Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This is for you and your judgmental behind. This is a blog - JUST for you.
Now *clearing throat*... where's that blog you promised to start again?
That's what I thought.
:-P You KNOW you love me!! ...I'm just sayin'...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
After we were told that McStudly had Crohn's disease, my first response to the ER doc was "Umm, I'm sorry, but you can diagnose that 'for sure' by just looking at a CT scan?" I'm not medical genius here, folks, but I do know a teeny weenie bit abotu Crohn's disease, and I can't imagine that being the final call.
"Pretty much." Pretty much? Seriously? That's still not enough for me. He answered a few questions, and I could see the "bummed" look sweeping across McStudly's face. For someone who's practically never been sick in his life, "this really sucks" (those were his actual words after the Doctor left the room). Luckily, however, a gastrointerologist was on his way to speak with us further on the matter.
Thank GOD there was another doctor with a bit of expertise on the subject. Dr Dykeman sat down next to McStudly's bed and put our fears at ease... well, as much as possible, anyhow. "It could be one of two things." Sounds better already! "Well, one of three things, really, but we definitely know it's not lymphnodes or cancer, so that narrows it down to two possibilities." Well... that's a relief? "It could be Crohn's, but I don't really think that's what it is. The other possibility, the one I'm much mor eleaning towards, is something called 'acute Typhlitis' ora bacterial infection."
He drew us a little diagram of McStudly's intestines - showing the appendix, the large intestine, the small intestine and the colon (it wasn't very detailed, but we're easy to please). So apparently, just past where the large intestine becomes the small intestine (this also happens to be just past the appendix which is why it presented as appendicitis) there is a section of the intestine that is inflamed. This is what came up on the CT scan. this is where he drew littls squiggly lines in place of the insteine's walls... very artisitc, this doctor was... Now, this is where Crohn's disease presents itself. However, McStudly didn't seem to have any other the other symptoms associated with Crohn's, i.e. regular bouts of diarrhea, bleeding, fistules (painting a beautiful picture for you, right?!), etc. So it really didnt' seem to fit, though we couldn't rule it out 100%, just yet. Tyhplitis, which is a bacterial infection that typically presents itself in the same section of the intestines, was the most likely diagnosis.
So they decided to admit McStudly to the hospital overnight for observation and direct antibiotics. They were going to treat it like Typhlitis, until they were given any reason to think otherwise. So, we took a BIG sigh of relief and settled in for a bit.
The worst part of this whole thing for McStudly, an avid food lover, was that he was put on a clear liquids diet. Poor thing. As I sat eating real food at his side, he sipped his apple juice, attempted to eat some grainy powder-created poor excuse for chicken broth and did his best to chew on his lemon-flavored jello in order to convince his body it was real food... all while jealously eyeing my tasty, truely-chewable food.
We were finally moved into a real room around 7:30 that evening, after a good 14 hours in the ER room right next to Mr. Pukes McGee and the adorable little 4-year-old with a mini hospital gown a giant pouty lip. One we gawked at, the other we loathed. I'll let you guess which was which!
So our new real hospital room was right next door to this poor little sweet old lady who seemed to have alzheimers, or something of the sort. Although McStudly's Rolls Royce of a hospital bed was amazingly comfortable (seriously, folks... I wanted to see if they made them in Queen sizes for us to take home with us!) , we were kept up by our neighbor's random cries for attention. Poor thing. She was probably scared to death not remembering where she was. And not a SINGLE person came to visit her the entire time we were there! Can you believe that??
Well, McStudly was given more clear liquids for breakfast, but was moved up to full liquids for lunch. The difference? Full liquids included cream soups, like tomato, and more jello... and whatever he wanted to drink. So he had his first real soda again. "Aaahh" refreshing.
Shortly after finishing lunch (and by shortly, I mean abotu 15 minutes), the nurse came in and asked if he wanted to try upgrading his lunch to solids, to see how it went. He didn't miss a BEAT and had a turkey sandwich with mustard within about 3 minutes. He gobbled it down and was quickly askign for some of my cafeteria pizza (not recommended, btw). I wouldn't budge, but we were all happy that he was finally eating real food again.
It only took another 6 hours, but we were FINALLY discharged from the hospital!!! We stopped by 5 million pharmiacies (becuase for SOME reason, I guess they think no one needs to fill perscriptions after 6 on a Sunday? What is the DEAL, people?) before finally landing at a 24-hour CVS. I filled McStudly's perscriptions, bought him a pill crusher (did I mention he can't take pills? It's physically impossible for my macho-man-airman), and then had him home sweet home and relaxing on the couch by 1915 (that's 7:15 pm, if you're wondering), just in time to watch a new episode of Kings.
I ran out for a quick social recharge and rock-out with some Young Adult church buddies, jamming along to Rock Band for my first time ever (I think I'm officially addicted. Is that possible after only 2 games?), and then grabbed some ice cream for my love on the way home. Poor thing had suffered so much. I figured I should just let this one go.
So... long long looong story short, we were inthe hospital for about 37+ hours, and it ended up being a bacterial infection of the intestines, called Typhlitis. McStudly is on the mend, and will be back to loving life once he's off the horrid antibiotics (he takes 4 pills a DAY, people!). He says he's tired of feeling cruddy all the time, but 2 weeks of feeling cruddy is WAY better then numerous days in the hospital with constant IVs and people measuring his urine output.
Fun fun fun!!
