“Fallin’ ain’t nothing when you’ve landed on love”

Writers can find song inspiration from many places. Certainly one of the places I least expected to get a song idea was from an NBA finals basketball game.

I share a love of basketball with my son, Noah, and we have watched many games on television together over the years. We always laugh at the random things some commentators will say just to fill the airtime. 

During this particular NBA finals game, Kevin Love, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the time,  wound up sprawled on the court while going after a loose ball that had been stripped away. As the ball went bouncing he and several other players went scrambling for possession of the basketball ending up in a giant pile of players with Kevin lying at the bottom.

As Kevin limped off the court to the bench, the announcer describing the scene said, “(So & so)… landed on Love.” I remember immediately thinking, “That’s a song!”

 I brought the idea and the chord progression to a songwriting session with my fun and talented friends and co-writers, Tyler Flowers and Amanda Flynn. They each have such a great way with lyrics, and Tyler’s soulful melody just brought the idea to life. And “Landed on Love” was born.

Every quarantine morning feels like the weekend. 

It’s like the world is sleeping in. But it’s a weekday.  My rocking chair creaks against the tile floor on my front porch. The steady stream of cars that used to race up and down our road, short-cutting their way to the major thoroughfares to town, are few and far between. It’s quiet, except for the birds who are singing their happy little hearts out. 

The earth is seemingly at rest.  It is still, peaceful, serene.  There is not even a breeze.

My mind wanders, drinking in the beauty of it.  And in the pause, I find a momentary joy in all of my world that is good, right here, in the gift of quarantine rest.

And yet, there is a sadness underlying this serenity. The stark absence of humanity-in-motion is telling. It’s a blaring reminder of so many people who’ve lost jobs and are struggling to pay rent, buy groceries, take care of their families, or are separated from their loved ones. And it’s telling the story of the courageous ones caring for others, treating the sick, comforting the dying.  

My momentary lightness of being gives way to the heaviness of human quarantine reality. Every day these feelings rise and fall. It’s Iike trying to find balance on a teeter-totter of emotions holding both joy and sadness, peace and anxiety, hope and grief.   I tilt between stillness and restlessness, boredom and activity, creativity and the mundane, caution and freedom, normal and new normal.  I know that tipping too far in the wrong direction can send me straight to the ground, from where it will be hard to get back up. 

Hard maybe, but not impossible

Because I have a Holy “plumb line” to help me recalibrate my heart and mind. I am eternally connected to the One who gives me life and breath and loves me without condition.

His mercies are new and available every morningevery moment.

His spirit lives in me.  His words. His strength.  His power. His wings.  His comfort.  His love. 

So when I find myself on the downward end of the see-saw, I will plant my feet and push up. Inhale hope and exhale gratitude. Inhale life and exhale possibility.  Inhale love and exhale compassion.  Inhale mercy and exhale grace.  

Inhale and push up.

Who doesn’t love a personalized gift?

I used to be crafty in the “I made it myself” sense of the word. I used to paint pottery and picture frames. I even sketch a little now and then. I used to sew my own clothes. I even made my own curtains and pillows. Nothing fancy — they were very simple. Crafters know there is a certain satisfaction that comes from making something yourself. But somewhere along the way the desire to put in the time and the effort it takes to “craft something” gave way to the expediency of “store-bought”. It’s is great for saving time and energy, but it also sacrifices that sense of accomplishment hand-crafting can bring.  
I remain, however, the joyful recipient of a handmade gift. And a few weeks ago, my friend, Ashley, totally surprised me with an awesome, one-of-a-kind bracelet, hand-stamped with the lyrics from one of our songs called “Stay”. I was completely blown away by the effort and creativity she put into her thoughtful gift. I love it so much we have made them available for anyone to purchase one for themselves. The lyrics were crafted by my wonderful co-writer, Amanda Flynn, and the bracelet made by my friend Ashley @ poeticsoulgifts.com. WIN-WIN!  

Click here to purchase your one-of-a-kind bracelet.

