Alright, I am seriously getting behind on entries. Please forgive me. I think all the time, “Ooh, I want to write about this…” And then before I know it, days have flown by, and I am swept up in the enthusiasm of life.
For example, this weekend…what a weekend! I will start with Thursday…in which I taught Art Matters to my daughter’s first grade class, down in the belly of the art room. I explained “surrealism”…and we drew blind contour drawings of one another, and we learned how to pronounce “Dali!”, as if the master himself was present, accent on the second syllable. I am only hoping the kids remembered to say to their parents after school, “I AM da-LEE ! ” Very funny. After class, I picked up Lily and took her out of school early, and we drove to Ingram, Texas for a retreat. A working retreat.
We were invited to come create songs for a new cd the Hill Country Youth Ranch is creating to raise awareness of abused/neglected children, and this was a momentous invitation, in my mind, in that Lily and I were going to write TOGETHER, and then record whatever we wrote. Tony Young, who is the ranch engineer and all-around sweetheart with a voice like Barry White mixed with Jerry Jeff Walker, took excellent care of us, from gas money to food/snacks, and checked us into the Double H hotel, where Lily and I hit the hay after dinner. We were tired!
The next morning, we went over to the ranch and Lily and I sang for a classroom of children, 6-12 years of age, all with their stories on their faces. These are children who have endured horrific histories, and we tenderly shared music and love, and hugs…I had asked Lily if she was going to want to sing “Look At Me”, but she shook her head, no…It was a lot of information for her to take in (Tony had taken us to breakfast and explained some of the case histories of the children….Lily had a lot of questions, and we had a lot of explaining to do about
why the children were at the ranch, what their parents had, or hadn’t done…)…But, after I sang for awhile, and she warmed up to the fact that these were kids with broken hearts, kids trying to regain a normal life, she tapped me on the shoulder, nodding, “I want to sing it, Mom…” and I introduced Lily and she took over from there…She talked about how hard it is to feel ignored, especially by parents, and then she introduced the song by saying, “So, my mom wrote this song for kids…” and continued from there….I don’t know why, but hearing her say those words choked me up…She sang so beautifully, and the kids were mesmerized…We finished with some Christmas songs…
Then it was time to drive another hour out to the cabin in the woods that the other campus was providing (the Ranch has two sites.) We were greeted by a cheery young man who drove us from the barn, and out of no where, back to a two story home. We had it all to ourselves, just Lily and me! We unpacked, checked out the house (four bedrooms, two baths, amazing porch that looks out over a creek, fall foliage and a path…) We were like TWO little kids, climbing up and down the ladder to the loft, checking the firmness of beds (“I call this one!”), oohing over the giant TV, me checking out the kitchen utilities/pots & pans. After we got settled, we walked down to the river, popping our bare feet in, crossing over to the other side…The river had some slime on the floor, and I almost slipped, but caught myself with a laugh.
We headed back, and as we were walking towards the cabin, Lily says, “What’s that?”
I said, “What?”
And she pointed throught the trees and said, “That thing…floating…over there…in the air…?”
And I looked, and there was a white feathery looking thing, lazily gliding along, about ten feet up, thirty feet away from us. It was the size of walnut, and as we stared, it changed direction, and started floating right towards us!
Lily caught it, and I proclaimed it to be a fairy….so she released it, and off it danced, back on the wind.
Back in the house, we kicked off our shoes, again, and started concentrating on writing a song in honor of the kids. I was excited, and I wee bit nervous. But I just knew we’d come up with something. Lily headed off to her chosen room, door shut. I laid down on the sofa. After awhile, I called out: “What are you doing?”
She hollered back, “Writing lyrics!”
And then….she came out with her notebook, tore out a page and handed it to me. It was just what it needed to be…Lily had totally captured what we needed to say on behalf of these kids.
It blew my mind…
So, we had our first two verses…But we needed an opening verse, and a chorus. I set to work, trying to piece it all together….
Just then, a car drove up the path, dust snaking a tail behind, and we went to the door to see who had come to visit. It was Mike, the ranch director, and he and I sat out in rocking chairs and talked while Lily disappeared back to her books. As Mike and I were talking about the ranch, and all it is bringing, and has brought, to children…He mentioned that the way over to the other school buildings was to crossover the river….And, there it was. The tie to bind the song together. one simple word: Crossover.
After Mike left, I ran to Lily and said, “I’ve got it!” and the rest of the song came easily. Lily even created a rap for the end, but then scratched it all out…over my pleas for her to stop stop stop! It is EXCELLENT, I said! Ugh, she replied. (I ended up rapping it at the end of the song when we recorded it…)
Friday night, we went to dinner at one of the older girls’ homes…Three teens preparing to transition out into the real world…Cassie, Brittney and Corinna, and their wonderful house mom, Miss D. Cassie was adopted from Russia as a young girl, after abuse in the orphanage, and then had troubles with her adopted family here….Brittney told us how she has over 30 step-brothers and sisters (!!) and Corinna was shy and hardly spoke at all. But as we enjoyed meeting Cassie’s rabbits (Karma and Blue), and the girls showed us their rooms, and lasagna/salad was served, everyone loosened up, and we were laughing and singing and telling funny stories, and the time just flew…It was a blast…before too long, Lily and I needed to head back to the cabin, so Miss D and the girls piled into the van and drove us back over. Lots of “I love yous!” and “Goodbyes!”…
To relax, Lily and I decided to watch a movie before bedtime. There wasn’t much by way of choices, but Lily BEGGED me to see “Lord of the Rings: Two Towers”…I finally acquiesced, but only if she promised to let me cover her eyes during intense scenes (I know…you’re thinking…uh, the whole movie is intense, Hickman!) But we had a great time watching it, and now LIly is in love with Orlando Bloom (but ONLY with this Elfen character and with his hair BLONDE, she insists.)