So... do I get a weekend re-do, now? Or am I stink-outta-luck?! Yeah... that's what I figured.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I know I haven't blogged yet this week, but you aren't allowed to call me a slacker.
I'm pooped, and I have a good reason (not an excuse. There's a difference - right Cory?).
McStudly started having some stomach issues around Wednesday last week. We assumed it was gas. Haven't you ever had those gas pains that really play tricks on you? The ones that feel like they're just going to blow a hole through your stomach, they hurt so bad (sorry if you can't handle the imagery... my bad). Well, we wrote it off as gas.
Friday night, he was still pretty uncomfortable, but if any of you have a man in your life, you know how anti-doctor they can be. You'd think he was going to see Dr. Bin Laden, or something. And the Airman in him just coulc not approve of that.
We both tossed and turned all night - if you share a bed with someone, you know it's nearly impossible for only ONE of you to toss and turn. It's practically contageous! Until he got up to go to the bathroom early Saturday morning.
He came back into the bedroom grabbing at his stomach and before he said anything, I knew... call it intuition, or call it just plain luck, but I knew it was pretty bad. So he started to say it "Babe... it really hurts." I need to take you to the hospital, don't I? Come on. Get dressed. Let's go.
He didn't even fight it. I think we were both concerned for the same thing. The pain was on the right side of his stomach/abdomen. Who wouldn't think it was his appendix? So we went in to the hospital. I let McDog out before we left, but didn't feed him since it was only 5 am. Even Austin was confused that we were awake!
We arrived at the hospital and it was DEAD! So we were taken right back and put in a room. After a few questions and a few different people asking the same ones over and over, the staff came to the same conclusion - the appendix. So McStudly was given to bottles of Barium to drink (Banana flavored, in fact) and I was given apple juice and a chocolate chocolate chip muffin (life's not always fair, is it?!).
It took him 4 hours to drink the barium. 4 HOURS!! The best part was his response to the whole thing (backstory - I had to drink the stuff when I was 14, back before they flavored the stuff). He said "You're a better person than me, babe. You could drink the stuff, but I just can't." Ha ha. Priceless.
But honestly, there was something that topped it off EVEN more! He had such a hard time with the barium, that he was getting more and more nauseous. The pain wasn't helping with that, so they started giving him pain meds (Delodit - sp?) and something for the nausea (Zefran - sp?), yet there was a man riiiiight outside our room that puking his GUTS out! Seriously... somehow the man managed to sound like chewbacca and it was making things even HARDER for McStudly. So we shut the door and the meds started really kicking in.
And then it happened - he got loopy! ha ha ha. OH boy was it entertaining. I almost wish I could've gotten it on camera. I was on the phone with his mom during part of it and she was even laughing. He was telling me that I smelled like Heaven. He was humnming along with his new favorite channel on the television... the Calming and Relaxation channel - you know, the one with the scenic, unending video montage of quiet streams and sunset, accompanied by some kind of soothing asian-esque music? Yeah. He hummed along with it. HYSTERICAL!!
While he was in la-la-land, I was practically force-feeding him the barium and he was just drinking it up! We had some friends come visit while we were there and unfortunately, he was back to his normal self by the time they got there. Major bummer! But it was nice to have friends around for a change.
Well it was a long Saturday in the ER. He finally went for a CT scan and as it turned out... we were wrong. It wasn't his appendix at all. According to the ER doctor, it looked to be Crohn's Disease.
... more to come...
Thursday, March 19, 2009
So the energy company in our area is called BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric).
And FYI - BGE is whack!! *newsflash!* Seriously, though... they're this monopoly of a company and no one can do anything about their price hikes. It's totally INSANE!!
So after 3+ straight months of being charged over $400 each month for electric (now remember - we live in a 2 bedroom townhome, people... NOT Barbie's dream house, okay?!), I did some investigating.
We had done almost EVERYTHING we could, without spending an arm and a leg for windows and doors (though that's next on our list!), to try and reduce our costs. We even had BGE install our FREE (count 'em... $0) programmable thermostat and setting it way low - freezing through the nights, and cuddling at dinner to stay warm.
But nothing - our bill was INSANE!! It made no sense!
Ahh... but it did. I started looking over our bills and saw that they were
pulling our payments out of their butts estimating our payments. So naturally, the thought occurred to me that they maybe... possibly... were over-estimating JUST a bit.
Well, let's just say that "just a bit" was to our energy bill over-estimation about as much as the Osbournes are to a "normal" group of people. Yeah - it's THAT ridic! ...I'm just sayin'...
So this month, we literally left our gate (which does tend to get stuck, at times) WIDE frigging open, cleaned up every POSSIBLE ounce of dog poo, and moved every stinking imagineable thing OUT of the way in our 12' x 12' hugeness of a backyard (yeah... it's almost the size of our bedroom, people... massive indeed!) to make a nice clean path for the Meter-Reader Man-person.
And as a result, BGE has now granted as a credit to the grand! amount of *drumroll please* $835 and some change!!
Yes - you read that correctly. We've been charged over $800 dollars way TOO MUCH in the past few months. How insane is that?! And the best part - our "actual/normal" reading for this past month would have only ACTUALLY been about $98. A WHOPPING $98!!
So please - for the sake of the economy, for the sake of your sanity, and for the sake of all electric company's customer service representatives across the nation, go check your bills. If they're "estimating" your payment as well, put an end to it.
You'll thank me for this someday.
A co-worker of mine and his family was displaced, due to a house fire that occurred yesterday. It was apparently started by a short in the wiring to the basement fishtank's light bulb.