As the Fourth of July rolls around, the word I keep hearing in my spirit is “gratitude.” In these current days here in the United States of America, more and more we find ourselves living in an atmosphere of confusion, division, blame, accusation, and even disillusion and disappointment. I can get so focused on the bad that I totally miss the good. And though I am inclined to be a cup half-empty person, and I’ve been known to complain (say it isn’t so), that’s not who I was made to be. I’m still growing into the person I want to be. I know there are good people doing good and beautiful things that are spreading hope and love in this world. I want to be one of them.

I read a book several years ago by one of my favorite Christian authors, Ann Voskamp, called “One Thousand Gifts.” It’s about intentionally cultivating a life of thankfulness. She says that thanksgiving changes the atmosphere. It changes your perspective, which changes your attitude and ultimately, your heart.

As I write today, I am sitting on a balcony in the Colorado mountains listening to the rushing waters of a mountain stream. Blessed. Thankful. At rest. At peace. Aspen trees rustle in the breeze, and I am overwhelmed with appreciation for my even getting to be here in this beautiful place.  I have so much to be thankful for. This place is a gift. My children are a gift. My husband and partner in life – a gift. Music is a gift. The air I breathe is a gift. Today – This day – is a gift.  As we prepare to celebrate the America’s birthday,  I am aware that this country I live in is also a gift. I am grateful for all who have fought for it and struggled to helped make and keep us a free nation.

I hope you will also breathe a prayer of thanksgiving as you are celebrating the 4th, whether it be with friends and family or complete strangers. Look for the good. Celebrate with hope. Thank God for His creation. Remember that God is in every face you see. Take a minute and thank Him for the good things in your life, even if it’s just for the air you breathe. Oh, and maybe also for freedom celebrations and fireworks too.  

I’ve always loved a road trip. When I was a little girl, my family would take long cross-country road trips in the summertime. Our Oldsmobile station wagon would be packed tight and loaded down with every little thing that our Mom could think of that 4 girls could possibly need while traveling away from home. My Dad did all the driving, and I guess since I was the youngest and smallest of the 4 sisters, I was relegated to the front seat between my Mother and Daddy (back when cars had a bench front seat.)

But honestly, this was my favorite place to ride, next to Daddy. To pass the time on long drives, my Dad would sing. Mother would often join in harmony, and sometimes we all sang along. We sang songs in a round like “Row, Row, Row your Boat.” And Daddy always sang, “Old Man River” or “Red Sails in the Sunset.” He would sing a line and then we would all echo.  Sometimes he and I would sing together while everyone else in the car slept. I always tried hard to stay awake. I was afraid that if I fell asleep I would miss something in the ever-changing landscape, as we rolled through small towns, big cities, and the mountains, past winding rivers and sleepy farms. I loved those road trips sitting next to Daddy.  

In the summer of 1970, The Carpenter’s song, “Close to You,” was all over the radio. That summer, my Dad rented a big U-Haul truck to help my Grandad move from Abilene, Texas to John Day, Oregon, and he brought along my sister and me for the ride. We were probably 10 and 12 years old.

To us, this was a grand adventure. I remember bouncing around in that big old truck cab that seemed so high up above all the other cars and singing along to the radio, and everytime “Close to You” came on we’d turn it up loud and sing along. We sang, “Ahhhh…Close to You” all the way to Oregon and back. Singing and riding next to Daddy.   

I still love a road trip. And I still love to turn up the radio and sing along.  Maybe it’s in my blood. 

“I loved my life away, takin’ it slow 
Flying a hundred miles straight down Mercy Road”

My Mother passed away in 2017, just as we were starting to record songs for a new album. We had a working title for the recorded tracks, but no real lyric direction. About a month after the funeral, my sisters and I were going through my Mother’s things and I found a photograph of her from 1967 that I had never seen before. She was dressed in a very sophisticated 1960’s “Jackie Kennedy” look with long gloves and a wooly swing coat with rounded collar and a big button at the top. She had on this big black hat with beautiful feathers on the brim.

It was a striking photo and she was gorgeous! My Dad was sitting next to her with the biggest grin on his face. I loved that. They were married almost 70 years. Their story is one of love, adventure, and “sticking it out” through thick and thin. They were on a journey through life together. And the road was paved with grace and mercy.

My Mother, Kay, loved people.

