Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Killer Bunnies Kind of Christmas

Merry Christmas!
A jolly old elf showed up in the bus. It turns out that the dog house (engine compartment) is a fine place to pile presents. Lots of excitement with everything from Wuggle Pets (weird little stuffed things), to KILLER BUNNIES! The kids' cousins introduced this game at Thanksgiving, which caused a month of "please Mom, please? Please? Killer Bunnies, Mom? Please?"

For the last hour they've been trying to teach it to Uncle Dennis, but it's a very confusing game, and difficult to teach when you hardly know how to play it yourself, but the name is cool.
In other exciting news, in the middle of the lovely Christmas sermon, I had to sneak out with a certain little girl who had a suddenly very wiggly, and (stop reading if squeamish) very bloody tooth. 5 minutes later we returned, tooth out, with a napkin in her mouth.

All she wants for Christmas is her one front toof.
Lasagna is on the menu for this evening, with lots of laziness on the side. Tomorrow we fix things in the bus and move more items out to the storage shed, Tuesday we get Benny new shoes (ouch), and Wednesday we pack. Guess what (Lord willing) we will be doing on Thursday???

Yee-Haw! Here's hoping our New Years post will be made in San Antonio, Texas with a toasty 60-70 degrees outside!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Know what? I think we'll make it.

The last few days have shown there is light at the end of the 2011 tunnel. We had a wonderful final performance for 2011 (minus the two songs we'll do for our church on Christmas Sunday), and it reminded me again of why we do this. First, we *love* it. There is nothing like the magic we feel on stage when we are together, as a family, each with their own instrument, their own style, coming together to make music. All our worries melt upon the first chord every time.

Next, and most importantly, I think we really can sometimes give a bit of light to others. The pastor leading Wednesday's cowboy church had some kind words after the service that really encouraged us all. He said that everyone that comes into this church, or any church, is bringing a load of weight on them from their week and their troubled lives. He told us that we are one of those groups that, when people sit down to hear us, they are able to lay the burdens down. Then he said he gets up there to speak, and the hard work has been done. Everyone has left the troubles of their week behind, and they can hear the message.

God is good. Every time I think we made a wrong turn, or wonder why we are doing this, He turns it on its head. It may be kind words of encouragement from a friend, or perhaps just the right article randomly clicked, or playing just one song that really shines.

Today Michael worked his last graveyard shift. He was supposed to work through the 27th, but the company cut shifts through the holidays, and canceled his last days.

In his first act as a full time participant in our band endeavors, he made a phone call for me on one of the millions of little issues that have bogged me down in the last year, and he resolved it. It may have been cloudy, cold and snowing outside, but in my world, the sun came out, the birds started singing, and I was walking on sunshine!

I have been grasping at the end of my rope the last few months. I happen to believe that being a full time mother and homeschool teacher to four children is a full time job. When things started flying this last year with my roll as "band mom", everything was magnified by about a factor of 10. Suddenly I was dealing with bookings, publicity, taxes, bookkeeping, music arrangement, band practice, wardrobe, booking a recording studio, working on the mixing, and all that jazz, er, bluegrass. Then came the move. House showings, decluttering, cleaning, repairs, packing... oh, and a bus that needed renovations, repairs, and let's not forget the unforgettable VIN plate, updated insurance, etc.

More than once it got to be overwhelming. I started into my "shut down" mode, where I could do little more than sit in a corner in front of facebook, or perhaps play solitaire - which is basically my equivalent of curling up in a ball and mumbling to myself.

One phone call... Really. You have no idea. Michael was working an increasingly stressful job that was destroying his health and keeping him unable to do more than some bus maintenance on his days off, when we didn't have shows to get to. Suddenly, he can handle making sure we have the best coverage for our bus, dealing with final hassles and difference of opinions in the CD mixing, and helping with the children, who are suffering from too little attention in schooling and character guidance lately.

It's been a difficult Christmas to get through, because we are getting set to take off just 3 days later, but we're trying to make sure it's still special for the kids. Benny has his pretty decorations up and as you can see, is looking mighty spiffy.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Those Awful Christmas Letters

Several years ago, likely due to my desperate need to blab in writing, I started writing a Christmas letter for family and friends. Yeah, I know. One of those letters. I made attempts here and there to make it clever and funny, mostly to avoid having it become nothing but a big, fat brag-fest, but it probably didn't work. It was a big, fat brag-fest. I can't help it I lack clever.

I wrote this year's letter and sat back to look at it and you know what? It was the biggest, fattest brag-fest of them all, and in that I wondered if it wasn't just a bit dishonest this time because of this. When I get honest, I sound like Pollyanna with a side of Eeyore, and that's just wrong.

Here's how it went.
I wrote about our great trip to Texas and Arizona last year!

Mostly true, when you ignore the fact that Michael threw out his back and spent part of it lying down, and I ended up doing much of the driving, as well as dragging the bass and heavy suitcases up and down hotel stairs and hills at festivals, all while playing the super together band mom. The south had record breaking cold, busting pipes in most of the rest stops and bathrooms across I-10 through most of New Mexico, meaning hours of no bathroom breaks...


Then I told about how we fixed up the house and got it on the market!

I admit, there was no room in the letter to whine about having 5-8 showings a week, often on little notice, and I am completely unable to keep a room clean for 5 minutes, let alone at every moment. Honestly, who wants to hear a grown woman whine about having to keep her house clean? That's beyond lame.


We sold the house!
First contract was dropped. Back on the market it went, and dropped the price enough to just escape with the clothes on our back. Oh, and let's not forget to mention that the new neighbor behind us poisoned the new owner's dogs just weeks after they moved in, putting my house all over the news and sending detectives to interview my son about his interactions with the dog killer.

We had a wonderful time at Silver Dollar City!!!

True, but in the contest they didn't like us much. Eh. We still had fun and they can not like us on their penny next year, too, 'cause it's an awesome place to visit.


We bought a great bus and named it Benny.
Of course, we paid double the quote to fix it immediately after returning and spent the next 5 months fighting the DMV to get tags on it. Oh, then there's my current panic attach about the insurance... Naw, I'll spare ya that one.

We have a new CD coming out!
We had planned to have it produced and recorded by someone in Texas, and due to some warnings against the contract we'd have to sign, pulled out with only just over a month to find a studio and no clue how to pay for it ourselves. It's now a month behind schedule and is showing no signs of actually getting finished in time to be here while the kids are still young.

Finally, Michael quit his job so we can go live the good life! ...
or end up in a cardboard box. One or the other, I'm sure.

How's that for a Christmas letter? And when did Eeyore move into my brain?

The truth is, I think the DMV stole my sense of humor about 4 months ago, and I stink at clever. So I simply say what we did and it sounds like a brag.

I love writing our Christmas letters, but this year I simply cannot bring myself to do it. Normally it would be finished by now, but Scrooge took up residents with Eeyore in my already over-crowded split personality just in time for Christmas.

Of course, then we go and have a fantastic evening of Christmas cookies, Charlie Brown, and giggles, leaving me completely conflicted just when I have a great mental Grinch going. (Oh, he's in there too. Forgot to mention that.)

It is entirely possible at this point that our busiest and most news-worthy year yet will end with no Christmas letter to show for it. Bahumbug.

