Personal Songs Volume 2 (2016)
Marianne met Mike when he came through the line where she was serving up BBQ at a post-hurricane Alicia benefit concert in Houston, Texas. Later that night they stood next to each other during the concert, bumped heads while they were talking, and spilled their beers. She thinks she loved him the first time she saw him. That love was tested and held steady when, years later at the end of a year-long breakup, they took shelter together for 3 weeks without electricity when his house was destroyed in hurricane Ike. Having weathered so many storms together, and having lost it all and rebuilt from wreckage their places in the world and in each other’s lives, Marianne just wanted to let Mike know how much she loves him.
I never met the woman for whom this song was written. I spoke on the phone with her once, when a mutual friend set up an appointment for us to talk. When we spoke, she told me she believed she had only a few months more to live, as she’d reached the end of her treatment options for Stage IV lung cancer. She was in the process of preparing a collection of things to give her 21-year-old daughter — to whom she’d been a single mom for 21 years — before she died, including this song that I would write for her. She told me about the hopes she had for her daughter, and about how she wanted this song to express her everlasting love for her. She also told me about a special saying they shared with each other, which became the inspiration for the title of her song: whenever one of them would see something that brought her joy — like a cute red VW Bug, or a hillside full of daffodils — she would say to the other, “I love you more than 10,000 red VW Bugs!” or, “I love you more than 1 million yellow daffodils!”
Jenn met Justin 15 years before they were ever involved with each other in a romantic way, over the morning coffee she sold him at her espresso bar in the hospital in Boise, Idaho where he worked. They shared a few minutes of conversation almost every day, forming a friendship over the years, through job changes, marriages, and kids. Justin had always been intrigued with Jenn, and in 2014 he got to follow that intrigue as they started taking walks together every Thursday afternoon. They were both going through divorces at that time, and they made a pleasant discovery through their weekly conversations: their lives, their dreams, their goals for living and loving to the fullest all seemed to match. Nowadays, every morning, Justin brings Jenn her morning coffee.
Gregory gave this song to Melanie, a woman he’s never met in person. He’d been experiencing some discontentment in his life, and — as he tends to do — he looked to music for comfort and encouragement. On a music-focused social media site, he stumbled across Melanie’s profile picture and says he instantly felt drawn to her. They formed an online friendship over the course of a few years, sharing music with each other and talking about their lives. He would come home from work and look forward most of all to logging on to the site to talk with her. During that time, Gregory developed strong feelings for Melanie, and he decided to express them to her, even though he knew there was no chance at all for them to ever have a real relationship with each other. He wanted this song to be a part of that expression, since their friendship was centered entirely around music. After he gave the song to Melanie, Gregory told me that he never actually listened to the song himself.
This song was written for John, for his 60th birthday, given to him by his daughter Katie and his wife Molly. Since one of John’s great loves in life is music, Katie and Molly thought he would really appreciate having his very own song, and this is it. Molly and Katie told me all the things they love about John, and I did my best to portray him as they know and love him to be. He is the “river” in this song — a peaceful, strong, powerful, sparkling force that runs through the center of their family. He is where they go to get advice, to be comforted, and to receive love from the endless spring that flows from his big heart. John has a particularly special relationship with Katie’s 10-year-old daughter — even though she is non-verbal, John seems to have the ability to understand and communicate with her in a unique way. Just like a river carves its path in the earth, John’s steadfastness and loving spirit is carved into the hearts of his family who loves him.
Laura and I exchanged several messages back and forth about the direction she wanted to take with her personal song. She ultimately decided that she wanted a song that would reflect her personal experience with a scenario that many of us have been through: how to pick up pieces from the broken parts of our lives and in the world around us, and try to form hope and light and something better and stronger from those pieces. Part of our discussion centered on her deep emotional reaction to tragedies she’d witnessed in the news, like the shootings in Paris in the fall of 2015 — how does she explain that kind of senseless pain to her children? How does she try to understand it for herself? What can she do with the brokenness she’s experienced in her own life to create something better for herself, her family, and her world? It was her hope for this song that it would encourage other people who struggle with the same kinds of things she’s working through. So, really, if Laura’s personal song was meant as a gift to anyone, it was meant for you.
This song was written for Andrea to give to her fiancé, Chris, as the song to which they would share their first dance at their wedding in a town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She told me about how they met at a bar — and she had sworn she’d never go out with a guy she met at a bar. And how they ended up kissing on their first date — something she’d also sworn she’d never do. She had made up all sorts of rules for dating since she’d been through a painful divorce and didn’t want to repeat any mistakes she’d made in the past. Well, she ended up breaking all of those rules for Chris … and ended up finding in him a person she feels really good with, the person she’s going to share this dance with as they mark the beginning of their new life together.
Andrea gave this song to her husband, Steve, on the day after Valentine’s Day, their 13th anniversary. You could say that their relationship owes a lot to a group of match-making high school youth group girls who schemed to get them together. But I bet if you were to ask Andrea, she’d tell you that those girls were all part of a divine plan to bring the two of them together. She told me about how when they started spending time together on dates, it didn’t take very long for either of them to “know” that they’d get married. For him, he realized it when she laughed at all the right places in a movie they watched together. For her, she realized it when at the end of one date they went to a park to swing on the swings. They talked about what they each wanted from life, and she just knew he was the one. Can you hear the swings in the melody of the song?
James and Daneka are getting married soon, and this song tells the story of how they met, fell for each other, and then bonded through some scary challenges they faced early in their relationship. James told me about how he had to wait 45 minutes for Daneka to show up for their first date in Seattle, Washington; but it was worth the wait because the he’d never had as much fun as he did as when he was with her. He felt such a thrill when she would hold his hand. Not long after they started dating, James was diagnosed with a very serious and rare heart condition — improbably, the same diagnosis Daneka’s father had been given some years before. She knew just how scary the condition was; but she stuck by his side, offering strength and encouragement in his hospital room, only to leave and break down in tears when she was by herself in her truck. James’s health is good now; and perhaps because of their brush with such a serious health scare, the two of them have a deep and passionate love for life, and they’re eager to experience as much of it as they can with each other.
