Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My wife would have me examined!

My editor at work sent me a copy of an article from the 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly Magazine. Granted this was 51 years ago, but some of the "recommendations" in this article sound like they were written by the Taliban. Among the real goodies:

"Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day."

"Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice."

"Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction."

Did I mention that this rag also said "Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax." (Oh and they forgot to add, make sure you are the Virgin Mary when it comes to raising the children, but Lady Chatterly in the bedroom, any time he wants, as much as he wants, regardless of how sh**ty he treats you!)

I laughed out loud when I read this crap! Who in the world came up with this? And you know what the last one was? "A good wife always knows her place."

Now wait a minute! I have been married for almost seven years now. While I would agree that the work-a-day world can sand the life out of you, no way can I expect my wife to have everything perfect when I come home. And my wife is a conscientious woman, she keeps a great house (on top of working her hands off at a hair salon). But I'm not one of those Homer Simpson-types, sitting around doing nothing.

Frankly I have found that there's no such thing as "woman's Work" or "man's work." There's just the work. Laundry, dishes, garbage, yard work, bills - they are equal opportunity tasks.

But the sad thing is - some people still believe this backwash! Don't mistake the biblical passage about submission to authorize this kind of hoo-hah. Please.

Let's see - maybe we could give the "Good husband's Guide."

"Remember that your wife is a gift from God; you are not entitled to her affection or presence, so do everything you can to make her feel appreciated."

"Never be abrupt or harsh with her; she is God's daughter and He will ask you why you treated her that way."

"Love her with your very life. If it comes to a choice between your life and hers, yours is over. Always remember that she is a gift, not a right."

"Work hard to provide for her and help her with the children. She has been working just as hard as you, and has handled stresses that you do not on a daily basis. Your commute, your job, and your paycheck do not entitle you to be a bastard."

"Listen to her, even when what she is saying doesn't make sense to you. And don't try to fix things for her. Sometimes she just wants you to listen, and not act."

"Never make anything - your job, your friends, Superbowl tickets or the NCAA Final Four - more important to you than she is. Always treat her with respect, acknowledging that God gave her a mind too, and she can say something of value."

"Remember, a good husband always knows his place."

Wonder how many of us guys could live up to even one of those stipulations. I couldn't. I screw it up all the time. That's why I need Jesus.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Sleep and Night by Evelyn De MorganI don't get enough sleep. I often stay up too late, either watching television, talking to my wife, or studying. When I do lie down, I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep because I have "twitchy leg" or gas or the neighbor's dog is barking or something. It tends to wear me thin. But it turns out that thin is something I might have trouble being if I don't get enough sleep.

According to, there are several causes for sleeplessness. One is lifestyle choices (others include medical conditions, sleep disorders, and medication). That tends to be what shoots me down.

According to this webpage, lifestyle choices include shift work - which often interrupts my sleep patterns - jet lag and travel (which I don't experience much) and caffeine, alcohol and diet, and emotional disturbance or stress (all of which I have from time to time).

And one big bugaboo about this whole thing is it can play into an addictive cycle. You don't get enough sleep, so you're tired (like me) so you have a cup-of-joe to wake up, but it only lasts a little while, so you have another. Or maybe you eat late at night (shift workers) and then you can't get to sleep because you're too full.

Or maybe the day just won't go away. Maybe things haunt you and you cannot seem to turn it off. These things come like a guest unbidden and stay like the Thing That Wouldn't Leave.

All of that can contribute to weight gain because it causes a depletion of one of the hormones that tells your brain that you're full. It also causes mental impairment, which can lead to bad decisions, sloppy work, irritability, and stress. Which of course can lead to sleeplessness. I hear the cycle spinning.

And there are also the very real dangers of operating a car or other machinery when you'd rather be snoring. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 100,000 car accidents are caused each year by driver fatigue. Of that number, more than 1,500 die and 71,000 are injured. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So what are we walking zombies to do?

