I love music. So does Lyle Lovett. (For the record, he’s a lot better at creating it than I am. His hair is nicer too!)
Lyle was the guest on a recent episode of the Broken Record podcast, and I loved what Mr. Lovett had to say about how music can connect with your heart while you work, drive, play… “carry on with your life” as Lyle puts it.
I have songs like that – the ones where I remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard them. It really is magical.
The entire interview on Broken Record is quite compelling. Lyle’s a deep thinker. What also stood out to me was his genuine appreciation for the folks who helped him get to where he is today – the songwriters who offered wisdom, the music industry vets who helped him get connected in Nashville, the band who added him to their roster to keep him from being sent home from overseas, the patrons who set him up with studio time to record his songs. At every stop along the way, someone went out of their way to help Lyle, and it’s clear that their kindness meant a great deal to him.
Maybe you can’t play a lick of music. Neither can I. But when we see talent, in whatever field we may be in, we can support it, and encourage it. That’s pretty magical too!
Below I’m republishing a post that originally appeared in July of 2017… because it’s been five years and we still miss “Uncle Neil”…
The year Without A Santa Claus
As I sit down to write this, it’s 10:40 a.m. on a Sunday. Normally I’d be at Mass right now, sitting in the same pew as my wife’s uncle Neil, and his wife Gayle. They were with us on vacation in Florida July 1-8, along with a bunch of Neil’s relatives, and everyone rolled back into town late last Saturday night. After every Sunday Mass, all the family members in attendance always gather and talk for a bit, with Neil at the center of the conversation.
A week ago, it was just Neil, Gayle and me. We chatted for a bit, and said our “see you next week” goodbyes… Neil had a heart attack later that day, and passed away on Thursday. Yes, he was 78, and overweight, and had already had a heart attack and heart valve replacement several years ago… but I still feel like he was stolen away from us way too soon. That’s the way it always is with great folks, and he was a fantastic human being.
There are so many stories I could tell about “Real Deal Uncle Neil” as I called him, but to me the one that best epitomizes his character and caring is this: for nearly 40 years, Neil would dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and spend several hours visiting the homes of dozens of relatives, friends and co-workers, spending a few minutes at each house talking to the kids that lived there, having them sing a Christmas song, reminding them to go to bed early, asking them to leave a snack for his reindeer… totally getting into playing the part of Santa Claus. Our house was one of the stops when our kids were younger, and I’ll never forget the look on our kids’ faces when “Santa” showed up and spoke with them. Pure magic.
Think about that for a bit. For 40 years, Neil sacrificed his Christmas Eve to make others happy. It was no fun riding around dressed up in a sweat-inducing Santa suit, with heavy boots and an itchy beard… but bringing some magic into the lives of others superseded that.
Here’s the thing – the Santa suit was just a prop. Honestly, Neil was the type of person that brought magic into the lives of others every day – kids and adults alike. He had the Irish “gift of gab” and never let the facts get in the way of a good story. He was comfortable talking to anyone and everyone, and always left you with a smile on your face.
In hindsight, as we look back at a few things Neil did on vacation that were a bit more sentimental than usual, we think he knew his time on earth was drawing to a close. We’ll miss him dearly. But I’ll also take solace in the words of Ray Bradbury, from his beautiful story about dying called “The Leave-Taking“:
Important thing is not the me that’s lying here, but the me that’s sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that’s downstairs cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count. I’m not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family.
From the first chapter of the George Saunders book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain:
Over the last ten years I’ve had a chance to give readings and talks all over the world and meet thousands of dedicated readers. Their passion for literature (evident in their questions from the floor, our talks at the signing table, the conversations I’ve had with book clubs) has convinced me that there is a vast underground network for goodness at work in the world—a web of people who’ve put reading at the center of their lies because they know from experience that reading makes them more expansive, generous people and makes their lives more interesting.
I love the concept of a “vast underground network for goodness”… and all it takes is cracking the cover on a good book. (You can use your eReader if you prefer — they certainly have some merits — but I’ll go old school if given my druthers.)
We certainly could use more goodness in the world.
Do you really need to do that Wordle? Watch ten more TikToks? Play Call of Duty for hours?
Reading makes them more expansive, generous people and makes their lives more interesting.
I read an interesting article about Frances “Franny” Wright in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer.
