Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Simple Plan

I love it when a band I like does good things.

As you can tell by the title, Simple Plan is the band I am talking about. Here is the announcement I read today:

Lava/Atlantic recording artists Simple Plan have announced the launch of the Simple Plan Foundation, a charitable organization that will devote time and energy to raise money to help teenagers in need. The foundation will focus on young teens dealing with the hardships of growing up: drug addiction, poverty, depression, suicide, and other struggles. It will also donate funds to various medical and social organizations that care for sick children, and promote music education as a way for kids to find a passion and direction in life.

The band states, "These are issues that truly matter to us because a lot of our fans go through difficult times. We get tons of very sad letters and emails, and we also meet a lot of these kids at our shows, so we get a direct perspective on this dramatic social problem. It's heart-wrenching to see how many young kids are struggling, feeling depressed and lost. We are launching the Simple Plan Foundation to hopefully make a difference in their lives. We feel it's the least we can do."

I love their attitude, too. They have grown quite a bit and have decided to sing what they want without worrying about what label listeners put on it. They just want to make good music, which they do. More importantly, they sing songs that mean something to listeners. Is there anybody who can't relate to the lyrics of Welcome To My Life?

Do you ever feel like breaking down?
Do you ever feel out of place?
Like somehow you just don't belongAnd no one understands you
Do you ever wanna runaway?
Do you lock yourself in your room?
With the radio on turned up so loud
That no one hears you screaming....

For any of you who have read my blogs on suicide and are still reading, you can see that you're not alone. Then follow up with the lyrics from Shut Up:

“Nothing you say today will ever bring me down

That's the attitude to strive for. If you're caught up in somebody else's opinion, it's time to change. I know it's easier said than done, but the best things in life almost always take some effort.

Make an effort. It's your choice. It's your life.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It's Your Choice

I was surprised to read that Richard Pryor was born and raised in a brothel. He experienced sexual abuse growing up. Despite this, he decided to make a name for himself. He rose well above his upbringing to bring laughter to others, and became wealthy and famous in the process.

Of course, wealth and fame are not nearly enough to combat serious depression. This was a struggle for the comedienne. Drugs and alcohol were one of the ways he tried unsuccessfully to comabat it. Note that this solution ultimately didn't work for him, just as it doesn't work for the rest of us.

Mr. Pryor took a rough beginning and made a name for himself. He brought laughter to others both through his own comedy and through his influence on other professionals. I have had a much easier life than him and have not made anywhere near the difference.

I may never touch the vast number of people that Mr. Pryor did, but I'm going to continue to try. You can, too.

It's your choice.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Who Has Changed Your Life?

I'd love to know who has changed your life without knowing it and how they did it. I am interested in all the things we can do to make the world a better place if we would only think of it. Please leave a comment or contact me at CanIChangeALife@yahoo.com.

Thanks for enhancing my life.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

From Suicidal to Successful

My teenage daughter loves the clothing, music, and accessories at www.C28.com. Like many teenagers, she also has firsthand experience with school bullies. She is very independent, and this does not go over well with kids who want everyone to conform to their ideas of "cool".

I first read about C28 in Reader's Digest. I was intrigued because of their message of complete acceptance of everyone. I wish that there was a local C28 store because it would be a perfect place for my daughter to work and spend time.

Intrigued by the article, I looked up information on the founder. His name is Aurelio F. Barreto III. He created those Igloo dog houses you see everywhere. He eventually sold the company and walked away a very wealthy man.

But wealth doesn't buy happiness. I don't know what demons possessed him, but he ended up with depression serious enough that he considered suicide. Thankfully he decided against it. Even better, after he made the decision for life, he ended up on a mission to enhance the lives of countless others.

If you want to know more about his story, check out www.C28.com. It's also a great place to find quality clothing, music, and accessories. We have bought several items from them and always been pleased. Customer service is also terrific. Lately I had some questions for them and have been corresponding with a gentleman named Justin, who has been exceptionally patient and quick to respond to me.