I can't even imagine what that's like. And for those pet lovers out there - they lost their dog and cat in the fire. It's just impossible to put myself in their shoes. Join me in praying for them as they go through this time.
The Red Cross if providing shelter and food, etc, while they try to salvage what they can from their home. We asked if he needed anything, but he said "Just time, for now, to be able to deal with all of this." They have no home, most of their pictures and keepsakes have been destroyed, their pets were family to them, and are gone, now.
He was at work when he got the call, and raced home. He lives about 45 minutes from work, so can you imagine what was going through his head that whole time? I sure can't. But I know him, and I know this is hard for all of them.
So please say a prayer for them as often as you can think to remember. I'll keep you updated as I can, but he'll be out for quite a while so I don't know when I'll get more information.
Sorry for the bummer of a post, but lifes nto all laughs and giggles, I guess. Sometimes, things can make you sad for others. But lets do our best to learn from this: take advantage of the time we have together, and don't buy lightbulbs for our fishtanks.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Just a little St. Patty's Day humor for you guys. Enjoy a good laugh!
An attractive blonde from Cork, Ireland arrived at the casino. She seemed a little intoxicated and bet twenty-thousand Euros on a single roll of the dice. Then she said,
'I hope you don't mind, but I feel much luckier when I'm completely nude'.
With that, she stripped from the neck down, rolled the dice and with an Irish brogue yelled, 'Come on, baby, Mama needs new clothes!'
As the dice came to a stop, she jumped up and down and squealed...'YES!YES!I WON, I WON!' She hugged each of the dealers and then picked up her winnings and her clothes and quickly departed.
The dealers stared at each other dumbfounded. Finally, one of them asked, 'What did she roll?' The other answered, 'I don't know - I thought you were watching.'
MORAL OF THE STORY -
Not all Irish are drunks,
not all blondes are dumb,
but all men...are men.
I know I've pimped out my dog on this blog before, but this time I have a picture that's actually cute. So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go vote for him??
Thursday, March 12, 2009
And since this is my blog, I think I'll narrow it down a bit for you:
How fun is this?!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
First, let me start with this quote by Audrey Hepburn:
“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.” – Audrey Hepburn
Wow. Now my day has been flipped around. I've thrown a few Serious Pills at you in the past, but this is a big one. It'll take you a bit to read it, maybe 15 - 20 minutes, but it'll be worth it. Take a gander, and hang around for the end so we can review together.
Most of you tend to skip over the serious blogs, but this one is kind've big, to me. It's important and needs to be heard. Skim it, if you don't feel like reading it, but at least take something from it - you'll probably be so glad that you did, and thought-provoked for the rest of the week.
(An excerpt from the blog of Christian recording artist Nichole Nordeman)
Two years ago, I landed on the cover of CCM for the first time by myself. I wore a dress “borrowed” from Neiman Marcus, that I’m pretty sure cost three times my current monthly mortgage. To put it simply…it was the quintessential Cinderella dress. It was everything I’ve dreamt of being since I was 11 years old and I flittered around in layer upon layer of that glorious shimmering, flowing, sweeping gown while the photographer snapped away. I had just been on this insanely stupid diet for months, so that I could squeeze myself into the Cinderella getup, but one minute in that dress and I knew that every shunned bagel had been worth it.
Hours later, the shoot ended and I regretfully pulled on my Old Navy cargo pants, hopped into my pumpkin, and headed home to my family where my 1-year-old son had decided to greet me with perhaps the most toxic diaper in the history of Huggies. Needless to say, the clock had struck midnight.
Awhile back, I asked CCM if I could write this story. I felt…still feel…uneasy about that photo shoot princess moment. Not because there’s anything wrong with feeling momentarily flawless…but because that photo and many like it, in no way represent my real life. I feel rather nauseous when I consider the young girl who sees that photo and has no idea that it took 5 hours and an entire team of makeup artists and stylists to make me look like a princess. She also has no idea that even after all that, somebody sat at a computer (with my enthusiastic blessing) and point and clicked away my acne scars, my 35 year old wrinkles and the roll of flesh around my middle that makes me look like I am perpetually stuck in my 2nd trimester.
This is an especially difficult scenario to stomach, since this same young girl will probably send me a heartfelt email about how she appreciates how “real” I am…
Armed with a guilty conscience and CCM’s permission, I was compelled to ask some other artists if they, too, might wrestle a bit with the irony that we are trying desperately, through our music, to point to the liberating love of Jesus while packaging that music in a way that points to…well…us. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anybody wanted to talk about that pressure. I feared silence. I feared the Jerry McGuire office memo moment. Would my fellow artists talk about real life?
Thirteen interviews later, to say that they were honest is an understatement. I awkwardly asked for a couple inches…and miles later, was humbled by the transparency of my peers.
Youth of a Nation
I continue to marvel at how the average age of a new artist gets younger and younger each year. I’ve chimed in with the cynics on many occasions, “What can you possibly say to the world when you’re 16?? I mean, are they going to write songs about how much it sucks to wear braces??”
I could tell after about 30 seconds of talking with Bethany Dillon that I had a lot to learn from her perspective. I’ve always admired her “jeans and t-shirt” sense of self and yet she confesses to getting tripped up by some of the trimmings and trappings and the struggle to stay true to who she is, “…people can smell a phony and can tell when you’re not wearing your clothes and you’re saying things that aren’t really in your vocabulary…I mean, I’m human…and there’s part of me that’s like, ‘Why can’t I buy hundreds of dollars worth of makeup?’…and I could…and in the back of my mind I feel like…I couldn’t pull that off for long. I have to learn now to be honest about the fact that I am a girl from the country in Ohio. I want to be feminine and all that, but the thing about me is that I just don’t spend a lot of time putting myself together.”
