Fourteen Years and…

the family

Fourteen years and…

Sixteen attendants (eight each)

Four ushers.

One flower girl.

One ring bearer.

Two guest book attendants.

One wedding coordinator.

One pastor.

One beautiful bride.

One anxious/excited/humbled groom.

Two people became one.

Two families merged into one bigger family.

Two dogs (RIP)

One apartment.

6 Houses.

Two States.

Lots of Jobs.

One Record.

One Book in progress.

Two lawnmowers.

One pool.

Four health clubs.

Several churches.

One Masters Degree.

Two bands and one solo effort.

Six guitars, two keyboards, one drumset, a PA, dozens of effects pedals a few amps and one piano in need of tuning.

Half a dozen bicycles.

Three grills.

One bedroom furniture set.

Half a dozen sets of couches.

Thirteen cars and one fairly short-lived motorcycle.

Various Apple products.

A few speeding tickets but no accidents. (well the one minor one that the girl on the cellphone hit us).

Paris, Cancun, New York, D.C., LA, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Jacksonville, Portland, Cleveland, OKC, Tulsa, Branson, Vail, Breckenridge, Frisco, Durango, Winter Park, Steamboat, Buena Vista, Cape Cod  Orlando, Clearwater, Divide, Denver, Ouray, Telluride, Guthrie, Lake of the Ozarks, Grand Lake, Lake Tenkiller, Keystone Reservoir, Lake Dillon, Lake Vallecito…

A few blizzards.

A couple tornados.

Some hailstorms (sorry VW Passat).

One house fire.

Some CRAZY wildfires.

A couple leadership scandals.

A shooting.

9/11

Two wars.

Three Presidents.

Five Governors.

Four Mayors.

Three Popes.

$0.89 to $4.00 in gas (and about the same for milk).

Dozens of weddings, baby showers and celebrations of wonderful friends and family.

187 viewings of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Even more (for Jenn) of Sweet Home Alabama, Family Man When Harry Met Sally.

Nine Seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Three, err, well “4” seasons of Arrested Development.

Six seasons of Big Bang Theory.

One Avalanche Stanley Cup

One Broncos Superbowl.

One Rockies World Series (appearance).

Two Red Sox World Series.

A thousand tears.

Millions of laughs.

Two years of absolute hell.

Which yielded…

A birth:

One fantastic 9 year old boy with a blue belt in Taekwondo and a heart of gold.

An adoption:

One joyous 2 year old boy with the best hair and smile ever.

Two people turned into four.

One Jesus.

One Marriage.

Two best friends.

One life to share together.

One very thankful man who recognizes he doesn’t deserve any of it.

 

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Good Salsa And Other Reasons I Enjoy Cooking

meryl julia

I just made some of the best salsa ever.  I borrowed a recipe form my friend Larry and adjusted it to my liking.  Basically, I took half a bag of assorted peppers from Costco (red, yellow and orange) added about 8 serrano pepers, 24 cherry tomatoes, a big handful of cilantro and a clove of fresh garlic.  Then added a touch of salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.

My favorite part, and this is ironic since I’m not really detail person, is the preparation.  It’s critical that before I put an ingredient in the blender, I have to really, really finely chop all of it.  This takes a lot of time, and I have to be careful not to slice my finger off (close call today btw).  The garlic has to be peeled down to it’s moist center, cilantro has have leaves and stems separated (but not completely). It’s highly detailed and repetitious.

There’s something calming, peaceful and highly fulfilling about the process.  I love to take a couple chips and taste-test along the way.  Add a little more garlic, maybe a few more tomatoes, etc.  The tactile nature of it all engages all 5 senses, taste, touch, sight, hearing and especially smell.   Knife in hand, cutting board beneath the ingredients and with each crunch and slice of the knife the pungent garlic, the unique spicy smell of cilantro and the the peppers waft up from the countertop filling my mind with memories of past recipes.

Each ingredient reminds me of other dishes, and the satisfaction of the final product, savoring each bite of the newly amalgamated dish and realizing that I don’t have quite the appetite I thought I did because of all the quality control testing along the way .

All of this is so satisfying for me, I don’t even mind doing the dishes after – and if you know me, that’s a big deal.  Sometimes it’s just nice to forget about the other cares of life, work, finances, projects, etc. and just engross myself in a simple process and harken back to simpler times. Plus, I really, really like good food.