I think I'll go have some eggnog and another Christmas cookie, listen to Christmas music, dream of warm beaches and let Pollyanna pound the daylights out of Eeyore, Scrooge, and Grinch for a bit. Wait...No. Not Pollyanna. I don't like her much. Too simple minded. Hmmm... I need a new positive personality to invite into the mix. Perhaps I'll think of someone over cookies and eggnog.

ETA: I forgot to mention Mary's dental surgery and the subsequent fight with the insurance company who tried to stick us with an $8,000 bill.

I'm sure I'll think of more... :-p

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Others Pray

Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.

This Sunday at church, while Michael and I were finishing up some coffee before the service began, a gentleman came up to us and asked us when we were leaving.
"Just over 2 weeks," we replied.
"Good, 'cause I'm getting tired of seeing you here every week," he joked.
At that point he became a bit more serious, and said, "You know, there are a lot of folks praying for you."

Pray? For us? I mean, sure, pray for world peace, or better yet, the dear elderly man down the road who lost his wife, or the young mother suffering from cancer... but for us? This is not the first time lately we have had such an encounter, either. One of the kindest, and no doubt one of the best women of prayer in the church, approached me a few weeks ago and wanted to know how we'll keep in touch because she really wants to pray for us. You could tell by the earnest way she said it that she knew what I am only learning. It isn't the clever ideas, the planning, or the money that makes the difference. In the end, it's the prayers.

I consider myself a very mediocre prayer. I do try to pray for all of the many people that cross my path daily who are in need. Regrettably, more often than not, the prayers are quick ones under my breath, and on to the next thought. This is likely due to an unfortunate combination of being terminally distracted lately, making concentrating on longer prayer time difficult, and likely a side effect of too much media saturation, which dramatically increase the number of people seen daily in need of prayer. Life becomes a focus on quantity, not quality. I say a lot of prayers for a lot of people, but I fear they are not the type of prayers I most covet, so I feel a pang of guilt at the end of the day as I rush through a list, if I even manage a list. Yes, more people pray for you when you connect through modern forms of media, in a life that moves you quickly from one place to the next, but I can't help to wonder if it is in the fewer, more direct and earnest prayers, where the real power of prayer is felt, and that is where I am sometimes sorely lacking.

The saints mentioned above were not likely to be the type of people living in a media saturated world, at least not to the level I sometimes find myself. Additionally, they are not praying for us out of obligation because we asked, but because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they wish God's blessings upon our journey. Going only by the way they mentioned it, I would guess that they are praying for us in a way I only wish I prayed for others. It's deeply humbling.

Although our family happily plays our music for a variety of venues, both secular and gospel, one of the reasons I love playing for churches is because, almost without fail, the church staff prays for us, over us, with no distractions, and never rushed. Lately we have been searching for churches who would be willing to host us on our journey, and naturally this helps, because there is a need to have some financial support in order for us to continue. However, in the end, it is the prayer that connects us to God's people and keeps our walk straight when we leave any given church.

Through those prayers we receive something far beyond our physical needs. We receive the full attention of the One who created the very matter that forms us, and the One who created our eternal souls, our very identity. We connect with the One who entered physical time to redeem those souls for His eternal Kingdom. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty important. We love the prayers, so thank you to all who have prayed on our behalf. It matters more than you know.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Official. He Quit

Today was the day. Michael gave his notice and his last day will be the 27th.

Now, I come from the idea that our finances are no one's business but our own, but no doubt many are assuming we are either rich, or they know we are not and think we're simply being irresponsible. The first one is almost laughable, kind of in the way I had to laugh when someone assumed we were rich to be having our fourth child. As for irresponsible? I suppose that depends on your priorities, as well as your faith.

After Michael emailed me the news that his talk with his boss was over and the date set, I nearly had a panic attack, then I squashed it. We all knew this day had to come if we are to get on to another chapter in our lives.

I'll let you in on a secret, and a major drive behind all of the upheaval this last year. In the last 7 years that Michael has worked at this job I have seen his health go from reasonably healthy, to high triglycerides, to full metabolic syndrome, while on a fairly healthy, (usually) low sugar diet. He has lost weight, and sometimes he would worry his concentration was suffering. I am convinced the reason for this is because Michael has worked the swing/graveyard shift for years now, and there is ample research to show this can cause some serious health side effects over time. The only thing left on the list of common health complications was cancer. We weren't willing to wait for that one to manifest.

He worked the shift because we needed the extra 15% shift differential to pay the mortgage and all our other expenses. We could cut corners down to nothing to make ends meet on the day shift, but even if we did, his job showed no signs of letting him take the day shift. They had no one else who would take his shift, though he tried recently to get on the day shift. The response to when he asked? A link to an article that recommend a medication to help him cope with the night shift, though the side effect warnings were worse than the problem!

(Side note: Yes, Michael will be looking at flexible or online type work on the road. We are just not that hopeful in this economy. I have more faith in the band, quite frankly.
Another company with the exact same work would never pay these days even close to what he was making, so the house would have had to go for that option anyway, and so our course was set.)

The band has always been the back-up, as much as we love it, and as much as we do want this to work. We're just normally too "practical" to assume such a crazy feat. However, it would seem it was likely God's priority, not back-up plan, because everything around us has forced this direction, like plans were being made to make sure we didn't chicken out. What good is a family band when the head of the household is sick or dies and early death by working at a lousy job that prevented any hope of a family vision and unity?

Perhaps he will get some unemployment for a time, due to the health complications that were associated with his job, or perhaps a flexible job where he can telecommute, but if not, another plan will be waiting for us. It's our job to find out what it is. Since his job rarely gave him much of his earned vacation and holiday pay, we have severance waiting to start us off, but ultimately, this is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to faith. We claim to have it, yet we hold on in a lousy job that destroys the health, limits our family's opportunity and influence, enslaves us to a mortgage and clutter, a yard and house we cannot keep up unless we limit other weekend activities, and simply exist like cogs through the factory of life. All for the illusion of security.

I will not panic. (Said through gritted teeth.) You cannot serve God and money, or God and mortgage, or God and job. Not even God and diesel for the bus. I have made my choice to Whom I will serve.

Three weeks. Breathe.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When It's Cold Outside

The temperatures have been freezing, with tomorrow promising only a high of 11 degrees (-11 C) and will be dipping to -4 degrees (that's -20 C), and we are still stuffed wall-to-wall at Grandma and Papa's house. Idle hands are definitely the devil's playground in this house, so I picked up a big play dough set when shopping for jeans on a black Friday sale. It gave me at least 2 days of busy hands.We've had to pull out the Wii, Netflix, and a computer game or two on the side, because neither currently have boots and it's really getting too cold to spend a lot of time out there anyway. We'll do school tomorrow, some reading, but eventually I run out if ideas and they end up in front of Netflix.

We're staying warm at least. The younger two have been camped out in the living room with the wood stove burning through the night.


The weather has given us some unusually beautiful sunsets lately though. One of the kids snapped this picture recently over the lake. I found it on my camera when I downloaded pictures.

Amazing colors! I am really going to miss Colorado sunsets over the mountains when we're away.

When It's Cold Outside


Friday, December 2, 2011

I Want an Oompa Loompa NOW!

