Saturday, July 29, 2006

The vocal stylings of.....Pooh Bear?

Music is as a part of me as breathing. I don't just enjoy music, I need it.

So it would follow that I enjoy watching programs about music, and the people who make it. Anyway, that's my excuse for the fact that I have been watching the third installment of MTV's 'Making the Band.'

Now, admittedly, as I watch this reality show about 5 girls, chosen by Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Diddy/Puffy Combs, I have to ignore a lot of things I don't like. While the girls themselves seem quite sweet, the clothes they wear (such as they are), their choreography (handled by the insanely talented Laurie Ann Gibson), and the lyrics to their records (usually NOT written by them) all personify the adage that Diddy himself unflinchingly states in one of the first episodes: "Sex Sells."

In my interest in understanding what it really takes in 2006 to become an artist or group, I ignore much of this. My real curiosity is with the music. The hows and whys and whats of when a record gets made. I enjoy learning about the process.

So I was really looking forward to the show as it began to follow these girls into the studio. But the more I watched, the more it became clear to me that what these girls do in the studio is exactly what they are told.

They walk into the booth after a quick run through with the producer. For one of the first records, the producer was a giant of a man named "Pooh Bear". Mr. Bear cues the music track, and the girl in the booth will sing a line or two. Then, Mr. Bear will sing it to her the way he wants it sung, and tell her to do it again. This will happen over and over again until he has her down singing it with exactly the tone, timing, annunciation, vibrato, and pitch he wants it in.

So, I ask myself: is this the "artist's" record? Is this the group "expressing themselves"? I've come to the conclusion that in today's music world--at least in the pop genre--the record belongs to the producer. The artist is merely a featured guest.

Now, I am not saying that Pooh Bear and his contemporaries aren't talented. I'm not saying they don't know how to put together a song that sounds great and will be a hit, either. They absolutely know what they are doing, and have the resumes to prove it. But whether or not the record is a hit seems to have very little to do with who is singing it. It's also the reason why so often when I turn on the radio, I have no idea who is singing something because it sounds so very similar to everybody else.

And as a music lover, I gotta say--I feel a little bit cheated.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ready or not...

Yesterday morning I was sneaking a few more minutes of sleep before getting up and engaging in the dreaded and torturous ritual I like to call "getting 7 children ready for church when you actually care about what they go to church looking like".

As I dozed, thinking about whether or not I had done a load of whites the night before and would I or would I not HAVE clean underwear for all, I heard my little boy fussing at the bottom of the stairs. He's close to 10 months, and is the cutest thing ever--next to my other kids, of course; and yours, should you be reading and also have children. :)

He kept fussing and babbling intermittently, and I kept intermittently saying, "Ok, honey--just a minute!" Until his babbles and whimpers sounded far closer than I knew they should for a child at the BOTTOM of the stairs. I jumped up from my bed to see my little man crawling to me with a very satisfied look on his face. My stomach lurched as I thought of his little never-even-tried-the-first-step-before body making it's wobbly, inexperienced way up to mommy and daddy's room. I said a silent thank you to those overworked guardian angels that hang out at our house, and held him close.

I went on with my morning, finding tights here and scriptures there, but I couldn't shake the feeling that a parent always gets when their child does something the parent didn't know they were capable of yet. That sinking reminder that we don't get to decide when they are ready to try something new. That out of control feeling. That "but the world is so big and my child is so small" feeling.

As we rushed out the door to make it to service, my 2 year old daughter was shoeless and frantic, trying to get my attention. "But Mommy!! I not ready!!"

Me neither, sweetie. Me neither.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A few words to my 14 year old former self…

Finding someone to love you shouldn’t be the only thing you care about, it’d be better if you just learned to love yourself.
You really will regret waiting for everything to be perfect before you are willing to try things.
You’re not going to marry the leader singer of Duran Duran….sorry.
That body you hate? It’s beautiful. You’re gonna miss it.
What’s happening in your family doesn’t have anything to do with God.
In fact, God really isn’t any happier about what’s going on than you are.

Take better care of your teeth.
You think you are not having kids. Not only are you going to have kids, you’re going to have SEVEN. You heard me.
Give yourself, and everyone around you, a break.

You’re going to wish you’d been quiet a lot more than you’ll wish you’d been able to say everything you were thinking. Oh, boy are you going to wish that.
Life really can be full of wonderfulness. It’s okay to shake off the dust from the bad stuff and just be happy. And, yes, Miss Smarty Pants, ‘wonderfulness’ is so a word.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Heart trouble...