Aurelio F. Barreto III is a great example of somebody moving from suicidal to having a terrific life. I would love to hear the stories of others who have done this, especially those who have overcome great odds to choose life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Feeling Suicidal?

Lately it seems so many people are struggling with depression. I know of several teens who cut themselves in an effort to feel something. Many of them are dealing with suicidal thoughts.

This is not just limited to teens, of course. I've known a lot of people who have seriously contemplated suicide, and my life has been touched by family and friends who have successfully left us this way.

If you've read my other posts, you won't be surprised that I listen to music all the time. I was listening to Evanescence this morning, in particular My Immortal. It is said that she wrote it on the suicide of a loved one. I don't know if this is true or not, but it perfectly captures how it feels to be one of the people left behind.

If you're considering suicide, please look up the lyrics to My Immortal. If you have any love left for anybody in your life, listen to it thinking how they will feel. Please don't put them through this.

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just so much that time cannot erase

Sounds a lot like any of you considering suicide, but it also completely describes those who have survived a loved one's suicide. Read on, and think of anybody who has tried to help you. Before responding with "Nobody cares, nobody has tried," be honest with yourself. You know there have been people in your life who tried to reach you. Sometimes people give up because they think they're not able to help and not wanted. Here's some more lyrics:

When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me.

Consider those you love, and find a way to struggle through the pain until you get some relief.

This blog is meant to highlight ways that others can impact a life. I hope I can touch at least one life today.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Great Reality TV

NBC is hosting a great new reality TV show this year called Three Wishes. They are granting at least three wishes per show, and say that others might be granted that will not appear on the show. I don't know who came up with the concept and who ran with it once it was suggested, but both have to be applauded for actively making a difference in many, many lives.

I wonder if they realize the magnitude of what they are doing. Just hosting the show will inspire people they will never meet, people who will watch the show and make their own wishes or the wishes of others come true.

When television was first introduced, it was often suggested that it could be a major force of good or evil. In this day and age when we're always complaining that there's nothing on, or that all news is bad news, NBC and all involved have done something magnificent.

They are still taking wishes. Check it out on NBC.com.

I am in awe.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Musicians Who Mean What They Sing

My title is referring to the Oak Ridge Boys. After seeing them in concert in April, 2005 I went to their website and logged onto their message board. There I found that the "Boys" actually respond to their fans and even post their own thoughts. When they write, it becomes clear that they sing what they believe.

I now own two of their CDs. One is Common Thread, a Gospel CD. The other is called Colors and is filled with patriotic music. I play both of them all the time. Soon I plan to add From the Heart to my collection.

I would give you a link to check their music, but you probably already know you plenty of sites you can head to (though I'd recommend http://www.oakridgeboys.com). Instead, I want to honor them by sending you to a place that is dear to their hearts. It's http://www.feedthechildren.org. This is another great organization assisting Katrina victims.

At some later date I may write more about what the Oaks have meant to me and my family. For now, consider clicking on that link and being a person who makes a difference.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dan Fogelberg

A few years ago my daughter asked me who my favorite musical artist was. I told her I didn't have a favorite, that I like anybody who sings with passion. Then I took a look at my CDs and noticed the name that overwhelming showed up was Dan Fogelberg.

He is on my mind now because last I knew he was struggling with prostate cancer. There is a statement on his official website, but the statement was made last fall and I have heard nothing about his illness since. Recently, however, he put his Colorado home up for sale, fueling a lot of speculation among his many devoted and worried fans.

Dan's music has certainly played a large role in my life. The first full CD I heard of his was Souvenirs. (Actually it was a tape, and I think it was before CDs even existed.) My husband played it for me many many years ago when we were driving to his reserve unit for drill. The beauty in this CD was so palpable that I still remember the night all these years later.

I found one message board where somebody had written that they knew him personally. This person does not like Dan and cannot understand all the grief his fans are going through. He stated that Dan is not a very likeable person. I don't know if this is true or not, never having had the opportunity to meet him. This much I do know: there are a lot of people who are not very nice and who will never make a difference in the lives of others. Dan does. Many of his fans have loved his music for years and found great inspiration in it.