Here’s an excerpt from the article by Jeff Seuss:
A major cause for her was the need for women’s education. From an 1829 lecture:
“Equality! Where is it, if not in education? Equal rights! They cannot exist without equality of instruction. ‘All men are born free and equal!’ They are born, but do they not so live? Are they educated as equals? And if not, can they be equal? And if not equal, can they be free?”
Thankfully, the young women of today are educated as equals in the U.S. But Fanny’s cry for equality still rings true if you look at socio-economic factors.
In this great country of ours, most public school districts receive nearly half of their funding from property taxes. So schools in affluent neighborhoods, where property values are high, receive much more funding per student than schools in areas where property values are lower. In other words, the rich get richer, and the poor get inferior school resources. It’s tough to make progress when every school day is an uphill battle.
“Human kind is but one family. The education of its youth should be equal and universal.”
part of the epitaph on Fanny Wright’s obelisk at her grave in Cincinnati
Big storm rolled into the nasty ‘nati on Wednesday afternoon. Knocked out power in thousands of homes, including ours.
The sudden, unexpected power outage caused a whole host of first world problems. “Oh no, I can’t make a triple berry smoothie and then drink it while watching Real Housewives and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook (if you’re over 50)/Twitter (if you own an electric car company)/Instagram (if you’re a graphic designer)/TikTok (everyone else).”
On a hot day that was muggier than New York City in the 70s, the biggest challenge was the lack of air conditioning. It brought back memories of growing up in rural Arkansas in a house without central air. It’s tough to sleep when you feel that heat pressing down on you. No amount of tossing and turning can shake it off, no shedding of clothing can bring relief.
In my fever non-dreams, I remembered that a tornado touched down about 20 miles away from our house, in Goshen, Ohio, leaving hundreds without electricity. Or running water. Or the only home they’ve ever known.
The earth is nearly 25,000 miles around. 20 miles is a rounding error. It’s also the difference between throwing out some fridge food and starting from scratch.
The power came back on at our house yesterday morning. What was a minor inconvenience to me is a game-changer in Goshen, Ohio.
We’re not in Kansas anymore. We don’t have to be. Severe storms are becoming more widespread, and more commonplace. How long until one takes place at my place?
“The first rule of Colonoscopy Club is: we don’t talk about Colonoscopy Club.”
I’m in favor of getting recommendations for good medical care, but I don’t know that asking a bunch of strangers (albeit “neighbors”) on NextDoor is the right way to go about it. It’s like checking out at the grocery store and having the cashier get on the P.A. saying “I need a price check on Preparation H on Lane 3!”
I suppose what I’m saying is word-of-mouth may not be as relevant when we’re talking about a doc who is sticking a camera pretty far away from your mouth.
Not to mention that you’ll probably only see your doc for about 5 seconds before the sedation meds kick in… and you won’t remember talking to him/her afterwards.
Here’s a Letter to the Editor that appeared in this past Sunday’s Cincinnati Enquirer:
Hear, hear! Responsible gun owners should demand action as much as Moms Demand Action. You would hope common sense were a bit more common. The 2nd Amendment — as Lawre points out — was written when our Founding Fathers couldn’t have imagined the killing machines of today. And the 2nd Amendment was (and is) about arming a militia to protect the security our (then newly formed) country.
So if you want an assault rifle, join the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines… or your local constabulary. But if you’re not in one of those groups, you shouldn’t have access.
Why does the Second Amendment trump our ‘unalienable right’ to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Let’s demand commonsense gun control.
(Full disclosure: I know the letter writer, Lawre. But seeing her letter in the Enquirer was the first time I was aware of her stance on gun regulation.)
Did you know you can save the planet, and that it only takes a couple of minutes? OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but if you switch your search engine to Ecosia, they’ll plant a tree for every 45 searches you do.
So your searches for the latest Kardashian news could actually be beneficial to society. (Reading up on the Kardashians will still rot your brain, but at least the planet will be healthier.)
Oh, and if you switch to Ecosia, you’ll be stickin’ it to The Man, too! The Man, in this case, is actually the 800-pound gorilla of Google. If you use Google for your search engine, they’re harvesting your data and using it to stick ads in your face… and making money off of it. By using a different search engine, you’re improving the overall health of the web.
I made the switch – it was super-easy, took less than 2 minutes, and I haven’t noticed any difference in the quality of my search results.
To be clear, there’s still money changing hands. But the money for search ads will go to Ecosia – a not-for-profit – instead of going into Google’s fat wallet. And Ecosia uses that income to plant trees. Also, Ecosia doesn’t sell your data to advertisers and doesn’t use third party trackers.