With apologies to Douglas Adams, today I am 42.
Which means today this blog is eight.
Now that I’m 42, I’m supposed to know the Answer (you know the one). I guess since I’m writing this on the actual eve of my birthday (three hours from now, to be exact) then at midnight Texas time I will suddenly ascend into all knowledge and know the answers to Life, the Universe, and, well, Everything. Get back to me tomorrow and if I don’t answer it’s because I don’t have time for you puny mortals. Or I’m just eating cake. Hmmm… cake… maybe that’s the Answer.
One year ago I was the tender age of 41, trying to find my way in the world, but now that I’ve achieved the rarified heights of forty-two, things will doubtless come into focus. Until that happens, though, here’s an accounting of the notable events of the past twelvemonth.
Said goodbye to a high school friend: a very good high school friend of mine- Kim Masterson- died suddenly this past year. She had been struggling with cancer for a while and we thought she finally had it beat when it apparently staged a comeback and took her life, leaving her three great kids motherless and her friends shocked. I’ll miss Kim. We hadn’t seen each other since our Baylor days but I still feel like we could have struck up a conversation without missing a beat.
Completed my 20th Year of Sing: and wrote all 20 acts in the show. Years ago when I was first starting out I used to occasionally wonder what it would be like to write the whole show. I had that very privilege in my 20th year. It was a distinctly great feeling knowing that everything from the opening Sing Anthem to the final notes had passed through my brain and fingers at some point. All 5000 pages and 15,000+ measures. I feel like I’ve made enough mistakes over the two decades that I’ve finally achieved Malcolm Gladwell’s mystical 10,000 hours. I feel like I finally have some actual expertise to offer the folks who work with me. Not just the technical aspects of writing music, but the more subtle part of shepherding a creative idea from inception to performance. I may still not always know the words to explain the “X-factor” of what makes an audience say “ahh!” (we don’t have the words in any human language), but I feel like I can more reliably stumble my way into it. It’s a good feeling. It was appropriate that on my 20th anniversary performance in the pit I met Sara Sinclair- old pit band pianist from way, way back in the 70s. It’s good to be a part of such a tradition.
Thanks to friend and Sing Chair alum Lisa Sorenson for the cake!
Focussed on electronics: this year in my personal classroom my topic-du-annum was devoted to finally learning the basics of electricity and electronics. I’ve tried it several times before but I always managed to confuse myself with the basics and end up frustrated and stymied. This time, with the help of several really good books and the two accompanying Make:Electronics packs I was able to dig my way through Electronics 101. I may not be able to hotwire a car or build a taser gun, but I understand V=I/R and basic electronic components. I can put calculate and install LEDs as well as read simple block diagrams (and build a circuit from them!). The area is so big that I’ll probably make it a two year study (I’m only halfway through the Electronics packs anyway). Victory!
Wrote music for Word and Lifeway: I was able to arrange hymns for Lifeway Music’s new hymnal (where my name is now included!) as well as do music and continue mastering for Word Music. Even though I don’t live in Nashville it’s nice to feel plugged in with some of the bigger music companies up there.
Wrote even more music for a University: which I can’t give details on yet because it hasn’t been released, but trust me, this one is a monster. 30 totally original songs. The client just told me that it’ll probably be in limited national release. Exciting stuff!
Wrote even MORE more music for another University: I’m also currently working on a 17 minute fully orchestrated original piece for a different national college’s recruitment video. It’s been fun to be told “just write something cinematic and heroic sounding” and then be cut loose to do my best. It’s some of the best writing I’ve ever done and I’m really really proud of it. I’ll post a link when I can.
Built props: In conjunction with Sing this past year I was hired by several groups to again build props (with their inexperienced but willing assistance) in my shop. We built a giant boxcar, a 10′x 12′ train engine, a set of nesting boxes, various hand props, a full sized giraffe head, a tiki hut, popcorn maker, giant kitchen appliances, various office furniture, trees, signs, and all sorts of other craziness. It’s not just the chance to put in serious shop time that I love, but the opportunity that I get to grow closer to the Sing Chairs that I help. We always have a ton of fun getting sore and sawdusty while building things that thousands of people will see on the stage. And I love the befuddled looks from the drivers that pass by when they see a huge ferris wheel or giant toaster in my yard. Priceless.
Built MORE props: I’m currently working on a 19 foot long by three foot high permanent logo for a client. They have decided to replace their 30 year old former logo with this new redesign and wanted an actual 3d object to put on stage. Made out of almost $1000 in plywood, fiberglass, and paint, this thing is designed to last another three decades. I’m proud of the fact that my building skills have enabled me to tackle these bigger opportunities and I’m having a lot of fun seeing it slowly come together. The only downside is that it’s summer in Texas. 107 degrees is not a good time to be in the shop!