Music has always been my passion, but Dan is the one who showed me that it is vital to the lives of a lot of people. His music has shown me that musicians enhance strangers' lives every day. He gives me the courage to be a musican and to be proud of it.

I am hoping that some of you who read this will be Dan Fogelberg fans. If you are, please feel free to comment. I would especially like comments showing how he has impacted your lives. I know he has meant as much and more to others as he has meant to me.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Today was the last day of school for this school year. For the first time, my daughter is not excited about it. She came home in tears.

It was a tough year for her. Early in the year there were days when she wished it was summer already. Throughout the year there was plenty of adversity, but in the end it made her stronger. She learned to shrug off the bullying (most of the time) and developed some close friendships. She'll be seeing her friends during the summer, so why is she so sad?

It's the teachers.

She had a great bunch of teachers this year and felt very close to a couple of them. She was actually looking forward to summer until it hit her that she would never have these particular teachers again. Leaving today was very difficult. She couldn't even say good-bye.

As I write this she is with a friend, and I'm left pondering the impact these teachers had on her. I can't help but think that part of her ability to shrug off the bullies was the support she got from them. I saw enormous personal growth in her this year, and they get some of the credit for that.

It's obvious they care a lot about the kids they teach. I can't help but wonder if they are feeling as sad as she is. I'm sure that in a way it's like any other job and they are happy to have the summer off. Yet they know they will never have another group quite like this year, and they have to watch kids they've grown to care about move on.

And they do this every single year.

I am writing this as a way to say thank you to all the teachers who teach because it their passion. As in any field, there are teachers that feel it is just a job. The teachers my daughter had this year, though, are not among that group.

To all you who teach because that's who you are, thank you. You most definitely change lives.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sometimes It's the Little Things

Want to be remembered? Teach a kid something!

Yesterday was Memorial Day. Our family, like so many others, takes the opportunity on this day each year to visit the cemetaries and share some family history. We always leave feeling closer to our passed relatives and to each other.

I never knew most of my grandparents well. One passed before I was born, and two others died when I was young. My maternal grandpa, however, lived until I was a teen. In fact, I was only a little older than my daughter is now. With more memories of him than the other grandparents, it is easy for me to share stories of him with her.

Yesterday I was talking with her about the last time I saw Grandpa. It was at a wedding reception. As usual, he had all the time in the world for his grandkids. We were talking about how fortunate it was for the bride and groom that the weather that day turned out so well because it sure looked like storms in the morning.

Grandpa explained to me that he knew it would likely get better. He told me that the barometer was rising, which generally indicates good weather. If it had been falling he would have expected rain.

That day he taught me a lesson about weather, but over time it became much more.

To this day I pay attention to the barometer when making plans. When I do, I think of him. Sometimes I remember that day, and other times I remember so much more.

It took until yesterday, though, for me to realize how easy it is to be memorable. (It's been over thirty years. I guess I'm a bit slow sometimes.) Grandpa loved us and made it obvious by sharing his time with us. Yet of all the memorable stories and life events he shared with us, it was the teaching moment that stands out. At that wedding he taught me something I would be able to use for the rest of my life. In the process, his teaching now connects me to him.

Thanks, Grandpa. Now I just have to check the weather to feel loved.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Grand Jubilee and New South

As mentioned in a previous blog, my family visited Branson, MO in March. We chose Branson because we wanted a vacation focused on musical entertainment, something we all enjoy. The last show we attended in Branson was Grand Jubilee, featuring quartet New South and comedian Terry Sanders. We had never heard of them before but decided to go, in part because of the reasonable cost. We certainly got our money's worth and much, much more.

You can read reviews of the show other places on the internet. I am impressed by the number of people who say they would go back to see it again. (We are definitely among that number.) It seems everybody has a great time there. In fact, I have yet to find a poor review. This blog, however, is about how they impacted me and my family.