Silence

elipsis thought bubble

A recent twitter conversation with two fellow artists/musicians got me thinking.  It all started in discussing this NY Times piece on silence, solitude, technology and creativity.  It reminded me of an interview I heard on NPR a few years ago with acclaimed director Martin Scorcese.

In the interview Scorcese was talking about media inundation.  He said that we live in a world in which we are constantly bombarded with new information.  At one point it was normal for the average american to receive 2000-3000 media messages per day including billboards, signs, web banners, radio spots, TV spots, etc.

Think about that: several thousand messages a day.

Scorcese went on to say that because we are so inundated, “we never really feel the full impact of any work of art because we’re incapable of processing that much information.”  As remedy he recommended intentional times of silence in order to emotionally recharge and be able to absorb the fuller impact of the art with which we choose to interact.

I took that to heart.  At that point I was a serious talk radio addict (hence my NPR listening as well as many others).  I was also commuting about an hour to an hour an a half round trip every day.  So for that period of time I decided to follow in the words of Depeche Mode and “enjoy the silence.”

Cheesy puns aside, the next several months were some of the most creative I’ve experienced.  I’ve always had a notebook and recording device full of half-finished (at best) song ideas.  That year I wrote, produced and recorded my first EP. And other areas of creativity flourished as did my ability to emotionally interact with the art I was choosing to consume and I was growing in my ability to better understand that of which I partook.

Since then, I’ve mostly held to the no radio rule I made for myself.  I’m not legalistic about it; sometimes I’ll take that time to really digest a new album, or occasionally splurge on some talk radio in political seasons, or sports radio if my teams are doing well.  But mostly. I am intentionally silent in the car, and it’s become a welcome respite for me.

Why I Believe in the 2nd Amendment

My wife and I just bought a new home.  Actually we bought a 110-year-old Victorian  that was recently remodeled just west of downtown.  We’ve been in the process of moving some ancillary items, storage, closets, kitchen non-essentials, etc.  We had planned to take it easy and have a big moving day this coming Saturday.  Everything was going swimmingly until Saturday night, or rather Sunday afternoon.

I had a gig Sunday morning in Denver, so I got up early drove up, and did my thing.  I finished about 2:30pm and was driving home when I got a hysterical call from my wife.  Apparently, sometime Saturday night, some homeless people, broke into our new home through the basement window, and made a general mess of things.  They didn’t take much, thankfully, but they ate pretty much all the food we had there, stole some medicine and alcohol and made a huge mess.

Jenn called the police, they came out and did a report, and we hoped that would be the end of it.  We were wrong.

We decided it would be a good idea for me, our two 80 lb labs, my friend Ryan, and our two handguns to stay the night last night, just in case they came back.  I printed off some makeshift signs and taped them into all the windows.  They read,

“WARNING!!!  If my two 80 pound dogs don’t get you, my gun and I will if you come into my home again.”

Well, Ryan and I were settling in, and about 11pm last night, we heard some noise outside.  Ryan said, “Brandon, I think they’re back.” He grabbed his .40 caliber and ran downstairs.  I grabbed my Walther PPK 9 millimeter and followed.  Ryan ran out the front door, I glanced out, saw a couple girls across the way and that Ryan had made his way around the side of the house  (where the basement windows are) and towards the back.  I ran to the back of the house and came out to find Ryan had cornered two guys next to our back deck.

We confronted them, warned them we had loaded guns and that we were calling the police.  Apparently Ryan had found one of them in the window well trying to get in.  I called the police, they arrived moments later, and a couple hours later, the situation was over.

It turns out our homeless friends (each supplied heavily with pot, the police found) had some warrants, and some other issues.  They said “their friend Trey told them about the house and that he stayed there last night and it would be a safe warm place for them to squat.”  They swore they weren’t they to cause any trouble take or damage anything, and that they were simply looking for a warm place to sleep.  (I told them they were in luck, they jail they’d be staying in tonight was nice and warm.)

Here’s the thing, I really honestly thought no one would be stupid enough to return to the scene of the crime the night before.  Again, I was wrong.

