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Finding The Pieces; Being Supportive of Family

Cost of living increases have outstripped the rise in the average wage in the last couple of decades, in my city as well as in many others. This trend of rising costs in the context of lower average income makes it more difficult for young people to get established. Also, getting into college or university is more challenging than it was when I was a kid, as more students compete for fewer spaces.

An appropriate response to these challenges, where possible, is to offer young adult children more support in getting started, if they need it. It should usually be possible… our average family size is smaller, and our average house size is bigger. However, I’ve come across a couple of situations where parents have chosen to kick their kids out of the house as soon as legally possible – even on their child’s birthday. Possibly some parents stubbornly hold to the belief that kids should be forced to move out and make it on their own early, as a kind of ‘sink or swim’ challenge. I don’t share that belief.

To whatever extent possible, without infringing on the independence of our offspring, we hope to appropriately support our children as older teens and young adults – to nurture their independence, but not to create unnecessary additional obstacles to their success. Life is tough enough already.

Our kids have already shown their resourcefulness, even in the toy building block structures and creative digital designs they’ve made. Once in a while they are open to help or suggestions, and with just a bit of a nudge here or there they are good to go on their own.

My song ‘Finding the Pieces’ is about continuing to be there for the next generation, supporting them in their goals and as persons.

Finding the Pieces

Your interlocking building blocks
would be spread out on the floor.
You were making another masterpiece
you’d work at for an hour.

Some small but essential pieces
seemed impossible to find.
You’d call for us to help you,
and in a way I didn’t mind…

Finding the pieces,
searching most unlikely places…
spending time down on our knees, hoping to find them,
knowing you would be so pleased….

And sometimes once of your brothers,
with a keen and practiced eye,
would see one camouflaged in carpet
and would kindly bring it by.

Or sometimes it was your mother,
on a break, taking the time…
or we would find another way
to make the build sublime…

Finding the pieces,
searching most unlikely places…
spending time down on our knees, hoping to find them,
knowing you would be so pleased….

Now you have gotten bigger,
and your projects bigger too…
You work so hard on all the problems
life presents to you.

Some small but essential pieces
may seem difficult to find.
You can call on us to help you,
‘cuz you know we wouldn’t mind…

Finding the pieces,
searching most unlikely places…
spending time down on our knees, hoping to find them,
knowing you would be so pleased….

Finding the pieces,
searching most unlikely places…
spending time down on our knees, hoping to find them,
knowing you would be so pleased….

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Disencumber; a time to let go

“I should have….” There’s such a weight attached to words like that, when you let them sit in your mind.

How much of our busy-ness is what we create to distract us from having time to think of the negative thoughts, doubts, guilt, or regret we may carry with us? But if that’s the case, then a life-disruption – like a significant injury or illness, or loss of steady employment, can lead to a devastating term of confronting all the negative issues that we’ve tried to avoid by scheduling our time full. At least, that can be a danger for me.

There comes a time to give ourselves at least the same grace, the same opportunity to rest and/or move forward, as we are prepared to offer others. There is no burden so great as one that people of conscience place on themselves.

If there’s something that a person has done wrong, then – if the person learns from it – that’s experience. You can castigate yourself for an error, but if it’s an error you could then avoid on another occasion – that might put you ahead of a new person without that experience. Anyone can make a mistake. Everyone can grow. So we need to give ourselves permission to let go of past errors and let ourselves continue to grow and thrive through whatever changes are ahead.

Here are the lyrics to my song ‘Disencumber’.


No one can judge me more harshly
than I already judge myself.
The bar of my own expectation is higher
than anything others expect.

I need to leave that big box of deficiency
right up there on that high shelf.
The daily rocks that I add to my pack
accumulate so I’ll get wrecked.

There’s a time
to disencumber…
a time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

There’s a time
to disencumber,
to put aside how we self-reject.
Don’t look for bad news
you can do nothing about,
and find some good tunes to select.

I’m not saying to walk around blindly,
but it don’t help to stare at the light
in the interrogation room inside your mind
because it won’t leave you feeling so bright.

There’s a time to disencumber,
a time to walk around free,
among people who maybe I know nothing about
but at least they also don’t know me.

Disencumber – we are human,
equally valuable, all of us flawed.