I have heard it said before to never ask God to teach you patience. I promise, I didn't! When you are 4 weeks out from a long awaited adventure, patience wears thin under good circumstances, but when Veruca Salt starts to look like a roll model for patience and temperance, you know you're failing the lesson.

The bus is still gone. We're asking for some unusual work to be completed, including a hitch installed, along with the recent addition of a generator that needs to be attached, and placed in line with all the regular vehicles they must fix. Plus the weather turned freezing cold recently, and the bus is too big to fit inside their garage, so it simply isn't finished.

We're all still stuffed into Grandma and Papa's house, and have been for a few weeks now as Benny sits cold, dark, and lonely in front of a garage somewhere. Every few days we have to go there to pick up something we forgot, then get it back here to find we have no place to put it. At this rate the entire contents of the bus will be stacked ceiling high in corners of the house.

I'm tryyyying to be patient, really I am, but want my bus back!

Additionally, the CD will likely be delayed until well into January. I haven't even heard some of the songs since we left the studio. We were running so late finishing up last month that we didn't have time to get rough mixes downloaded to enjoy in the meantime. I've been waiting for the actual first mixes to come in, but the guy mixing it just became a new dad, and the baby showed up 2 weeks late. I assured him I gladly break for babies and we could happily handle the wait, but when little problems popped up in the recordings that needed attention before mixing can proceed, due to no fault of the person mixing, my patience started to wear thin.

I want to hear my songs nooooow! It's been a month since we recorded and I haven't heard a few of them. (Insert whining sound.)

Last in the area of zero patience, connections for performance opportunities are slowly coming in, but not everyone books as far in advance as I'd like. I'd love to have things on the schedule now, but some places simply wait until a few weeks out, especially churches. So I wait, and make myself trust that the tour will start to take shape.

Sadly, lack of patience is not the only area causing whining. I'm running out of money, too. Correction. Ran out. I won't get into it much, but let's just say that bus repairs and upgrades, caps on teeth, (Michael's teeth this time), CD recordings, new glasses and contacts, and other last minuted items, have added up to more than our mortgage did, so selling the house early to "save" didn't quite work out. This is about when I envy how Veruca Salt's daddy would just pull out his wallet and offer to pay any price. Veruca Salt is not a good roll model. This can't be a good route.

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

Ok, my heavenly Father is better than Veruca's. Attitude adjusted; whining over. We'll survive. The last week of December we'll be frantic trying to get everything finished and suddenly life will be put back into fast forward. I'll brace you now for the whining that will bring. ;)

Thankfully, we're doing our best to laugh through as much as this as possible. We're singing Christmas music right now for a few Christmas gigs we have picked up and that's always lots of fun. In fact, tomorrow I get to get up obscenely early to drive to the garage in order to retrieve some performance outfits before our lunch gig, because I don't have any of those moved in here yet. (Wait, that was almost a whine. Oops.) Well, at least Costco sells eggnog by the gallon. Yep. We'll survive. When the eggnog supply dries up, it'll be time to leave. Wee!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh, The Places You Will Go!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, buskin' is a blast! Pearl Street in Boulder is a great place to do that, especially for the weird things you get to see along the way. "Weird" as in "weirdly cool", for the most part. Sometimes rather educational as well, such as the guy busking a block up who has every zip code in the country memorized. Tell him a zip code and he'll tell you where it is found and something about the area. He makes a "stage" from a chain that he puts down in the shape of the USA, stands in the middle, and takes challenges.

A few months ago there was a fire breather across the street. Try getting a young fiddler to focus when some guy is swallowing fire nearby.

The kids were fascinated by the glass man, too. As far as I could see, he doesn't "do" anything but stand around in a glass outfit, with a bottle of Windex close by, but it's interesting nonetheless.

There are "non-busking" aspects as well. Friday we saw a lively exchange between a street preacher and some college students. The debate was over the validity of Christ's exclusive claims in the Bible as opposed to all encompassing "Love" alone, as the primary virtue. Educational and even encouraging... until the college kids, in their desire to not offend anyone with the preaching of religion, become offensive themselves with foul behaviors and words. Kind of messes up the lively exchange... Just sayin', guys. I'd like to have my kids hear the exchange, if you can control yourselves.

Oh, and those tents behind the picture? Why, yes. They were Occupiers. Occupying Boulder, I assume. See? Educational! Ha!

Mary stays close by befriending every child that comes within 10 feet of her and trying hard to learn not to chase down every dog that moves past her retina. Sean plays fast and furious... with his back occasionally to the audience, while we mouth to him, "turn around" about 5 times, while he looks at us each time trying to figure out what we're saying, 'cause he can't remember what we told him the last time he turned his back to the audience. Silly kid. The audience actually finds it quite funny when I drop the mandolin playing for a moment to physically guide him back around. It'll be part of the act soon.

We get good publicity, and a little bit of spare change to get sucked right down the black hole of Benny the Bus updates. Once again, we are proving that the best paid member of the band is the bus. Life in Kentucky was hard on Benny, though. He needed a new tail pipe and muffler, due to the rust that happens in a more humid environment. Other than that, we had a hitch installed to the bumper, and will drop off Michael's door buster weekend deal on a generator to weld to the bumper tomorrow. I hope to have our bus back no later than mid-week, and that needs to be it for now. It's already well over budget. Hopefully Benny will be merciful and we can delay work on the tires until spring.

Sadly, our busking days for Colorado are likely over until summer. This was the last forecasted warm day in the foreseeable future and fingers don't like playing on cold strings. They get stiff. (The fingers, that is. The strings just get out of tune.) We do have 4 Christmas gigs coming up and that should be loads of fun. It's a once a year treat. Of course, any donations or payment will get sucked down the Benny black hole... Eh, Merry Christmas bus. I'll put a red bow on it for ya.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bits and Pieces of the Unrelated

  • This week we pulled out the Christmas music. It's our hope to find a cozy spot for some Christmas busking on Friday, since the weather promises to be nice, but not unless we can remind our fingers and brains of some chords and lyrics.
  • At the moment, two children are in bed early for not being quiet while Dad was trying to get to sleep. Warned repeatedly, they just kept loudly singing, "I'm Getting Nuthin' for Christmas." Oh, the irony.
  • I have proven today that I am officially cheap. Michael received a birthday buy-one-get-one-free coupon for Famous Dave's through an email promotion and we took the family out tonight, since it was also a kids-eat-free night. He and I shared a meal, the twins shared the free one, and the younger two were free. Six people well fed for the price of one meal. We tipped well.
  • I have new glasses. They are progressive lenses... a.k.a. "bifocals". I am officially old. I like being able to read again, so I forgave them for being progressive lenses.
  • I ordered this for my birthday. It's a hand-crank washing machine with a spinner. My birthday isn't until February, but since it's on back-order, it likely won't arrive until January, when we're in Texas. We'll be back to Colorado the week of my birthday to retrieve it, but I had to get the sale price NOW, with the free shipping, so there ya go! (What can I say, I'm practical.)

