Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas After Loss

I am finding so many worthwhile things to blog about, but haven't done it. The holidays have been fairly difficult this year. Trying to put up the tree and other Christmas decorations has brought back so many childhood memories, as well as a sense of the limited time we really have on earth.

If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that the sadness this year is because of the loss of my Mom.

I love listening to Christmas music, but it brings tears to my eyes every time now because December was full of Christmas music growing up. I listen anyway. The memories are worth the tears.

My daughter wanted the Relient K Christmas CD. It turns out it's quite difficult to get, so I ended up purchasing a digital download. It's all pretty good and really shows their sense of humor (starting with the title, Deck the Halls and Bruise Your Hand.) As much as I like it overall, one song in particular stands out. It's called I Celebrate the Day. It asks the age-old question about whether or not Jesus knew He was the Saviour from birth. It also addresses the issue of seeing another year go by and finding your relationship with God in the same place it was the year before. Here's the first verse:

And with this Christmas wish is missed the point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You've touched my life
Because here is where You're finding me, in the exact same place as New Year's eve
And from a lack of my persistency we're less than half as close as I want to be

I can relate all too well to that. That song is one of the reasons I keep listening to Christmas music despite the tears.

Something unusual happened while I was putting up the tree. You remember how, as a child, you really felt the magic of Christmas? Remember how Christmas had a distinct feel to it? Then you reach a certain age and you find that the magic isn't the same. Christmas is still good, but feels a lot like any other day.

For several minutes while putting up the tree that old feeling of Christmas came back. It's been decades since I've felt it. I'm still amazed that through my tears, I could still feel the magic. All I could do is hope that it was Mom stopping by with her own Christmas gift.

The only thing I can say is that it was priceless.

I wish Christmas magic for all of you this season.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Passion and Service

I am Catholic. I love the Mass, but in the past I have sometimes found that my mind wanders a great deal when I'm at church. There is a lot of repetition, and it can be hard to keep attending to the same words week after week.

I've often wondered how priests manage daily Mass and several on the weekends. They not only say the same prayers over and over, but if they give mulitple Masses they get to constantly repeat their sermons.

On Friday, December 8, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This past year or so we have frequently attended a church where the music is inspiring and the priest clearly loves what he does. When I looked at the priest on Friday, it occurred to me that this man loves praying the Mass. I think he looks forward to Holy days because it gives him an excuse to offer more Masses.

This priest glows with his love for God and his passion for what he does. Needless to say, he has inspired a lot of people, myself included. I look forward to Mass at his church.

Switchfoot strikes me as being a lot like Father Mark. They love what they do so much that they will sometimes find a local coffee shop where they can play after completing a concert. These are people who are clearly doing what they choose to do with their lives. In the process, they have inspired many.

It makes me wonder: do people who follow their passions tend to be those who make more of a difference to others? Switchfoot has touched a lot of lives. Father Mark has also touched many.

Father Mark and the members of Switchfoot serve others while living passionate lives. I wonder what the world would be like if we all did the same.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Elton John Wants To Ban Religion

Elton John says that if he had it his way, organized religion would be banned. He thinks they promote hatred against gays. Sir John states that religion "turns people into really hateful lemmings."

These are strong words. I’ve always enjoyed Elton John’s music, and I was saddened by his attitude.

I can’t speak for all religions, but I know that many of them don’t think the gay lifestyle is morally acceptable. That is completely different from promoting hatred towards gays. Though you will find homophobic individuals within any religion, it doesn’t mean that the religion promotes it.

As much as I dislike what Sir John said, it should give members of organized religion something to think about.

Elton John may be wrong about what churches promote, but he is right about some individuals within a church. Some Christians and members of other organized religions can be pretty self-righteous and can come across as though they are full of hate.

I’m proud to say that I’m a Christian, but I have been attacked by Christians of other denominations. When struggling with chronic illness, I’ve been told that I pray wrong, or I don’t have enough faith. Some Christians think that they need to “save” me because they believe that the teachings of my church are wrong.

