Saturday, November 20, 2010


          I stumbled across this link on twitter this week and it makes me positively furious.

          Please make sure you take your time to read it.

          I cannot believe that kids are treating each other this way. Well, I take that back. I absolutely can. I got teased a lot in school. For instance, I got called “Judy” for years because of the Lesley Gore song “Judy’s Turn to Cry” that was on a cassette tape of my dad’s that I would listen to on the bus ride to and from school. It destroyed me and who I could’ve become, but it catapulted me onto a totally different path, and I’m happy with that. Now that I’m older I realize how stupid it was to get bent out of shape by that, but as a preteen kid, it’s hard to deal with that kind of torment.
          We, as parents, have got to fix this. Recently I’ve heard of two different cases of teenagers coming out of the closet and them killing themselves because of the repercussions. I don’t care if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, keep your mouth shut. Bullying has gotten completely out of control in this country. There was also somewhat recently that a mother bullied someone so bad they killed themselves. If ever there was a case for a lynch mob, this is it.
          Set an example for you children and for everyone around you for that matter. It’s one thing to mess around with your friends, but don’t cross that line and make someone feel bad about who they are. It’s completely unacceptable and borderline inhuman. If I catch anyone doing it, I will stand up regardless of who it is. It’s is wrong to devalue someone’s life to enhance you own.
          This is what I like to call the “Pot and Kettle” segment. I’ve been that guy. I’ve been the guy who picked on the gay kid in school. Or the dumb kid. Or whatever, I regret it and I acknowledge that it was wrong. If you recall back to my Fatherhood Blog, I stated that I wanted to put something positive back into this world to negate the negative I spewed forth for so long. This is part of it.
          I refuse to let my kids become bullies and I will teach them to the best of my ability how to handle situations in which they are being bullied or in which their friends are bullying. Please dedicate some time in your life to help prevent this (I can’t find a better word) bullshit from happening to anymore kids. Girls, buy a Star Wars water bottle and rock out with it. I support this nerd in training wholeheartedly (nerd in a good way – not an insult).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mean Gene

          I’ve had a hard time coming up with a blog entry today (I generally write my blogs the day before they post.) Sure, I’ve got a couple of back up topics in mind, but the way tonight worked out sealed the deal.
          Tomorrow morning Stacey’s grandfather is having heart surgery. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s a pretty big deal because of his age and his health situation. Obviously, the family is worried and concerned about the outcome, so tonight we went to her grandparent’s house just to check in before tomorrow.
          He’s nervous. Everyone is. As an outsider and a people watcher it stuck out to me. I’ve been around this side of her family quite a bit since we’ve been married and there’s never been this kind of tension in the air. Tonight the stress in that room was hanging thicker than the smoke usually does.
          Her grandfather, Gene McGuins, was and Army veteran from way back. His unit actually participated in the first above ground nuclear test. From my understanding he is one of the few remaining alive members, if not the only one. He raised one girl, Twyla, and three boys, Tim, Kent, and Jeff. Not to mention a slew of grandkids and a couple of great grandkids thanks in part to yours truly. This man has done nothing but work for his family since he was born. He’s an old soul: someone who believes in a hard, honest day’s work. He likes his southern cooking and his Hobo dog. Even at 76, when the weather permits, he’s out working on lawnmowers for people or just tooling about in his shop. He’s not one to mince words and he will definitely tell you exactly what’s on his mind and what he thinks about any given topic.
To me though, his most endearing of qualities is his acceptance of others. In 2006 when I met that side of Stacey’s family, he was ready to accept me into the family from the minute I walked into the door. I shook his hand and introduced myself and he told me to make myself at home. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time making myself at home at their house. As a matter of fact, when I was selling insurance, if I hit my goal early I would go hang out with them for the afternoon. Gene and his wife, Doris, and all of their kids have made this outsider feel like a true part of their family and while they’re a bit goofy (who’s not?), I feel honored to pull up a lawn chair next to any of them.
Remember Gene as you go through your day today. Without Gene, and men and women like him, most of us wouldn’t be here. His heart, though it may need some work, is undeniably the strongest muscle in this man’s body.
This spring when Gene feels up to it, I’m sure he’ll be out in his shop troubleshooting a lawnmower for a customer. Or maybe he’ll just be sitting under his tree with his beloved Doris and Hobo.

