DIET PLAN

Right now I’m reevaluating my weight and trying to do something about it. I’d been on a a low carb wave, but around Christmas time, I gave it up for Lent and haven’t gotten back up on the board. This Low-carb diet was working really good for me and much better than what I’ve done before. I think I’m going back to that one because what I’ve been reading about other diets is not very encouraging.

Just yesterday I read about the “Lest We Forget” diet program that has participants taking daily snapshots of their stomachs and sharing them at meetings. They’re saying this is a fabulous way you can use shame as an incentive. (I like that one because at least you can eat anything you want..But I hear it’s the pits going to meetings.)

There’s also the “You’re Gonna Die Early” program that centers on guilt and it’s benefits. The marketers of this program use guilt like an art form.This diet has what they call the “rainbow curve“. Your day starts on an upward arc that has you happy that you’re not eating anything and telling yourself you’re doing really good. As the day wanes on and you get hungrier and hungrier…. that arc then takes a nosedive by mid afternoon and you end up eating quarts and quarts of low-carb ice cream. Nicknamed the “Type-2” diet, this is a tough program…but you do get to eat a lot of ice cream.

One that I’ve used occasionally is the “Valium Diet”. Here it’s not so much that you eat less….but you do drop a lot of your food…..😵

GRATEFUL FOR THE BLESSINGS

Today as I was writing with my buddy, Bob Farrell, I snapped this shot of him in my writing room…We were brainstorming an idea,….and just for a moment I was caught in a rush of emotion…mindful of his great impact on my life.

We have written together for decades, but it is not the writing that is the most enduring. Bob and his wife, Jayne are from the South Pole of the contiguous…Texas cured. We’ve lived life together, know each other’s children and grandchildren, their names and what they’re doing. We’ve suffered together. Bob and Jayne lost their home in the Nashville flooding some years back; we have both been nigh unto death and sat at each other’s bedsides. We’ve heard our music performed by people all over the world. We’ve had our disagreements and wrangled over ideas…but it was this willingness to be uncomfortable and walk together in the refining fire, that brought a lyric or piece of music to a place of beauty and great imagery. We’ve written some good songs and our share of less than good. Of course, at the time we were writing these alleged gems, they all seemed brilliant…that is until we listened to them a short time later and wondered what in the world we were possibly thinking just days earlier.

The preponderance of my writing efforts have come in three distinct periods, with three specific compatriots. The first was with Phill McHugh that began in my recording days in North Dakota and then again in my early years in Nashville. Phill was born into an Irish Catholic farm family near Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was commonly hip, politically aware and viewed life from a vantage point that was different than mine. We were on the same page spiritually, but how we arrived at our conclusions came in different ways. I first met him when he came to my studio in Bismarck to record an album. We bonded in that experience and when he recorded his second album…”Canvas For The Sun’, it was picked up by Lamb and Lion records which was distributed by Sparrow Records headed by Billy Ray Hearn, ultimately leading to my move to Los Angeles and subsequently, Nashville.

Just a short time after we made the move to Tennessee, Phill moved with his family as well. This was very important to us both at the time because we had history together and could trust each other’s instincts. This is so chemically important in a writing relationship.

Pam and I were close to him and his wife then, Dorsey. We watched our children grow, got together many times, laughed and made music…Good times they were. Phill has a poet’s heart and his thoughts come out like that. His imagery and theater is stunning. I’m not sure how, but we sort of drifted away from each other after a few years in Nashville…but we did. It makes me sad, because I love this family very much. Dorsey is an unbelievable painter, artist in her own right. You should check out Dorsey McHugh Fine Art.

The last person with whom I would spend a period of creative years was Paul Marino. I met Paul through a friend who I was involved with in the beginnings of Young Life in my hometown. Paul was in a group called; “River” and I produced a couple of albums with them. He was from St. Paul at the time and later, made the move to Nashville with his wife Karolyn. We loved each other from our recording days together, but when he moved here, we became fast friends….like family.