Then again, it’s not only Christians who can act this way. My daughter has had people say some pretty nasty things to her by atheists. It seems that if she states any kind of opinion in agreement with her Church, they stop listening and start yelling.

Christians should be better than this. Jesus accepted everybody. You can think somebody is sinning and still love the sinner. Remember that you’re a sinner, too.

Sir John, I disagree with you completely. You need to separate the members of a church from what the church actually teaches and promotes. Organized religion has done an awful lot of good in the world. Just because they don’t condone the gay lifestyle doesn’t mean they should be banned. If somebody espouses hate while claiming to be “religious”, that doesn’t mean the church teaches hate.

If a number of musicians preached hatred, you wouldn’t want to ban music.

To members of organized religion, keep in mind that Elton John speaks for many. It’s not just hatred of the gay lifestyle that is a problem, it’s the superiority and self-righteousness of some that harms us all.

You might not like with Sir John says, but maybe it’s time to learn from him.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


We often hear about people inspiring others. Some inspire us by the way they approach the struggles in their lives. Often we find art, music, or good writing inspirational. Bravery and selflessness, such as that demonstrated when people risk their own lives to save others, has the same effect.

But what does it mean to be inspired?

This question is on my mind a lot because, as anybody who has read my previous entries knows, I was just at the best concert of my life. It was....yup, here's the word...inspirational. I've been to some good concerts in my lifetime, but this was way above anything I've ever seen.

In fact, I'm not the only one saying that. Check out this blog from another fan who came to the same conclusion.

The evening was so memorable that I want to find a way to say "thanks" to Switchfoot. After reading more about them, I realized that they have a passion for making the world a better place. What better way to give back than to try to do the same thing?

I started a new thread at the message boards at The thread asked for ideas on how to give back to a band that has given us so much pleasure.

There weren't very many responses. I then suggested we find a way to make small differences. I wasn't talking about major efforts; I was just suggesting we do things like noticing who needs a kind word that day or other similar efforts. We could post what we do as a gift to Switchfoot. It would directly show Switchfoot the ways they impact others.

It surprised me how quickly that thread died.

What about you? What do you do when something moves you? Do you let it make a difference, or just enjoy the feeling of inspiration while it lasts?

Think about this: if enough people made a conscious effort to do something each week to make the world better, even something that seems small, the impact would be huge.

The next time you feel inspired by somebody, find a way to give back. You never know how you might change a life.

We were meant to live for so much more!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Switchfoot Fallout

I still can't talk coherently about the concert after four days. The best way I can express it is to say that I continue to have what some Switchfoot fans call a "concert hangover." I need to go to another concert, and today wouldn't be too soon.

During the concert I found myself thinking, who are these guys? This was a night well beyond all my expectations, and my expectations were pretty high.

I promised in my last post to tell you about the meet-and-greet. After the concert we waited around awhile at the venue. Eventually all those with passes were gathered into one area, and the rest of the fans were asked to leave.

My smile started to grow at this point, knowing we'd be meeting the guys who had just given us such an indescribable night.

I was talking to my daughter and happened to look up in time to see the drummer, Chad, and the keyboardist/guitarist, Jerome, coming towards us. They walked up to us and introduced themselves in such a humble manner, as though we wouldn't know who they were. Then they really made my day; they both mentioned that they had noticed my daughter during the concert. They pointed to the spot on the balcony where she had been standing. This was so much more than she expected.

But wait, it gets better. The next person we met was Jon, the lead singer. He also said words to the effect of "yeah, I remember you, you were standing right there" and pointed to where my daughter had been standing.

I think she's still floating. Three of the five band members noticed her during the concert.

Ultimately we met all five. They gave autographs and allowed pictures. Every one of them came across as the type of people anybody would love to have as friends.

Somebody asked me if I lost my ability to speak when I met them. Unfortunately, I didn't. Instead I was a babbling fool. Thankfully, they're probably used to people like that.

After we left the building I saw Jon walk out. He passed some people who had their backs to him, said "hi", and kept walking. The fans he had just passed turned to look, and you could see by their expressions what they were thinking.

