (I think I should start doing infomercials).
If there's one phrase that encapsulates my brother-in-law Taylor's personality, it would be "near death experience." Taylor was a cute kid and always thrived on hanging out with the grown ups. When he was eight years old, I offered to take him tubing down the Provo River with me and my gal pals (I would be lying if I said I didn't have other "gotta impress the future in-laws" motives). Half way down the river I knew I had made a grave mistake. Taylor, who was sharing a tube with me, was miserable, claiming that he thought he was going into shock from hypothermia. Great. How do we got off this dumb river? I thought to myself. If his blue lips weren't freaking me out enough already, imagine my horror to look down and realize that our tube had been punctured and was rapidly deflating.
I don't remember how, but we managed to grab a rock and pull ourselves out just as Crazy Katie and Jeanice Benson whizzed past us, crashing into a bush.
Taylor and I hiked up to the highway and began the descent down Provo Canyon on foot. After a few minutes, a truck pulled over. Woohoo! Some help! Truck man turns out to be recent ex-boyfriend. Dang. Awkward moments ensued on the ride home whilst I explained my plans to be married to this shivering kid's big brother. Just goes to show that ex-boyfriends come in handy sometimes.
Taylor and Yours Truly at Disneyland 2008
While most of Taylor's near death experiences have likely resulted from his father's attempts to hang him up by his toenails, other monumental ones include an operation he had last year in which his entire rib cage was cut out, reversed, then sown back on (not kidding), then a longboarding accident with a car (hit and run), and falling through his kitchen ceiling into the renter's bathroom below.
I'm glad Taylor is still alive because what other 18-year-old would give me awesome new music, gift me his old snowboarding boots, talk to me about his girlfriends, and show me his crazy myspace profile pics? Rock on Tay-Tay. I believe in you. You are going to make a stellar EMT. After all, you're a veteran when it comes to near death experiences.
Today I am twelve years old. The sun is beaming through the mist at Clam Beach, waves pawing at the shoreline. My hair feels salty in the wind as I ride atop Red (my thirty-something Arabian horse) with doggies Sam and Nixon trailing behind. Red is ancient in horse years but the beach always compels him to run like a two year old in the Kentucky Derby. Together we let go of all reason and just race with no destination, no end result in mind. After miles of sand and seagulls I tug on the reigns. No response. I pull harder.
We play this game for another half mile as I pet his hot neck until he finally yields to my commands. I fall, bow-legged onto the warm sand and breathe deeply, happiness swelling in my belly.
Forsythia, vital sign of the Tree Streets after a long cold winter, is in full bloom today. Her vibrant yellow blossoms remind that joyfulness can emerge out of even the grayest of seasons. My eyes were drawn like magnets to every Forsythia bush on Cherry Lane as I walked the wet sidewalk to Arlene Heaton's fifty-three year old home.
Arlene Heaton moved to Cherry Ln in 1956 when she and husband Israel had a home built there. When I moved to the Tree Streets nearly forty years later, Israel was the chorister in church. "As deaf as a bat," as Arlene says, Israel would smile and sing in the wrong key at about 88 dB. He conducted our hymns as often as his health would permit until he passed away several months ago.
"Do you get lonesome for Israel?" I asked curiously.
"No, not at all! And I know exactly why. I stay so busy that I don't have time to be lonely!" Her answer surprises me, but makes me smile. How does a ninety-one year old stay so busy? After seeing the piles of family history, books and manuscripts on her dining table I understand. Arlene has written and published an 832-page autobiography as well as one for Israel of about the same magnitude. She is currently in the process of writing a book on holistic medicine.
Before there was the Good Earth, Whole Foods Market or Sunflower Farmers Market in this valley, there was Alrene Heaton's health food business in her front room. She stocked vitamins, herbs, and a few whole foods for her clients who were more than a dozen a day. Lecturing all over the state, she learned how to balance her role as a mother and small business owner.
Walking home with a terrible migraine one day, Arlene stopped me on the sidewalk to ask if I was alright. After learning of my headache she suggested I start taking a blend of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, promising that it would greatly help my headaches. She was right and I notice a big difference when I am using them.