‘Beautiful,’ the song that put her on the map, caught a lump in my throat the first time I heard the lyric …’I want to hear You say, who I am is quite enough’… because I spend so much time feeling like I’m barely enough. Bethany speaks about freedom, “I think it is a gift to give a woman permission to be who she is…I don’t have to do anything and I am so unable to impress God and yet there is something about me that has captured Him.”
Krystal Meyers clearly understands the double standard. “I love fashion…love the magazines and have stacks of them. Love going shopping. Love finding new clothes and it makes me feel excited to wear those new clothes.” And yet a few minutes later Krystal sounds burdened. “I don’t want to be seen without makeup on because I don’t feel as pretty without makeup on. I hear from fans on my message board and they’re like, ‘You’ve got such clear and beautiful skin…how do you do it?’ And I’m thinking to myself, well, that’s photo shopped!”
I mention to her that most fans have no idea that the photos are fixed in any way…so they’re at home wishing away for Krystal Meyers’ skin, which doesn’t really even exist. “We have problems with our weight and acne or just self image in general…and being able to be honest and truthful about it…I think it’s really important,” explains Krystal.
Later, on the phone with 18-year old Kierra “KiKi” Sheard, I am reminded of the pressures that her generation faces and how hard it is for the average teenager to wrestle with those pressures, even without the added stress of publicity pictures.
She shares openly about a time in her life when her self confidence was at its lowest. “During the first album, I was dealing with low self esteem because it was brought up to me, that ‘You’re kind of a big girl’…and that’s something that I had to experience behind the doors, and not everybody knew I was wrestling with my self esteem. “…it doesn’t matter who you are, what people say is going to bother you just a tiny bit,” she says.
A tiny bit?
I tell her about the first time it was gently suggested to me that I get a gym membership before my first photo shoot. Never mind the fact that I was busting my butt waiting tables and barely able to pay my rent while recording my first record. I was literally living off whatever the change in my car ashtray could get me from Taco Bell. Apparently, I was not short on change.
Kierra is quick to point out where she goes to find her confidence, “…knowing that I’m beautiful because I’m a child of God and He created me. HE loves me. I feel like I went through that experience and it strengthened me because being in the spotlight, people will find the worst things wrong with you, after you’ve spent hours trying to put yourself together…people are going to try to criticize you.” KiKi’s father once reminded her, ‘If you are in leadership, you have to know that you are under a microscope of scrutiny.’ “And that is something I will always keep in mind…”
A microscope of scrutiny. I guess I’ve considered that before as it relates to my character, but not my waistline.
The Real Me
In a woman’s life, there are few things, if any, that rival the title, “Mom.” Initially motherhood feels like an awkward fit, but in time, it feels more like the favorite sweater you refuse to take off, despite the fact that it’s unraveling in places and has a few choice stains. At times, there’s an unspoken pressure to look like you are still the artist but never became the mom.
When I caught up with Natalie Grant, she was soon set to give birth to twin girls. In the time it takes for you to sit down comfortably for 10 minutes and read this article on your favorite couch Natalie will have changed her shirt 3 times from the chronic spit up that has taken over her life.
She has been vocal on the topic of self image, coming clean about her own struggle with an eating disorder and I ask her if being a part of an image driven industry only compounds those issues. “It is a constant struggle,” she admits, “I have a daily choice to be healthy in my thoughts or destructive. I do not always make the right choice, and because I have been so open about my struggle, sometimes I feel like a fraud…when GMA week and Doves roll around, I find myself seeing people I love and admire…yet comparing myself. I notice how thin she is or what she is wearing, or how great her hair looks. I hate that about myself,“ Natalie says.
I smile. The last time I saw Natalie, I remember thinking about how thin she was and how I’d kill for that hair.
While image will always play a part in our industry, Natalie adds, “The responsibility lies with me to be transparent and open with myself and my audience…and definitely in my art…I have to let them see the real me. And while I still struggle with insecurities everyday, I have found much strength in being real.”
Even after 14 years, Heather Payne of Point of Grace, still works to reconcile the pressures and demands of looking the part of an artist. They were college students when they were signed, and today, they are wives and mothers. Heather questions whether image pressure might be somewhat self-imposed, “Now that we’re older we don’t feel the pressure from our record company but we put it on ourselves. We’re just like anybody else who watches TV and movies and looks at magazines and sees all these people that are so unrealistic and so picture perfect.”
Heather continues, “I think our very first photo shoot was the most traumatic for all of us. It was the first time we had people scrutinizing the way we did something…the way we tilt our head…or smiled, or showed teeth or didn’t show teeth or did our hair.” Then there’s the issue of photo shop, which she likes to call “photo chop.”
The POG ladies tour the country presenting Girls Of Grace Conferences (girlsofgrace.com), making a point to spotlight real beauty for young girls and highlight the difference between what’s “reality...and what a computer can do.”
Heather elaborates, “Here I am…my hair’s in a ponytail and I haven’t had a shower today, and I’m sitting with a broom in my hand and that is more reality than any kind of photo shoot. I’m just in that sloppy mommy phase, you know, I’m tired.”