Jon was grinning. He knew he'd just made somebody's night.

This blog is about people who make a difference. I want to once more thank Katherine from Foot Soldiers Headquarters for allowing the meet-and-greet. Thanks to her, a memorable night was made even more memorable.

As for Switchfoot, I think the best way to thank them will be to talk about some of their causes in future blogs.

There's one more thing I can do for them. I can try to make the lives of others better the way they made mine better.

Friday, October 27, 2006


This seems to be the year for meet-and-greets. On Monday I received word that we'd won a meet-and-greet for a Switchfoot concert in Minneapolis. We won the tickets through a contest sponsored by Artist Arena.

I want to publicly thank Katherine from Foot Soldiers Headquarters for allowing this honor.

I also want to thank Switchfoot for a memorable evening. I can't write much about it yet because I can't do justice in words to the incredible night we had.

What I can say, though, is that if you have the opportunity to see Switchfoot in concert, don't even think of missing it. I love their CDs (which is obvious, it's the only reason we'd drive that far for a concert) but their live performance put the CDs to shame.

My daughter is 14 and I'm ... well, I'm not considered young anymore, but both of us thought this was the best concert we'd ever been to. It's now 24 hours later and we're still in awe, still basking in the glow.

After the concert I found that these guys are incredibly down-to-earth. I'll write more about that later, too.

My words, when I find them, are going to be completely inadequate.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Evanescence: Proof That Venue Makes A Difference

We went to the Evanescence concert at the Rave in Milwaukee. Though Amy Lee proved she is an incredibly talented singer and the band did a great job, we would have had a better time at home listening to a CD. Even my daughter and niece, both teens who love this band, were disappointed and anxious to leave.

The Rave has three or four rooms. The one that Evanescence played in was huge. There is no seating there; you have to stand. I didn't think this would be a problem because we had been at an all-standing venue the week before to see Good Charlotte. I didn't realize that the Rave was substantially larger.

Security was so intent on preventing cameras from coming in that they checked purses and sometimes frisked people to make sure they weren't carrying one. Nevermind that cell phones are allowed, and that cell phones nowadays can be used to take pictures and video. More to the point, nevermind all the stuff they allowed to go on there.

While cameras are prohibited, underage drinking is not. They do check IDs, but the bar is at one end of the floor and once a patron has bought his beer, he can take it to all of his underage friends.

Forget, too, about the sign that says that the singer has requested no smoking, absolutely no exceptions. The room was foggy with smoke. Note a couple of things here; we were on the second floor, and both exits led to a stairwell. People were smoking and flicking the ashes on the wooden floor, a floor slippery with alcohol. Now I understand why you hear of places like this going up in flames.

It was not only a fire hazard, it was a hazard in other ways, too. My daughter was almost burned by a fan dancing in packed quarters while waving her cigarette. I'm sure other patrons weren't lucky enough to avoid the burning end of the cigarette.

My daughter and niece were offered illegal drugs there....but it sure was important to keep cameras out. The sexual activity made me feel like people were coming here because it was cheaper than a hotel room, despite the fact that there were kids there who were a lot younger than my daughter.

Our teens got as close as they could but still had difficulty seeing the band. If I had realized how bad things would get, we would've stayed together and probably left early.

My sister-in-law and I were standing way in the back, and even there we were constantly pushed. Every time I thought I could get into the music, somebody would bump into me. They obviously weren't trying to get closer; we were already way in the back. They were walking by us to get to the beer.

Contrast this to Station 4 in St. Paul, where we had seen Good Charlotte the previous weekend. Station 4 was small enough that you could stand in the back and still see the band well. It was more like being invited to a private concert. The non-smoking policy was enforced. There was a bar, but you had to show ID and remain in the bar; at least, I'm guessing they made patrons stay there because I saw no drinking on the main floor. The bar was in a clearly separated area.

Interestingly, they weren't threatened by cameras. We got some good pictures there.