A Misrepresented Talent Dearth - Part 3

          Once I graduated high school in the spring of 2000, any musical aspirations I had were fleeting. There were too many important things to do: hanging out with my friends, primarily Michael and Rich, find girls to pursue, video games, family functions, and working.
Sure, some sort of music was always on my mind, whether it was playing guitar with Greg and Michael or singing with Matthew and Brandon. It’s been ingrained in every fiber of who I am since I was a child and it took a long time for me to even realize it.
          Finally, I got back on track when I became the sound guy for Classic Waxx and volunteered to sing some back up harmony from the sound board. Nothing fancy in the least bit, but I was able to become familiarized with the songs I, unknowingly, would be playing years later. I also learned a lot more about harmony and different times and places to use it to get the best effect. No offense to either choir teacher I had, but rock n roll harmony was noting I ever learned in school. Even when singing in my quartet I sang predominantly lead so harmony took a back seat.
          Fast forward a few years and I am on the stage with the band. Not only to I carry the lion’s share of the back up vocals, I have five songs that I sing the lead on. (Most of them crowd pleasers, too.) I’ve come a long way since I was that kid riding in the back of our maroon Chevy Astro singing with my mom. I’ve come a long way since I was that wide eyed teenager trying to learn everything I can about music and singing all of the time. I don’t have the same need to learn anymore, but I do have a strong desire to keep pushing my vocal limits to see what I can do.
          Long gone are the rockstar dreams. I put those on the shelf. It’s fun to play on the weekends, but I don’t have the time nor the energy to spend on touring and all of the baggage that comes with it. I know I’ll never be a famous singer, but there is absolutely no feeling in this world like standing in front of a room and singing with all of my heart and hearing people erupt with applause. Thanks to my mother, Sue Ellen, and my teachers, Mrs. Seltzer and Ms. Buhlig, and my band, Classic Waxx I have developed into what you can hear most Saturday nights throughout the summer somewhere in the Paducah area.
          Gone are the barbershop harmonies and the classical tenor tone. A rough edged rock n roll tone has replaced those and I’ve decided that I think that’s the way I’d rather it be. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Misrepresented Talent Dearth - Part 2

          So, with Ms. B being new and kids dropping out of choir left and right, I took it as my time to shine. I was still in my quartet, and I was a senior, so in what remained of our choral world, I was pretty popular. I took an immediate liking to Ms. B, even if I didn’t show it, and I was excited to actually learn music and some practical theory from her. Not to mention we were going to be doing a musical in the high school gym instead of the long performed Collage at the local community college.
          It was a completely new beginning for me musically and for our school’s music program. I enjoyed having Ms. B as a teacher greatly and I think that at times, she may have actually enjoyed having me as a student. The choral department suffered because of idiot high school kids not wanting to accept a change, but I think Ms. B was one of my favorite teachers throughout my school career. She decided that for our musical we would do Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of the Penzance.” I auditioned and won the part of the Major General. If you are not familiar with this musical or character, educate yourself. It’s fantastic. As the performance approached I slowly started to choke. I couldn’t remember lines. A whole verse to my second act song was erased form my memory. Ms. B and I had a bit of a confrontation, so she cut the second half to the song. During the performance the first night, I choked hard and forgot when to say my lines. The second night was better. My family was there for which night? You guessed it: the first.
          After this I knew that musical theater wasn’t in my future. Sure, I like to think I can act a bit, but memorizing a bunch of dialogue and trying to make it convincing is zero fun. I also decided that I wasn’t meant to be a classical singer. Sure, I could sing Ave Maria with the best tenors of my age in Western Kentucky, and I proved it, but I knew that wasn’t my path. Barbershop quartet? Not likely. It’s a lot of work and I can’t control anyone’s performance but mine. If I choke, I hate me, if someone else chokes, I hate them. Boyband? No way. Yes, they were all the rage in 2000, but I certainly didn’t have the looks or the attitude to pursue that route. For that period of my life after high school, I gave up on really doing much of anything with music again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Misrepresented Talent Dearth - Part 1