There are some steps to take. The first one is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, regardless of whether it is a weekend or you are on vacation. Every day - up and down at the same time. This helps the body's rhythms and contributes to deep sleep.

According to the website, others include:

Regular exercise improves sleeping habits. Exercise between twenty to thirty minutes a day for the best results, but take care not to exercise within five hours of bedtime.

Don't Lie Awake. If you cannot fall asleep, don't lie in bed awake. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake. Get up and do something else until you feel sleepy.

Eat and Drink Long Before Bedtime. A heavy meal before bed can cause indigestion, which can keep you up. Drinking fluids before bed can interrupt your rest by causing you to get up to urinate. Try to avoid both food and fluids for at least two hours before bedtime.

Relax. Spending some down time before bed can relax you enough that falling asleep comes easier. Meditation, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques may all work. Relaxation could be as simple as a warm bath, or quiet reading (not in the bedroom, though).

Keep the Bedroom for Two Things. Watching television, paying the bills, reading a book, and listening to music in the bedroom are not recommended. By doing so, you create the expectation in your mind that the bedroom is for activities other than resting. Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping and sex. (WOO hah, now that's what I'm talkin' bout.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sunset, August 22, 2006

I shot this on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 near my home in Virginia. Click on the photo to get the full effect

Friday, August 18, 2006

Metro Musings

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNear my job, there is a Starbucks Coffe Shop, and this one happens to be right above a Metro Station in Southwest DC. I was waiting for the PGA to end today, so I jetted down to 'bucks to get a brew. To my surprise, no one was sitting in the large chairs next to the window that look out over the escalators that lead down to the Metro station. It gave me a great perch from which to people watch.

There was this guy standing at the top of the escalators, wearing a blue Washington Nationals monogram cap, a white t-shirt, and jeans. He was skinny - not just skinny, but "I-just-got-out-of-a-Chinese-reeducation-camp-in-Xinjiang" skinny. And this dude was begging people for money. Not the shake-the-cup-and-play-on-people kind of begging. Just putting out his hand, and asking for money as people went down the escalator.

Most people ignored him. Some gave him money. Some looked nervous and glanced away as they walked by and shook their heads. He lit a smoke and kept begging. He was there the whole time I was.

About 10 feet away was a guy selling flowers - roses and mixed bouquets for $4 and $6 respectively. Every now and then he would call out "Don't forget your flowers," or "don't forget your roses."

A pretty brunette in black pants and a blue-and-white striped top stopped and bought a half dozen red roses. She also gave the beggar some change when she went down the escalator.

Then there was the family of tourists - they might as well have been wearing "WERE NOT FROM HERE" on their shirts.

The mom and the daughter came into Starbucks to use the bathroom while the rest of the group waited out by the escalators. Mom and the daughter emerged a few minutes later, but only after mom had looked at a water bottle that Starbucks wanted $10 for.

I don't know if she really wanted the bottle or whether she was just trying to assuage her guilt. Either way, she and the daughter left and went down the escalator to the Metro with the rest of their troop.

A pretty, auburn-haired girl came in an ordered a Venti Vanilla Latté and sat by the window and talked on her cell phone. A large fat, bald guy in a pink shirt and brown pants passed the beggar and went down the escalator. He looked like a man who didn't want to be bothered.

People came and went, passing this guy begging and the flower guy and me in my perch behind the glass.

There was one girl who looked like she had Cerebral Palsy. She was making her way from the Health and Human Serives Building to the Metro. It took her a long time to get across the street

She made it though. She passed the guy begging for money, and as she did it looked like she aimed her body at the escalator, just trying to make sure she could grasp the rail and get down the stairs. As it carried her down towards the trains, she looked at me. I smiled, but I don't know if she saw me. She was probably the bravest person on the street.

A large, muscular Metro bus driver came in and bought coffee. He was a black dude with a pigtail hanging out from under his "Metro" baseball cap. The pretty girl at the window talked on her cellphone, the beggar lit another smoke, the flower guy kept calling out.