Later in the day, I catch a glance in the mirror of my own greasy ponytail, and it makes me want to hop on a plane and fly to her house and help her sweep. We could be tired together.
Heather reminds me of Solomon’s wise and wistful words in Ecclesiastes. ‘It’s all vanity.’ She takes issue with the abuse of the term ‘self image’ these days, “We hear that term so much…that it’s all about self, self, self… we live in a me-driven society. Christians shouldn’t be thinking about self image…it’s about God image. He set us apart.”
Why it Matters
It is no surprise that Sara Groves has valuable insight on the topic of image and authenticity. She references Donald Miller’s book, SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT where he conducted an experiment at a Christian bookstore, trying to find even one ugly person on the cover of a Christian music CD and was unsuccessful. Donald writes, “I don’t mean any of this to say that good-looking people are bad…I am only saying we are, perhaps, even more obsessed, in the church, with the stuff culture is obsessed with. We are hardly providing an alternative world view.”
Sara, like many others, speaks of the rude awakening for her that just making music wasn’t quite enough. “I’m not a real polished person, I grew up as kind of a late comer on knowing the (fashion) rules of things…once I started to learn them I was really self conscious that I’d been breaking these rules for so long…”
A teacher prior to being a recording artist at a major label, Sara wore prairie skirts and Mary Janes to school every day. “I felt this complete collision that what I had been doing was inadequate…” She reminisces about the a huge fight that she and her husband/manager had over the first photo shoot, “He was just trying to get me change my look a little bit…and in a nice way…as my husband, and there’s just no way that conversation was going to go well. Troy called them (the label) and said, ‘Cancel the flight. She’s gone. She’s left the house and I don’t know where she is.’ And I did. I had a long drive and I just wondered how I was going to survive all these pressures. My first GMA week, I just about drowned in it. Having to dress for that was…ugh… Crippling. That first year I was really nervous about looking too old. I already had a job, and was a new mom, and at 25…I felt really old.”
So, how do we strike a balance? “Well, the gospel and marketing have always been uneasy for me and hard to reconcile. That’s all the gloss…the marketing. It’s hard for me because I feel that at some level the audience demands it, and they have an appetite,” Sara says, “It’s like MSG…they’re so used to eating Doritos because they explode in their mouths.” I wonder to myself if the artists are the ones addicted to the Doritos.
Sara and I discuss how easy it is to point the finger at “the industry” when both of us have worked with countless creative people…makeup artists, stylists, art directors…all full of integrity and committed to honoring God with their gifts. We, the artists, can’t possibly pass the buck quite that easily. She paraphrases John Fischer, “If Moses came down the mountain and found a statue of himself, would he have been so quick to burn it?’
Stained Glass Masquerade
When I first felt compelled to write this story, my intention was to focus primarily on female artists. But if you’ve ever wandered around Nashville during GMA Week, you’ll find that pound for pound in hair product, the guys give us a good run for our money. They are not immune to image issues.
I had a long chat with Bebo Norman, who, before he married a few years ago, was known as CCM’s most eligible bachelor. Awkward, I’ve always thought, to be the focus of so much attention from so many overly enthusiastic, squealing college girls. I mean…the “Bebo fan” is kind of legendary. And while most guys have trouble conjuring up sympathy for that particular dilemma, I suspect that to be known for your ‘adorableness’ might be slightly frustrating when you happen to be an incredibly gifted writer and artist.
Did he ever feel like his credibility as a musician suffered? He feels partly responsible for drawing attention to his ‘singleness’ and partly manipulated by it. “I didn’t expect every story and every interview I did for a number of years in my life…to be about being single. My goal, honestly, was to say ‘I’m a single man at this point and it is real life and I’m feeling lonely on the road, but the weird thing is the loneliness became the story.”
The artistic world can be uncomfortable for him. “I’m sort of an artist by mistake…I mean I love to write songs, but I didn’t naturally have an affinity for performing for people…even the word ‘artist’ is such a lofty word. Most people with creativity have an extreme form of insecurity. I don’t know any that I can think of off the top of my head that don’t struggle with a pretty dramatic level of (it).”
Our conversation takes an unexpected turn and Bebo confesses that a couple years ago he almost walked away from it all. He grappled with some serious questions, “…is it even Christ like in any way? I know it’s Christ like in the moment when someone’s hearing a song…and God is using that without question, but there is this system in place…am I completely wrong to even be a part of the system?” He recalls a gig one night once in Portland, Oregon, “I was completely miserable on stage…and I sort of stepped back and called my manager and said ‘I just want to go home for a few months and I may be done.’ I realized that I had become a sort of caricature of myself. I had inflated all of the things I thought people liked to see and I had deflated all of the things I didn’t like about myself.” Even his humility on stage (born out of genuine insecurity early on) became a ‘trained response.’ I knew subconsciously that people would respond to that and that’s what I became,” he explains.
“Being real” these days has, itself, become a marketing ploy, even if it began as a genuine and noble trait. How do we safeguard against those things? “I think it’s not just honesty, its brutal honesty,” Bebo offers.
I toured with Casting Crowns last year, and have a deep appreciation for how small the role of image seems to play in the lives and ministry of Mark Hall and the groups’ members. Even with that, Mark acknowledges that he felt a bit insecure early on about getting involved in the music industry. “There was always this feeling that ‘I didn’t have that look that they all have.’ He laughs about the first time he was on his way to a lunch meeting with some label executives. Once they laid eyes on him, he was fairly convinced they would say, ‘Ya know, Mark…you should…write.’