The show itself was a lot of fun. I'm not a big country fan, but I enjoyed every country song they sang. They also included several gospel numbers. I had forgotten how inspiring gospel music can be, and I purchased New South's CD Somebody Must Be Praying For Me before I left. I now play it almost daily. Thanks to them, I also attended an Oak Ridge Boys concert in my home town about a month ago. It was a great night, and I would not have gone if it wasn't for the Grand Jubilee.

Yet as memorable as the music was, it's the attitude of the band and their graciousness later that really stays in my mind. When New South sings with the Grand Jubilee band, you can see them really working together and having a great time. Some groups seem to be about each individual, but this group and the band works as a team. Music is meant to be shared, and this group truly shares with each other and the audience.

The wife of one of the band members, Diana Ponder, also graced the show at times. While I like her singing in general, it was the duets with her husband that stood out the most. I would go one step further and say that it wasn't just because their voices suit each other (which they do, remarkably well) but because they have a great chemistry together. When they sing to each other they appear to really be singing to each other. It's as though the audience is full of their friends, and they are open enough with us to show us how they feel about each other.

After the show we bought a CD and a DVD. Members of New South and Diana Ponder were available for autographs. Diana was the last in line. Fortunately for us, we were the last customers in line. We started to talk with Diana and found her to be incredibly gracious. She had just spent the day preparing for and performing in a show, she had another one to prepare for in a couple of hours, but she stood and talked for quite some time and seemed to enjoy herself.

Here I have to add that Terry Sanders, the comedian, is truly gifted. I expected the humor in this show to be a bit hokey, but Terry kept the audience in stitches. I can understand why he's had a long career in this field. His humor seems so effortless, and he can make you laugh at jokes that others would never be able to pull off.

I mention him here because he was not standing in line to give out autographs. However, when we were talking to Diana, we saw him walk by and mentioned that we'd love his signature, too. She called him over and I couldn't believe his reaction. With all his ability, he seemed surprised and even touched that we wanted his autograph. I'm sure this is not a new experience for him, but I am also sure he wasn't faking his reaction. It just goes to show how some people can be great at what they do and never get conceited about it.

My daughter is a singer and hopes to be a professional one day. She loves music and loves performing, so it would be a good match. This concert showed her a lot about teamwork. More importantly, she learned how much enjoyment a performer can bring by just being willing to hang out with the fans. I hope she remembers this when it is her turn. I am hoping that Diana Ponder and everyone else involved with the show become role models for her.

Grand Jubilee is an example of music at it's best. If you are interested in purchasing New South CDs, they can be found at http://talldarkstranger.net/store.html.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New South, The Lettermen, and I Believe

As you may have noticed by my previous posts, musicians bring so much to my life.

In this post I want to thank some of them. These would include the group New South (who I will be discussing in a future blog) and The Lettermen, as well as songwriters Erwin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, and Al Stillman.

I want to thank them all for an absolutely beautiful song called "I Believe". As you may have guessed, the songwriters mentioned above get credit for writing it. Many artists have performed it, so I am obviously not the only person moved by it. I hope the writers are aware of the legacy they left.

The recording I loved most growing up was by The Lettermen. In fact, they are the first group I ever heard sing it. It might be worthwhile for you to go to Amazon.com to look up a recording of this. I understand The Lettermen are back on tour, but am having trouble accessing their website at the moment. You can try to reach it at http://thelettermen.com.

I thank the country/gospel group New South for bringing this song back to me. My family and I attended a concert of theirs in Branson, Missouri a month ago. (I would highly recommend it to anybody, and was so inspired that I plan to blog about it later.) I had forgotten how much I like gospel music until this trip. I now own a CD of theirs, Somebody Must Be Praying For Me, and play it constantly. They have several great songs on it, but I am still most inspired by I Believe (with Written in Blood a close second.)

You can purchase this CD as well as others from them at http://talldarkstranger.net/store.html. If you enjoy gospel music, this could easily become a favorite in your collection.