  • Tomorrow is our 20th wedding anniversary. We won't be doing anything. We planned to take off for a couple of days but then we had to buy a tail pipe for the bus, two caps for Michael's teeth, and the twins want contact lenses. So, we'll wave "hi" at one another as he passes from work on the graveyard to the bed to sleep all day, I'll do some Thanksgiving baking and get kids haircuts, then we'll try to remember to do something on our 25th. It's the story of our marriage, it would seem, and I think the key to why it's been a great 20 years has something to do with the fact that we don't let things like this bother us.
Well, this was quite an entertaining blog post, and why I likely will never receive a blog award. Ha!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Buskin' for Buses

We are busless. We've been busless since Tuesday and it's making me twitch. At the moment we're all snug and safe at Papa and Grandma's house, but it still bothers me to have my home and many of our possessions parked in the front driveway of a garage. It has to be done though, if we hope to keep on schedule for our January take-off. We are getting a hitch attached to the bus so we can attach a vehicle dolly and pull our minivan, as well as a needed repair of the muffler and tail pipe. The latter will cost us more than anticipated, along with about a half-dozen other unexpected expenses, so we're trying to get busy making up the difference the same way we will need to when out on the road. This time, it's with busking! Why yes, sometimes a need to raise extra funds in this family means and excuse for extra fun. That's pretty cool, huh?

Living so near one of the best busking locations in the US, a place with no regulations, and one that actually welcomes buskers, we have a nice opportunity to grab some "tail pipe" funds, while sipping a holiday Starbucks coffee, sharing a few laughs, and playing some exciting bluegrass. Thankfully the weather was beautiful. Next week, if the weather holds, we plan to head down during the Black Friday shopping! With our fingerless gloves and the Little Hotties Hand Warmers in our pockets, we can likely at least manage a couple of hours during the warmest time of the day.

This month has been shockingly busy with things that have no relation at all to music, so spontaneous performing opportunities are a must if we're going to keep up our skill. Much of the rest of our time has been running to every dentist, eye doctor, and doctor visit we could make to get it all in while we are still insured under Michael's work plan, since that may change by January. The adults and twins all need new glasses, contact lenses, Michael gets a couple caps replaced on his teeth, updated tetanus shots, etc. We're also getting our passports, in case an opportunity arrives to bounce into Canada or otherwise. The hope is to enter January with a clean slate, ready for anything, which is really a good idea when we don't have a firm idea yet what our next year will look like.

Six more weeks...

Yay!

I think.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Extreme Bus Makeover

For one reason or another, painting Benny kept being placed on the back burner, but we knew it had to be done. Honestly, he is a cute bus, but gave you that "detention center/stake-out vehicle" feel about him. We wanted to move away from that before heading out, but then the weather turned, winter showed up early, and there simply wasn't a weekend available... until yesterday. One look at the weather report and Thursday night it was decided that the painting would be done Friday, one way or another, because we may not have another chance.

Alex and I ran off to the hardware store, grabbed a chip that matched Benny's paint (used previously to match the new door), and looked for something in the red family to go with something in the green family, yet not in any way remind us of Christmas. These two shades, up against the sandy color of the bus, jumped right out at us. With only a quart per color, we covered the whole bus and bumpers, with touch-up paint to spare.

The bus makeover isn't quite complete, however. This week we will be homeless (busless) as Benny goes in for some hidden updates, now that he has license plates and can officially drive around as needed. We need a hitch placed so we can tow our minivan, and a support built to house the generator. Throw in a new muffler and tail pipe, and he may be gone a few days. We're getting ready to camp out at Grandma & Papa's house. Beyond that, we are looking at options to expand the black water tank (oh, joy), so we can boondock longer, then all major renovations should be complete!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dog Days of Winter


It's official. Colorado forgot all about fall and went straight to winter. We've had snow every week since the 3rd week of October. Wet, sloppy snow. More is on the way tonight.

We're back to "school" right now, and it seems the bus is turning out to be the best place for that. Small, cozy, and away from distractions of other conversations, TV, and miscellaneous gadgets. Violin practice goes well here, too, with the help of a camera. I have been putting a certain distractable young man to practice in front of the camera so I can avoid having to sit in here with him, something 11 year old male egos do not like, while still checking to see that he was doing everything on his list. The idea is for him to look at the video later to critique himself, and I can point things out later - violin things. He doesn't need to know that it's also my mischief checker as well. Mwahahahaha!

Once in a while I am treated to something rather entertaining. He had my computer during practice today, in order to watch a video his teacher sent him of a new song. I logged on to blog and put up new pictures, to find this:


Hahahaha! Someone was using the web cam...


Mary played her first solo violin song this week, too, for the studio recital where she takes lessons. She did smashing!


I'm also back on the hunt for a doggy home. I am puzzled why I haven't found a home for him. Odin is simply the best dog I have ever owned. He's the perfect "mom" dog. Big enough so he can spend plenty of time outside, the kids can crawl on him without doing much damage, largely calm, tough looking with the occasional warning bark to strangers, but definitely a gentle giant, housebroken, and just plain nice. Moms need low maintenance dogs. That's Odin. So, if anyone needs a great doggy, he needs a great home. He simply cannot go on the road with us. He's not suited for such life. Too big and too shy, but of all the dogs we've had that drove me nuts and would gladly have found a new home, he is not one of them. I'd keep him if I thought it was best for all of us.

Not much else to report. You have no idea how good that feels!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Intimidation

Over the last couple of weeks I have been contacting various venues in hopes that we will be provided with some playing opportunities when we travel. It's very intimidating, but I have found a unique reaction on the part of myself that I was not expecting. I have contacted various venues, and some with the usual concern on whether they will like us, if we are "good enough", but not very often. When we go to your average little art fair, city festival, or other location we are right up there with other artists for quality entertainment, worth the money we ask.

Then I contact churches and I suddenly feel intimidated.

WHY do I feel intimidated? Not because we don't play well. Most churches love our performance. I have yet to not be blessed by a church program anywhere. I love our fellow saints and it is always a great experience.

What was the issue? It was an odd feeling, like I was a fraud. After all, music is a type of ministry in the church, and here I was trying to get this church to let us come minister to them through our gospel music, even though we weren't (don't laugh) - perfect enough. Yes, we write our gospel music and believe every word. We love the gospel at it's most pure form, but mostly we love Christ and depend on Him for every move, something that will become even more apparent as we head out in complete faith on the adventure of a life time. We will have Michael leave a decent job with benefits, there is a recession of unknown depth and length hanging heavy over the nation, and we sold our house to live in a bus. That is faith. Step out of the boat and keep your eye on the Savior. You can walk on water, and if you falter, you get a chance to learn how He will catch you before you drown.

Where was this feeling coming from? Honestly, if you had to be perfect to lead anything in a church you would have to first kick out every single person who has ever led a ministry, other than Jesus Himself. It's just plain silly, and that thinking must be adjusted.

First, one doesn't need a degree in theology to sing praises to our Lord. Sure, it would be nice if we were like others I know who were raised steeped in theology and Bible memory, quoting the perfect Bible verse for every occasion. I probably still wouldn't because I think it can be easily confused for conceit or judgment to quote the Bible at a person during a casual conversation. I have done it on stage to announce songs, but that's about it. Besides, that's not necessary in our gospel music, where those words are in the music. I very often write my gospel songs with one hand on a piece of paper, a mandolin on my neck to check my chords, and a bible open to double check or jog my memory. Michael doesn't write the music, but he has questioned me before and I have gladly shown him from where in the Bible I had my thoughts inspired, so I know he's paying attention, too.