I ask Mark about the danger of idolatry in Christian music and what we can do about it, if anything…and, he doesn’t skip a beat. “I think the biggest thing is transparency…the songs where we connect with people and we’re letting it show and saying we’re still messed up. Those are the moments that everyone comes out saying, ‘Hey, it’s so comforting to know that there are other people dealing with this…’ I know me well enough to know that I am not impressed with me. And someone being impressed with me…it’s not going to fix them… They’ve got to understand that God is the only person that is going to change their lives,” he explains.
Made to worship… who?
Chris Tomlin has rocketed to the Christian music forefront in the last few years, and we spoke on the morning after the four-day Passion conference in Atlanta. He sounded exhausted but typically warm and willing to jump into this messy conversation about the gospel of good looks. The topic of image and authenticity gets even messier for the worship artist, whose very job is to be invisible, right? How does Chris reconcile the inescapable reality that his shiny happy photo is ever-present?
On the flight to his first photo shoot, Chris remembers opening a letter from Louie Giglio and - to this day - meditating in the words he read. While Louie acknowledged the star treatment Chris was about to experience for the first time, he encouraged him to ‘think about John the Baptist all day.’
“Everyone was coming to John the Baptist in John 3 and saying, ‘You’re it. You’re the deal…You’re getting quite popular here.’ And he responded, ‘I am not…there’s One that’s coming. I can’t even tie His shoes.’ That’s the One you need to go to. And when you see Him you’re going to know that He must increase and I must decrease.’” Louie’s letter continued, “And as they’re taking your pictures today, I just want you to hold that in your heart…’you don’t even tie this guy’s shoes.’ I’ve never forgotten it,” Chris says.
Where the Past Meets Today
Every time I hear Ayiesha Wood’s song, ‘Happy,’ on the radio, I crank it. Sure, it’s a great tune, but it just sounds so believable. She has a rare confidence in her delivery.
Ayiesha grew up in Bermuda…a small British colony and a cultural melting pot. She paints a phenomenal picture of a family whose shade of skin and eye color were as diverse as the United Nations, “All shades and colors and shapes and sizes and there’s just an appreciation for who God made everyone to be,” Ayiesha explains. “If you are not affirmed as a young woman, it tends to leave room for a need to be validated by someone else…to this day, I am my daddy’s brown sugar…just having someone speaking life and allowing us to really love what God has created us to be inside and out…a lot of importance was placed on character.”
She speaks comfortably about some of the tension she’s already felt, being marketed in a pop world and not a gospel one . She laughs about a recent industry event where her music was automatically placed in the Gospel category, “…an assumption based on the color my skin.” She doesn’t sound offended, just amused at the inability of some to reconcile the way she looks with the way her music sounds. Again, I’m struck by her confidence. “I’m not trying to box God in,” she explains, “At the end of the day, who is it that we are representing? It’s Christ.”
Sarah Kelly, Christian music’s resident rocker chick, feels equally as culpable when it comes to the topic of character and the ideals she represents. I ask her if she feels conflicted about the message that our CD covers are sending to a younger female audience. She acknowledges “being a woman, there are always 500,000 things you would change about yourself and to nurture that by making this perception of perfection is just ridiculous.”
For Sarah, “beauty is in the flaw,” she explains. She tells me about a rather painful adolescence, “I used to get made fun of…my hair…in Junior High…people would draw pictures and stick them to my locker…and my voice was the biggest deal... in the 7th grade, my choir teacher told me, ‘Sarah, you’re sticking out!’ It all comes out…the beauty is in the flaw… the things that set us apart that are unique and our features that we’re sometimes made fun of…I mean, Cindy Crawford got made fun of…that mole..."
As a young girl, Sarah taped up a picture of Cindy Crawford on her mirror, to try and copy her make up because she thought they had the same coloring. We laugh about that, until I suggest the possibility that there might be a young girl somewhere out there, with a picture of Sarah Kelly taped up on her mirror, doing the same thing. And, she stops laughing. She’s never considered it. All at once, Sarah sounds flustered and somewhat panicked at the possibility, “That’s everything I don’t stand for…I mean, my gosh, look at me, I’m a mess…if you’re going to do that, pick someone better…I look at myself and I think of everything that’s wrong, I do not think I’m drop dead gorgeous. I don’t think I’m pretty to be honest with you…”
Sarah tells me that the first thing she sees in the mirror is an “abnormal amount of lines under my eyes.” Somebody pointed out these lines when she was 12 years old and now that’s all she sees. “I’ve come through so much and I’m still standing and I love Jesus with all my heart. Those lines should be more like a testimony instead of something I’m trying to cover up,” she explains.
As someone who has battled with eating disorders, Rebecca Barlow understands what can happen when your body becomes not a temple, but a prison of your own making. “I grew up in the church. I was a pastor’s kid and I think I began feeling this pressure in my life of having to be perfect.” She struggled with anorexia, then bulimia and finally excessive exercise, “…just anything to make me feel better about myself.” After so many empty attempts and filling the void, she came to the end of herself. “I was lying on my bathroom floor and I was like, ‘God, I pretty much want to die today. I don’t know if you can fix me. I don’t even know if you’re real…but would you forgive me for destroying my body?’ At that moment I felt Him in that room holding me and saying, ‘Rebecca, you are destroying what I have made beautiful…and it was like my eyes were open.”
