News for November 2009

Third Session

Hey – in a fit of writing deadlines and turkey consumption I totally neglected posting the session three music and movement song sheet and mp3’s.  My bad.  They’re up now over on the kids’ music tab.  rock on.

Posted: November 30th, 2009
Categories: music, song
Comments: No Comments.

My New Laptop

Well folks it’s time to get ready for Jesus’ birth so let’s do some shopping shall we?  In a strategic move to avoid the crowds and still save big bucks I headed for Savers on Thanksgiving eve and was able to get all my clothing needs met for the coming year – I even scored merrino wool socks!  In addition I picked up a number of great CD’s (some I already own but was able to find homes for easily), a green t-shirt for my wife, and a Smith and Corona Galaxie manual typewriter with case and owners manual dating it back to august 1967.   I’ve written a few blogs on it already but am having trouble connecting it to the internet.  Perhaps they didn’t have wi-fi in 1967.   I blame the hippies.


Posted: November 30th, 2009
Categories: technology
Comments: 1 Comment.

technically speaking

I’m not anti technology but it drives me nuts all the same.  I hate being advertised to.  I hate commercials.  I hate billboards blocking my view of farmland and trees and blue sky.  My obvious bias is that technology is just one big marketing tool. A distraction.  A couple weeks ago a Sunday ad for blackberries or netbooks or some such appendage boasted, €œTotal Freedom!  Always Be Connected!€  And I thought to myself, €œHow is that freedom?€  If a prisoner is shackled securely the only person free is the guard.  Sorry that was a bit overstated, but really, who wants to be connected all the time? 
1,2,3, Not it. 
I have a habit of disconnecting.  Maybe too much so.  For practical and economic reasons my wife and I have cell phones and no land line.  I turn mine off at the point in the day that I don’t want to be bothered.  Usually between 6 or 7.  I don’t think this is unreasonable.  The (perceived) problem is that I sometimes forget to turn it back on.  Usually I remember by mid afternoon the next day, but on occasion it’s been 2 or 3 days. 
And I have yet to miss an important call. 
A few months ago we moved into a new house.  We haven’t decided what to do about cable/internet stuff.  We used to have basic cable because it made our internet package cheaper.  And since our TV is older than our children (by about 10 years) cable allowed us to watch TV post digital broadcasting.  So now, in this new house, we are internet and TV free.  Actually, my wife picks up our old signal still (an advantage of only moving across the alley) and we still bust out DVD’s for Saturday morning cartoons, so it’s not like we’ve gone 100% hippy, but still it’s been a change.  For the better.  Generally I’ve found that quality of life increases in the absence of technology. 
I grew up with bed time stories.  I have great memories of laying in bed and my Mom reading Chronicles of Narnia to me and my brother while I fought to stay awake.  I don’t remember watching TV as a kid.  I mean, I watched it, but there are no memories attached to it.  And in fact now that I think about the only TV memory I have is falling in love with MacGyver as a fifth grader, which is funny considering the thing I loved about MacGyver was his instinct to eschew technology in favor of a knife and duct tape.  So even as a fifth grader my use of TV was a bit subversive.
Granted, most of my formative viewing years were spent in a village in Liberia West Africa, so even though I was the desired audience I was a hard to reach target.  Towards the end of our time in Liberia we had solar panels and 12 volt lights that we could use at night.  Until that point we had kerosene lamps and candles at night.  And that’s what we read our stories by. 

Here in St. Paul we generally read stories by the light of a two foot christmas tree that our eldest rediscovered in the move.  By putting it up in October Lydia actually beat Menards to the season, but only by a week.  Anyway, Jodi or I lay next to the girls and read stories at night.  We’re on book six of the Little House series, the Long Winter.  I was never a big Little House fan, but I’ve kind of gotten into it.  In fact, we all have to the point that even when only one parent is necessary for the bed time routine we generally both end up there for the story.  I’ve even been tempted to read ahead during the day while Lydia’s at school.
During the long winter the Ingalls run out of kerosene for their lantern.  It’s the part in the story where they’re existing in Minnesota in February in a wood shack with nothing but wheat flour to live on and hay to burn for fuel.  I say ‘existing’ because it hardly seems like living.  Were I the Pa at this point I would’ve wandered off into the snow never to be seen again.  But what does fiddle playing Pa Ingalls do?  Bemoans the fact that they had become so dependent on kerosene lamps and reminisces how much easier life was when they weren’t burdened by such technologies.  Something tell me Pa rolled over in his grave when he found out his life was being made into a TV show. 
These thoughts on technology have been on mind a lot lately.  I’m thankful for technology €“ it’s not that I want to get all Amish on the world (okay, secretly I do, but let’s keep that a secret) €“ I’m thankful for this computer that I’m typing on that allows me to make a living as a writer and musician.  I’m thankful for cars and electricity and power tools and paint sprayers and even on occasion cell phones.  But I’m also wary.  Not to be the eternal wet blanket but I can’t help but wonder how much of technology has become a distraction for me.  How many times I’ve ignored my family to check out a new guitar pedal on line or all the time I spend coming up with blog ideas while my daughter wants me to make play-do cookies with her.  Not an entirely hypothetical question.

There are broader distractions also.  I’m reading What is the What by Dave Eggers.  It’s the biography of a ‘Lost Boy’ from Sudan.  I can’t help but wonder where the rest of the world was while this kid was wandering across the desert watching his friends die of starvation and disease as they fled their home for Ethiopia.  Probably watching sit coms.  Changing the oil on an ATV.  Putting new pedals on a bike.  Mowing the lawn.  Updating their status.  Writing a blog.  I told you I was a wet blanket.
We could all turn off our TV’s.  And our crackberries and our gps’s and whoknowswhatsits.  It might not make a hill of beans difference.  Or it might slow us down enough to see what’s going on around us.  It might not stop a war, but it might make our homes more peaceful.  It may not increase our world view, but maybe in a small hopeful way it will allow us to live in solidarity with our neighbors, past, present, and future. 