Arlene's top recommendations for supplements are as follows:
To prevent cold and flu: 3000 mg vitamin C, 1000 iu vitamin A, 50 mg Zinc - all taken together at the onset of symptoms.
Cough: Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
For Healing Injuries: Zinc and Lecethin
I was raised on homeopathic medicine and whole foods, so Arlene and I have been herbal buddies over the last few years. I don't see her often anymore as her age makes it difficult to get out. I have to confess that as she labored to recall memories with her ninety-one year old mind during our visit, I had the urge to just reach out and kiss her smiling cheeks. I felt overcome with a sensation that the beautiful individual before me was of infinite worth. Our visit was one of the sweetest and simplest moments in which time on Cherry Lane seemed to stand still.
I know it's been a while since I've posted a Music Biz Monday, but let's face it: does anyone but me really care? Nay. Hence, from this moment forth I will post future Music Biz Mondays on the last Monday of every month (or when I just plain feel like it).
On Friday I had a lunch date at Cafe Rio with my son Jackson. I raved about my chicken salad, going so far as to update my facebook status claiming just how much "I worship Cafe Rio." Come early Saturday morning I awoke to a gnarly sensation in my gut. First thought: Bulgarian parasites. Second thought: I have somehow angered the Cafe Rio Gods. How could that be after I so openly praised their freshly made goodness? I spent the rest of the weekend in agony. But by late Sunday afternoon I was on the mend and desperate to get out of the house, which brings me to another topic: Sunday afternoons.
In my religion, Sunday is a very important day. As a day of rest and worship, we refrain from shopping and working and try to devote our time to meditation, prayerfulness, scripture study and family. Here is my question: how does one do this with children? Attention starved after my long trip away and then after my bed-ridden state, the boys were near insanity on Sunday afternoon. I have friends who say that on their street, it's pretty much a spoken law that kids can't play outside on Sunday. I'm glad I don't live on that street. So forgive me if our Sunday activities offend you and to those who can relate to stir crazy children, enjoy this home video:
Sadly, the Glediator is away on business. (Sigh). The last two nights have brought on dreams where I see the faces of Bulgarian orphans who also sleep alone. Though they slumber in dormitories or with a few roommates, they are alone in their thoughts; without much identity, purpose and certainly without the guidance of loving parents. On the wall of a young girl's bedroom in Slaveikov Orphanage in Sofia is penned, "There is nothing, nothing, nothing."
I question God: Why is there so much suffering?
His gentle reply: My Son suffered.
And how can these children who suffer be so full of
love? (We were smothered with hugs and kisses for eight days straight).
God's answer: The light of my Son is in all people. My Son is full of love.
Strangely, this was the impression I had every time we drove away from an orphanage. You would think I would feel despair and anger, but I felt ever reminded of how much God loves his children. In a country that has forsaken them, He has not.
I hear the simple words of Deborah Gardener, CEO of One Heart Bulgaria, to a teenage girl who is afraid to go out in the world after her eighteenth birthday:
"We pray for you."
The young girl cries at the notion and pleads that we remember her.
One Heart Bulgaria is one of two outside organizations that Bulgaria allows into their country to provide aid to their orphans. A little goes a long way in Bulgaria. I saw firsthand how the donation of a small playhouse from a nine-year old American boy (who held a pizza party with his friends to raise the money) brought so much joy to a previously dull and dirty playroom. Through other donations, the organization has been able to replace broken windows, doors, provide music time, dance teachers, medical supplies, operations, bedding and clothing where they are very much needed. To make a difference, visit http://www.oneheart-bg.org.
Boshidara, 2 years old
Boshidara, a baby with Hydrocephalus, lays in her crib unable to be relieved from the ants that are inside her fists, clothes and the wound on her head from her shunt surgery. I wanted so badly to bathe her.
This was the happiest orphanage we visited. One Heart Bulgaria provides a music teacher for these kids and they knew how to have a good time. Here, Sam plays "Do As I'm Doing" while we march along.
We had to travel for three and a half hours with eight people and a 20 suitcases crammed in this van. Good times. I think Sam blocked those suitcases from falling on my head the whole trip. Thanks Sam!