I learned a lot from this. I'm checking the venue wherever I go. I don't mind if it's large as long as there are seats so I'm not pushed and shoved while trying to get into the music. If it's a standing venue like at Station 4, I'll make sure it's small. All other venues I'll avoid.

When my daughter goes on tour, she plans to stick to smaller venues, too. She was so impressed with Good Charlotte and the way they met with all their fans. You can't realistically do that at the larger places but you can at places like Station 4. She also realizes that she doesn't want her fans leaving as disappointed as she left the Evanescence concert.

This is an example of a way in which bad things can become positive. We now know a lot more about what we need when touring in the future. In addition, instead of omplaining to the Rave (which would've probably been ineffective) I wrote an email to Station 4.

If you're an Evanescence fan and can attend a concert at a decent location, I would encourage you to go. Amy Lee is exceptionally talented. What a shame that we were in the same room as someone of her caliber and couldn't enjoy it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Good Charlotte Concert

In my last post I mentioned the Good Charlotte concert we would be attending on October 6. This is a group that constantly talks about the importance of their fans. On October 6 Good Charlotte proved that they mean what they say.

The evening started with a certain amount of frustration. The time and venue of the concert had changed, and nobody was able to tell us when the meet-and-greet was. Ultimately everybody just went to the venue a little early. After doors opened, we were told to stay in an area in the back of the venue. Around 6:00 we were taken to an alley where the meet and greet was held.

Security at the venue was trying to push everybody through as quickly as possible. There was another warm-up band playing, and they wanted us all back in the building before the band started. The good news, though, is they let me in with my daughter and niece. They didn't have to do that.

This is where I started to personally like the band members. I have been reading that some consider them a bit stuck-up. I've read that they only pretend to like their fans. If this is true, they do a pretty good job of acting.

When my niece and daughter went through, both wanted a picture. Despite security, band members obliged them. In fact, my daughter ended up getting a picture with two of them. Another fan got even got a hug after asking for one. The only people complaining was the venue security.

The concert itself was a lot of fun. They played a couple of new songs, but mostly familiar tunes. They like a lot of audience participation, and they got it.

I have to note here that the bass guitar and drumming were both exceptional. I commented to my daughter that the bass guitarist must have a background in electric guitar, and she confirmed he did. As far as the drummer goes, I haven't heard drumming that good for...well, I won't say how long. Let's just say it's been a long, long time.

This is not to say they weren't all great, because they were. It's just that usually the lead singer(s) and guitarists are the musicians of note. Drummers and bass players seem to be less noticeable. In this group, all of them worked well together, and all had their time to shine.

However, as good as the concert was, the best memories for my daughter and niece are of the meet and greet and after the concert. When the music was finished, fans left the building and stood in line outside, hoping for autographs. Band members came out one at a time for autographs and pictures. Billy took time to pose with everybody who asked him. Paul was willing to hug my niece and daughter when they asked. When those two wished him happy birthday, you could see he was surprised and pleased

For those who comment that Good Charlotte members just act like they like their fans because it's good business, they may be right. I'm not one of them and can't get in their heads. However, even if it is a calculated business decision, it certainly gives fans more than their money's worth.

As my daughter and niece continue in their musical careers, they saw a good example of how to treat others. They walked away saying that no matter how tired they are after a concert, they plan to emulate Good Charlotte. They will never forget how to treat their fans.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good Charlotte, Evanescence

I've written about both Evanescence and Good Charlotte in earlier posts. I talked about Good Charlotte because of their Hold On video. Evanescence moved audiences with My Immortal, and had a personal place in my life as well.

As you can probably tell, I love both of these bands. So does my daughter. I learned about them from her.

This is why I have to share the good news: Evanescence and Good Charlotte are touring again, and we have the opportunity to see them! It's a bit of a drive (one is three hours away, the other will be four) but I can't miss this chance.

These bands are very special to our family, as you will see.

I wrote earlier that we had a major loss in our lives this year. It's still unreal to me, and I still struggle with getting things done while I grieve. I'm even finding it hard to put the words on paper.

In February, we lost my Mom.

I want to delete those words, to pretend it never happened.

