Archive for November, 2005

New single-song contract! It’s officially official!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

It seems odd when I type it out, but Karsten and I couldn’t be happier that we’ve just signed away the publishing rights (and future publishing royalties!) to our calypso-pop-reggae song “Mango Sun.” (Visit if you want to hear it — it’s worth it for the vocals alone, wonderfully performed by the popular Chicago-based reggae singer Rocket.) The song’s new publisher hopes to find a place for it in the European market, where calypso and reggae are fairly popular.

After spending the past few years focused on writing country-pop songs, it’s fun to have interest in one of our slightly older songs from another genre.

So hey, next time you’re in Germany or whatever, listen for the sounds of “Mango Sun,” and if you hear any cha-ching in the background, that’ll be us cashing our itty bitty royalty check. :-)

Stuff for sale

Saturday, November 19th, 2005

If anyone is feeling like doing a little online shopping, check out eBay for some auctions I just listed. Local folks, I just mentioned on that if you win any of the items, you can pick ‘em up and avoid the shipping charge, if you’d prefer.

Of course, if non-local folk would like to pick up their wins at my house, they’re welcome to, as well. :-)

Tough being back at work & not looking forward to Xmastime

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

It isn’t easy being back at work, that’s for sure. It doesn’t help that things around here are kind of nutty what with problems that have arisen since the latest software release in mid-October, so there’s a whole damage-control element to the work I got back just in time to do.

Still, it’s distracting, and sometimes that helps. But other times, I just want to curl up into a ball in a corner and cry and miss my daddy.

My mom has made her plans to come visit Nashville at Christmastime. She’s traveling on my dad’s birthday (December 21st) and will arrive that evening, so she’ll be here for my birthday (the 23rd), as well as the 22nd, when we always used to celebrate both my dad’s and my birthdays together. I imagine that’s going to be tough for both my mom and me, so I’m glad we’ll be together. And then she’s staying through the 27th or 28th, I can’t remember which. Still not sure if my sister and her kids are coming down — they’ve been invited, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to swing it. And I think my brother and his wife are stuck working around Christmas, so they can’t get away.

Anyway, that’s that. I’m glad we have plans. Christmastime is going to be hard. I don’t even care that much about Christmas, but because of the timing of our birthdays, I associate the whole season so much with my dad; it’s just going to hurt like hell.

I can’t decide if I should have a birthday party (or rather, get Karsten to throw me a birthday party) to help distract me or if I’ll just be miserable. Guess I’ll wait and see how I feel in the next few weeks before I make up my mind.


Sunday, November 13th, 2005

Someone paid to have a “guest book” set up at, linked from the Chicago Tribune web site, for comments about my Dad. The entries are really touching.

It’s a long drive back to Nashville…

Saturday, November 12th, 2005

but we made it in one piece. Well, two pieces, I suppose, counting me and Karsten separately.

I’m completely exhausted. Glad to be home, but have already cried twice tonight. I’m going to try going back to work on Monday. Here’s hoping I hold it together.

We scaled the wake back to one evening instead of two, thank the powers that be. One evening of non-stop condolences was tough enough to get through. And then Thursday was the funeral services at the church and cemetery, followed by the funeral luncheon and after-luncheon gathering at my sister’s house. It was a long day to finish a long week. And then, of course, there’s the eight-hour drive today.

The wake was tough. My dad looked unrecognizable. I suppose he’s been looking stranger and stranger as he got closer to the end, but it was only once they tried to make him up to look normal that he looked so shockingly weird. Everyone seemed to feel that way, and I took to warning people when they arrived to brace themselves if they planned to approach the casket. A lot of people thanked me afterwards for the warning.

I made a slide show of photos and ran it on my laptop on the other end of the room from the casket so that people would have something positive to focus their visual attention, and a lot of people thanked me for that, too. I’m pleased that it helped other people, but just making it was cathartic for me, so I hardly needed to watch it.

Also, at the funeral service in the church yesterday, my sister and I both gave eulogies, and although we hadn’t compared notes or anything, people commented that it was nice how our statements echoed each other. I said it’s easy to be consistent when you’re telling the truth.

In case anyone would like to read it, here’s what I said in the eulogy:

It’s tempting to say that 2005 has been a bad year. I spent most of this year anxious and anticipating my father’s death. I did not, as it happened, anticipate my mother-in-law’s death. And watching my father die slowly took up the summer months and into the fall. So yes, it’s tempting to say this has been a bad year.

But you, I, my father, all of us — we don’t live in years. We don’t die in years. We live — lived — in moments. A series of moments. A collection of moments. And yes, we die in moments.

You see, during these past few months, the concept of time has become surreal to me. There was, for example, the first day we all thought would be my father’s last: the hours spent in vigil, five to ten minutes passing in silence, 20 to 30 seconds between each breath my father took. But he fooled us, and lived for weeks after that. Time is unreliable in our lives. Only moments matter.

And so I learned from this ordeal to make the most of moments. When my father was alert and talkative, I tried to use those moments to find out what he still needed in his life, what unfinished business he felt he had. And in the hours and increasingly days that passed in unresponsiveness, I learned to find comfort in the memory of past moments — a skill that I hope will comfort me for the rest of my life.

