Never underestimate the intelligence – or enthusiasm – of a child.
This week I enjoyed the privilege of speaking to my daughter’s third-grade class during “Teach In,” an event that invites working stiffs like me into the classroom to share insights into their chosen careers. Yours truly jumped at the chance to jabber about my gig as an executive speechwriter.
Going into it, I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be from these kids. Speechwriting probably isn’t something many of them even know about, much less aspire to do.
But … wow … these youngsters immediately took to my spiel with great interest and were absolutely wonderful to spend time with. They started asking questions right out of the gate. Good questions, too. And when I
took them through a little exercise, asking them to write a few lines about what they love most, I could see their brains kick into overdrive as they scribbled in their notebooks. Several of them had no qualms about standing up to deliver their “speeches.” What a smart and enterprising group!
As I wrapped up, I left them with a simple statement: Believe in the power of words. I told them that using the right words can inspire, persuade and make lasting emotional connections with people.
Just before leaving the classroom, I faintly overheard a few words that truly warmed my heart. A classmate said to my daughter, “Your dad is awesome!” And it got even better from there. When I arrived home from work that
evening, my daughter handed me a stack of 17 thank-you cards from her class, each with a handwritten note and some with elaborate drawings of cruise ships and Mickey Mouse (the fact that I work for Disney Cruise Line certainly gave me some kid cred).
"Thanks a ton for your fantastic presentation," one of the students wrote. "I really learned a lot, like how to write amazing speeches or how not to get upset if somebody doesn't like your speech." Ha, that's funny, kid!
After my time with these third-graders, I can honestly say that I believe in the power of words more than ever.
Another Saturday morning brought another lollygagging cruise on my bike, this time through some of the older neighborhoods hugging downtown Orlando. Not far off the Orlando Urban Trail
I snapped a shot of this old oak tree, with the rising sun piercing its forlorn limbs. A marker on the site estimates the tree's age at about 250 years. Makes this old man feel like a spring chicken!
My Labor Day began with a seaside cruise in Treasure Island, Florida.
All of us were a bit wistful to see summer pack its bags and split. After all, it had been quite a memorable few months. My family took several cool vacations, including longish trips to Washington, D.C., and North Carolina and shorter beach getaways. One of those getaways ended today, Labor Day, and it was especially hard to drive back home, all sandy and sunburned and a little sad.
Sometimes I wonder if taking these festive breaks from reality are truly helpful, at least for me. I realize they de-stress my psyche and recharge my soul, but the next few days at work are exponentially more ... well ... challenging. Nahhh, that's crazy talk. I'm not giving up vacations!!
At any rate, here's to the rest of the year, all those days that we work hard and go to school and move everything forward with a meaningful sense of routine and achievement. I do suggest, however, that we keep a little summertime in our back pockets in the event that things start to go downhill.
"One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Jimmy Page taps an otherworldly spirit
I've been thinking lately about what it feels like to make music, specifically to be playing the guitar at precisely that moment when the mundane turns to magic and some higher power intercedes. I can't say it happens for me frequently, but when it does, it's absolutely intoxicating.
There's a paragraph in a book I'm reading that wonderfully describes this precious spiritual connection (while pointing out the challenges of navigating reality with a music-tuned mind). The book is Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas, and the writer is Kevin Winchester. Brilliant, brilliant stuff, I must say ...
"If you have a choice between music and becoming a heroin addict, pick the smack, it's healthier. Once the music monkey gets on your back, it'll cut a wide path. It'll break your heart, tempt you, tease you, make you miserable and will probably destroy everything around you not related to music. But ohhh, when it's right. when you rake that chord or hit the G run, when the day draws down and a note rings crystal clear as the October air; when the band's sweaty, all lathered up and funky, and the crowd, no matter if it's one or a hundred, is right there with you .... it all comes together and you close your eyes and just feel it and you're gone. Transported, free, sailing above it all, and even if you're not religious, in that moment you know what God is. There are no words to describe it, but it's as real and beautiful and right as anything could be. It's that golden spike in the vein, chasing the dragon, nirvana. It's catching smoke in your hand, and once you've been there, the rest of your life is spent reaching."
That's it, we're always reaching. And hopefully grasping those moments of musical magic as often as possible.
We spent Father's Day weekend in St. Augustine, Florida, a delightful waterfront town that mixes 500 years of fascinating history with tacky tourist-trap sideshows.
After a few hours of admiring the ancient attractions downtown, we headed for a cozy Hampton Inn on the beach.
We returned home the next day with smiles on our faces and sand in our shoes. Here are a few of my snapshots ...
During a stroll in Winter Park today, my kids stopped their arguing and complaining long enough to actually enjoy each other's company. My wife and I wondered how many more times our little ones might actually hold hands like this again. Probably just a few, if that many. Luckily I snapped a quick photo before the tender moment passed.
If your house went up in flames, what would you grab on the way out?
A popular website (and book) called The Burning House
collects answers to this intriguing question in a unique – and uniquely visual
Today, the site featured a response from yours truly. Check it out here
I found myself on a ship again, waking to a sublime sunrise in the warm tropical air. Although it was a business trip, and a hectic one at that, I must say that sailing the open ocean never gets old and always lifts my spirits. Here's to the miraculous moments we find amid the chaos.
My mode of transport
"There isn't any question but that, being in Savannah, being a loafer here, seeing red rivers and red lands, starts something down inside me singing again."
So wrote Sherwood Anderson back in 1930, during a stay in Georgia's haunting old museum of a seaport. I recently enjoyed a one-day stopover in Savannah that included a break-of-dawn bike ride through the historic district, a perfect meal at the Boar's Head
and an excursion to the ancient and eerie Bonaventure Cemetery
just outside of town. The cemetery, by the way, has been a source of inspiration for countless visitors. The great naturalist John Muir spent a week there more than a century ago, sleeping under the moss-covered oaks and ruminating about the relationship between life and death. "You hear the song of birds, cross a small stream, and are with nature in the grand old forest graveyard, so beautiful that almost any sensible person would choose to dwell here with the dead rather than with the lazy, disorderly living." I'm not sure I agree with Muir's sentiment entirely, but Bonaventure certainly did deliver a moving, emotional experience for me on a quiet, breezy Sunday morning.
Below are a handful of the photos I snapped during my ride through town.
When I started this blog five years ago, I spent considerable time on it, hoping to attract readers and gain an audience of some respectable level. For a time, people would find the site and leave comments here and there. My stats showed some noteworthy page views now and then. But like countless other blogs, Guitar Dad failed to gain any real traction and became more of an outlet for me personally, just a place to post thoughts, photos and videos ... an online journal, really.
But there was one reader I could always count on: my dad. He loved to read and re-read the stuff I published on this site. He was my best – and most of the time only
– reader. Whenever I started writing something for Guitar Dad, I always had my dad in mind. What would he think? What could I write that would make him proud and happy?
Today, my father is no longer of this world, having passed away last Friday, March 29, 2013, at 7:18 p.m., his family by his side. We have lost a truly wonderful, honest and kind man, a man of integrity and courage. And Guitar Dad has lost its most important audience ... my most cherished reader.
Thank you for taking such a great interest in this project of mine, dad. I love you and miss you and will think of all the wonderful moments we shared for as long as I live.More about my extraordinary dad here