Outside people were making their way home, or coming into the city for whatever adventures they were on. And the PGA still wasn't finished.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

B.S.U.R. . . U.C.I.M!

Photo (c) Doug Pettway, image hosted by Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis is an updated version of my earlier post featuring some of Doug Pettway's photos from the clinic Click here to see more on Doug's site. Also, check out some of his handiwork - the man is a luthier of the first order!) I had a unique opportunity today - I got to attend a bass seminar with none other than Victor Wooten of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and the Victor Wooten Band.

I had the chance to videotape most of the seminar for Victor and my bass teacher Anthony Wellington, Victor's former bass tech and a member of the Victor Wooten band (and a fine player in his own right).

Victor started by talking a little and then he just started to play. The brother played for 15 minutes of non-stop, I-just-made-this-up-in-my-head thumping. What a masterpiece. But he also had some really cool - and thought-provoking - things to say.

I couldn't stay for the whole seminar, but for what I could attend, Mr. Wooten laid some heavy stuff on us all. There were about 50 people there - all of them players and I believe all of them were - like me - Anthony's students.

After he blew us all away with this improvised piece, Victor answered a question about playing and I thought his answer was profound.

"We're not really concerned about playing," he said. "We're concerned about what people will think about the way we play. We don't seem to be afraid to play well in front of people. We lose it when we make mistakes."

"But whether I am a good player or a good musician does not depend on you," he said. "I can speak whether you like what I say or not, but my value, and my ability to speak is not determined by what you think of me," he added.

Good stuff, huh. I like how he also related playing music to speaking - it's a voice.

"We don't all speak English the same way," he said. "You don't talk like me, I don't talk like you. Don't expect to play like me when you play bass."

"You can't do what Marcus (Miller) or Stanley (Clarke) or any of those guys do, but that's because you're not them. You are you, and you need to speak the way you talk," Vic said.Vic and Ant Jamming  Image (c) Doug Pettway

I thought that was way cool, because often times we aspire to be like other musicians, but what he was saying was that we don't have to do that. You can be you. And you can express yourself through your instrument, and you don't have to worry about expressing someone else. And when you express what's in your heart, you will not sound the same way as someone else.

But Wooten reminded us that there is always pressure to conform.
"There's not much reward for individualism," he said. "Society doesn't like it, religion doesn't like it, and often we feel we are supposed to play music exactly the way it has always been. But that's not really being true to who you are." Especially if you have the talent and 39 years experience like Victor!

I asked Vic about a statement that Carlos Santana made in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning - he said that he is in the business of putting people in a trance. Vic agreed, noting that Carlos sometimes refused to play indoors and to wear shoes because he wanted to be in contact with the universe.

And he also mentioned talking to your instrument - literally having a conversation with the bass - like "why are you fighting with me!" He told the story of one player - a famous player he did not identify - who sat down and talked to his bassandd thanked it for being what it was. The strings, the tuning heads, the pickups, etc. And when he went to pick up the bass, it almost felt like it jumped on his shoulder. A little cosmic, I know, but there is something to the fact that the created order was made by words - but that's for another post.

Another goody Victor laid on us is when he said that we need to realize that we are all musical, otherwise we would not know what we considered good music. Playing (or singing) is only part of being musical.

In response to another question, Victor said that sometimes it's good to walk away from the instrument. Someone had asked why do players burnout. Vic's answer?

"Have you ever been in a relationship? You have a relationship with the instrument and like all relationships, it can get stale. So sometimes its best to walk away and then when you do come back, you have that fire, that passion."

Wooten said that if he could - if he could support his family another way - he would walk away from the bass for a couple years, simply because he is missing parts of his children's lives that he would like to be there for.

Victor Wooten Image (c) flecktones.comVictor also passed on some practical wisdom about just playing - we often want to play things that are patterns - scales, arpeggios, etc. But we get anxious about making mistakes and when we do, we lose the ability to play the rest of the tune because we are so upset. Vic's advice?