She was the queen of hospitality. She grew up in a slower time when folks just dropped in to chat awhile, and if the visiting ran into dinner time, they were always invited to stay and eat supper. This gift of hospitality continued when she married my Dad, Ray. They loved to have people over to play games, eat dinner, and sing together which led to a once a month Sunday night tradition known as “Song-n-Supper.”

Mother loved to cook and we loved to eat. We were often her guinea pigs for the latest Good Housekeeping magazine recipe. During family holidays, she spent most of the day in the kitchen. As soon as one meal was prepped, cooked and cleaned up, the next one was already being planned. She loved to throw birthday parties and gatherings, and they often had a theme. She made DIY party decorations and favors long before Pinterest or DIY or was ever a thing. She almost never threw anything away that could possibly be used again or made into something  else later, ensuring that my 3 sisters and I had an endless supply of paper and string, clothes-pins, boxes and containers, bits and bobs, and whatcha-ma-call-its for crafts and art projects.

Mother loved Jesus, and she loved the Bible. She also loved music. She was a singer and also a writer, so I guess I come by it honestly. She had a beautiful clear soprano voice, and she and my Dad could burst into song at any given moment harmonizing beautifully with each other, especially on songs from the 40’s and gospel hymns. They sang together with a group of their friends at hundreds of weddings through the years.

She even asked us to sing songs about heaven as our family gathered around her bedside in her last days of life. We sang as many gospel hymns about heaven in that hospital room as we could think of. It’s a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.   She and Daddy were married for almost 70 years. Their’s is a story of friendship and family, love and laughter, wisdom and strength, grace and mercy. I guess you could say hers was a life well-lived and especially well-loved.

“I loved my life away, taking it slow,

Flying a hundred miles straight down Mercy Road.”

– lyrics from “Mercy Road” written by Caryl Parker, Scott Parker and Ronn Chick

“And I never knew that a heart like mine could be loved by you,

But you love me 
You don’t leave 
You stay”

“Stay” was a co-write with Scott, Ronn Chick and myself, along with the super talented lyricist, Amanda Flynn. I love the retro feel of the music and the way the lyric rises and falls with the melody. This one is just a feel-good love song, and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

I’ve never used horns on any of my earlier recordings, but this song was screaming for “Burt Bacharach horns.” So I tracked a couple of horn part lines on the keyboard and sent them to John Painter who worked his magic, and I still giggle everytime I hear them. This one just makes me smile. I hope it makes you smile too.

I’m really a wanna-be gardener. An amateur at best. But it’s my happy place. It’s where I think and write and get my hands dirty. Here I can totally lose track of time.

I think songwriting can be a bit like gardening. Some songs just fall out. It’s as if the idea was just dropped there and germinated on its own, growing into a full-fledged song without much effort on my part. Those are the rare ones, and they are gifts from above. More often than not, my songs need to “winter over” before they find their way to full expression. I’m a contemplator, and I need time to fully develop a lyric – searching for the right words to convey the idea. Most lyrics need a little weeding and pruning (or maybe a lot), removing this line or that word in an attempt at being sure every word matters to the song. I’m usually after the element of truth that makes a lyric connect with the listener.

I hope, as I’m growing as a writer /gardener, that this process may get easier or at least faster and hopefully, the good ones will outweigh the not-so-good ones. (And I’ve written many lousy ones!) I think the key is finding good collaborators/co-writers who stretch me and inspire me, and together we find JOY in the process.

I love this time of year when winter is giving way to spring. It’s a moment by moment  transition. The woods are just outside my back door, so I have a front row seat to a continuously unfolding, natural work of art. I love the mess. The wild disarray of dead leaves and fallen branches, mossy tree trunks and tangled ivy lay a beautiful backdrop to the understory of sleepy ferns uncurling amid carpets of tiny woodland wildflowers, while overhead bright green buds are appearing on dormant dead-like tree branches.

I’ve been through a winter of sorts too, a dormant season when things lie buried.  But always, deep down, the roots are still there, waiting for the right moment to awaken. And when it does, it feels good.

New energy – New life.  I guess some things just take a little time and care, patience and encouragement…. and love, especially love.