Uncle or "Chicho" Jeremy is a big softie.
Music time with Sam. Sam was magical with the children.
The little girls to my left have shaved heads (very typical) for easy maintenance and to avoid lice.
On Wednesday the 18th (as in TOMORROW), the ever popular blog, http://giveawaytoday.blogspot.com, will be giving away five of my latest album, Feather in the Wind. All you have to do is go to my website, read my bio in the Press section, and comment on one new thing you learned about me. Check out the details here. Good luck!
As I suffocate in a looming cloud of cigarette smoke, I cannot possibly relate to you the things I've experienced these last several days with the few minutes I have. For now, the abbreviated version. Next week, more details.
Thoughts after visiting seven orphanages:
I've fallen in love with infants, children and teenagers whose language I can't even speak.
Some have parents that they visit every summer. Some have no idea where they came from or the names of those who gave them life.
Most have resigned to the idea that there is nothing for them when they are released into the real world.
A few have big dreams and fighting spirits.
One infant orphanage resembled an animal shelter where children where kept in cribs and playpens all day with bug infested cribs. Ants and cockroaches crawled all over them, even eating away at the lacerations on their skin. A very tough day.
God bless America. Praises to our forefathers for creating a free country where people strive for excellence and a better life.
This morning we visited Sveta Paraskava Orphanage in Sofia which cares for children ages 0-3 years old. I was impressed with the toys and colorfully painted walls. I expected things to be rather primitive (and they were to some degree), but definitely pleasantly surprised. I became quick friends this little guy (Metodi) after we played a game of catch. He clung to me for the rest of the day, stroking my hands and arms as I held him.
You know how when you're little, you think there's someone inside the traffic light, controlling the signals? See the guy inside his little nest up there? He IS controlling the traffic lights! Yes, traffic lights are not yet programmed here. He probably has fun seeing if he can ruffle peoples' feathers by making them sit at a red for 25 minutes at a time. I think I would.
This cutie pie (Drago) won me over at the Slaveikov Orphanage for kids 7 to 18 years old. Slaveikov was awful. The kind of hell hole I had drawn out in my mind. Dark, dank, graffitied and reeking of urine, I could not imagine living out my childhood and teens where survival of the fittest is all you sleep, eat and breathe. Thanks to One Heart Bulgaria, the building has all new windows this year. Last year, many windows were broken and kids were sleeping in rooms with snow blowing in during the winter. They also got new doors with locks so that the girls would no longer be molested during the night. Puke.
Sam Payne, the Pied Piper of Sofia, enchants the toddlers at Sveta Parakeva with his plastic little recorder (purchased with a Little Mermaid songbook ten years go.) How does he do it?
I haven't slept in two days. A vacuum hums in the background of Sofia's empty airport and bumps about in the hollow of my jet-lagged head. It seems that every Eastern European country I have visited is somewhat devoid of tourists. I love this. I simply relish a quiet environment. Treasure troves of historic culture patiently await, untouched by Western tourism. As a sixteen-year-old girl crossing the border into Romania, I remember the fascination of a middle-aged, pot bellied guard with my "yellow" hair as he called it. "Please bring more people next time you visit," he begged in his thick accent, patting my head. Driving through the countryside was like a fairy tale. Little old ladies with scarves wrapped around their heads swept the walkways to their cottages with a homemade broom. Chickens scurried around on farms where crops struggled to push through the clay.
I expect that Sofia will be decked out in modern, metropolitan style as much as any other European capital. Yet I anticipate the stark contrast between her pomp and her poverty. Even as I sit here on this airport bench, typing on my MacBook, I am drawing the long stares of native bystanders. It's not like siren-red laptops are commonplace here. I was warned that I would need about three months to feel worthy again of American luxuries upon returning - surely an indicator of what I'm about to witness.
This morning I slipped into my favorite pair of pants. I've worn them so much that I have stitches and patches all over them. I recently noticed a little hole unraveling front and center in the crotch area. Ugh. It will be fine, I consoled myself. I made up my mind that they would last at least a few more weeks and then I could tastefully patch them up, never mind the location of the hole. That was a mistake.