Next day, we made some breakfast and then said our goodbyes to our retreat, songs in hand (I had written some music to another set of lyrics I had), drove back to Ingram, and went into the HCYR recording studio. I laid down the guitar tracks, Lily sitting in the cutting room beside me, drawing little characters and playing with stuffed animals, and then…time to sing!
So, Lily sang the song “Crossover”, and there is nothing like watching Lily working in the studio…she puts a lot of thought into how she delivers a phrase, a note. And she cracks a smile when she knows she hasn’t quite got it, and asks to start again.
But I’ll crossover
To the other side
Yea, I’ll crossover
To a better life
No more pretending…this happy ending
Is meant to be
When I crossover…..
And I’ll be free….
This was the chorus to the song…about a young girl, on the wrong side of the tracks, whose mom does drugs and alcohol, and, finally, dies in the hallway of their house…and the little girl is finally free to cross over to a better life, and the mom crosses over to heaven.
We worked hard from 1 to 6 pm, then broke for Mexican food, and back to the Double H motel for relaxation. I had to lay my lead on my song, the harmonies on the Lily song, and composite Lily’s tracks from 12 to 1 single, complete grouping. But Tony had the hardest work…he stayed up until four, messing with the roughs…we are going to add trumpet,
strings, real drums, bass….and on the song I wrote (“Circle of Love”, which came about because I had written Susan Lincoln a poetic email), we hope to get a variety of voices, one on each verse…with the kids from the ranch singing the callbacks.
Lily and I crashed around 11 pm, got up at 8 am, and started the long drive back to Austin…
Then, we got home, I jumped in the tub, got cleaned up to go sing for a Lady Longhorn’s post-game concert I was giving at the Erwin Center…that was a BLAST! The team lost to Tennessee, but the crowd and I had a good time, anyway….I hadn’t been there since I sang the National Anthem with Asia, the elephant, at the Barnum and Bailey Circus event.
Here’s more of what happened this week:
WEDNESDAY: that morning, went with Lance to a Heartfelt Conversation meeting at Mike and Ginger’s, and discussed philosophy/religions with Christians, Muslims, B’Hai, Buddhists,
etc….we decided the next meeting will be at our house….then had a Recording Academy Board of Governors meeting at the Gibson showroom…stayed for the annual Christmas bash,
but not a lot of Governors showed up this year…we had entertainment planned, one of the interns has a band…but she had called in sick and so the Executive Director had called to see if I’d mind playing at the party…so, I called Kristin, last minute, and she came over and we sang while people were drinking and chatting….and, then, in walked Ty Pennington, of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, and I thought, “Well, if this isn’t a God thing…!” because that is our favorite show on TV…the one show the girls, Lance and I sit down on the sofa together and watch every week. So, Kristin and I sang our hearts out, and we talked with Ty afterwards (yes, he is as down to earth as he seems!) and his girlfriend, Dre (very, very nice…a sort of tall pixie with a warm smile)…They invited us to the “Move that bus!” taping today, but we decided not to go…we all had so much going on….and we knew it would be a zoo-ola. But…very fun to get invited! And I got Ty to sign an autograph for each girl, and Lance and I are going to download Ty’s pic and then we’re going to frame an autograph/pic for each girl’s room…for Christmas!
After this party, Lance and I ska-doodled over to the Tequila Mockingbird Party, and we laughed and toasted and hung out with more friends. (The girls were with friends having fun on their own.)
TUESDAY: Lucky and I had a professional photo shoot…we are going to be on the cover of Austin Pet Directory in February…Lucky did AWESOME! Especially when the photographer shook the box of doggie biscuits….Then we left this location and went to the Animal Trustees of Austin headquarters and created a painting to be auctioned off in their “Petcasso” event, which will be held on February 18….I painted a portrait of Lucky’s head, and then put her feet in some paint, and with a little LED red light, flashed it around the floor canvas, and Lucky chased the light while leaving her pawprints everywhere. I thought, “Hmm, I’ll just get her to run over to the green paint…” but when she ran after the red dot, instead of running through the green paint, she tried to snap at the light and ended up with green paint in her mouth!!!! Good thing she got a nice bath ASAP!
MONDAY: went with Kristin to ME TV to tape three songs for airplay, and also to, hopefully, put on You Tube. We taped “Two Days Today”, “Comfort’s Sigh” and “My Mama’s Hands”.
Later that night, took Lily, Clara, io and Lance up to KVUE/ABC to tape the annual Christmas day special they show on Christmas morning…I sing songs with the kids, and Santa comes and reads books, and everyone gets a gift…very sweet. This year was particularly funny in that lots of toddlers meandering around during the taping, pulling wrapping off boxes and jumping on the giant stuffed bear…