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Welcome to my website. I hope you will enjoy the eclectic collection of short stories and essays. They are all very close to my heart, in whichever genre. I always welcome comments and feedback. Once again, I hope you enjoy my site. Thank you.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"A Closer Look at a Life"



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  •        Inspired by … “Only here for a little while” by Billy Dean




The tragic event left no room for anything but remorse.  Not a close friend or family member, the death still crept close to home. 

Jonathan read in the paper yesterday morning, “Local 35 year old man dies of a heart attack.” 

The article, which was the top story in this small town, portrayed a life that many would envy that drew to an abrupt end.

The man, Steven, had been living a full life.  He had a wife and three small children.  He was the principle at the local high school; which enabled him to influence many young lives in a positive and powerful way.  The newspaper article included declarations of just how warm a man he was. 

His wife, in a state of grief from this sudden tragedy, spoke words of deepest adoration for a man she knew and loved.  The man’s friends also spoke glowing testimonials to this man to whom they were all endeared.

Steven had led a very meaningful life.   Although Jonathan only knew the man in passing, the story in the newspaper this morning brought a tear to his eyes.  Thoughts were triggered into Jonathan’s consciousness about his life and how much more he could be living his.

Jonathan was nearly as old as the departed.  Although, he had a wife and daughter, his life seemed insignificant.  His work, which was encompassed by a forty-hour a week union job at the factory in the nearby town, seemed without merit.  The drudgery which he confronted from a vocation which was repetitious and monotonous did not permit room for pride or any creative impulse by which to bring meaning.  The pay he received from a union job was ample; however, the doldrums of his work defined his life.

His married life also was pleasant, but lacked excitement.  He loved his wife and child, yet the routine of life had turned tiresome.

As Jonathan read the story of the death of a young man barely older than he, it caused reflection concerning his own life.

“’Take time to smell the roses, was the saying I guess,'” Jonathan muttered under his breath.  But, what did the trite saying mean?  “I guess it means to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.”

Such thought would point him in the right direction, but where would these transient thoughts lead him?   “I guess it’s a mindset,” Jonathan thought to himself.


He finished reading the newspaper article and poured himself another cup of coffee.  His wife and daughter were still sleeping; he had to awake from bed early every morning to make it in time for the early shift at the factory.  He looked outside his kitchen window and noticed the Sun slowly rising and permeating the shrubbery and the green of the leaves of the trees.  A crooked smile appeared on his face as he folded the newspaper and put it on the table.  He took another sip of coffee and realized it was time to make his way to the work.

The drudgery of his life, briefly contemplated this morning, could not immediately be eradicated; however, as he drove his car to work he felt a tinge of hope in his heart.  It was not hope for a better life or wealth and riches; it was simply hope for the simple splendors that might transpire today.

As he drove to work he put on his favorite radio station.  He listened intently as the music of the background inundated his senses.

Upon his arrival to work he noticed all the familiar faces.  He had friends, but not close friends.  He had fellow craft workers that worked beside him at the factory.   The conversation never got beyond casual cordiality, but there was a certain amount of camaraderie incorporated into the ceremony.

“What was it about? Was it about the perspective by which we lead our lives?”  He didn’t know and the thought escaped his consciousness as quickly as it had entered.

He loved his wife and daughter, but the feelings had become stale.  His love had not faded, but lacked enthusiasm.

He had to bring something new into his life, but he didn’t know what it could be.  “A person’s perspective on life, that’s what it is,” Jonathan thought to himself.  “The only thing that turns a mostly mundane existence to a meaningful existence is perspective.”

As he drove back to work early this evening, these thoughts captured his senses once more.  He
listened to the music.  The newspaper article, still fresh in his mind, caused more thoughts to arise in his mind. 

The man who recently had died had lived a full life.  His life had been similar to Jonathan’s own.  What made the life of the deceased seem more precious than Jonathan’s?  It was the love.  It was the love that he felt in his heart, it was the love he felt for his family, it was the love that he felt for his friends.  It was the love in his heart that had endeared him to so many people and had brought meaning to his life. 

Jonathan arrived home from work.  He turned on the television before eating dinner for his family.  He hugged his daughter and kissed his wife.  They had their dinner together while they enjoyed a trivial sit-com on TV.