Do those demons still rear their ugly heads? Is recovering from an eating disorder in such an image driven industry a little like being a recovering alcoholic and hanging out in a bar all the time? “I realize I’m always going to be in a battle and it’s easy for me to fall back into that pit,” she adds. She names her relationship with her mom and her Bible as critical “guard rails.”
How has BarlowGirl navigated the tricky waters of being imaged as Christian artists? A disastrous first photo shoot that resulted in the firing of the photographer and a decision to start over entirely was one of the best things that could have happened to them. Rebecca describes the tension between initially agreeing to being airbrushed and “stretched out” to look skinnier and the realization that “this is not God honoring.” “We were like, ‘Wait a minute…we’re talking about not conforming, and yet we’re doing exactly what everyone else is doing.' We had to re-shoot…dressing ourselves, doing our own hair and our own makeup…the very first one.”
I marvel at the wisdom in that, especially when the only thing I can recall about my first photo shoot was how stoked I was to get free new clothes. I remember being so profoundly grateful that I wasn’t schlepping burgers and fries anymore, I probably would have happily worn a chicken suit.
As we wrap up our conversation, she shares that she is “fasting” makeup right now when she’s not on stage…as in, not wearing any. She felt like it was playing too big a role in her life. I cringe at the thought. She explains, “If I’m speaking about image and I always look perfect, what is that saying? What does that tell our audience?”
That’s the question that keeps nagging at me…What does it tell our audience?
Of all the artists I’ve spoken with, there is no one more familiar with tension between faith and art than Amy Grant. As I dial her number, I wonder if she ever gets tired of being asked for the “seasoned veteran” perspective. Early in our conversation I marvel at how she has managed to escape being jaded. Instead, she thoughtfully reminisces about how the role of image, beauty and authenticity have played themselves out since she signed a record deal as a 15 year old.
“I remember when I was in high school feeling very gawky and my mom saying, ‘Just be patient. The most beautiful years of a woman’s life are between 35 and 45…just give yourself some time because what matters to you now will not matter then.’ And she was right.”
Amy’s first photo shoot was really just a friend taking some pictures of her after school. “When I signed my first contract, I was deep in the throes of acne. I changed out of my (school) uniform and put on…I think it was like a blue jean jumper with a red and white checked shirt and he took some pictures and that was it. No hair, no makeup.”
Things are a little different, today. “I mean I grew up in an era where…it was Janis Joplin, Mama Cass and Carole King… The people that were really the front-runners were not beauty queens…they were just good. Music is a totally different thing now…it can’t be just about music. It has to be young and beautiful and I think that’s really sad. I think because I’ve been around so much airbrushing, I never read an article about anybody in the paper, positive or negative, and believe it. I never see a picture of anyone and say, ‘that’s how they really look…’ because it’s all smoke and mirrors. The whole lot.”
Reflecting on a song by Sting called ‘Soul Cages,’ Amy adds, “For awhile that’s how I referred to my body. This is not really me; it’s just my soul cage.” Then she references some beauty advice written by Audrey Hepburn decades ago, and taped above her kitchen window… It reads like a passage from Proverbs:
“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.” – Audrey Hepburn
She leaves me with something difficult to chew on, "You know, we all live in a little pond compared to the big world. I think it’s always important to say that my reality is a tiny piece of the picture. All the kids laid up in St. Jude’s hospital are not worried about what the stylist did on that magazine cover and at the Habitat build nobody was concerned with an imaging problem. I think in a way we can sort of take a microscope and say, ‘oh no! What are we doing here?’ And in the big picture it does not matter."
A bit of a lightbulb goes off as I consider the weight of her words. I am suddenly embarrassed when I think about how many hours I’ve spent talking to artists over the last 4 weeks about beauty and self image and the selling of our selves. And I wonder suddenly, 'DOES it matter?' I feel momentarily insecure about my decision to even write this story... 'Who cares? So Christian artists care too much about how we look...big deal. (Meanwhile, in Sudan...)
But as Amy elaborates, she sort of talks me off the ledge she just unknowingly pushed me out on. She continues "...as each of us matures, we find ourselves going, 'I can't believe I let some of the goofiest stuff rob me of enjoying life.' And I realize that she's talking about the gift of retrospect that usually grants us this luxury. It is the act of looking in the rearview mirror and watching those mountains disappear into mere speed bumps that give us grounded perspective.
I read back over the words of Amy's mother, 'What matters to you now, will not matter to you then..." and I realize that the cultural preoccupation with self image and the unbalanced way it seems to live in the Christian music industry is a NOW issue for me as much as I wish it was a THEN issue. And, while shining a spotlight on that might only seek to draw more unnecessary attention, piles and pages of transcripts scattered across my desk remind me that spotlights not only showcase, they expose. And that an open dialogue has the potential to be less about chatter and might just be more about change. Does it matter? I spoke with 13 artists who think it does.
Does it matter to you?
Go ahead...we're listening.
Wow, right?! I don't think that our first thought when looking at magazines is "I wonder how this chick really looks". No. I'm pretty sure that our first thoughts are along the lines of "I wish my boobs were that awesome." or "Gosh - she's got such an amazign stomach. I bet she can eat anything she wants, too!"
Sure - if we're really thinking about it, we know that they airbrush this part, trim there, add color there and blah blah blah... but we're all still thinking (on some level, at least) "but I bet this was the easiest airbrush job ever. the probably barely did anything".
Especially us woman - we're HORRIBLE. When a friend compliments us, our first reaction is to say something like "Really?! Cause I thought it made me look like I was 3 months pregnant. Do you really think it looks good?" Or whatever. almost like we need them to tell us a couple more times before we'll believe it because 'they're probably just being nice'.