Paul knows all of my personal ins and outs and has helped immeasurably with getting me out of old songwriting habits. He’s funny as funny can be. A couple of days ago we went to a fund raising dinner for a work in the Ukraine that rescues children from poor living conditions in orphanages there. As we sat listening, Paul leaned over to me and said out of the clear blue…”You know….mediocrity has come a long long way”…and then focused back on the speaker, acting as if nothing happened. (He was not referring to the presentation). Paul is also the king of the misnomer….saying things like ..”Boy…I’d like to be a mouse on the wall when they’re talking”. We can pun back and forth for days. It’s these little things I love about him as well.

These men and their families are precious treasures in my life. When you write anything…the most powerful words and music come from those people and events that move you at a high emotional place….from what you live…from what you believe…and what God has given you to say. And for that…. I’m grateful…grateful…grateful, for the blessings of these three families in my life.

CHOICES

Pam cuts my hair.

it’s not an epic event.

Takes about his long as it does to brew a cup of coffee on a Keurig coffee machine.

She shaves my hair with a no. 2.

Trims my beard with a no. 1… then my eyebrows with a tiny scissor…and that’s that.

So this morning as we were finishing up, I asked her if I still looked fabulous.

She didn’t answer.

So I asked her if she enjoys my Greek God like profile

She didn’t answer.

Then I ask her if she appreciated the raw masculinity of my buffed out body.

She did answer this time.

“ What was that first choice you mentioned?”

If I’m lyin’..I’m dyin’…..😮

I’m posting this picture of my workout partner, Popyou Outchee, formerly from the Ukraine. He’s a cosmetologist by trade and a bouncer at night. He’s a real nice guy, but he tells me he feels so conflicted. Ya think?…..😳

We’re helping each other with a quite rigid weight program here at the YMCA in Maryland Farms. I spot for him on the bench press…and he drives me home so I won’t stop at Dunkin’ Donuts….😮

MA’M VERSUS MACHINE

ell it’s the beginning of spring, and time to mow the lawn again. OK, so I go into the garage and walk over to the mower, hit the button that’s supposed to automatically start the mower. Well it coughs and coughs and coughs. So of course…being the mechanic that I am, albeit a Norwegian mechanic, I press the button once again…..Nada…(that’s Spanish for “nothing”…One of eight words and phrases I remember from Spanish class when I was in high school.)

My next move was very prudent approach. I checked to see if there was enough gas. There wasn’t, so I filled it up. Now I’m pretty sure it’s going to start…..NADA.

At this point I did the only smart thing a man can do when he gets in this situation. “Pam, Pam, Pam…. Could you come here for a minute?!!!!!” Moments later, my wife appeared in the garage and repeated a very familiar phrase I hear from her so often, “Now what have you done?”

I explained my dilemma to her and how careful’d I’d been to make sure everything was in order. She quickly responded with another phrase I’ve heard her say many times….”I’ll bet“.

“Did you charge it” she asked? “It’s been sitting all winter.” “Did I CHARGE it,” I responded emphatically “Well…of course I..uh…yah…well uh maybe not so much?…. “Well” she questioned…“What is maybe not so much? A short time not so much ..just how much not so much, is not so much?”She’s wearing me out…Then came my admission…”Well maybe not at all, not so much”. With Pam being a former Catholic and all, I felt I’d just been in a confessional with a priest!..and on the verge of saying three “Hail Marys.” Venial sin at best. I’m sure of it.

Well we had to wait till the mower charged overnight. I finally had everything under control. Confident that the mower would start right up this time, I hit the button once again. NADA!!! “Pam, Pam, Pam…. Could you come here for a minute?!!!!!”I heard her open the door to the garage. She already knew the reason she was summoned.

Did you check the gas?“ I responded in the affirmative. “Did you check the oil? “Yup”, I answered proudly..”I filled it to the very top.” At that, she went manic!!! “You filled it to the TOP?”It was at this point I sensed maybe that was something I shouldn’t have been quite so proud of. Pam enlightened me on why there is an oil stick, what it was for and why you don’t fill it to the top. I’m thinkin’..“Oil stick? Who knew…(really…almost everybody )..I knew they had one for a car but I never thought about it for a mower. They call it a dipstick for a car…and come to think of it….that’s just about how I was feeling when she explained all of it to me.