Second, we lack perfect family status. Although the Bible does include "manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect" in the qualifications for leaders, I doubt this means you must have children who have absolutely never argued with their parents, never needed correcting - even a lot of it, and never stepped out of line. If that were the case, only Joseph and Mary would have been allowed to lead when Jesus was a boy and the rest of us should just go home now.

Let's face it, I will simply never manage to get Sean to stop poking bugs with his bow or making smart remarks in the microphone if he thinks of something funny (they are clean - he doesn't know any unclean words!) Mary will whine if she has picture to give some random kids she saw half a block away and isn't allowed off of the art mat where she sits when we play. And we will always get the "Aw, how many more songs?"

For about 80% of the parents for whom we have ever performed, a sigh of immediate sigh of relief can almost be heard when my younger two act like less than perfect little beings, failing to simply sit tall and not fidget, awaiting their token moment of cute. So, that's a win for all parents who do not have perfect kids. The other 20% who condemn us feel all good about their own parenting, so that's a win too, right? Unless they condemn out of smug pride, in which case, they are in the wrong and I don't have to worry about it.


I know where my heart lies and I have a pretty good idea where Michael's heart is as well, and when it comes to sincerity, we are anything but frauds. The idea that we must be perfect to accomplish what God has gifted us to accomplish needs to go away. Christ did not come for the righteous, but for the sinner. He came for us. Perhaps in seeing this, people will also understand that He came for them, too, no perfection required.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Peace is the Prize

A friend of mine wrote a blog post today that gave me a good chuckle. She reviewed a book called "The White Trash Mom" and was slightly disappointed when it was a book that, though humorous, mainly discussed how to fake NOT being a White Trash Mom. She wanted a book that threw away the silly hyped up expectations to be in some higher class and just admit the cake you brought to the party was from the store, not homemade, and yes, that is some tasty butter cream icing. I think it tickled my funny bone so much because I live in a converted school bus, it's 10am and 2 of my kids just rolled out of bed, I'm sitting here drinking coffee with cheap pumpkin spice creamer from Walmart, and still in my Mickey Mouse pajama bottoms with a sweatshirt that says, "Homeschool Mom, just add coffee".

Perhaps I'm getting old, because I don't even pretend anymore. I like my goofy looking bus. My younger two will soon go out and play with bread bags on their feet because I cannot find their old boots they were almost too big for anyway, and I won't spend money on new boots for a couple of freak October/November snow storms when we are soon to head to south Texas. They don't care either. I really like that part.

Besides, I already look like this:
I learned a lot about humility this year as I did a 3 week tour living out of the back of a van, returned to fix up my house, put it on the market with an average of 5+ showings per week for a couple of months, walked a little girl through dental surgery then fought the health insurance to pay for it, played over 50 bluegrass shows in 4 states, sold the house and moved into a 300 sq ft bus, renovated the bus for living, battled the Colorado DMV for plates, wrote, arranged, and recorded music for a new CD, fit in just enough mandolin practice to get by, sat in on fiddle lessons a couple times a week and practice for two kids, and am currently trying to book enough gigs to survive on the road. Sometimes I remember to pretend to homeschool and cook food. Oh, and have you met my younger two? Just sayin'.

Anyone that wants me to bake a homemade cake, grow a garden, coach my children through Latin, read the Federalist Papers, or even keep up the laundry is delusional and I look at them in pity for living in a delusional reality. Hahahahahaha!

Of course, some things I enjoy I have had to give up. I don't sew anymore. I will, however, soon need to finish sewing my magnetically attached screens for the bus windows. I'm pretty sure I won't win any "best in class" awards at the fair for those, however.

Bottom line: I have found peace is the prize to value, not looking good at a party or giving some unrealistic idea of perfectionism that simply brings others down. Somehow through this crazy year, we manage to laugh a lot in this house instead of yell at one another, though a bit of snapping has happened in the worst of it, and more than I am comfortable with to be honest, but I try to remember that it is a period of adjustment. However, to expect to rise to an unnecessary expectation would turn the occasional snapping into a war zone. It's not worth it just to keep the shoes out of the middle of the floor, or the math book up to date.

I admit, I am in Mickey Mouse pajamas at... 10:30 because I simply have different priorities. Sometimes those priorities are pumpkin spice coffee on a snowy day while blogging to keep my sanity, before sending kids out in the snow with bags on their feet, then cleaning them up for a dentist appointment, practicing for tomorrow's school show and a violin recital this weekend.

Life is good.

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Now for the mundane update:

For the second time this week, my bus looks like this:


As long as it stays in the 20s, it's toasty with 2 space heaters and one of the air conditioners turned onto the "heat" setting. (The heat setting is just the "not cold" setting really, but it does a fine job circulating the hair from the space heaters.)

It was very nice the other day when we headed to the Harvest Festival at church at least. The youngest, including the dog, went as a Super Family.

I cannot seem to get back into the routine that never happens. Yesterday the twins argued that they needed to take time off math to help watch the younger two so I could make phone calls and try to find us places to play next year, since math will simply not do them any good if we starve. I couldn't argue with that logic.

Now to find those bread bags.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bribery and the Humble Zone

We finished in the studio today! I think it went well, but there wasn't time to provide rough mixes onto a disc since we had to download all of the raw files for the person who will do the mixing/mastering. That took some time, and in the end, I never like the raw mixes as well anyway. You can too easily hear every scratchy note, overbearing tone, etc. Once it's mixed well you get a far more "natural" sound. Natural because a microphone picks up tones that do not have the natural echo of an environment, or a natural blending of sounds. So, that mixing and addition of some reverberation and other things to soften the sound, makes a big difference.

After we finished today and transferred files, Michael took the younger kids to Wal-Mart to make good on our bribes for this week's work. (Probably broke some of the rules of the parenting 101 books for bribing. Oh well.) I figure they may as well get a taste of "payment" for a job well done, right? Mary sweet talked her daddy into the following:

The fluffy doggy has a carry case, a comb, bowl, and doggy treats. It's basically everything I think dogs do not need, other than food and the bowl. But she loves her new pampered pooch and did a wonderful job.

Sean was a bit more tricky. He wanted bubble gum, since his mean mother does not like to have him on bubble gum very often, due to the sugars, artificial flavors and food dyes, none of which sit well with a hyperactive boy. However, when that's the payment, that's the payment! I figured we could manage a bit of hyperactivity and twitches once the CD was finished, so we agreed to one or two, depending on how well he did.

So, why is he holding three rolls of bubble gum?

Quite simply, I needed extra Sean "money" for a task only he could provide; one that puts the adults directly into the humble zone. We were working on an a cappella section and it wasn't quite right and we needed to have it analyzed to find where we were a touch out of tune. Sean's superpower happens to be perfect pitch and he could narrow down exactly which voice, what word, what note, and how off the note was. I needed it done quickly, and he was our expert - one who was being pulled away from the movie he was watching in the corner with his sister, having finished his work already, and already clearly earned the maximum bubble gum bribe. The negotiation landed him an extra roll of bubble gum, and it was worth every future twitch and impulsive moment. With the precision of a surgeon, every voice and note was analyzed in a way that made the rest of us look like amateurs.

(I might add, he could have been asked to do it without the extra bubble gum and he would have. I simply decided that extra work, since we were already giving them a taste of earning from a job well done, was worth a bonus. I promise, it wasn't necessary. It was simply how I chose to approach it.)