But back to the bands, to why they are special to us...

My daughter is a singer, and she and her cousin used to sing to my Mom. Mom loved their music. One of the first songs they ever sang was Good Charlotte's LIttle Things. That was followed by many more songs of both Good Charlotte and Evanescence.

My mother's last gift to my daughter was on Christmas. It was a Good Charlotte t-shirt.

Fittingly, my daughter's last gift to my Mother was hours before she passed. It was an Evanesecence song.

Seeing them on tour (within a week of each other) is very meaningful. To make it even better, my daughter's birthday is between concerts. She was dreading the loss she knew she would feel on that day. Now it will be memorable for good things instead.

The song my daughter sang to Mom is called Good Night. You've probably never heard it. I'm not even sure where she found it. It's a short lullaby, and the last words are "We said goodnight and not good-bye." I'd put all the lyrics here but I'm not sure of the legalities of it. I'm sure you can find it on any Evanescence lyric site. It's a beautiful song, and was very appropriate for Mom's passing.

It was the last song she ever heard.

This is going to be an emotional couple of concerts, but one that will also make me feel closer to Mom. I'm as excited about them as my daughter is. I want to think that Mom will be right there by our side those nights.

I'll be posting more about Evanescence later. The Evanescence website has a link to Amy Lee's Foundation, Out of The Shadows. It is very impressive and worth looking at. I'll talk about it in a future blog.

Mostly likely I'll be talking about new releases from both groups. You probably already know that Evanescence has a new CD, The Open Door, which will be released on October 3. (We've surprise to anybody who knows us.) The Evanescence website provides links if you want to hear it now.

Good Charlotte is also close to releasing a new CD. Check out the new song at

Expect me to talk about both of the concerts in future blogs. I'm so excited! I can't tell you how good it feels to be excited about something again...except, of course, it's very difficult to not be sharing with Mom.

I want to publicly thank both bands for their musical gifts to us. The right songs can really make a difference in our lives.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Goth Teens

Is your teenager Goth? If so, should you worry about it?

My daughter wears what some consider Goth clothing. She particularly likes Tripp pants. Though she doesn't usually wear completely dark clothing, there are days when her clothes are mostly black.

She has a friend who also likes the Goth look. In addition to the clothes, he wears his hair spiked. Since we live in a small city, the way he looks gets him noticed.

This friend has spent quite a bit of time at our house. He's easy to talk to and has a big heart. If there's projects to do around the house, like painting, he'll volunteer to help just because he enjoys my daughter's friendship. The more I get to know him, the more I like him.

I was talking about him to another parent recently. We got into the whole issue of clothing and what it says about a person. People are quick to judge others, and often won't take the time to get to know somebody who dresses different from the rest.

Teens in particular are judged harshly. When a teen dresses uniquely, often parents and teens alike make negative judgements. My daughter has been told she's satanic, even though most of her clothing comes from (a Christian clothing site geared towards teenagers.) A substitute teacher even told her that God doesn't like it that she dresses in dark colors.

I've been told that kids like my daughter and her friend lose when they wear these clothes because they miss meeting people who could turn out to be friends. Maybe that's true, but I'm not sure my daughter would get along all that well with kids who don't like her because of her Tripp pants.

The girls who are popular, and the ones who adults seem to like, are the ones who dress as sexually as possible. These are the ones some parents think my daughter should emulate.

I don't think so.

My daughter recently had to interview a community member whose contributions to our city made a big difference. I later met that woman. She was very impressed. She told me that my daughter had sent her a thank-you note and signed it "Dare to be different." This community member was so impressed by the thoughtful interview questions, my daughter's general attitude, and the note that she even called the school to let them know how pleased she was.

That attitude, dare to be different, is exactly what I hoped for in a child. I also hoped for a child with compassion, which she has in abundance.

I think the way she dresses demonstrates that she is comfortable with who she is. She might be called satanic, but it doesn't make her change. Instead she seeks those who understand and are comfortable with her.

Personally, I like her wardrobe. More than that, I love her courage to show the world who she is, her wisdom in knowing that true friends like her for herself. She could try to conform, to get along better by pretending to be what she's not.