I haven’t been feeling well, and it turns out I have heart trouble. Well, no trouble from the heart murmur I have had since my childhood. My blood pressure is fine, too--right where it ought to be. The actual organ seems to run fine, actually.
It’s just that while I’ve been pondering on the reasons why I haven’t felt well lately, it occurred to me that somewhere along the line, my heart has hardened up. Now, I am not talking about the arteries-are-clogged-gotta-go-for-unclogging-surgery kind of hardened.
I’m talking about the kind of hardened where my first reaction when a neighbor needs my help isn’t a willingness to do what I can, but irritation at a schedule interrupted. The kind where, when my children need me, I don’t get that maternal pull to serve, but instead I feel annoyed and put upon. The kind of hardened where, when my husband reaches out for me, I allow my own thoughts and problems to crowd him out. The kind where every single thing I should be grateful for is instead some kind of burden.
The scriptures talk about hearts being hard, or cold. A lot. Perhaps that’s because it tends to be a problem for some of us. The scriptures are good for figuring out things like that, I’ve found.
So…I’ve got some softening up to do.
And, like so many other things in life, it will happen when I stop being so dang preoccupied with myself. To soften my heart, I have to be more concerned with what others need than with what I need. It has to matter to me that the people around me feel loved and cared for—that they know they are valuable. They should understand that they mean more to me than any schedule or temporary task. It needs to be that my actions show that my heart is softened towards them…that my heart is centered on what I can give, not what I can get.
Heart trouble really is the worst kind of trouble there is. And I can’t wait to start feeling better. Something tells me everyone around me will start feeling better, too.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's not the band aid, really....

I yelled at my 16 year old daughter yesterday.

Heavy sigh. There goes my mother of the year award. Again.

See, she had fallen, and inflicted a pretty nasty gash on her leg. And well....she wouldn't let me put a band aid on it. And that infuriated me. I know, I know, but let me explain.

I'm a mom. More importantly, I am her mom. And what is a mom's job? To fix things.
To kiss boo-boos and put on a band aid and to "make it all better."

But she is a 16 and half year old young woman now, and there is a whole lot I can't fix for her. I can't fix it when she likes a boy sooooooo much--and he doesn't like her back. I can't fix it when her friends leave her out, or hurt her feelings. I can't fix it when she struggles with her advanced classes in school. (believe me, I can't, especially math) I can't fix it when she feels uncomfortable in her own skin. I can't fix it when, in a house full of family, she feels lonely.

It hurts to know that my kisses can't mend her bruised heart, although I offer them anyway. It stings to realize that I don't have a band aid for the boo-boos to her spirit. I am her mother, and I can love her and pray for her and worry about her. I can ache for her and tell her that I understand. I can hold her when she'll let me. I can help her and comfort her and give her advice when she'll hear it. I can do all those things and yet, there is so much in her life right now that I cannot make "all better."

The opportunity to mother her that way doesn't come along as often as it used to, and frankly, I miss it. I miss being the mommy who can "make it all better" for her.

I guess that's what I was really yelling about.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

For me, a loaded question...

I have a hard time answering this question:

"How many kids do you have?"

Now, I can add. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I have 7. Four boys, 3 girls. And it's not like my memory is that bad, I don't generally forget that little tidbit of information. It's just that...well, for me, that question is a loaded one. If I answer that question, generally 2 things happen that I am not really happy with:

1) I become "the woman with the 7 kids." From that moment on, that is how I am defined. I walk into a PTO meeting, a book group, the grocery store--and that is my introduction. "This is happymommy, she's the one with 7 kids!!!" Now, I adore my children and had each and every one of them because I wanted to, so I don't mind being defined as their mother; however, I mind being defined ONLY as their mother. I am a complex, multi-faceted woman, people!! Come on!

2) I become sort of unapproachable to moms with less children than me. I have had so many conversations with other moms that start out, "I know you probably think I am just silly for having this problem..." as though, because I have 7 children, I have never had a problem. Excuse me? I was having a nice little conversation with an aquaintance at church while we nursed our babies one Sunday in the mother's lounge. She was talking to me about some struggles she was having, and I was just enjoying listening to her. Suddenly, she gets a horrified look on her face and says, "Oh, like I can EVEN complain to YOU! I must sound so whiny and stupid to you!!" Nope. You just sound like a fellow mommy.

So, now you know why I hestitate to answer that question. It changes things.