I found out something else interesting about our 3 bubble gum child, too. Once or twice, when I wanted to have Sean improve his sound a bit, I would remind him that I planned to send the CD to his teacher and would this match what he has been taught? One of his sisters mentioned that his new teacher seems far more strict than his old teacher. Sean agreed and clearly made sure we understood that he *likes* that. His current teacher does not let the slightest thing slide and calls him on his lack of attention, his distracting behavior, an elbow too high, a pinky misplaced... and Sean *likes* it, considerably better than the last teachers who simply put up with it, assuming he was too immature. He doesn't want to be put up with, he wants high expectations, so when he meets them, he knows he earned it. You know what? I like that he likes that. Very encouraging! :)

Tomorrow we are back to trying to find the ever elusive routine. I'm beginning to think that is the routine - look for a routine, have the routine shattered within a day or so, and after the dust settles, look for a routine. Eh. It seems to work for us.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wrapping it up in the Studio!

This week Michael took several days off of work so we could dive into the studio and get our new CD finally recorded.
Of course, our lives being what they are anymore, when there is something that can go wrong, it will go wrong. The computer crashed yesterday and we had to stop for a couple hours while the hard drive was ripped out of the good computer (literally ripped out - there was a cage it was placed inside and it would not come out), the files transferred to an older computer, and we started back up again.

Everything went well but we have been racing against the clock to not only complete the project within our scheduled time, but to complete it before everyone starts to lose voices!


(Yes, that is how Katie prefers to take her pictures.)

Mary was the opposite concern. We had to wait for her cold to pass enough to sing well. It passed and she sang darling!


We finished all instrument tracks and the vocal tracks for Sean, Mary, and Michael today. Tomorrow is our last day and we absolutely must complete the vocal tracks for the ladies. I think we can, but let's pray those voices hold and we are focused.

Once we are finished, I will get the files transferred to send to the person who will mix and master the project for us. Can't wait!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

DMV, I bid you adieu

Adieu to you and you and you. Well, almost.


Isn't it just the most beautiful sight? Plates! Benny's bus plates! Four months and a few dozen trees sacrificed to the paperwork, and they gave us plates for the bus today. They had to throw in one more little jab of agony first, but in the end, our cause prevailed!

For those that like the gory details, here is the end of the saga. A friend on facebook found it all quite amusing. She said it's like watching a sitcom. I have to agree.

The final battle started last week, a few weeks after I spoke with the mean-to-me guy. (Note: I did not call him mean. Only mean to me.) A few days later I called back the DMV and asked exactly when it was approved and when it was picked up by the St. Patrol. They gave me a date and I decided it was recent enough that I should give them some time. 3 weeks passed... 4 weeks... Michael called so I didn't have to speak with anyone mean to me again, and he managed to get someone not-quite-mean-just-a-bit-grumpy on the line, who confirmed they had it for 4 weeks, and they didn't know why the officer in charge hadn't contacted us yet about attaching the little magic VIN plate. She said she'd call him and let us know.

Several days passed... no phone call. Michael calls back. They don't remember the last call he made, but agree to call the officer. This person said she knew of some training and vacation time that delayed things and maybe that is why it's taking so long.

Later that morning (yesterday) the officer - a *nice guy* (I knew we'd meet one in our story somewhere), called and said he'd swing by later in the day. We were in the studio but Papa was here to handle the amazing moment of bus transformation from a big piece of stationary metal to a recognized vehicle. It's a good thing I wasn't there because I may have baked the officer some brownies or something and then we'd get in trouble for giving gifts to an officer and take back the VIN plate.

We rushed home, grabbed our official paperwork and ran to the DMV since we were now LEGAL... to be told, "Sorry, you need to purchase a bond."
Huh?
I was handed this packet of paperwork and given the "Buh-buy". We went home, discouraged, but not really surprised that they'd have one more thing up their sleeve. Attacking the paperwork, I discovered I had to fill out all of these statements on why I don't have a title and how I have tried to receive a title from the previous owner - while holding the title.
Huh?
I called someone at the state DMV, who I got on the phone just before the office closed for the day. I asked her why I was filling out paperwork for a bond, lacking a title, when I was holding a title. She said if I have the title I need to give it to my county, it's their responsibility. I told her I did and they said I needed a bond because the state said there was no title. She said they don't deal with the bond, the county has to take it. I tell her I just came from the county and they said I have to do a bond because the state checked a little box saying I need it, but the bond paperwork wants to know why I don't have a title, when I'm holding a title. She accused me of talking in circles, the phone cut out, I couldn't call back because the office was closed.

I sat and thought about what went wrong. Was I supposed to submit the original title with the last series of paperwork? There did appear to be a little comment hidden in the piles of paperwork on "how to get a magic little VIN tag" that said something about "ownership documentation", but I had spoken with people on the phone about making sure I had everything, only to receive a rejection with a list of things I didn't have. My rejection letter did not include anything about the title, either. I complied with that, and this time drove to Denver to personally hand the items to the state DMV and ask again if I have everything, where I was told I did...

Oh well. It would seem they expected the original title submitted at that time, even though the transfer of the title was only clearly listed on the forever checklist at the final end of the list for things to do after the VIN plate is placed. Even so, I thought I'd play the "I'm so confused, did it wrong, and please help me fix
my mistake" card and see if it would get me somewhere.

Sure enough, I got on the phone with someone in the compliance office and told her I think I messed up and was supposed to have the title in the paperwork. She started in on how maybe I should start the process again... I told her I have a VIN plate and that's just silly. (I didn't use the word silly. I was far more "Oh, wise one, I know not what you know, but may I point out...") She said something about how I should have submitted it then, and I agreed I really should have, but I was so confused, and really not too bright, and how can I fix it now. THAT is when I got somewhere. She made some kind of a "harrumph" and said she didn't know but to hold on.

When she returned I was told to go back to the county office and give them her name. Tell them to call her and she would tell them what to do. I briefly considered baking her brownies...

Off to the studio we went for the day, rushed out when we were finished, and headed straight to the DMV. The lady at the desk wasn't happy, but I think we cheered her up. She called the state lady, chatted with her for a bit, and typing started happening on the computer. Next thing I knew, we were paying taxes on the bus and handed a temporary title, in hopes that the lady at the state would manage to clear it all up and get us the official title soon. I was warned that it may end up back in a few weeks for more hoops to jump, but at least we were on our way towards getting it all cleared up finally. (I don't doubt there is more to come.) We sat there as she was sending us on our way and I sheepishly asked when we can get plates on it.

"You need plates on it? I thought you were here for the title". Uh. No, please. We'd like to drive it someday, please.

The now-cheerful-lady looked over the cubical and asked if that temporary title would work for getting us tags. The other lady agreed (I was too exited to consider baking brownies by then), and she looked at me and cheerfully said, "Let's get you plates!"

We exchanged another small fortune of money, she did more typing, and the next thing I knew, I was holding plates for the bus. I started to look around for the "Gotcha" cameras, and for someone to jump out to take them back, saying, "Psych! Just kidding! No plates for you!" No one did. We thanked her and left with the plates, our ticket to freedom.

Ah...

