According to my birth certificate and our bathroom mirror, I’m about to turn 50 years old. I was born in April of 1965, so it all adds up. But for some reason, in my head and heart, it doesn’t. I still feel like a young man in my late 20’s or early 30’s at the most. I guess most men around my age always feel younger than they actually are…or at least they want to.
The first birthday I remember that my father had was when he turned thirty-eight. We lived in an old farmhouse that we’d rented just outside of Highland, KS and I remember the big “3” and “8” candles on his cake. The funny thing is though…he was already old, at least he was to me. I wonder if he knew he was old then. Or if he felt like I do when he was the age I am now. My father passed away at 51, so I never got to have a conversation with him about growing up or growing old. I’ve just had to try to figure it out, and as you can tell, I haven’t yet. Part of me hopes I never will.
I have always wanted to make a family trip back to Hawaii. I was stationed there when I was in my early twenties (or maybe I was already old?), and Heidi and Hopie were just babies. And though they’ve seen it in pictures in our photo albums and I have memories of living there… I’ve always wanted to go back, to bring my family and experience it one more time. So this year, for my upcoming fiftieth birthday, Joey arranged for us all to go spend one week on Oahu and one week on the Big Island.
It was a magical trip. In late February, we packed our bags full of warm weather clothes (I promised Joey and the girls that I wouldn’t even take a pair of bib overalls with me, and I didn’t) and said goodbye to the ice and the cold and landed in beautiful sunny paradise… me, Joey, Heidi, her husband Casey, Hopie and our little Indiana.
For two weeks, we didn’t just walk down memory lane… we made incredible memories that will last a lifetime! We walked beaches, hiked craters, caught waves, climbed volcanos, road catamaran’s, drank mai-tai’s and even blew out a few candles together. It was our favorite vacation we’ve ever taken. Most of the trips that we call family vacations, are actually places where we’re playing a show and try to fit in a few days of being tourists around it. This one was different. There was no music, no plan, no rush… just us all being together as a family. I loved it.
I didn’t bring a camera with me on this trip, but since Joey and I became iPhone people again a couple months ago… I made sure to capture some of my favorite moments with mine. We’ve been back home for a few weeks now, but I still find myself still listening to some of the island music we listened to when we were there. We built a fire the other night in the campfire pit in the backyard and Joey and I and Indy sat together and watched the sun go down and flames rise up, while we listened to an open-tuned Hawaiian guitar play a beautiful melody. It took us back…
How is it, that I spend all year looking forward to the Christmas season, wishing it would get here sooner…then when it finally arrives, I spend most of the holidays wishing it would slow down and wondering where these special days have gone?
Life with our new little one so far has been a bit like that. Time seemed to drag by waiting for her arrival, and now that she’s here… Joey and I wonder where the last 10 months have gone. It’s hard to believe, but she’s going to be a year-old soon. But what an incredible year it’s been!
As we say goodbye to Christmas and start waving farewell to 2014, Joey and I are reminded that for most of the last year, we weren’t sure if we were gonna sing or perform anymore. We’d made the decision to take the year off and just be home with the baby, and a part of us both wondered if maybe we were just gonna let that part of our lives go and move on to the next part. But sometime this fall, we both knew in our hearts that we wanted to stand on stage and sing again… and continue to share the special songs and story that God has given us.
So right after Thanksgiving we opened our guitar cases, dusted off our vocal-cords and played three shows here at our farm (about two years ago, we had converted our big red barn into a sound-stage and concert hall, so that we could still play shows, but not have to be on the road and travel as much). The shows were so much fun. Lots of folks drove or flew here from all over the country and we were honored to get to sing for and meet them after the concerts. In a couple of the shows, we even got to bring Indiana out to say hello before her bedtime and sing to her. Those were beautiful moments that we’ll never forget.
Since the stage in the barn was all decorated up for the holiday shows (as was the rest of the barn), we used it to have our extended family’s Christmas dinner and gift exchange on Christmas eve. Then yesterday morning, in the farmhouse, we celebrated Christmas and exchanged gifts under our tree. As always, I had a camera going so we can remember our family’s first Christmas with Indy forever.
