Adventure, Camaraderie, Companionship, Love, and Fun

I’m going to start with the obvious. Cancer sucks.

We’ll get back to that in a moment.

Miami is my hometown and Tampa is where I now reside. However, Orlando holds a special place in my heart. Yes, Disney is one of those reasons, but also because Orlando has been the host to so many music related memories for me. The nightlife in O-Town in electric, and the music scene is exceptional. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours (and dollars) have been spent at the House of Blues Orlando experiencing the music and basking in the fellowship of my friends.

HOB is also a venue frequented by Sister Hazel. Lee and I have had the privilege of seeing them perform there nine times, and each show is equally fun and amazing. Unfortunately, the last time we saw them there was bittersweet. It was April of 2013, and it was the day our friend Dave Hewey lost his battle with Cancer. We got the news as we were pulling into the parking lot at Downtown Disney, and we knew our minds and hearts would be with his wife Lori and her son Colby that evening.

But as is usually the case with live music, something magical happened. Sister Hazel prepared to perform their song Karaoke Song, a song in which Dave and Lori are mentioned in the lyrics. As front man Ken Block introduced the song, he paid a quick tribute to Dave and spoke about what he meant to the Hazelnut community.

“Tattoo Dave would have liked us to play this song and have a great time because that guy’s entire life was about adventure, it was about camaraderie, it was companionship, it was about love, but most of all it was about fun.” Anyone who had the honor and pleasure of having known Dave would most certainly agree. Dave lived his life the way he wanted to live it, and his memory serves as an inspiration to me when I feel I am holding myself back. Trepidation, doubt, fear; I don’t think those were words in Dave’s vocabulary.

I think we all want to live our lives that way, free from our own limitations and full of a genuine appreciation for the living experience. A life that is lived with such passion and love, it merits being immortalized in the lyrics of a song by your favorite band.

Tattoo Dave
We love you, Dave, and miss you tremendously.

 

UpLIFTed: Pt. 2

Very few people really enjoy starting anew. Personally, I very much try to avoid getting out of my routine and taking on something new. That is the primary reason I found myself flabby and lethargic at the end of 2013, and feeling simply disgusted with myself.

This year, Lee and I decided to do something about it, and we not only changed what we ate but how we ate. Going through that lifestyle change was difficult, but it was worth it. Looking back on the past year, nine months removed from that first day of ‘diet’, I can’t fathom the idea of eating some of the stuff we had been eating on a regular basis. What is maltodextrin anyway?

We’re also six weeks into a regular fitness routine. Our new normal is waking up early to be at the gym at 5:00 AM. It was grueling at first, but we both enjoy the extra energy we now have as a result of getting our heart going so early in the day. We’re also starting to see the subtle muscle definition that comes with working out (almost) daily.

What does this have to do with Sister Hazel you ask?

Back in late 2004, when my life hit rock bottom, there was one song that almost literally defined my existence. It’s a song I would turn to when I had nothing and no one else. And it’s a song I consider to be an example of lyrical genius.

Depressed

The song is called Another Me and it is on the album Lift. It tells the story of a person’s struggle to get through the tough time, to get back to some sense of normal.

And I’m waiting for another me
One that can change the pain of yesterday
Carry me through another day

That was my everyday for the better part of six months. Taking showers until I was shivering from the hot water having run out. Crying myself to sleep. Drinking myself to sleep. Feeling delirious because I hadn’t slept in 32 hours. All the time waiting for ‘another me’ to show up.

I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t realize that season in my life was a process I had to experience in order for that ‘another me’ to arrive. Not unlike starting and sticking to a new diet or workout regiment, getting from bad to good takes time. There is no fast forwarding through the process, no matter how much it sucks or how badly you desire to get there.

I am blessed to have the ability to look back and see the path that lead me to where I am today. I’ve learned many things from those moments, the most important being that it does get better. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. The key is not to get there overnight; that’s never going to happen. The key is to make tomorrow just a little bit better than today.