I went about my daily errands. Late in the afternoon, I dropped by one of my favorite stores, The Coal Umbrella. As I was talking to the owner, Maht Paulos and friend Joe Castor (also old friends from high school) I chanced to look down for a split second and saw that the wee hole had spread into a gaping 6" by 3" tare. I made some stupid joke about it, pulled Thatcher away from the bowl of iron-on patches he was sifting through and made a quick getaway. Sheesh.
The rest of the day I thought about the little things in my life that I have ignored. Things that I thought would be fine if I just left them alone; sometimes pretending they would just go away altogether. Sometimes it's just not worth hanging onto a favorite indulgence (like my awesome mustard colored pants) and ignoring a problem that it is creating. I think I will let go of blogging too much and pay more attention to my family now. Please excuse me.
This is the woman who swept it up for me after I complained that my green room was disgusting:
These are the friends who danced around the disgusting green room in Beauty School Drop Out hats and got caught by the stage manager who did not think it was in the least bit amusing:
Happy Birthday Krista Maurer! Yesterday, I put my foot in my mouth and told everyone that I was an art snob, emphasizing how picky I am about paintings. Then my dear friend Krista left a comment asking me if I hated the painting she created for me for my birthday three years ago. I tried to make a joke that my storage room just wouldn't be the same without it. But I think it wasn't appreciated.
No Krista, you can't have that painting back. I adored it from the moment I saw it and love that you took time to create something so personal just for me! Now I am hoping that she will tell me how she never liked the knitting basket, the old mirror, and the globe I gave her or that Burt's Bees gives her an allergic reaction.
Krista, you are my kindred Piscean spirit. Can we still be friends?
If you came looking for me at this very moment, you would find me in the dark, hovering over the light of the computer screen, hiding in the front seat of my Jeep. It's been one of those days and I pretty much just told the Glediator that I needed to run away. After puttering around the house for a while longer, drawing out my planned exit with this distraction and that, the Glediator commanded me to LEAVE. I know we recently had a heart to heart about the comings and goings of Maniac Mindy. I got a lot out of your advice, but I have relapsed. I'm only human, people. Sue me.
So here I sit in the bliss of beautiful, black silence. Among the thoughts that have whirled around in my head today, I keep going back to the experience of stepping through the front door of artist, J. Kirk Richards's home on Briar at 9:00 on Sunday night. The front room was warm and dim as I stepped inside. Paintings of the most authentic and exquisite nature set a spirit of welcome and the cloak of burden I had been carrying was shed as we toured the paintings in each of the rooms in the Richards's home.
I think I can be honest with you all by now. I am an art snob. Most of the decorations on my walls are found objects, antiques or photos. Once, the Glediator bought me some very posh paintings from a fine art gallery and I exchanged them. Poor, poor Glediator. He does not buy me paintings anymore.
"Cherubim and a Flaming Sword"
Yes. I am picky about art so when I say that Kirk's paintings blow me away, then that's really saying something. About eighty percent of the subject matter that Kirk paints is religiously based (I'm even harder to impress in this category!). His approach to Christian art is a breath of fresh air.
Here are the new things I learned about Kirk in the hour and a half that we visited:
He is now the third generation of Richards men to own their home on Briar (I told you people move here and never leave!).
He was classically trained in the French horn and piano until his junior year of high school when he told his parents he wanted to be an artist.
He majored in art at BYU and then dropped out and took a Greyhound bus to New Jersey to apprentice with artist, Patrick Devonas.
He later came back to school and graduated in Art from BYU.
He just bought a 4700 square foot studio in Redmond, UT where he can work on his large (and very messy) paintings and sculptures.
His sweet wife Amy is an artist too. Kirk is her mentor and she has done some gorgeous portraits and landscapes. They have three adorable children.
Amy comes from Brentwood, one of my favorite spots near Nashville, TN!
Kirk started dabbling in music when they lived out in Nashville and now he is a very talented singer-songwriter working on solo and group projects. He does his own recordings and music videos, claiming that he had to "unlearn" a lot of his classical training. I find that funny.