Saw a mentor pass away: A terribly sad though not altogether unexpected milestone was reached a few weeks ago when longtime musical mentor and friend (to many) Robert H. Young passed away. Dr. Young was my director when I was in Chamber Singers at Baylor and he was a sort of Collegiate surrogate father for Erin. We will miss him terribly but will always have his wonderful music and future Chamber Singers concerts to remember him by. Every Christmas we’ll listen to “Who is He in Yonder Stall” and remember this wonderful, kind, talented, and Godly man.
Replanted the yard. Due to a massive invasion of grubs as well as neighbors who feel like the definition of yard care is to mow their six foot tall weeds once per year (no, I’m not kidding), we finally bit the bullet and completely replanted our yard. I got ten cubic yards of dirt (that’s a very full dumptruck load) and spread it out on our front yard until it was 6-8″ deep (HUGE THANK YOU TO NEIGHBOR JAMES AND HIS SON RYAN FOR THE HELP!). After that I tilled it into the old soil and then laid down almost three pallets of zoysia pallisades grass. After several months of watering in the Texas heat (another thanks to James for taking care of it while we were gone) we have what I am sure is the most beautiful grass I will ever possess. It’s dark green, healthy, verdant, and even smells like it should. It’s thick and fun to walk on. I don’t know how it’ll do long term as the years go by but we’re just loving it now.
Shared in an Award: this year I got to see the movie that I did location and post production sound for, Paradise Recovered, win not one but two Grand Prize Awards at major film festivals. It’s been great to see all the hard work by this small and committed group pay off. We’re collecting all kinds of Laurel Leaves! Go Team Paradise!
Got tennis elbow: about eight months ago I started to notice a pain in my right elbow. It grew over the weeks until I could basically do nothing with my right arm that required any sort of bending of the elbow or flexing the muscles just anterior of my elbow bone. Trust me- when you type, play piano, and do woodworking for a living that’s a pretty severe handicap. It hurt to hold my car keys sometimes. Crazy! After several months of ibuprofen and ice packs it’s almost healed now, but I’ll never laugh at tennis elbow again. What a (literal) pain.
Read my own Eulogy: Not really, but close. Unfortunately most of us never say the things to people we care about while they’re still with us. Fortunately, my good friend Barry isn’t like most people. When I mentioned that it was my 20th Sing anniversary he penned a very public and very touching post about it. Upon reading it through suddenly misty eyes I realized that it about sums up everything for which I would like to be remembered. I consider it a rare blessing that I got to read it, Barry. Gratitude.
Traveled. A lot. Well, for us anyway. We started off the year with an early March trip to visit Erin’s cousin in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s been on our wish list for a few years to go to the 49th state and see the beauty of the mountains. Since we both enjoy the cold and snow, getting to go in March was a real bonus. Due to the fact that we were flying Buddy Passes we ended up staying an extra four days waiting for a flight out (and eventually had to buy one way tickets!), but even so, we had a wonderful two weeks and can’t wait to go back. The one thing we didn’t get to do while there? See the Northern Lights. Every night we’d go outside hoping for a glimpse of this elusive phenomenon, only to be disappointed. However, the delayed return wasn’t all for naught. On the flight out at 10pm the pilot got on the intercom and said to look out the left side of the plane. The Northern Lights! We were on the right side but fortunately the only two empty seats on the plane were just across the aisle. So Erin and I trucked it over there and got to witness twenty minutes of otherworldly midnight beauty. It was something to see. Alaska was cold, beautiful, far away, cold, snowy, and COLD. I love the cold.
Our next trip was unexpected (for Erin at least). Thanks to my good friend Sean’s brilliant thinking (well, fortuitous internet surfing), I surprised Uber-Harry-Potter-Fan Erin with a trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando for her 40th birthday. It was among my most favorite gifts that I’ve ever given anyone- especially since I had to keep it a secret for almost two months! Three days before her birthday I made Harry Potter’s favorite dessert (treacle tart) and surprised her with it, then gave her a card that was actually a portkey (and if you don’t know what a portkey is you haven’t read the books… shame on you!). The very next day we were off on a plane to Florida for three days at Universal Orlando. What a blast to do as a trip, and what a fun thing to surprise someone with!
A few months later we got to spend time with friends Matt and Jenna in D.C. (after a failed Buddy Pass attempt to get to Ireland) and spent a week traveling around Philadelphia, Amish country, and Gettysburg. Then we came home and, two weeks later, got to spend a whole month house-sitting for friends in Colorado Springs. *Whew!* Neither one of us has ever travelled for fun quite so much in one year. We just had a confluence of opportunities and events that made it possible this year and we feel grateful. We’re jet-setters!
So there are some highlights from Year Forty One, spent living in gratitude one of the most wonderful lives ever. I wonder what the next year will bring?