What’s really ironic is that in my darkest moment, I lost faith in God. He, however, was faithful to me, and He opened my eyes to the reality of what I needed to face and overcome. By placing my faith back in Him, God delivered ‘another me’.

“Another Me”

Diggin’ in for another day
Carrying on in my own
But you know me
I live and die nearly every day
Insanity, it’s havin’ its way with me

These days in the gallows
I’m kneeling at the block
With my neck outstretched
And I should’ve stayed in the shallows

But you know me, I’m in too deep
And I’m waiting for another me
One that can change the pain of yesterday
Carry me through another day
And I’m waiting for another me
One in between the burn
And the lessons learned
‘Cause being me ain’t no way to be

I’m talking law down at Murphy’s Bar
Unhappy hour on my own last call
Calling me out on my living lie
Looking for luck I can’t even buy
[Chorus]

Give me one chance at recovering
What was lost
And give me one shot at redemption
At any cost
Repair my way before it breaks me
Don’t break me

Hello did you notice me
Can’t you see that I’m crumbling down
Tired of the same old same
I’m coming to
I’m coming back around
[Chorus]
[Chorus]

UpLIFTed: Pt. 1

To say the music of Sister Hazel has changed my life would be an understatement. The genesis of the life I’ve lived since 2003 is rooted in their music, as well as in the community of the band’s fans known as the Hazelnuts. As I continue to come across milestones that represent the passing of the last decade, I would be remiss in not mentioning the influence of Sister Hazel in my life these past ten years. And in joining my wife’s current blogging project, I think I will take the next 3o days to write about the awesomeness that is Sister Hazel.

I have a very special connection to the band’s fifth studio album Lift. It was released ten days before my dad died, and at a time when my life was unraveling. There was so much anxiety, uncertainty, and pain in my life in the late Summer of 2004, one of the few solaces I had was diving into each song on the CD. Many of the tracks would resonate with me, some immediately, some over the following year.

I played it on repeat on my drive from Tampa to Miami before my dad’s passing. I listened to it incessantly as I was working on his eulogy. I still listen to it today when I need ….. well, a Lift in my day.

Lift

One of the songs that has left a tattoo on my soul is Lay It Down. As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle spirituality of this song. To me, it’s a reminder of surrendering the burdens we carry, and letting go of the weight that holds us down. All too often we try to put on a strong face for others, when all we’re really doing is living in the white lie of the moment. It has been my experience that truth really does set you free. Only when we embrace the truth, and deal with the realities of life head on, can we allow ourselves to live to the fullest.

My (mis)adventures of 2005 brought this sentiment around full circle, and Lay It Down has become part of the foundation on which God has put me back together and built a ‘better me’. (that’s a tease of the next post)

If you’re not familiar with the song, I hope you will take a moment to give it a listen and allow it to be a positive beacon in your life the way it has been in mine.

“Lay It Down”

You need a little makeup dear
To cover up all your stains
With another trick right here, yeah
You fool them all once again

You need a little emptiness
Before you know what is real
And take a little taste of wine, yeah
To give yourself half a chance

And when you’re weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul

And with these treasures you have found
The broken pieces of your crown
It’s time to lay your cross on down

(Lay it down)
And with this kingdom you have now
It’s time to lay your cross on down
You better lay it down

You carry in a bright white lie
To cover up all your shame
You’re gonna have to testify
To color in all your claims

And when you’re weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul and
Spend your days not falling down
Before your empty idols
[Chorus]

Lay it down
(Lay it down)
Chorus

It’s How You Choose To Look At Your Life

I saw a meme recently. It said something to the effect of, “Nothing makes you clean your house like a friend calling and saying he’ll be over in 10 minutes.” Lee and I are hosting our growth group on Wednesday night, and we’ve been in full cleaning mode since the workday ended.