Some people live to be 104 years old. You might say they’re rich in years. Yet it’s no guarantee that they’re rich in moments. My father lived relatively few years. Yet I believe, and I suspect my mother, for one, would agree, that my father was a man rich in moments.

My dad was not the last year of his life. He was not the moment of his death. He was — and, for me, he will always be — the sum total of his laughter and love, the gifts he gave me and the extraordinary generosity with which he gave them, the lessons I learned from him, the corny jokes he told, the many kisses and hugs we shared, his accomplishments, his friendships, his ability to love and give and accept and learn and love some more.

For all of its difficulty, 2005 has given me some of my life’s most precious moments so far. And we, as a species, are blessed with memory. So I can step forward into the next moments of my life, holding close my memories of the good, the sweet, the beautiful moments this year and all the years before it, and comforted by the memory of the moments I shared with my father.

I’m often told that I resemble my father in many ways: our appearance, our love of music, our aptitude with languages, and so on — but I will be lucky if at the end of my years, I can know that I resembled him in this respect: that I lived a life abundant in love and rich in moments.

I would like to conclude these thoughts in the words of Mary Oliver, who wrote so eloquently about the illusion of time and the loss of what we love in the poem “In Blackwater Woods.”

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
that your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

When at last you reach the end, turn around and start again

Saturday, November 5th, 2005

When your cell phone rings at 2:35 AM, you can be sure it’s a call you wish you didn’t have to take.

I marveled at how calm my mother managed to sound as she said, “Your father passed.”

I took some time to completely fall apart in the hotel room, with Karsten comforting me. It’s amazing how a hurt that has ached so much for so long is still able to hurt so much more.

After a bit, I dressed and drove over to my parents’ house, where my sister, my brother and his wife, and the hospice nurse all were. They were all in the bedroom with his body when I arrived, so I hesitantly went in. You know, it’s true what they say about how you can tell when life has left the body — it just lies there looking so empty, dull, and useless after the life is gone.

When the hospice nurse asked about whether we wanted him buried with his wedding ring (incidentally, no, my mom wants to keep it) and any other personal effects, my sister mentioned that the Livestrong bracelet he’s been wearing without removing for years now should stay with him. A few months ago, my Livestrong bracelet broke and I hadn’t wanted to replace it because I wanted to forget about cancer and death whenever I could. But at that moment, I knew that wearing his bracelet would mean so much more to me. My mom loved the idea, and my sister was initially hesitant until she thought of putting a new one on him before the wake. So she and I carefully took it from his wrist, and I’m wearing it now. She’s bringing a new one for him later today.

By 5:30 AM, the funeral directors had arrived to take Dad’s body away, and we’d spent enough time with it to feel ready to let it go. He wasn’t there anymore, anyway — the best of him has been leaving us for months, and the last of him had been gone for hours.

My sister went home to talk to her kids. My brother and his wife went home. I made the first calls to a designated contact on each side of the family. The hospice nurse finished her paperwork, disposed of Dad’s medications, and left. And my mom and I went to see if we could manage to eat some breakfast.

Everyone knows the cliche about how you always hear the worst possible music at a time like this, right? Can you guess? How about Rod Stewart’s cover of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” playing in the restaurant while we’re struggling to eat? We were crying as quietly and discreetly as we could, and I pointed out how much I hate Rod Stewart, which made my mom laugh.

Anyway, that’s about the latest. I’ll post more later, I’m sure.

The mighty PowerBook has spoken

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

Posting my first message from my new laptop! I truly love it. And I just downloaded Xjournal, which appears to be a very good editor apart from the fact that its built-in dictionary apparently doesn’t recognize Xjournal as a valid word.

Fear me, WiFi cafes! I am on the loose.

Two updates

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

First, the Dad update: well, there’s not much new to say, actually. He’s been exhibiting the signs of active death for weeks now, such as picking at his bedclothes, reaching out into the empty air in front of him, increased apnea (up to 20 and sometimes almost 30 seconds between breaths), and, of course, the loss of control of his urine and bowels. No one knows what to do besides wait, keep him as comfortable as possible, and try not to go mad. I don’t mean to sound flippant about all of this; it’s just that I’m starting to be a little numb through all the strain and anxiety. Believe me, I’m still processing what’s really happening, and it breaks my heart into pieces. I just can’t spend all my time that way.

OK. Second update: I bought a new laptop, and it’s an Apple PowerBook! I hope some of my friends will be proud to have helped influence my conversion (, I’m a-lookin’ your way). I’m pleased as punch. I made the leap after realizing a few things: one, I do a lot of songwriting in places like cafes and libraries, and I’ve been trying to use either a paper notebook or my Treo 650 to capture the writing (I try not to use my work-issued laptop for personal stuff — a lesson learned from years of fairly abrupt job departures). The paper and Treo each have shortcomings for this type of use, and those shortcomings are a hindrance to productivity. I also finally bought myself MasterWriter software (I’m an ASCAP member, so I got a decent discount) to use on it. Anyway, there are dozens of other justifications and rationalizations, and one happy bonus is that, while we’re away from home, Karsten and I will be able to watch DVDs on it in the hotel room. It should be arriving today. Yay!