Disencumber – it’s okay.
None of us can claim to be God.

There’s a time to disencumber…
time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

We need some news of release.

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Early Morning Silence

The best part of 6 a.m. is that, except for the dog, I generally have the house to myself.

I’m not a naturally linear thinker. My mind tends to go all over the place, and I’m wired for sound. Any possible auditory distraction has the potential to send me off track. It’s part of why I like music – it combines sounds into purposeful direction, and often in community. But being easily distractible and non-linear, it’s tough for me to get organized to successfully accomplish what needs to be done in a day.

So I’ve come to love those early mornings when everyone else is asleep. I can look over my tasks, assemble a list, and also just drink my coffee and watch the sun rise (depending on the time of year, of course). Nurturing positive thoughts and generally getting into a productive mindset for the day is part of it too.

When I wrote the song Early Morning Silence, I wanted to express all of that, because if such a time is precious to me I thought there must be others somewhere in the world who might be able to relate. Just expressing the ideas in words, though, seemed wrong. I didn’t want the song itself to function as an intrusion on someone’s thinking time because of an excessive and unnecessary repetition of lyrics.

So even though whistling is a really unusual accompaniment to songs in our time, I decided that whistling the melody to accompany the chords the second time through would function as a non-verbal portion of time that represents a kind of purposeful wordless background that a person could just think their own thoughts to.

Speaking of lyrics, here they are;

Early Morning Silence

Wishing I could gather
this early morning silence –
save it for sometime later
in the day –

When everything around me
is full of sound and fury, need
a space in my mind
to make noise go away.

And I would just remember
all the time we’ve spent together
so even in the moments you’re not near…
all the love and warmth of those thoughts would close around me
like a blanket guards from coldness and fear.

As the sun rises
and the world begins to wake,
my soul energizes –
I will do what it takes.

But as I take my place,
I’ll bring along a little space
that the early morning silence gave.

But as I take my place,
I’ll bring along a little space
that the early morning silence gave.

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Meet Again (My Old Friend)

Reconnecting with old friends over social media is exciting. And kind of nerve-wracking.

Because we all change over time. We encounter various challenges that confront and perhaps alter our assumptions about what life is and how to live it. Perhaps we understand each other more… and perhaps we move apart.

Still, for me, I feel a need to integrate my past with my present and my future hopes. So I reach out to people I once knew, try to establish conversation with them again.

It’s about remembering good times, or about being grateful for important influences in my life, or about making amends – or any combination of those, and more. Sometimes that results in a real world meeting.

When I was a kid, it seemed like many friendships came about by chance or by parental influence, or around common connections like school. It’s not like kids get to choose a lot about their lives. So reconnecting with childhood friends, particularly, carried a certain level of nervous anticipation for me.

Once I got together with those friends, though, it became apparent that it wasn’t just chance that drew us together in the first place. Although shared experiences definitely help to forge relationship, maybe kids could have a better handle on the intangibles of friendship than adults do. Kid have fewer preconceived notions of what a good friendship should look like, so maybe they can be better at recognizing -on an intuitive level- when it’s happening.

Even though I don’t always occupy the same space on the political spectrum as all my longtime friends, and other aspects of our lives and notions don’t align, I’ve found that renewing those acquaintances has flowed into more natural interactions than I had hoped for. And that has been great.

Here are the lyrics for my song Meet Again (My Old Friend)

There’ll be a little bit of ‘Hallelujah’,
And a whole lotta ‘Remember when…?’
But will we wonder, ‘What’s it to ya?’
When we meet again, my old friend?

Will we feel the need for some ‘I’m Sorry’s,
Or has the river washed ’em ’round the bend?
Is there precious mettle still in those quarries,
When we met together my old friend?

And I know… there’ll be holding on, and letting go.
There’ll be letting things run with the flow.
And a bit of ‘You old so and so…’
– Then listening about the things we didn’t know.

And so… as we’ve traveled these years apart,
There have been moments that have brought you to mind.
And those memories we made long ago
Have become a kind of guide.

I think that is what tugged my heart
And made me really want to find
The person that I used to know.
I feel no need to hide.
I feel no need to hide.