          I remember as a child that my mother would always try to make life more fun.  She still does too.
          All of Mom’s family lives in Metropolis and we always lived in Paducah; and for the majority of my life, the outskirts of Paducah in Reidland. Mom would sing us these goofy little songs and play games with us on that dreaded thirty minute drive to Illinois. (Thirty minutes is forever in the car with three kids.) Songs about witches and fish, she never ran out, and that’s one thing I’m so glad my boys are getting to inherit from her.
          I think that the root of my musical talent (if you want to call it that) comes from her and these goofy kids songs. As a kid, I never was one for listening to music. We would sing, but my sister always wanted the radio on, and I always wanted it off. It just wasn’t my thing until I hit Middle School.  I developed a taste for “grunge” music in my 7th grade year: Nirvana, Green Day, Stone Temple Pilots, and Soundgarden among others. While listening to the Stone Temple Pilots CD ‘Purple’ on day I discovered that I could sing along pretty well with Interstate Love Song. I even remember calling my sister into the bedroom I shared with my little brother and singing for her and her saying I was good. To my recollection, that’s the first time singing ever seemed like more than just something fun to do with Mom.
          Several years later, Sarah and I would go to school early on Thursdays for prayer group. We would sit in the choir room and sing devotional songs and again, I realized I wasn’t terrible at this whole singing thing. The choir teacher, Mrs. Seltzer, even took notice and asked me one day about being in choir. Heck, Sarah was in and she enjoyed it, why not give it a shot? So I joined choir. At first, it was a miserable experience. I was in there with a bunch of guys who didn’t care that I was there and Mrs. Seltzer had, being unfamiliar with my voice, made me a Bass singer. Riiiiiight.
          Once I finally had the courage to talk to Mrs. Seltzer about me either quitting after Christmas or switching to Tenor, things got much better. (My memory on that is fuzzy – Sarah may have initiated that conversation.) The second semester went by much better and, vocally, I fell into a much better place and even got to show off a bit in our annual choir program called Collage with my barbershop style quartet called Close Harmony. (It wasn’t.)
          The next year gave us a new choir teacher at our school and it was my senior year. Ms. Buhlig came in to a rough classroom. Mrs. Seltzer had been there for years and she had a loyalty from her students, so when Ms. Buhlig came in and started to change things away from the Seltzer way, students started dropping like flies. Was it fair? Absolutely not, but its high school. With it only being my second year, I had no real loyalty to get in the way, and I realized that the people that were dropping the class either weren’t talented, or were jerks, so it didn’t bother me a bit.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Local Pride

          Since high school I have heard teenagers and early twenty-somethings lament the area in which they live. Sure, Western Kentucky is not a sprawling urban metropolis, but to me, that’s its appeal. These kids talk about how there is nothing to do here and how much they hate it. They’re bored. First things first: they’re bored here and they would be bored anywhere else. Boredom can be a sign of laziness. How many of these kids read books? Probably not many. I was a bored teenager once too, but I found Dungeons and Dragons and the pretty much sapped all of my boredom away. Get a hobby.
          To me, the Western Kentucky area is home. It’s all I’ve ever known. For a brief point several years ago I considered moving to Nashville and that would have been a huge mistake for a plethora of reasons.  I love it here. For those who don’t know, I grew up on the outskirts of Paducah. It was a borderline rural area. Not urban, and certainly not suburban, but not quite your-closest-neighbor-is-a-mile-away-rural. At this point in my life, I’m actually in a more rural location than that, but still not quite as far removed as, ideally, I would like to be. I love the peace.
          It’s nice to drive down a two-lane, 55 miles per hour highway and really take in your surroundings. To me, that’s way better than a concrete jungle: a six lane highway with thousands of cars and a 70 miles per hour speed limit in which, if you actually do just that, you’re holding up traffic. I like to have the windows rolled down in the spring and smell freshly cut grass, not the smells of a city of industry. I’ve never considered myself a country boy, and I still wouldn’t, but man I love the country lifestyle. Knowing your neighbors. Having a local grocery store where they literally know your name. It’s quiet and slow and all I could ask for.
          Embrace who you are and where you come from. Know that the only thing bigger cities have is more of the same. Paducah has a few bars. Nashville has more bars, but they are all the same. It’s not a different experience. Standing outside on a crisp autumn night and finding it impossible to count the stars means infinitely more to me than having a Starbucks to get my coffee from.