I Believe Lyrics:

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come to show the way
I believe, I believe
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard
I believe that someone in that great somewhere hears every word
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry
Or touch a leaf, Or see the sky
Then I know why
I Believe

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bobby Vee

We can all have an impact on someone else at anytime without ever knowing it. Two people who came into my life only long enough to make a difference are Bobby Vee and his daughter, Jenny.
For those who don't know, Bobby Vee is a singer whose biggest hits were in the 1960s. He still tours and still sings an outstanding concert.

He came to our community in December for a Christmas concert. He sang with a sixth-grade choir from one of our middle schools. My daughter belongs to that choir. Singing is her passion and she hopes to be a professional singer one day, so she was pretty excited about this opportunity.

I wanted to share with Bobby Vee her pleasure at being able to sing at this concert, so I sent an email to his website (www.bobbyvee.net.) In it I thanked him for the opportunity he was giving these kids. I didn't realize at the time what an opportunity it was for all of us.

My husband and I were able to meet Bobby and Jenny before the concert. I was very impressed with their attitude. They didn't treat meeting fans like just part of the job, but truly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

When I introduced myself, both of them mentioned the email I had sent. They told me how much it meant to them. That comment alone made my night.

What they didn't realize is that I have recently conquered a chronic illness. After many years of not working, I am writing again. More importantly, I have always wanted to make a positive impact on others. (Check the title....Can I Change A Life.) Being away from writing for so long has left me wondering if my words can influence anybody. Bobby Vee and Jenny showed me they can.

If that was all they had left me with that night it would've been more than enough, but there is more.

The concert was memorable. I realized the staying power of Bobby Vee's music when he would announce the dates various songs were released. Often they were the year I was born or shortly after...yet to many of them I knew every word. That just isn't true about most artists.

I love writing, but music is my passion. Many things have happened recently to make me realize that I need to get back into performing (I'm an instrumentalist) and this concert was one of them. Music runs deep in my soul. Listening isn't enough; my drive is to perform again. Nothing I've experienced can beat using music to reach into a person's soul and enhance a life. I buried that desire deep inside because I haven't known what to do with it, but I left that night just knowing that I can't keep the music inside of me anymore.

My husband was also influenced. After the concert he said he can't remember the last time he had so much fun. Fun is the key word for that night...Bobby and his family and band members get on that stage and have such a great time together that it's impossible not to join in.

Ever since that night we play a lot more music in our house (including, of course, our new Bobby Vee CDs.) We're planning a trip during spring break to Branson, where we hope to catch several concerts. This would not have happened if Bobby Vee had not performed here in December.

After meeting him and his daughter, I am guessing they make a positive impact on people wherever they go. I hope one day I can do the same.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Is It Really So Bad To Be A Mom?

"909 women in Texas recently told researchers they find taking care of their kids about as much fun as cleaning their house, slightly less pleasurable than cooking, and a whole lot less enjoyable than watching TV."

I still can't believe I read that. It's in the February 21st edition of Newsweek.

I'd love to hear from other moms. I find this statement incredibly sad. It's not that I think parenting is about having fun, but hanging with people you love generally is pretty enjoyable.

The woman who wrote this article is selling a book. I very much hope that she is presenting things in such a way as to sell her book and that it is not representative of the general public.

My blog is intended to be about people who have changed my life. My daughter has enhanced it greatly. As just one example, she has brought music back into my life. Music is my biggest passion (other than God and family.) Just being around her makes me happy. She is off of school on Friday and I can hardly wait. The only thing I don't like about summer vacation is that it means she's advancing one more grade and is that much closer to going off to college.

I realize that juggling kids and jobs is stressful. It's also more stressful to have more than one child. My sister raised three kids while working. It seemed she never got everything done. But she never lost sight of what was important...giving her kids all her love. They are all grown and two are in college, and she misses them every day.