Normally, this would be a gripe session about an aching back, tired muscles, and dry, cracked hands. But before I started cleaning, I took my wife’s advice by grabbing my mp3 player and listening to a sermon from Elevation Church. Now, I know it may sound strange to fill my time by listening to someone preach, but if you’ve never heard Steven Furtick preach, you’re missing out. This sermon, however, was delivered by Steven’s wife Holly, and it helped me remember to keep things in perspective.

Instead of being pissed about how dirty the grout gets, I should be thankful for the tile floors that decorate the house. Instead of getting furious at the cats that shed all over the place and leave nice, regurgitated ‘presents’ on my lanai, I should be thankful for the companionship they provide and the calm, soothing effect they have on my wife (she’ll be the first to tell you there is no better therapist than those with claws). Instead of fretting about having the house look perfect, I should be focused on the opportunity to invite my friends over and share in continued fellowship with them.

My favorite band Sister Hazel has a song called Change Your Mind. Before he performs it, lead singer Ken Block reminds the crowd that, “It’s not your life. It’s how you choose to look at your life.” All you have to do is change your mind.

So when you’re feeling stressed, change your mind. When you think you can’t, change your mind. When you feel alone, remember that He is always there for you. You just need to change the way you’re looking at your situation.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”Philippians 4:8 

Tasting Colors and Seeing Sounds

I love live music. For me, there’s nothing like it. When you’re invested in a particular band or artist, it makes it that much better.

As I’ve written before, Lee and I are huge fans of Sister Hazel. In many ways, the music of Sister Hazel helped bring us together. When things got really tough for us that first year we were dating, Hazel played a large part in keeping us together.

It’s hard to explain the power, passion, and emotion that goes into watching your favorite band play your favorite songs. Couple that with being surrounded by the friends you love, the very people that make up your music family, and it’s absolutely magical.

We had the privilege of catching Sister Hazel tonight for the 55th time (yes, we’re those types of fans), and it never ceases to be fun and exciting and amazing. My life has been transformed because of their music and the community of fans that music has created. I can’t imagine where I’d be without Sister Hazel, and I am so glad I’ll never have to find out. 

Here’s Lee’s and my favorite song. It is in so many ways “our song.”

Friendly Friday – Danielle Lanier

There are some friendships that can only be described as serendipitous. And in my experience, if there is one thing that tends to create serendipitous moments, it’s music.

I’ve been so very fortunate to be surrounded by such a wonderful collection of friends, all of which share the same passion and affection for music (specifically live music). I like to refer to these people as my music family, and one of these individuals is Danielle Lanier.

Danielle is currently the Director of Program and Family Services at Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa. The Children’s Cancer Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Tampa Bay families of children with cancer or chronic blood disorders such as Sickle Cell Anemia. Their mission statement speaks to helping families cope, and they could not have a better member on their team than Danielle.

Danielle is full of life and just screams vivaciousness. Her smile can light up a room, and she’s simply a joy to be around. But what really sets her apart are her absolute love for music and her selfless sense of giving. Danielle has merged those two by incorporating music into the many support programs offered at the Children’s Cancer Center. From live performances to field trips to a concerts to simple music instruction, Danielle is helping make the lives of children battling cancer a little bit brighter with every note, melody, and lyric.

And it is lyrics that hold a special place in Danielle’s heart. In addition to her day job, Danielle is also an artist and creator of Lyric Inspired Art. The works are exactly as the name suggests; artwork that is born from the inspiration received by music and the lyrics contained with in. As Danielle states, “I may not be able to perform music, but I am able to pay respect to it on canvas. I am moved by music, the expression, the emotions, the lyrics. My art is a physical recreation of what I feel when I hear songs that evoke an emotional response.” [Be sure to visit and Like Lyric Inspired Art on Facebook.]

I’m honored to be able to call Danielle a friend, and I am inspired by the fact that she wakes up every morning to go something she genuinely loves doing. At the end of the day, that really is what life if all about.

Danielle Lanier with Ken Block
Danielle Lanier with Ken Block

To donate to the Children’s Cancer Center, click here.

Here is a slightly dated article about Danielle in The Examiner.