Posted: November 16th, 2009
Categories: family, friendship
Comments: 3 Comments.

Banjos, Workshops, Songs and You

A heads up to the banjo players out there.  Yes you (singular).  Should you strap a banjo on your back and bike across town, then do please take time on the breezy bridges.  
Friday was a beautiful day here in the Twin Cities and so I chose to bike to a morning of music with Jonathan Rundman.  Last Sunday Joel Setterholm and I backed Jonathan up at an emergent style worship service and afterwards he invited us to back him up once again at Augsburg College for a morning chapel service.  My mandolin and cheat sheets fit into my panniers but the banjo was a little too bulky.  So I strapped my banjo on my back pack and headed out the door at which point the neck of the banjo hit the top of the door jam and nearly laid me out flat.  Hellooooo Absalom.  This extra bulk at the top would soon become a sail.  A sail is a handy thing.  Unless of course you’re not riding with the wind.  Which I was not.  It actually wasn’t that bad a thing, until I went over the lake/marshall bridge.  The cross wind was strong enough that I think I was actually biking at an angle leaning into it.  Funny.  I should’ve had my V8. 
We played, it went well, I got to chat with one of my hymnody heroes Ray Makeever, everybody was happy.  Especially Joel and I, because we were only half way through our musical morning. 


Joel is an experienced Shape Note singer and had the heads up on a guest lecturer at the nearby U of M campus who would be sharing about and leading an hour of Sacred Harp music.  I’ve been curious about this style of singing for a number of years and was thrilled to go along.  And it was amazing!  Tim Eriksen gave a bunch of us newbies a history and theory on the style and then led us in a few hymns.  It was a great workshop.  And inspiring because…
Saturday morning I picked up Jonathan at 6 am and we headed for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville for Children… Our Future, an early childhood conference where we would be playing music and presenting workshops.  We lead opening music in PoP’s huge sanctuary.  It was kind of funny because it’s one of those church’s where the band sets up front and center and the altar (at least there was one) was over to the side.  Maybe they had just moved it for the conference.  Let’s hope so.  Anyway we were up there, behind the keynote speaker projector screen and surrounded by fake shrubberies.  You read me write.  All at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. 

No really, kids, stay in school and get a real job!  

Just joking, 9-5 stinks.

The music was fun and then we got to lead workshops.  This was the highlight for me.  I had a great group, we covered lots of ground, and had fun singing and sharing ideas for making music a stronger component in our learning environments.  What a blast!  I love my job.  If you were at the conference and would like to download my outline that includes song leading tips, please click on the Kid’s Music tab.
Thank you all for playing the parts that allow me to make a living doing what I love, thanks for employment, thanks for encouragement, thanks for support, thanks all around. 

Posted: November 9th, 2009
Categories: edumacation, music
Comments: 1 Comment.

this is thumb blog

The other day I sliced my thumb on a tin can.  It wasn’t super deep but it was at the sort of angle that makes for a flap of skin and lots of blood.  I’m sorry, are you reading this over your lunch break?  My bad.  Anyhoo, I patched it up and continued on my merry way.  Yesterday I was getting ready for a church gig and pulled out my mandolin.  I held the pick between my thumb and index.  I strummed down.  I strummed up.  I caught that flap of skin on the high E strings.  AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!
I sopped up the blood and put a Sponge Bob band aid on it.  After a cup of coffee I tried playing the mandolin again and realized that Sponge Bob was not going to have the staying power I needed to get the job done.  So I took a tip from Ani and busted out the electrical tape.  Now my thumb looked like this:


It worked.  I had a little trouble holding the pick at times and my thumb pick for banjo was a little tight, but it stayed on and I was able to play at Easter Lutheran with Jonathan Rundman and Joel Setterholm and all was well.

That’s the story, here’s the insight.  I was at my church beforehand and one of the kids looked at my thumb and said, €œWhy are you wearing a Sponge Bob band aid?€  The question wasn’t about my injury, it was about my choice in character endorsed band aids.  A lesser mannered child may have phrased it, €œDude, you’re too old to wear a band aid with a cartoon character on it.  Gimme a break.€  The answer being, it’s the only band aid I could find.  But that’s not the point.  Look at that picture.  The only part of S. Bob showing are his whacked out eyes.  Almost the whole band aid is covered with electrical tape.  Yet she knows Sponge Bob and that is what she sees.  Had her dad, a handyman, seen my thumb he would’ve been much more apt to comment on the use of electrical tape and probably offered a few other adhesive selections that would work equally well.  We see what we know.

There’s the insight, how about some implication/application?  It’s why everyone needs a voice.  Because so much of my life and work is in church and para church settings I automatically go to this context.  If you look around your church and see that everyone looks like you, has the same political bumper stickers on their cars, graduated from high school the same year, shares the same mother tongue… you get the idea.  If this is your congregation than I guarantee that you are not hearing the gospel in it’s entirety.  If we want to begin to see the whole picture of God’s love than we need everyone’s insight.  Because when you’re six you see Sponge Bob and when you’re forty you see electrical tape.  And when you’re my thumb you need them both. 

I think the metaphor went too far when my thumb became the church.  Although my thumb is kind of messed up…
And healing…

Posted: November 2nd, 2009
Categories: health, music
Comments: 2 Comments.

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