"I sometimes just play wrong notes on purpose," he said. "Sometimes, I will just sit down with the bass and play random things, no pattern, no scale, just jumping around on the fretboard." He illustrated that by doing just that while he was talking.

"If you can get that random thing clean, when you go back to your patterns or scales, they will be really clear," he said. It was great.

Victor also did not seem to care what other kids thought about his playing growing up. He had his brothers, and their input was far more important than his peer group. And his parents also had a big influence on the whole family.

"And they're not even musicians, but they are musical," Wooten said.

Vic was more than willing to answer any and all questions. The seminar was in the Prince Frederick Public Library, and the room was pretty much packed out with players. I don't know what will become of the video tape. I would love to sit down with Vic and a crew and do a seminar like that. Kind of like James Lipton and Inside the Actor's Studio, or like Dr. Billy Taylor used to do on Live From the Kennedy Center

As I said, I had to leave early. But my heart stayed there and will probably be gleaning from this brush with the master for a while. Who knows what will become of it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Credit Where Credit's Due ...

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI recently did something that was pretty painful. The thing itself was necessary (ending a longstanding, but toxic relationship), it was just the way I did it that I sometimes wish I had handled differently.

It made me look at why I do things the way I do, and come to find out - NEWSFLASH - it has something to do with the way I was reared. But thanks be to God, even though my childhood sucked pretty much, I can start over.

I have noticed a pattern in my life - I tend to get into situations where people are emotionally unavailable and abusive - in a kind of velvet glove kind of way. They don't hit me or anything like that - no their abuse is much more subtle. It tends to come off as dismissive - you know, "oh isn't that nice, now get the F*** out of here."

Oh they wouldn't have the fortitude to actually say that. No, it's more nice than that. It usually sounds like "oh, okay, thanks," and then they go and do what they want to and my input is discarded like so much trash. And I guess that's what people do, but where I get hung up is that I try to get approval from these abusers! And why is that?

You got it, mommy and daddy.

Now I don't want to be like the car commercial where the guy with the megaphone is yelling "because daddy never loved me." My parents did the best they could; they just didn't have anything to draw from. So they passed on what they knew - which was toxic waste. And that's why I want to get healed. Because see the insidious thing about abuse is that if you don't get well, you pass it on even if you don't mean to. Even if you say within yourself "I'll never do that !" you end up doing exactly the same thing.

So that's what I am about now. Getting healed. It ain't easy. I find the monster in every corner of my life - situations where I have been acting the same way I learned how to as a kid, but where those reactions don't work any more. It's like the old story of the Tar Baby. The more you hit it, the more you get stuck. But now it's time to get unstuck. Now it's time to be free. And free is much more pleasant than stuck.

I read something one time that said no tyrant ever surrenders territory unless one stronger than him forces him to. Sounds like my life. Sounds like the battle ahead. And I have a role to play in it. But thanks be to God, I am not in this alone. My Liberator is with me, and He will bring it to pass.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

When sorrows come ...

they come not single spies, but in battalions. William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately, and I don't really like all that I find. There is a lot of crap inside that goes back many years. But like a tree that has been struck by lightning, even though stuff grows over top of the wound, the damage is still there.

Right now I am dealing with the feelings of neglect. See my family was the poster children for dysfunction. Not to weep a puddle in the middle of the floor, but I find that the toxic crap that went on there affects me now.

Many of the survival techniques I learned as a child, I kept. Albeit they no longer work, but old habits are hard to break. Like a bad golf swing. You have to concentrate on doing the new thing, and let the old thing fade away. But changing your thought life is not as easy as changing your five iron. Thoughts - memories, habits, pains - come unbidden and often at the least opportune time.

And when the current situation mirrors the painful one from the past, I often employ the same strategy. Maybe I get angry and threatening, maybe I run away, maybe I feel depressed. Maybe I lash out. But none of that is what I know I am supposed to do.

So I am having to learn. I'm in therapy, and I am reading a lot of books. And I am having to learn new habits. That's not an excuse, it's just what is.