Megan and Missy have had to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to have a relationship with each other. Their song is called “Bridges” because of the many, many literal and figurative bridges they’ve had to cross back and forth in order to build their relationship for well over a decade — bridges of distance, bridges across an international border, and bridges of time apart as they cared for sick family members. They met and started dating in Oswego, New York, but because Megan is from Canada, they had to maintain their relationship across the Canadian border for many years. Even after they were married, they still faced separation because US immigration law didn’t recognize their marriage as legal at that time. Their commitment to each other has stood the test of those distances. I suppose it’s perfect, then, that when Megan proposed marriage to Missy, it was at a place called Natural Bridges, Virginia.
Michelle and Laurie met and became friends in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Friendship turned into feelings, and the two became a couple. Not long after, however, Michelle moved home to Wisconsin to care for her father, whose cancer had returned. They spent every night on the phone together, talking and reading to each other. After 8 months, Laurie moved to Wisconsin. Laurie was with Michelle’s dad when he passed. She’d recently lost her own mother and best friend to cancer as well. Michelle says that they got through the tough times they encountered together by looking for “the bright spots among the clouds.” It’s not surprising, then, that one of Michelle and Laurie’s favorite things to do together is to get in their convertible, put the top down, and take pictures of the moon in its various phases. They call their tradition “chasing the moon;” and that, to me, sounds like looking for the bright spot in the sky.
Personal Songs Volume 1 (2014)
Erik & Peg love watching movies together, even though Peg can’t ever seem to manage to stay awake through the ending. So I told their story as though it’s a screenplay of their lives. It tells how they met, began dating, and fell in love – while making out to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, no less – and ultimately how he proposed. It’s the feel-good blockbuster of the year!
Shanta and Robert’s first date was watching falling stars, and when Robert proposed to Shanta, he memorialized the occasion poetically, declaring that he’d finally caught himself a falling star. So sweet! These two have been through a lot of difficult times together, but through it all they’ve taken good care of each other. Their story underscored for me that if you’re lucky enough to find true love, it’s your responsibility to take care of it forever.
Charlie has a passion for car racing, and he also dearly loves his wife, Tisha. He described to me how even as they’ve experienced trying times in their lives, and as they both continue to stretch and grow in their relationship, he wants to show her more and more what she means to him as they grow. A phrase that jumped out at me from his story is that Tisha inspires him to “aim for her heart” with his words. So, car racing + love song + memorable quote = this song. Like I said, everyone’s story is unique.
Kyle met Nicole right before he was supposed to leave the country for grad school for a year. Sparks flew, but they agreed that they shouldn’t get into anything serious since he was leaving. Turns out they couldn’t help themselves and began a whirlwind romance anyway. Then the long-distance relationship. And finally he realized that she’s the one he wants to be with forever – so they no longer have to say goodbye.
Kelly first told Angela he loved her at the Boise Train Depot. He proposed marriage to her in that same spot. And then they celebrated their wedding vows there as well. It’s their special place – and they’re an especially sweet couple. Angela has a saying she often tells Kelly when he’s leaving the house: “Drive carefully. I need you for another 85 years.” Awww. This song imagines an old Kelly and Angela sitting on their special bench at The Depot at the end of their lives, recalling the magical life they’ve shared, and pledging to keep holding hands tightly as they go forward into whatever comes next.
Dena and Blain met young and got married fast. Everyone thought they were crazy, but they were determined that choosing to be with each other was exactly what they wanted. Fast forward many years later, and they were driving back from a trip to Disneyland one night with their kids asleep in the back of the van, and they started getting deep, and they realized their relationship was on autopilot. They discussed some difficult things, and decided that night that they still wanted to make an active choice to be with each other, and to choose to make their relationship great. Their motto for their relationship has become “I choose you,” and now it’s also their song.
John and Melody believe that they were brought together for a reason. John believes that he wouldn’t have had the courage on his own to woo Melody, and that greater forces stepped in to make it happen. They are raising a special needs daughter, and in their quest to provide her with quality educational services in their south Texas town, they’ve started a school for special needs kids where kids from all over Texas now come for outstanding care and education. They believe their relationship and their daughter are part of a sort of miracle that has ended up bringing love and joy to the lives of many others. Multiple miracles = a great song topic!
This one was about a new and budding romance between Sandy and the girl who had captured her heart. They lived relatively far apart from each other, and so started their relationship by meeting halfway between their houses in what became their “special place.” Everything was still new and innocent in their relationship when this song was written, and their biggest struggle was having to say goodbye at the end of each visit, and then longing for the next time they got to see each other. New love is always fertile ground for a personal song.
Meghan and Jenny had a really sweet, tender relationship. But Meghan lived in New York, and Jenny lived in South Carolina. And it was getting harder and harder for them to see a future together when their lives were lived so far apart. So they made the decision to part ways while they still cared for each other, with the hope that one day, if circumstances changed, that maybe they could be together again. This song was written for Meghan to give to Jenny on her birthday, not long after they had said their goodbyes and parted ways. A bittersweet, moving, and ultimately hopeful story, and one of my very favorites.
Bryan and his kids wanted to tell their wife/mom Shari how much they appreciate all that she does for them and the love that she always showers on them. This is a simple, sweet song about wishing for Shari all the pleasures she enjoys – a sunset on the beach, a warm bath, the laughter of her loved ones around her table – as a reward for the life she has lived so well and selflessly.