It was the love that had endeared so many to Steven.  It was love that Jonathan hoped he could give to his family and love by which to live his life.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Top 10 Country Songs ... 2013"



“Top 10 Country Songs … 2013”



2013 was a great year for country music.  It was both a year for new songs from some favorite artists and a year for break-through artists to establish their presence in the world of country music.  Some of the songs on this list did not generate much air play; however, I chose them along with the others for their innate brilliance.  Others of these songs are new songs from established artists that radiantly reflect their reputable career.  However, they all exemplify the greatness of country music.

I, through the past year, have been taking note on songs that have bid particularly well on the country music charts, as well as songs that have caught my personal attention for their intrinsic merit.  There were other songs in this past year that have been excluded from this list.  Some of these songs have lasting quality to be shared with generations to come.  Moreover, within the entire catalogue of country music this past year, many others reflect the talent of both their performers and of their writers. 

I am very happy to welcome artists such as Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw to this list for their wonderful contributions to country music this year.  I also welcome artists such as Kacey Musgrave and Locash to this list for their emergence into country music this year. 

However, among the many great songs and performances this past year, I chose to compile this Top 10 list on the preceding criteria.  Hopefully some of your favorite songs will be on this list and hopefully you will enjoy others that did not catch your attention over the past year.






Number 10:        The best seat in the house by Lo Cash
                                Locash Official Fan Page
                                Thebest seat in the house Video

This heart-wrenching song captures the familiar love that a father feels for his son and that a son feels for his father.  This love transgresses time from the boy’s youth to the father’s time in heaven.  From little league games to the son’s marriage, the strong vocals and moving lyrics accentuate the sentiment of a father’s bond with his son.








Number 9:           I don’t want this night to end by Luke Bryan
                                LukeBryan Official Fan Page
                                I don't want this night to end Video

This song, featuring the exceptional vocals of Luke Bryan, captures, with integrity, the heart of country music.  It fuses contemporary country with a strong back-beat, appealing feelings of youth with those of mature enthusiasm.   The song represents another entry to the broad base of music by Luke Bryan in the country music library.








Number 8:           Everybody’s got somebody but me by Hunter Hayes
                                HunterHayes Official Fan Page
                                Everybody’sgot somebody but me Video

This song reflects the influence of a traditional country sound infused with a melodic muse reflecting the nearly forgotten standards of the first half of the twentieth century.  Hunter Haze’s voice and lyrical styling, however, creates a sound that is pure country.  The song highlights a casual wander through an evening or day, whichever you prefer, reflecting the loneliness felt in the song in a trifling manner.








Number 7:           The boys around here by Blake Shelton (with the Pistol Annie’s)
                                BlakeShelton Official Fan Page
                                Theboys around here Video


This song couples the sensual background vocals of the Pistol Annie’s with the classic country singing of Blake Shelton.   The song, released early last year, was Blake Shelton’s ninth number one in a row followed by Mine would be you which was to become his tenth straight number one hit on country music radio.  This song has lasting quality with the purist sounds of country that is its essence.



                               

Number 6:           Blowin’ smoke by Kacey Musgrave
                                KaceyMusgrave Official Fan Page
                                Blowin’Smoke Video

Although Kacey Musgraves has been recording country music for over ten years, she first emerged as a force in country music this past year.  The song,”Blowin’ Smoke,” did not fare well on the charts; however, it received critical acclaim by critics. The album from which it was released, “Same trailer different park” received the Grammy for 2014 Country Music Album of the Year Award.  Hopefully, there will be more music from this talented artist brought our way.




Number 5:           I drive your truck by Lee Brice
                                Lee Brice Official Fan Page
                                I drive your truck Video

Lee Brice has been an artist that has been persistently on the country music charts for the past few years.  He has brought us all a great deal of exceptional music.  However, once in a while an artist such as this will bring us a particularly memorable song.  This song is an example of just that.  This song masterfully captures the loss of a family member poignantly with powerful lyrics and the powerful vocals of Lee Brice.




Number 4:           One of those nights by Tim McGraw
                                TimMcGraw Official Fanpage
                                Oneof those nights Video

 Tim McGraw has been a superstar on the country music scene for more than two decades.  His debut, self-titled album “Tim McGraw”, although not commercially successful, was warmly received by critics.  His second album, “Not a moment too soon” brought to the artist both fame and critical acclaim.  Songs such as “Don’t take the girl,” which reached number one on the country charts, and the title track, Not a moment too soon established Tim McGraw as one of the most endeared performers in country music.  Throughout the years Tim McGraw, has released dozens of chart-topping singles including “Live like you weredying” and “Red, rag top.”  The song, “One of those nights,” was yet another one of the monumental songs in this singer’s acclaimed and illustrious career.