Some highlights of Kirk's achievements include: the cover art for Elder Holland's book, Broken things to Mend, showing his painting, "The Paryletic." He won first place at the Spring Salon (a statewide art competition), and has had several paintings featured on PBS documentaries. Seriously, my sum up of his achievements is pathetic compared to what you can check out at www.jkirkrichards.com.
Amy and Kirk have been a few blocks away for quite some time now, but I have been oblivious to it until recently. How lovely to find them and make friends. Thank you Kirk and Amy! Let's do dinner soon.
There are times as a musician when I have had transcendent experiences. Whether I am on stage or serving as an audience member, these experiences have rendered me completely and utterly enlightened as if some sort of laser of celestial knowledge had beamed down from the heavens and etched pure inspiration upon my mind.
One such moment took place in a boring and sterile
conference room of the Tahitian Noni Headquarters in Provo, UT. There was a local concert there that night. I don't remember why I went but I knew that it had been very important for me to be there when I left. Some fine artists had performed, but when Sam Payne took the stage no sooner did he begin to play some type of hand percussion doohickey, than I began the transcendental process. Then he began to sing a most mesmerizing "Autumn Leaves" with a display of scatting skills that would have made even Louis Armstrong green with envy. I was transfixed. I knew in that moment that whatever Sam had, whatever gave him that power to hold an audience in the palm of his hand - I had to have it. I determined I would stay until the after-show crowd died down to introduce myself and pick Sam's brain for how he did it. To my great disappointment, Sam had no formula, no rhyme or reason to what had just happened in there. He was extremely casual and rather humble about his talents, explaining that he loves to tell a good story and to just let go and have a fun time on stage. I walked away unsatisfied that night. Inspired mind you, but with a feeling of unrest in my soul.
Three years later after getting to know Sam a bit better . . .
It is Saturday, February 27th. I am carpooling home from a planning meeting for an upcoming tour. This is no ordinary tour as I will be journeying to Bulgaria with Sam Payne and Peter Breinholt to visit various orphanages to sing for kids (life-changing stuff). Sam is as easy-going and as happy-go-lucky as they come. We talk about his life; his upbringing with parents Marvin Payne (actor and folk singer) and mother Niki Payne (a violinist from San Francisco). No wonder Sam is such an exceptional storyteller! We speak of his wife Kristie (who was also his high school sweetheart) and their four boys.
Their youngest, Sam (aka "Sambo") is three years old. They had filed papers to adopt several years back, expecting to wait 18 months to three years for a child. Two months later they got word that a young mother with a seven week-old baby boy had selected the Paynes to be the parents of her son and they would need to pick him up the next day. The Paynes never expected that the boy's Grandmother and birth mother would move into their neighborhood one day. He talks about this situation with deep gratitude, feeling that these women were meant to remain a part of Sambo's life.
The Payne Family
When I asked Sam about the most singular experience in his career as a singer-songwriter, he didn't mention the time he played at the Kennedy Center or when he shared the stage with Toto. He told of the time he had a concert with his jazz quintet in Springdale, UT. His sax player, Denis Zwang called in as the date was approaching to explain that his father had passed away and that the funeral would take place on the day of the concert. "Please don't worry about the concert," Sam urged. Denis responded by saying that he would actually really like to come and play this one. That night, Denis remained rather quiet and reserved as expected on such an occasion. During Gershwin's "Our Love is Here to Stay," he performed a brilliant and moving sax solo. Sam came in to take over as usual at the tail end of the solo when Denis elbowed Sam away and with eyes glued shut and tears streaming down his face, Denis continued his solo in a different realm where Sam claims, "Denis was with Pops."
"The most singular experiences have been the small ones. The coolest ones are never where you think they're going to be," Sam tells me. Yes.Even in boring, sterile corporate conference rooms at the Noni, I think to myself.
Such great stories! But of course, a great story has always been Sam's passion. As we drove home from our meeting, I realized that the energy Sam had transmitted from the stage that night at the Noni three years earlier came from his ability to be one hundred percent comfortable and confident with himself just the way he is. There was no extra effort expended that night on trying to prove himself to anyone or to put his talent on display. (Trust me, that sort of effort always backfires). Sam is Sam whether on stage or in the carpool lane.