Too bad we don't have anywhere to go just yet, but we CAN go someplace and that's what matters, right? We are back on track for our January takeoff!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bon Fires, Band Coaching, Busking, Oh MY!

When you have two days before going in to the studio to record your new CD, only one week in which to complete it, and you cannot risk anyone getting ill or injured, staying up late at a bonfire is not really the first thing you think of doing.



Then there is the fact that young preadolescence boys have zero sense in their noggin's, and there is the worry that a burning stick will do some type of damage to a fiddle player's finger or otherwise. Smoke inhalation is so wonderful for the vocal cords, too.


We went anyway, and they had a blast. Everyone one returned with fingers unscorched and lungs largely functioning, though we are feeling the signs of the usual late October cruds sneak in and we simply must have voices by the end of the week when we put the vocal tracts in. Prayers for healthy voices are greatly appreciated. We get one shot. Michael doesn't have another week free before we head out in January.

Another side-track that we were not expecting was an offer for some band coaching from Dr. Banjo himself, Mr. Pete Wernick of Hot Rize. I asked some business advice over email, then started discussing the band with him. He was intrigued and since the weather was set to be beautiful, offered to come give us some band coaching right on the Pearl Street Mall yesterday. We weren't sure we'd get another free weekend when he wasn't busy and the weather was acceptable, so we jumped at the chance. After we record I will schedule a time with him to discuss band business basics. Learning from the best!

Practice for the CD is going well, if you don't mind the occasional bored fiddle player who sneaks in a Calvin and Hobbes book when he's supposed to be focusing.
It's hard to say if it will sound quite as clean in the studio. That's when the rubber meets the road. Some of us (not mentioning names, but it's a mandolin player) has new breaks and they are not clean enough yet. Some other people (like banjo player, guitarist, and fiddler) play too fast for the poor mandolin player to keep up, so it's really not her fault.

I suppose I should stop blogging and start practicing. I'll update how it's going sometime during the week!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Smacked by Praise

Ever get smacked up side the head with praise? Sounds kind of odd, I admit, but it's kind of like a snap shot in time where you are doing something quite ordinary, and it strikes you how amazing something is, how beautiful, or peaceful. Sometimes it's the opposite - kids squabbling predictably over something they always squabble over, or the very messy face of your youngest, with hair in need of brushing. You just stop and say, "Wow, how awesome, God."

I get those moments sometimes when seeing something obviously amazing, such as when I stood before a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon. What surprises me, however, is when it happens over the most ordinary things.

On of those hit-upside-the-head praise moment occurred to me this evening simply walking from the bus to Grandma and Papa's house. I had let Sean and Mary play a game out in the bus while I watched a movie in the house with the twins. We left curtains open so I could glance at them, and so Mary could signal me if she needed something. We have flash lights with lasers on them and if she needs me, she simply flashes the laser light out the bus window, through the house window, and on to the wall in the house so I know to step out side and see what the need happens to be. I knew that the very next "need" would be to tattle on her brother for not giving her a turn. Call it momtuition. I told the twins that we'd be pausing the show soon to tend to that. Sure enough, moments later the red dot danced on the wall, I walked out and laid down the law, and then started walking back to the house. Smack. Praise. I have ornery children fighting! How cool is that? They were in a BUS!
Our messy, leaky bus-that-doesn't-get-to-drive! Ours! Seriously, how cool is that? Golly God, you sure do know how to bless a person. (Ok, I admit, I didn't actually use the word "golly". I just used up my quota on the cool words.)

It sure felt good to flex those praise muscles. They've gone far too soft over the stressful summer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where's the Grace?

The Princess Bride is such a fantastic movie. A elderly lady was so kind as to remind me of this movie not long ago, as she sat in the front row, speaking very loudly to the lady next to her - no doubt so I could hear her as well, and in reference to Sean stated, "That is a precocious kid. I HATE precocious kids. I HATE them. I HATE precocious kids."

Lady, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Thank you Inigo Montoya.

Yeah, she was a grump. He wasn't misbehaving, either. He was having a good time and playing some fine fiddle. Sean was oblivious, thanks not only to a large video screen behind him to show the audience a close up of the band while we played, providing opportunity to stare at himself in it for the whole show, but he probably doesn't know what precocious means anyway.

I am please to report that I gave her only a few direct mother glares in hopes that she'd have enough sense to silence herself, but did not otherwise get in her face and say what went through my mind. Later I simply enjoyed some mental Princess Bride dialog and got over it.

Yes. He's precocious. Look it up. It's a compliment.

Showing grace under such circumstances will be the hardest part of this whole ordeal. When you put yourself on stage, you place yourself in front of people to love you or hate you. What's far more difficult is to place your unknowing children up there to get the same treatment.

We are asking our children to be on call to perform in front of people, smile, and charm an audience at a moment's notice, rain, shine, tired, or over-stimulated. Doesn't matter. We have a job to do and they need to perform when we are booked to perform. I have no problem asking them to perform. It's the family business, after all. If we lived on a farm they would have to pull weeds to keep the crops healthy, even when they are sick of pulling weeds and find it boring. Everyone participates. However, if they had to pull weeds, they wouldn't be judged by so very many people while doing so. I try to remember this and extend extra grace when they act like kids, shield them where I can from unnecessary criticism, be their advocate, and hopefully show them how to extend grace to those who toss venom their way. Trust me. It's actually a lot easier for a mama bear to give grace to her kids than to those criticizing her children, and I'm not convinced extending grace means to excuse the cruelty like it's something it is not. Sometimes it means we call it what it is, yet do not return evil for evil.

99.9% of the people where we play appreciate our music, the kids, and sometimes they even especially like the orneriness of the kids. Even so, in our times playing we have had our share of challenges in the grace department. Sometimes it is when we play at assisted living centers where we encounter people with Alzheimers, who often need a great deal of grace, but given the circumstances, it's not very difficult to provide. Sometimes it's simply from people who come from an era where children were to be seen and not heard, unless they were performing like little trained dogs, like a little Mozart or Shirley Temple, who were allowed to be presented perfect and cute for their temporary pleasure. They are rare, thankfully, because it takes supernatural Grace from God Himself to maintain my cheerful smile in such situations.

In the last year we have all been pushed through a lot of challenges that I imagine were given towards our sanctification in the grace department. Tomorrow I will leave another message for the man who was very angry and short tempered towards me a few weeks ago when I called the State Patrol to find out the status of the bus VIN plate. I have still not heard anything from anyone, so I have to put on my nice voice and call to be yelled at again.

Grace. I need some of that Supernatural stuff, please, and I need to remember clearly to never treat people the same, to turn the other cheek, love my neighbor, and pray for those who throw hate towards my children.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Count the Blessings

We were privileged to play at a very small Cowboy church this week, minus a chickenpox little girl, who stayed with Grandma and Papa. Nothing blesses us more than the opportunity to share our music with a new little church. Little seems to be the key, too. Many times when we are looking for churches who would enjoy our music, people think to suggest the big church down the street, when most of the time, it's those little hide-a-way churches where we are the most welcomed, and have opportunity to bless groups who don't always have special music. It's kind of like going to the little community and art festivals instead of the big bluegrass ones, who usually don't want us anyway. We find that is where we are the most enjoyed, and appreciated. The same is true for assisted living centers. They cannot afford to pay very much, but they love to have us.