Then again, she can just be herself. In this day and age, that takes courage.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Good Charlotte Targets Suicidal Fans

I know it's been awhile since I've written. Our family has experienced a major loss, and I just wasn't up for doing anything more than I had to. I kept up with my professional writing, but not my weblog. Starting today I hope to be more regular.

When it comes to loss, some of you are thinking of losing your lives to suicide. I've written about it before because I've known so many teens who have thought seriously about this option. Last night my daughter showed me a moving video by Good Charlotte that I would ask you to listen to if you are contemplating taking your life. They sing the song "Hold On" interspersed with commentary by suicide survivors and those who have to live with the suicide of a loved one. Even if you're not considering taking your life, the video is worth watching and worth passing to others. You never know when Good Charlotte's words and the words of others in the video will make a difference.

(Note: I found out today (5/07) that the link I provided no longer works, so I'm editing the post by providing the video right here.)

Hold On (2)
By Good Charlotte

Good Charlotte has long held a special spot in my heart. Though there is an occasional song that I'm not really crazy about, their overall message is good and their songs tend to be either meaningful or a lot of fun. One of my favorites is Thank You, Mom. For those readers who still have Moms, singing this song would be a great Mother's Day gift. Unforunately, you'll have to do some searching to find a sample of the song. I tried to put a Napster link here, but it didn't work out. The title was right, but the song was wrong. You can try your own luck going directly to and searching for Good Charlotte's Thank You, Mom.

Good Charlotte has several other songs worth listening to. offers full tracks for listening to some songs. Try Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous if you're in the mood for a fun, upbeat song or We Believe if you're looking for something of a more inspirational nature.
I have read that Good Charlotte realizes the importance of their fans. I have never met them or been to a concert to verify it, but I suspect it's true. Last fall my teen daughter wanted to sing a song of theirs (and some by a few other artists) for a public event. We wrote for permissions for the songs she wanted to share, and Good Charlotte's manager responded within hours. He was the only one who replied.

Some people are critical of Good Charlotte because they have been labeled a punk band. If you're looking for true punk, you might not enjoy them. No matter what your style, though, the Hold On video is worth a look.

If you've never listened to Good Charlotte, check out the links I've provided. You might find a new group to enjoy. If you're already a fan, I guess I don't have to say anything more. They say it all in their music.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Science Proves A Greater Truth

The February 6th edition of Newsweek included a compelling article about DNA testing called In Our Blood. The author, Claudia Kalb, writes about the ability to use DNA testing to trace family roots and answer the ultimate question of where the human race started.

Reading the article, I learned that there are labs that will take your DNA sample and analyze your heritage. Several examples were given of people surprised by what they found. DNA samplings reveals mixed heritage for virtually everybody. Ms. Kalb did a great job of emphasizing what this all means when she said "The more we discover our differences, the more we find connections."

I hope that this kind of knowledge helps people develop new respect for different cultures. It seems to have made a big difference in the lives of some of the individuals discussed in the article. Maybe this is what we need to start allowing our differences to unite us.

Ms. Kalb states that DNA testing indicates that our common roots are with a male and a female ancestor in Africa. Thinking of common roots for all of us, I realize that science has finally proven what many religions have stated all along: we really are all brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Self Made Man

The recent Time Magazine (January 30th issue) included a review of the book Self-Made Man,written by Norah Vincent. I haven't read the book yet, but it sounds like a great read. More importantly, it has the potential to help men and women better understand each other.

Norah Vincent spent 18 months posing as a man before writing her story. The end result helps us better understand gender differences. She found that the gender gap is pretty wide, but also that genders can learn to understand each other better.

Women often seem to think that a woman's way is better than a man's way of doing things. (Yes, I'm female, and yes, I'm guilty of this too.) Men tend to think their way is better. Self-Made Man suggests that we should be learning more from each other.

It's time to recognize that differences are what make this world a better place to live. Books like this can only help.

Now we just need a man to live like a woman for 18 months....