We turned the mower over and poured out the oil to a respectable level. And what do you know….it started right away. Muy bueno. Problem solved. Pam gave me a kiss and whispered in my ear, “don’t touch anything else”.

I didn’t touch anything else…Well maybe ANYthing was a stretch for me… I didn’t have a heart to tell her that I left the freezer open all night when I went out to get some water bottles. Question…If ice cream melts…. is there anyway you can make it look like it hasn’t? Just asking for a friend. Cheers!! ❤️

MAYA’S BIRTHDAY

OK ….I’m just going to barge right in here and be a pathetic “Poppie” and tell everyone how wonderful my youngest granddaughter, Maya is. It’s her birthday today and she’s two years old. I know when anybody looks at the pictures of their grandkids…well…you know they’re just the epitome of awesomeness. OK…so I don’t want to fall behind everyone else’s awesomeness …I just gotta shout it….SHE’S AWESOME!!!! (Could you hear me?)

I’ve written about her many times, so I won’t bore you with the redundancy of my unflagging, unwavering, undying, and any other “unsomething”!I can think of…

to tell you how much I love this little precious chipmunk of ours.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAYA.

I’m so glad you’re in my life. You bring me such joy on those days when I’m don’t feel so joyful. One look at your picture…and my sadness dissipates. It’s kinda like going to the doctor and afterwards you feel better.

I pray you bring that joy to everyone you meet as you live your life. I’m so grateful to your mother, Emily..who is so intentional with you in everything….and to your father, Ben… who provides for you and loves you so beautifully. Girl…I can hardly wait to see you in May. You can pull my cap off as many times as you want….and put fingerprints all over my glasses too. Why? Because those moments I can never get back.

Always thinking of you.

Poppie…❤️

“Child of my child, heart of my heart.

Your smile bridges the years between us…

I am young again, discovering the world through your eyes.

You have the time to listen …

and I have the time to spend.”

(Author Unknown)

EASTER

This has been one of the most special Easter’s in recent memory for me.

I stood outside my garage door Easter morning with my cello in hand, waiting for my ride to church at 7:30. Tears came to my eyes as I listened to Matthew Ward’s beautiful rendition of “Easter Song”. As I looked across the alley to Ronn and Donna Huff‘s home….the song took on even more meaning for me. I remembered all of my friends who have moved on from this world into something much more glorious. It was one of those very special private moments ..hard to explain.

My neighbor came outside to pick up his paper from his driveway and I greeted him. He was off to church….and as he walked by…greeted me with. “Happy Easter”. I will say no more than this very specific greeting, from this particular neighbor, was an answer to prayer. I called Pam on my way to church to tell her about it.

The worship at our church was wonderful and there were two precious, very young Hispanic sisters who were baptized. When they came back to their seats in the sanctuary, they were wearing long flowing dresses, all white, and each laureled with broad, flowered headbands….angelic as they could be. The symbolism was overwhelming.

After the service was over, our beautiful Brazilian pianist, arranger, orchestrator and musical software genius came to me and wanted to have his picture taken with me. Daniel Bondaczuk and I have spent long hours together in the studio, working to secure his visa, having lunch and talking about our spiritual lives, family, and all things music. I had just played for Daniel the day before as he conducted the Messiah at his home church, which is Seventh-day Adventist. His passion and verve keeps me from ever growing old in spirit.

Well…He excitedly summoned our worship leader, Kirk Kirkland over to take the snapshot. Little did I know that he was secretly having him, along with his father, Camp Kirkland, who is the leader of the orchestra….videoing us. Daniel and his lovely wife Marjorie are having their third baby which they found out was a boy. As we stood there to take the picture, he said “I just wanted you to know… his name will be, Greg.” I couldn’t do anything but cry and hug him, cry and hug, …cry some more. Probably one of the most meaningful moments in my life. Better than any honor or award I’ve ever been given.

Pam and I finished the day with being treated to lunch by our dear friends, Dave and Cindy Roberts and Cindy‘s sweet sister, Leslie. They took us to Maggiano’s, a fabulous Italian restaurant in Nashville. It was absolutely delicious…and we laughed, visited and spoke of our love for each other.