Number 3:           Not my mama’s broken heart by Miranada Lambert
                                MirandaLambert Official Fanpage
                                Notmy mama’s broken heart Video


From the first time that I heard this song, it became one of my favorite country songs; not only of this year, but of the many songs released in the many years that I have been listening to country music.   The song brought to me a new level of appreciation to this singer whose music I have always enjoyed.  The song is true to the folk-rock nature of most of her songs.  Take a listen to this song to see if you agree. 








Number 2:           Downtown by Lady Antebellum
                                LadyAntebellum Official Fanpage
                                DowntownVideo

Lady Antebellum is best known for her cross-over hit, “Need you now,” which helped her earn Grammy’s in 2011 for Best Country Album, Record of the Year, and Best Country Song.  Lady Antebellum’s earlier signature song was “Looking for a goodtime.”  In early 2013 Lady Antebellum released the song, “Downtown” as a return to their country roots.  Although the song did not have cross-over appeal, it was warmly received by country music listeners reaching number one on the country charts.





Number 1:           Begin again by Taylor Swift
                                TaylorSwift Official Fanpage
                
The video to this song is almost as compelling as the song.  The understated beauty of Taylor Swift accents the song which discusses new love after a difficult relationship.  In the video, the artist is adorned in classical attire with the background of classical Paris.  The song, perfectly captured in this video, entreats its listeners to these images every time the song plays.


In 2006, Taylor Swift released her first single, “Tim McGraw.”  The song, although not reaching number one on the country charts, instantly brought fame to this young singer with the listening public eagerly awaiting her follow up song.  The listening public was graced not only by her immediate follow up releases, but also to the rest of her music catalogue to this point in her career.

Taylor Swift has also become a pop icon with her music as successful on pop radio as it has been on country radio.  However, she has stayed true to her country heritage with songs such as “You should have said no,” and her release at the beginning of this past year, “Begin Again.”


In her career, which has spanned eight years, she has received overwhelming commercial success as well as critical acclaim from critics and award giving bodies.  She has sold over twenty million albums nationally with three number one albums on the billboard album chart.  In addition, she has won seven Grammy Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards, as well as dozens upon dozens of other awards.

The song, “Begin again”, with its emotive lyrics and passionate allure, struck a chord with fans as deep as any of her previous releases.   The sentimental love story is pronounced with the lyrics, “I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does isbreak, and burn, and end.  But on aWednesday, in a cafĂ©, I watched it begin again.”  The sentimental nature of these lyrics, as well as the brilliant vocal interpretation of Taylor Swift, establishes this song as a country classic for all time.  




I hope you have enjoyed this “Top 10 Country Music … 2013” list of songs.  Hopefully I have listed a few of your favorites as well as uncovered additional songs you may enjoy.  The vast library of country music is a treasure for us all.  I look forward to another great year in country music.   

You are most welcome to leave comments and to share this list with friends.  Keep an eye open for new “Top 10 Country Music Songs …” in the future.


Thank you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Waiting to Return Once More"

  • ·         Inspired by the song … The Highwayman by “The Highwaymen”


Days flew by very quickly.  Home, here, with my relatives and family, life was magical.   With not much to do but to relish the tranquility and pristine beauty that surrounded me, the drudgeries of my last life were far gone.

I had been a mason worker.  Life had been challenging, but it had been good.  The pain and emotional toil that accompanies everybody’s life had been sometimes present and sometimes persistent, but it had vanished with the bright light that had brought me here where I am today.

When I first came across my parents and my grandparents and all of my old friends, I was overcome with emotion.  The joy I felt instantly lightened my heavy heart and brought me happiness that I had never known before.
.

The many lives which had culminated to this last, had lead me closer to becoming the idealistic version of the person that I would someday be.  It was very comforting to be home with all of my friends and family, but I knew I had pressing business on Earth.

Faint recollections of my many lifetimes inundated my mind, but they only reflected a puzzle of the missing pieces of what I was meant to become.  With every life, I became closer to the realization of just that flawless person.

That was the meaning of existence; life was about the culmination of many lifetimes into the perfect individuals that we would all someday be.
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Friends and family were near and the immaculate surroundings filled my heart with the joy to which I had now become accustomed.    

God had managed to make this existence as meaningful as possible.  In addition to the bliss experienced by all in this place, the physical base of being was maintained.   With a clean and unspoiled heart, we were all able to pursue goals of our own and maintain a lifestyle that contained meaning within itself.  It was not empty joy that we all practiced; rather, our time was spent both pursuing our most ambitious goals and preparing our psyche for our next life on Earth.