I am thankful we live in country where it is a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  And I believe that this is one of those instances where that right proves the idea that legal and responsible gun ownership prevents crime, whereas unlawful gun use increases crime.  Because Ryan and I have been around guns, have been through training on how to handle a weapon safely and responsibly (we both had father’s in law enforcement and both considered a career in the field), we were able to use the threat of force without having to use any force and in the end no one was hurt and a further crime was prevented.

Thank God, that’s all that happened.

What is Calling?

What is God’s will?  What is the right thing to do?  How does one know that one is doing what they were meant, or made to do?  Are these are intrinsically American questions, rife with comfort so we are able to even examine ideas? Or is there something bigger, something deeper in all of us that, by ignoring, puts our fulfillment, and perhaps the help of others, in peril ?

Yes. No.  And maybe some grey.

I think that as long as I can remember I’ve felt like I was made to do certain things.  As a boy, adolescent, and young adult being an athlete meant a great deal to me.  As a result, I often thought or said things like, “I was born to do this.”  The rush of adrenaline, the thrill of winning, the feeling of a well-timed, well-executed play in hockey or volleyball, were for me the very elements of a life well-lived.

Similarly throughout my life, the resonance I’ve felt with music has often left me speechless, which for those of you who know me, is something.  I often relate to the moment in Chariots of Fire when the main character Eric Liddel, a missionary with great athletic prowess, tries to explain to his sister why he runs.  “When I run, I sense God’s pleasure.”  Liddell is saying that he senses calling, meaning, fulfillment, and great results when he does what he was built to do.  I often feel that way while playing music.

Which brings us back to the question of whether that feeling is legitimate or not.  It’s been said that human beings make decisions based on emotion, and justify using reason.  If that’s the case, what is to be made of this idea of calling?  What do we do with the things we dream of doing?  Are we merely justifying our own aspirations in the name of some greater good, or greater force?  Are we blaming God for what we simply want to do?

Or is there something deeply, intrinsically a part of us that resonates when we act upon it?  Is there something, unique to each of us, that causes us to act in a manner that another might not?

And if so, what are we to do about it?  Certainly we ought not throw up our hands and radically redirect our lives in a way that allows us to pursue dreams over our responsibilities.  Or is it our responsibility itself that drives us to pursue our dreams?

This last week I was in L.A. to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  I was impressed by my friend’s friends.  Each of them, in their own way, seemed to be acting upon something that drove them.  All of them were very successful.  All of them were doing things that sounded dreamy.

Over the course of a few days’ interaction these things became clearly apparent.  And over that period of time, I also ran into old acquaintances, and met new ones. It seemed to me that the people I met fell into one of three very stereotypical and generalized categories.  Dreamers, Settlers and Undecideds.

The Dreamers, were much as I’ve already described, they seemed alive, energized (not that they weren’t ever tired or stressed) but the seemed peaceful and fulfilled.  And they also seemed to each have acquired a measure of success in their field of influence.

The Settlers also seemed dreamy, but in a different way, they seemed to reminisce, to remember, and even commiserate.  Each of them also seemed to have acquired a certain standard of living (it was L.A. after all) but it seemed hollow, as if it could collapse at any given time.

The Undecideds were often younger, but not always.  Some fresh out of college, some in the workforce for years.  But each of them seemed to have the hint of both dreaming, and settling within them, as if one might pop out and blossom at any moment, given the right (or wrong) opportunity.

All of this has caused me to reconsider.  What am I doing with my life?  Am I doing what I ought to?  What I should?  What I might be able to do?  Am I fully alive?  Am I simply settling for the trappings of an average, middle class American life?  Of course there’s nothing wrong with an average, middle class American life.  But for me, and I hope for you, this causes more reflection, and ultimately more intention and follow through.

I guess the good news is that on the flight back I wrote a song.  The bad news, I haven’t finished it yet.

King of Glory-EP available on iTunes now

BRANDON2-1

Hey everyone.  Just thought I’d let you know that my EP, King of Glory, is now available on iTunes, Amazon.com, Napster, Rhapsody and basically anywhere you usually get your digital music fix.  I’d love to have your feedback on it.

Along those lines, there have been multiple requests for lyrics, so I’ve uploaded the chord charts (w/lyrics) for each of the tunes here for your viewing, reading, playing pleasure.

Can’t wait to hear impressions from each of you on the project.  Thanks.

Brandon

YOU ALONE

Strength Not My Own

King of Glory – D