Thinking ahead to 2015…
My wife and I have decided to start performing shows in the concert hall here at home one weekend a month starting in January, so I’ll get to hear her pretty voice a lot more this coming year and hopefully meet a lot more nice people. I’m starting to write songs again and am almost finished writing the screenplay for a full-length feature film with our manager (and my cousin) Aaron. It’s a Civil War epic story about a soldier’s wife named Josephine and her journey to reunite with her husband. We’re hoping to start filming it this spring. Besides that? Hmmm… I think there’ll be a big garden, some new baby chicks, more blog posts… and a smiling one-year old, learning to crawl, maybe walk, and even more importantly, learning to say “ma-ma” (she only says “da-da” and “ba-ba” so far) for her mommy!!
All it took was baby kittens…
Up til then, Indiana really had no interest in sitting up by herself, and we didn’t think she had the strength yet to hold herself up. But at my sister’s house one evening about two weeks ago, I took Indy in the bedroom to see Marcy’s new baby kitties. I sat her down next to me, and I guess she forgot that she didn’t know how… and just started sitting up all by herself. Not just for a couple seconds, but for a long long time. I just sat back amazed, called Joey in to see and started filming.
I think there must be something to that for all of us. Most of my career goals have come from not realizing that I couldn’t do something. From just being focused on something bigger than the work I was doing. And pretty soon, I was doing something that I knew there was no way I could ever do.
Since that first night, Indiana sits up by herself a lot (we put a pillow behind her, just in case she falls back). She’s discovered paper too. Yesterday, after checking the mail with Indy, Joey gave her an envelope to play with. And this is what came out of it. Indy would swap the envelope now and then with a toy, but for most part, the noisy paper was her favorite. Mine too.
Two weeks ago today, our little Indiana turned six months old. At about 6 am, when she woke up…Joey and I brought her into our bed, laid her between us and sang “half-a-birthday to you”. It was a precious moment.
The last six months of our lives has been filled full of moments that we never dreamed that we’d get to experience. And not just because we have a beautiful baby in the house to watch grow. But because, we’ve been really living. Because there’s been ups and downs and true joy and true pain… we’ve been able to really feel life.
In honor of Indy’s half-birthday, I put together some video clips of her that I have taken since she was born in February and put them to music. The song is one my friend Tim Johnson wrote before he passed away in 2012. His co-writer, Julie Durden, is singing. It’s written about her niece who is deaf, so it’s not exactly Indiana’s story. But in other way, it is.
Indiana is perfect…just the way God made her.
A couple weeks ago, we took a family trip to Alaska. We were actually part of a music cruise with some other wonderful country music artists and fans that were on the ship too. Although my wife and I are taking this year off from touring and playing shows, we were booked to perform on this cruise long before we knew a baby was coming or we made plans to take time off. So we all went and made a family vacation out of it. Me, Joey, Indy, Heidi, Hopie, Joey’s mama June, our niece Magen and the kids’ good friend Kenzie all boarded a flight on the 18th of July and got home the night of the 26th. We did perform a couple of songs on stage and during one of the songs “If I Needed You”, we brought little Indiana out and Joey sang to her. It was precious. The scenery was breathtaking and the whole trip was incredibly special for all of us.
I made this video for my blog a day or two after we got back, but my mother got sick and I never got the chance to post it. Then on the 30th she passed away and it just didn’t seem right to share something that was filled with so much joy in a time that my family was hurting and grieving the loss of someone we love so much.
Mom has been gone a dozen days now and I still am now sure what to write or say about it. I think, like some of my siblings, I’m still trying to fully process what has taken place. I do know that my mother loved to smile and laugh and that in the end she wanted us to celebrate her life and not mourn it. The day after we got home from the cruise, Mom had asked me to show her some pics or video from our trip to Alaska when I had them ready, so I had brought this over to her house to show her the morning she passed away, but of course, she never got to see it.
I sure hope they have internet in heaven.