After a few decades, I witnessed my close friends and family choose to return to the Earth to begin a new life.   It was with complete understanding that they would not have any memory of this past time that they had experienced.  We could look down now and witness the struggles and toil that accompany life on Earth.  However, they all were willing to choose this venue for the actuality of taking their part in creating perfection on Earth.

As I looked down, I could see my children and grandchildren living their lives’.  I did not weep for them when they were struck with hard times; I simply sent all my love to them to help them through troubles that may have, to them, seemed insurmountable. 

With love and hope, I missed my children.  Although I wished them long flourishing lives, I hoped to see them here one day.

My wife, who had died before I did, was the first person that welcomed me upon my arrival.  She had died of natural causes at a very old age as I did.   When she greeted me we were both as young as when we first met.  My love for her had never vanished. 


The two of us spent our time together as we did on Earth.  As physical beings, what was recognizably different was the feeling of nirvana that was experienced by all on this plane.  We all worked, not for money, but for the pride of accomplishment that it gave us.  We played and enjoyed entertainment, much as we would on Earth.  Every night we went to sleep and every morning we woke up; just as we did on Earth.

However, the time had come for me.   My wife was not ready, but I was.  I would return to Earth.  There was not much opportunity for decision or free will in this matter.  We could not choose who our parents would be and we could not choose any other particular sort of life when we arrived to the Earth.  I was fully aware that I would not remember any of the bliss that had become second-nature here.  However, I also was aware, although I would forget, that someday I would return to this place only to leave again. 

I discussed my decision with my wife.  I discussed with my many friends and relatives, with whom I had been reunited with here.   I discussed with them all my decision had now been made.  As we all do, I would return to Earth and do my bidding.
.

I was cold.  Strange people who I had never seen before surrounded me and my mother.  I was very cold.  The strange people cleaned me in warm water and handed me to my mother.  My mother held me in her arms.


My new life was to begin.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

“In Memory”




Mommy died last year.  I cried and cried, but I couldn’t bring her back.

Daddy said she went to Heaven.  I hope she did.  I loved my Mommy.

This year had been very cold.  Me and my brother played in the snow, but mommy wasn’t here to watch us. 

This was going to be my first Christmas without her.  I had played in the snow, but I was still sad.

Last year’s Christmas had been good.  Mommy was very sick, but she still wanted to make it a good Christmas for me and my brother.  She put up decorations and cooked us Christmas cookies.   On Christmas morning the cookies we left for Santa were gone.

Daddy said Mommy would always love us and that we would always love her, she just wouldn’t be with us anymore.

I had asked Daddy, “Where is Mommy going?”

He told me that she was going to Heaven.  Still, I was very sad.

Mommy died a little while after Christmas last year.  Every year we cut down a Christmas tree and decorated it.  This year was going to be no different except that Mommy wouldn’t be with us.

This morning during breakfast Daddy said to me and my brother that we were going to get a Christmas tree just like we did last year.  I love getting Christmas trees almost as much as I like the presents that Daddy and Mommy always put under the tree.

Still, I was sad.  Mommy wasn’t with us anymore.  Sometimes I still cried.

We searched the Christmas tree farm.  As we looked, Daddy had said that Mommy had gone to Heaven to be with the angels and that she would want us to go on with our lives.’  I missed Mommy, but Daddy kept telling me that she was now in a better place.

It was very cold tonight.  Daddy had us put on mittens.   When we got to the Christmas tree farm, the snow was falling; not a lot, just enough to help me feel like it really was Christmas without Mommy.

Last year Mommy had been with us. 

Some of the trees had icicles falling from them.  We looked through the trees.  We wanted a big tree, but not too big because it had to fit in the house.

I loved Christmas time.  I loved cutting down and decorating the tree.  We looked through the Christmas tree farm and found one that we wanted.  Both me and my brother were much too little to cut down the tree, but Daddy was able to for us.  The cold air felt good to me and I smiled as the tree fell down.

Christmas trees to me were almost as fun as the rest of the holiday.  After Daddy cut down the tree, we tied it down to the back of the truck and drove it home. 
The decorations and the smell of the tree made me feel like it was Christmas time.

We had special decorations for everybody.  We wrapped the tree in garland and lights.  We put the decorations on the tree.  Daddy had bought each of us a special decoration this year; he did that every year.  I almost cried again when we put up one for Mommy.  I missed her.
We sprinkled tinsel on the tree and we were done.