Recently I started to get the word out to our church family and others that we would like to get some connections at little churches around the country who may appreciate one of our gospel shows. We have had a few kind people already get the word out to home town churches they have left in different states. I love the idea of going to different parts of the country, meeting the little home churches of our current church family, too.

Our 2012 tour is very slowly taking shape. It may alter a bit here and there, but I am now outlining things based on at least a few connections I did not have even a week ago, and that gives us some hope.

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Cold Weather and Buses

The weather has been cold and rainy here, and I admit, I love it. We need better heating in the bus still if we're going to manage the really cold weather, but we survived our first below freezing evening, and didn't freeze. We have a minor problem with the all of the main outlets being on either the inverter or on a single circuit, and when we put on both heaters, even both on medium, they can blow the breaker. We may have to do a bit of rewiring. The air conditioners are on separate breakers each, so I wonder some if we couldn't disconnect one for the moment in order to get a heater hooked in. When it gets cold, we will want to be able to put them on high.

As soon as the warm days fade I will put plastic over the windows, and we hope to buy some stiff insulation we can cut down to fit around the base of the bus and prevent the cold air from blowing under the bus. If we have a mild November and December, that may get us through until we can head to South Texas. If the DMV cooperates and we manage to get all of our work on the bus completed, including those things that will require driving the bus somewhere to have fixed, like a hitch, a welded compartment for the generator, and a new tailpipe, we could leave just a tiny bit early to outrun the cold a bit, but I'm not counting on that.

Meanwhile, Michael chased down and killed yet one more leak in the plumbing this weekend, and put up a shelf in my pots and pans cabinet so I can better retrieve things with less stacking. The shower is now fully functioning, hot water heater works great, and we have two accordion doors up, one to the bathroom, and one to close off the bunk areas.

I still want skylights where the emergency exits are located to let in more light, and I hope this month to purchase insulation for the doghouse (engine compartment that is located inside the bus). Additionally, I'm really pushing for an expanded black water tank area, though we may have to go with a custom size and pay a bit more. Trust me. With 6 people, that could be a very important upgrade!

Alex still intends to paint it with stripes, too, and I want to find a big vinyl sign with our logo to stick on the bus! We have to consider Benny's appearance, you know. I have seen some RV equivalents of "gated communities" lately, with web sites clearly stating that they do not allow any RV older than 15 years and absolutely no conversions. They don't want us bus riff-raff infecting them, I suppose. Pftttthhhh... Our bus will be so cute when we're done with it that they'll look longingly at our cuteness as we pass right by them and head to the nearest KOA. We all know what a fabulous thing this plumbing challenged, leaky bus happens to be, right?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken pox and other short updates

Yep. Mary has them. Itchy, scratchy, and not feeling too great, but in our house, if you are the sick kid, you get to pick the movies to veg your brain over, so she's content. We did have to cancel a play date today, sadly. We have a music set at a cowboy church tomorrow night and we will have to perform without her, but with any luck, she will be on the mend enough by next weekend's show. We'll just have to see how serious of a case she gets and how long until she is past being contagious.

In other news, the last person at the DMV gave me bad information, too. No one knows sometimes whether they are coming or going. They make the paperwork and process so complicated that even the people working there get confused. Anyway, the last guy sent me to the Colorado State Patrol too soon. It would seem the VIN plate gets sent first to the DMV, then to the State Patrol, and according to their notes, it was picked up on Thursday or Friday. This means they just got it, and will sort it out with others to be sent to local county offices. They're supposed to call me, but no one seems to have any clue how long it will be until that happens. Wee. At least I know that somewhere out there, someone finally has an actual VIN plate with Benny's VIN number on it. If I can track that person down eventually, maybe Benny can get his magic little metal tag and we can put this whole thing behind us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In which I ramble at 1am.

It's after 1am and I'm wide awake. I have a new song that has been annoying me for over a month and I finally made some progress on it. It's a cappella and therefore miserable to write out without the aid of a piano. Normal bluegrass songs are easy to just write out your chords and sing your melody on top of them, but a cappella songs expect harmonies, and tight ones. I am seriously considering getting one of those roll up pianos for such occasions, but the fact is, we are set to be in the recording studio in 3 weeks and I am crazy enough to think we can learn this song by then and have it polished up, so there is no time to wait on a keyboard. I'm plugging away without it. It won't go away, so I may as well stay up late and see what happens with it.

I don't think I'll ever see myself as a song writer, even though I do it. I tried a few in high school and dropped it for about 25 years, then when the band started and we were supposed to have original songs, I started writing one day. Now I write when we need the songs, but I don't write a lot of them. Just exactly what we need and when we need it. Of course, when I need them they sprout out of my brain and won't leave me alone, driving me batty until I get them down on paper, arranged with harmonies, breaks and all. However, I'm really not one to jot down lots of notes on different ideas day after day. It's all or nothing.

Oh, and they are almost always religious songs. I cannot write about mushy stuff. Not sure why, but I figure the world has lots of mushy songs anyway. I managed one secular song for this CD and it's about a young girl dreaming of owning a horse but stuck living in suburbia, and even that eludes to eternal visions. Katie will sing it because that was Katie at 11 years old. She's doing a good job, too, for one who doesn't care much about her singing usually. She only has ears for her banjo. It's cute. The song, that is. Ok, Katie is too.

We need one, maybe 2 songs still for the CD. I'm not satisfied with our selections as they are. Michael needs a song. I'll be all over that one tomorrow. In 3 weeks we'll record it. Good thing I work better under pressure, huh? I'm envisioning something for solo acoustic guitar... Alex can easily handle the acoustic guitar accompaniment in that amount of time and Michael just has to sing puurdy. It'll be good. Maybe. Or not. If not, Michael doesn't get a song on the CD, that's all. He won't care, but I will, so I have to try.

It's looking like the fife won't make it on the CD. :(

Lately stress has left me feeling sick, which is unusual for me, in truth. The DMV has approved the VIN for the bus, but now the State Patrol is being elusive and the one contact they keep giving me is to a guy who just happens to be a very angry person who doesn't listen to questions, and gives wrong information as a result of having not listened. I have no idea what the status is or how to find out. I'm feeling a bit defeated on that at the moment.

So, the best thing to do is follow my whims for some diversions! I decorated the bus a bit with pictures and a map! The map is attached with magnets, and the dots are actually magnets with little dates on them. The fun thing about a metal bus is that you can use magnets to decorate, and move things around at your whim, so if our "places to go" map doesn't turn out exactly right, we can simply move the dots! (Dreaming of the day when the bus is allowed to
move, of course.)

The rest of the crazy week begins. I suppose the kids need some schooling, Mary has a violin lesson, food needs fixin', I have to find a song for Michael to sing, complete this a cappella song so it gets out of my head and lets me sleep, write a contract for a Dec. gig, polish 3 mandolin breaks for the CD, (which would be easier if I were any good at the mandolin), supervise fiddle practicing, set dentist appointments, eye doctor appointments, the State of Colorado wants their sales tax, (think I can hold it hostage for my VIN plate? Probably not), and I'm suppose to find places to play to line up with all of those dots on that map. I need a personal assistant. Any volunteers?

God is in control.
Breathe.
God is in control.
Breathe.
God is in control. Yes, that means of you, too, DMV and State Patrol. Pfthhhh...