Every part of that day held deep deep meaning. How could Christ be any more present to me.

I don’t want to come away from this day holding little more in my heart than a cheery Easter greeting, or that I came to church, or went on an Easter egg hunt, or wore a special outfit and had a good feeling. With the clear message of redemption in mind, it is now incumbent on me to go out and deliver the good news of Easter with action. Loving, caring, giving aid to the poor, disadvantaged, disenfranchised and weak. Sacrificing my comfort for the betterment of others. Being a brother to my brothers, a friend to the friendless and…respect, humility and grace to those with whom I might disagree.

This is the joy of Easter, and the resurrection. New birth….New life….And the promise of what’s to come.

I hope you don’t find some of my posts dispiriting, but I’ve had an unusual amount of truly amazing friends pass on from this life in recent days. And yes, I do understand that at my age this is going to be more frequent. It does not however, make it any less sorrowing.

I’ve worked with many extraordinary individuals in my career, and I just learned that one of them, my good friend and longtime engineer, Joe Neil is no longer living. I understand that his wife, Ruth found him in their barn and unresponsive.

Joe Lived in Atlanta and was co-owner of Doppler studios as well as a mobile facility called Sam’s Tape Truck. He was a fixture in the music community there for decades, and related so many wonderful stories about his work with the likes of Isaac Hayes, R&B and gospel artists.

Joe and I worked together on projects for Sandi Patty, Larnelle Harris and Steve Green. He taught me many things about the R&B culture and so much more. We had a wonderful time when we went out of town to work. Joe would drive up from Atlanta and we’d hop on a bus the artists would send to pick us up in Nashville. It would be just the bus driver, Joe and myself on the ride. We’d stop off at Wendy’s or some other restaurant when we wanted to take a break…and sleep on the bus along the way if we were tired. We had some great conversations and wonderful times on those buses.

I remember one trip when we stopped at a restaurant and a young man…a real good ole boy, stopped us as we were walking out of the restaurant, and asked us what artist was on the bus. Without a pause, Joe said, “We really can’t tell you because it’s top secret.” The young man was relentless in trying to find out who it was. “Man, can’t you just give me a hint”. Joe paused, and then said “Well just because it’s you that’s asking, and I know you can keep a secret, I’ll tell you this one time…but it’s all hush-hush.” This guy almost wet his pants. “I won’t tell nobody. Who is it?” “Well”..Joe whispered….”It’s the king”. This revelation left the boy dumbstruck …”NO…NO!!!… you’re just kiddin’ me.” Joe replied…”Well you asked”. He muttered, “Yeah, I don’t think you’re telling me the truth… but I know Elvis couldn’t really go nowhere, not even down to the Wallmarks….cuz he couldn’t get no privacy.” “ He followed up, “Really..he’s really in there? Joe drawled, “if I’m lyin’… I’m lyin’.” I told him we had to leave because couldn’t stay in one place for very long. He nodded in the affirmative, “Oh, I hear that“. We hopped back on the bus and watched him through the window as we left…his mouth wide-open, waving his hand and trying to get a glimpse of the disingenuous. We laughed till we cried. That was my pal….Full of fun and mischief.

Joe was an incredible engineer and musician with the finest ears a producer could ever hope to have. People think when you’re in the studio, it’s all about what the producer is hearing and deciding. .The truth of the matter is, there is such a symbiotic flow of creativity between the producer, engineer, artist (when they’re there) and musicians that make the recording what it is. It’s never about one person. The producer only manages what is occurring. These recordings could never be what they were without the wisdom of Joe‘s valuable suggestions.

So many fond memories of this gentle giant…my southern bearded buddy. I wrote about him in the chapter on artists in my book “Runaway Horse“. We’ve kept track of each other all these years, sharing happenings of our families, sending each other jokes and talking about life. I loved this guy…I’m really really going to miss him…..Joe Neil is my friend…always… and I will never ever forget him.

“To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eyed, Such seems your beauty still.” (William Shakespeare)