Daddy said to the two of us,” This is our first Christmas without your Mother.  I know it is hard for you as it is for me.  It is still time to grieve on move on, but to never forget.” 

Daddy opened up a box and said to us, “This is ornament is to top the tree.  Every year when we celebrate Christmas we will also be celebrating your Mother’s life.”  He pulled out the ornament.  It was an angel draped in white. 

He said, “Every year we will place this on top of our Christmas tree to remember all the love she gave to us.”  

Mommy was now an angel in heaven.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

"Country Music Artist of the Month ... Blake Shelton"

"Country Music Artist of the Month … Blake Shelton"




Blake Shelton was born June 18, 1976.  At the age of 17 he moved to Nashville to pursue a music career.  His first release, Austin reached number 1 and stayed there for 5 straight weeks.  The follow up songs on the album did not fare as well, but the album introduced Blake Shelton into the hearts’ of country music fans across the country.

Since his career began in late 2001 he has had fifteen number one hits and counting; including 10 straight number one hits to date, tying Brad Paisley’s mark set in 2007.  Other hit songs include Ol’ Red, The Baby, She wouldn’t be gone, and Home.   He is now at the peak of his career and stands as one of the most popular contemporary country singers.  His latest album release Based on a True Story, debuted in March of 2013 number 1 on the country charts and number 3 on the pop charts.  His latest single, Mine Would be You, reached number 1 on the country charts in November of 2013.  At this point in his career he has sold over 7 million albums.

In addition to being a favorite among fans of country music, Blake Shelton has received much critical acclaim.  He has received more than 50 nominations in a variety of music awards of which he was the winner of 18.  These include Grammy Nominations, Academy ofMusic Awards, Country Music Association Awards, and nearly other award giving body associated with country music.  He has received acknowledgement for categories such as Top Male Vocalist, Entertainer of the Year, and Vocal Event of the Year.

Blake Shelton has received crossover recognition as a judge on the singing competition The Voice.  His team, as they designate, has been the winner on 3 separate occasions.  In addition, 2 contestants on his team, Cassidee Pope and Danielle Bradbery, have gone on to begin their own country music career.  The songs by Cassidee Pope, Wasting all these Years and Over You have made it high onto the country charts.  Danielle Bradbery has recently released her 1st song onto country music radio, The Heart of Dixie, which is quickly climbing the charts.  The television show remains popular and stands to be a venue to launch the careers of other country singers.

Blake Shelton is one of the country singers noted for not only their own singing career, but also for that of their spouse.  Other country singers such as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and, in the past, George Jones and Tammy Wynette share in this distinction.  In 2005, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert met at a Country Music Television event.  Four years later, Blake Shelton proposed and on May 11. 2011 the two were married.  Similarly to the other couples in country music, the songs of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have been both popular and critically acclaimed. 

These are some of my favorite songs from Blake Shelton.  He is very versatile in his singing ability, with a strong voice both in his renditions of ballads and in more upbeat party songs.  In the last few years he has become one of the top stars in country music and this list of songs demonstrates the reason for this fact.





This debut song by Blake Shelton reached number 1 on the country music singles chart and remained there for 5 weeks.  It is a profession of a man’s undying love for a woman who thought that the relationship was over.  The song brought recognition to Blake Shelton on the country music scene.



This is perhaps my favorite Blake Shelton song.  The masterful lyrical styling and melodic structure serve to sooth the senses of its listeners.  The heart-wrenching mood of the song invokes the feelings of a man holding on to a relationship which he knows is not ever going to work.  Many country songs appeal to this message; this is one of the best in the genre.



This song, featuring TraceAdkins, hit number 1 on the country music charts in 2009.  It exemplifies an upbeat, party song atmosphere.  This song professes the cross-over appeal of many country songs in an up-beat, party-orientated performance by these two country singers.



As Alcoholics Anonymous preaches, “the more I drink, the more I drink.”  Although not a number 1 hit, or even a top 10 hit, the song expresses the vitality and the liberation that the barroom atmosphere can bring.  It’s strong back-beat serves as a similar expression to fit the message.



This song reached number 1 on the US country charts for 2 weeks between August and September of 2010.  The song helped Blake Shelton cross the border from a country music singer to a perpetual country music hit maker.  The song depicts the fun, frivolity, and party atmosphere of the barroom.



I hope you enjoy this post of “Country Music Artist of the Month … Blake Shelton.”  Keep an eye open for other country music features.


Thank you.