The writer of the Newsweek article, Judith Warner, talked about all the things she did for a child and how they stressed her out. She talked about being proud that she could "get in three hours of high-intensity parenting before I left for work" (and another three after work.) No wonder she was unhappy. People forget that the best way to help your kids is show that you love them. Parenting time shouldn't all be "high-intensity." It's so much more important to share hugs and cuddles, always letting your kids know how much you love them and that you will always be there for them.

No, my sister wasn't really into high-intensity. She was into being with them and talking with them. She helped them with schoolwork, but it wasn't important to her that they be #1 in their classes. She just cared that they did their best.

All of her kids went to college and one has graduated. They've done well academically. None of them was ever in trouble. They never did drugs and still drink very little. Even better, they all seem to have lives they enjoy... and isn't that our goal for our kids?

For each one of them, growing up is full of special memories. They all know their Mom and Dad will always be there for them, and each of them has learned plenty about giving love. My niece and nephews are a delight to be with.

A houseful of kids, a stressful job, and not enough time to do anything...would my sister do it again? You bet.

When raising your kids, don't lose sight of what's important...being there.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Teenage Influences

As you can tell by the title, I'm the mom of a teen. She's a great kid (and I'm not at all prejudiced, right?) Seriously, though, she's a good student, has a sense of style I envy, and is full of compassion for others.

A couple of my friends have shared their struggles with their daughters. The biggest struggle so far has been grades. (Yes, I realize we're a lucky group.) In all cases the teens are bright but don't turn in their homework. Funny thing, teachers tend not to give students good grades when they don't do the work.

My friends see how well my daughter does and ask for advice. What can I tell them?

Much as I like to think I have influenced my daughter, the reality is that I'm just lucky. My daughter is highly motivated to get good grades. Once she got a C on a test and she was just miserable. I've had to talk to her about accepting what she gets as long as she does her best. She understands what I'm saying, but I'm pretty certain that her next C will make her feel just as badly as her first one did.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately because she has undergone a major attitude shift. It's a shift for the good. She has always been a loving, caring person and she expects the same of others. This tender-hearted thinking has caused her a lot of pain from bullies and other classmates.

This year she has met some truly nasty kids. The worst that has happened to her is that a boy in her class pretended he was going to kick her in the face. He was on a table and she was sitting in a chair when he called her name. As she looked up, he swung his foot out towards her face. He barely missed her. He then said he should've done it, but didn't because he'd get in trouble. He then proceeded to call her names that would've made her feel awful a year ago.

Later that evening my daughter shared the story with me. I was pretty shook up. I kept imagining what would've happened if he had misjudged and actually kicked her. It didn't bother her at all. None of the bullying this year has bothered her. Her attitude was basically along the lines of "What a jerk!"

Through the years we have talked about bullies and how to handle them. We have talked about how bad she feels when people make fun of her for any reason. I've tried to teach her to consider the source when she's insulted. In other words, the people who are nasty to her aren't worth feeling badly about.

For some reason she has finally internalized those lessons. I asked her why she's so much stronger this year. Maybe I was even patting myself on the back a bit as I wondered what I'd said that finally hit home with her.

It turns out that I didn't to anything. Avril Lavigne gets the credit. My daughter has been listening to Avril a lot and taking in the things her music says. (I've written a weblog about her, including information about her various songs, at http://www.avrilfanmom.typepad.com/momsguide). Needless to say, I'm now a pretty big fan of Avril Lavigne.

I'm glad my daughter has chosen to listen to songs that help her become stronger. I'm grateful to Avril for singing songs that tell girls to be strong and to be themselves, and to sing them in such a way that teenagers will listen. I feel lucky beyond belief that my daughter chose this influence instead of getting into the darker music that's out there.

My only concern is that if the luck runs out, I'm not sure what I'll do. I can only hope that the close relationship my daughter and I still share will continue. I will hope that if the time comes that she really needs my influence, I will say and/or do the right things.

In the meantime, I'm humbled. I've also learned that what my husband says is true: if I had the choice between skill and luck, I'll always take luck.