My poor husband. Most of the times he tells me I'm beautiful or that I looks nice my reaction = "we don't have time to have sex, right now." Am I the only one? Why don't we just believe it?
I remember telling someone not too long ago that when they are tearing their appearance apart, they are slapping God in the face and calling him ugly. Think about it - you were made in the image of God. So if we're mocking our looks, what does that say say we feel about his?
Trust me, I'm eating those words on more than just a daily basis, but it doesn't mean I'm the only one that needs to hear it.
So what are your thoughts? Aggreements? Disagreements? Added points? Corrections?
I'm looking forward to hearing from you guys. Let's be real for a minute or two.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I was just thinking about something and it made me laugh. We are SUCH creatures of habit, aren't we? And though there are probably hundreds of thousands of examples of this fact, I just reminded myself of one as I went to the bathroom here at work.
Is it just me, or don't we all have a "usual" bathroom stall that we use? You KNOW that you do it, too. I mean sure, we can use any of the stalls that are available, barring them being completely nasty and un-flushed, that is. But we still tend to gravitate towards the same stall.
It's funny because anytime we walk into the bathroom and our one stall is occupied, it kind've stops us in our tracks for a brief second, doesn't it? We're on such autopilot that we practicaly walk into the bathroom without even looking up, but then are stopped at the sight of our stall's door closed in front of us.
Ha ha - it's just funny to me. Of course we shrug it off and move on to the cleanest stall closest to it, but just the fact that we always go the 3rd stall in (or whichever is your stall of choice) and then leave this "comfort stall" and proceed to the same particular sink everytime... it's just funny! Right?
Am I the only one with a comfort stall??
Monday, March 9, 2009
And vote for Austin. :-) We only have until tomorrow so vote vote vote!!!
PS: I got the following hilarious response from a friend: "You gotta be kidding me! We’re in the biggest recession since the Great Depression…the absolute worse Job/Employment market since the 1960’s…have the absolute most liberal President in the White House since Franklin D. Roosevelt (and Jimmy Carter), the Stock Market is trading below 7,000 points and hasn’t been this low since the late 1980’s…Osama Bin Laden is STILL on the loose, Al Quada has re-grouped throughout Afghanistan and the world…Gas prices are back near $2.00 per gallon…Floyd Mayweather Junior, the BEST pound for pound Boxer since Sugar Ray Leonard has announced his early retirement, the artist named Prince who was “formerly known as the Artist formerly known as Prince” has converted from nothing to Jehovah’s Witness and is now being spotted going door to door throughout neighborhoods in Los Angeles (with the exception of Compton of course…them Bloods and Crips don’t care if you name is Prince or not, they are still pack’in heat) trying to tell people to convert to “JW”…and…and you want me to vote for your DOG?!?...at a time like this?!
Okay, where do I sign up?
And who doesn't want one?? Right?! So go check it out and let me know if you've entered the giveaway. Good luck!!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Please show your support - he's such a sweet lil pup. Now he just needs his 15 minutes of fame! :-D
Alright... Who forgot to warn me about the pain that follows learning to play the guitar?
I started messing around last night, after a quick trip to target for a tuner and some picks. It was all fine and dandy until about 20 minutes into it.
I found this website online that, until I can get some lessons or a DVD or something, will teach be basics of guitar play (and it's pretty impressive and easy to follow, too!). It teaches you how to tune your guitar, what all the parts are called, the proper way to hold it, and then the musical stuff.
So this is a little bit of what I learned last night:
- The strings on the guitar are E-A-D-G-B-E (which I'll remember by thinking eat all day, get big easy).
- Each fret raised the pitch of the string by a half step.
- When tuning, tightening the string raises the pitch, while loosening it lowers the pitch.
- Playing a string, while not touching any part of it is called playing the string "open".
And the biggest thing that I learned last night about playing the guitar? It's SO not as easy as it looks. So the tips of about 3 of my fingers are pretty much hurting, today. But ya know what? I think it'll be worth it. Apparently my fingers will eventually start to callous up and not hurt so much. And hopefully by then I'll have at least mastered my first chord!!
So it's not coming as easily as I'd hope it would, but I guess that would mean I wouldn't appreciate it nearly as much, either. So it seems to be a fair trade, I suppose.
For those of you whom already know how to play the guitar - rock on! You guys make it look wicked easy, and it's SO not!! Hopefully I'll be one of you some day. But until then, any tops on how to keep from killing your fingers? It's actually hurting as I type this blog...
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
back from "those people", and guess who's getting a guitar tonight?!
ME!! Yep that's right - I'm leaving work to go meet them in Annapolis to pay and pick it up. SOOOO excited!! *EEK*
PS: Anyone got some old accessories I can have for cheap or... I dunno... say, free?!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Well, I found a guitar on Craigslist and *fingers crossed* I'm really hoping that this guy will get back to me... like... YESTERDAY!!!
According to the listing, he bought it for his daughter and she's only used it about two times. So he's only asking for $125. :-) I'm SUPER excited!! AND - the real kicker... McStudly said I can go for it!! Well, his actual words were "It's up to you, babe." So that means yes - SCORE!!!
I've been itching to learn since high school, so I'm really praying this will all work out. It's in the price range (really cheap) and it's WAY local (as in only about than 10 mins from our house). Here's hoping!!
Now... I just gotta figure out how to play the dang thing, if I get it!!