So I’m glad that we have reconnected.
And I think that we’ll find in the end –
Once everything has been dissected –
It’s been good to see you, my old friend.
It’s been good to see you, my old friend.

There’s been a little bit of hallelujah
And a whole lotta “Remember when…?”
So I’m glad that we have reconnected.
It’s been good to see you my old friend –
It’s been good to see you my old friend.

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Coloured Ribbon

The recent enormous and early dump of snow on my part of the world turned my thoughts to Christmas, our big midwinter celebration that often is set among snowdrifts where I live. Christmas includes the tradition of giving and receiving presents, often presented in boxes that are wrapped in colourful patterned paper and tied up with ribbons. Stores in malls will often have volunteers or even pay employees to professionally gift-wrap packages according to a high standard, for the many people who are pressed for time and want to save themselves the work of wrapping presents themselves.

Pretty packages, presented to a high standard, are eye-catching and pleasant. Difficulties arise when we attach standardized packaging ideas to the people we see around us, making assumptions about who people are or should be according to our own preconceived notions.

I wrote the song Coloured Ribbon a long time ago. Originally, the only meaning of the song was that – generally – we are all unique individuals who express ourselves according to our own particular characteristics and concerns, and that differences among us should be respected and appreciated rather than have people be compelled to assume a false conformity. In particular, my perception was that my community valued a very stoic approach to life, not wanting to express too much joy or too great a sense of sadness, in favour of being seen as rational and clever rather than ’emotional’. I felt this as a limitation, although it did influence my behaviour and self-expression.

The ‘if I am warped, then we can weave’ part of the song refers to the different directions of thread crossing in a woven cloth or tapestry, the ‘warp’ and the ‘woof’. The reference to ‘make our designs’ alludes obliquely to a fascination I had with kaleidoscopes as a kid – how bits of coloured glass/plastic could fall randomly within a container having many reflective surfaces, and you could come up with a beautiful pattern no matter how you shifted the viewfinder. Although form and structure in a society can give shape and security to our lives, I believe that we can allow form and structure to emerge from the interrelationships of diverse peoples as they meet and adjust to one another, to a far greater extent than we seem inclined to do.

The expression ‘fit to be tied’, in English, means that a person is so surprised that they can’t move, think, or speak. The song uses it in a different way – the word ‘fit’ also means ‘suitable for’, and within the song the phrase means that I don’t believe people should be restricted by the limitations of others to accept diversity or change.

At the time I wrote the song, the ribbon icon wasn’t applied to so many vehicles and other surfaces to indicate support for particular groups of people or causes. The fact that a rainbow ribbon icon now represents the wide spectrum of gender and sexual identities actually enhances the meaning of the central metaphor of the song, though. As important as gender and sexuality is to a person’s identity, we can’t assume a ‘package’ of traits that we apply as a blanket characterization to any particular gender or identity. If we do so, we lose opportunities to perceive and benefit from the rich tapestry of skills, knowledge, and character of each individual who we come across or meet in the course of our lives.

My song ‘Coloured Ribbon’ remains a plea to recognize and appreciate the authentic self of every person, and the inherent richness each individual brings to our tapestry of community, society, country, and all humanity.

Here follow the lyrics;

Coloured Ribbon

There’s a time to laugh,
A time to cry.
I want to live the full spectrum of life.
If you leave me free, I might fit some design –
Just please don’t tie me up with coloured ribbon.

If I am warped, then we can weave.
We make up the fabric of humanity.
If we be free, we can make our designs –
I don’t believe we are fit to be tied.

I don’t know why people need
To make shackles we call ‘normalcy’.
(We) choose others’ boxes, make them bleed,
Squeeze them into moulds so stubbornly.

We make their packages, we tie them tight,
Until so much of them is out of sight.

Oh how many precious gifts we would see
If we would only let them be free.

I want to laugh,
I want to cry.
I want to live the full spectrum of life.
If you leave me free, I might fit some design –
Just please don’t tie me up with coloured ribbon.

If we be free, we we can make our designs.
I don’t believe we are fit to be tied.

Truth is the beauty that we find when we’re real…
So please don’t tie us up with coloured ribbon.
Please don’t tie us up with coloured ribbon.
Please don’t tie us up with coloured ribbon.

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