Thursday, April 24, 2014

Enter: Third World Sun

I put up a post on the Launch Pad blog today about the state of the band and what is rising from its ashes. Rather than re-post the whole thing here, I'll just link to it.

More info shortly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Spring Break Blues

So here we are. The last day of school for Melody's first school break since Lori passed away.

And, even though I get pretty decent days off, I'm faced with a good month or so of Melody being out of school with me still at work. Tthere are some exceptions. I'm taking some time off around her birthday and right before she goes back. But it's nowhere near a month. It's more like three or four days spread around here and there.

And so I'm faced with what the heck I'm going to do with her during that time.

Fortunately, we've got family.

Of course, that doesn't always translate into the "free babysitter" that it might seem. My mom recently (yesterday) had surgery to remove a lump of cancer from her breast. So she's in recovery mode now. And that leaves my sister who, thankfully, works from home. But she's used to having my mom watch her three-year-old so she can ACTUALLY do work from home. Nevertheless, it seems that Melody will be spending at least the remainder of this first week at her Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Joe's house. She'll have a blast with the cousins... far more fun than she would have with me as I go to work every day and put her... someplace.

But then that leaves me alone every night. And that's when things in the house get somewhat haunting.

I'm in the midst of changing some things around.

The room that was formerly Lori's mom's room (when she passed away, Lori's brother informed me that his mom wasn't my problem and took her to a residential-care facility) is now being transformed into an office for me. It's a lot of work to put bookshelves, books, desk, other furniture, computer, high-speed access, etc. into there. And, although I'm making progress, it's slow going. Perhaps I'll make progress in there on the nights when Melody is staying with her cousins.

I'm also planning on changing around the bedroom. As it is, it's pretty much the way it was the day Lori went to the hospital. The exception is that Lori's brown "venting" chair is now in my office. But otherwise, everything remains intact. Late at night when I'm in that big bed by myself, it does indeed haunt me. I believe changing the furniture around will help with those feelings.

I've also started replacing some of the artwork in the house. Not the photos. I'm keeping those all up for now. I want don't want Melody to feel as if I'm moving on too quickly. And, indeed, I don't want to move on too quickly. But I also need to do certain things so as to not torture myself as well.

As for Lori's things... her clothes, jackets, hats, boots/shoes, etc., I haven't really thought about that. I don't need both of our matching dressers. But since they match, I don't really want to get rid of one of them either. My brother, Jim, suggested putting hers in the closet, an idea that I like. Perhaps some strategic folding and stacking, and I may even be able to get a good amount of Lori's stuff inside, at least for the short term. I'm keeping her jewelry for Melody.

That brings me to what I'm doing for therapy. Not much. I'm going to work. I'm attempting to resume my writing but ramping back into A Stranger At The Gallows has been slow going. The thing that I have found that has best helped me cope so far is music.

In the aftermath of Lori's passing, the remaining members of Launch Pad (myself, Scott Johnson and Randy Scott) got together and jammed. We wanted to see if we were going to stay together and keep it going without Lori. At the time, the consensus seemed to be that we would pick up where we had left off and try to move forward without Lori. We didn't think she would have wanted us to stop and we all wanted to carry on, partly in her memory and partly because we still wanted to play together. However, as Randy said at the time, "No matter what we do, it won't be the same without Lori."

And he was right.

As time has passed, it has become somewhat evident that Launch Pad probably will not continue forward. Lori was the heart of that band. Launch Pad was born of both of us. Had she and I divorced or either of us had left the band, I don't think it would have been Launch Pad anymore. And even though Lori didn't really choose to leave, she did. She left the entire planet! And it's just not Launch Pad anymore.

So last week, Scott stopped by the house. We were talking about maybe writing something but nothing really popped. We went down into The Underground, just he and I. And we messed around a little. Still nothing really struck us. So I broke out a book of songs I had been working on over the past few years... stuff I thought I might record or do outside of Launch Pad if ever an opportunity presented itself. These songs are pretty much complete. Chord progressions, lyrics, melody, etc. I started playing the first one, "Collapse," and Scott took a liking to it. The chords were right on the page so it was nothing for him to start playing along. Then we moved to another. Before we knew it, we had gone through five songs. Scott had some suggestions for a couple of them and I jotted his name down alongside mine.

At that moment, I decided that the lifespan of Launch Pad was tied to the length of Lori's life.

Something new was going to happen. Scott came over again this past Saturday. I think the idea was that we might go back through some of those songs and flesh them out a bit. Instead, Scott started playing an infectious riff. I added a bass run under it and we jammed on it for awhile. When we came up for air, Scott was like, "Do you wanna do something with that?" I said, "Let's write some words right now. What should it be about?" We agreed that something we had both encountered in various bands is the feeling of being held hostage by the lack of commitment on the part of other band members. And thus, "Hostage" was born. The whole song was pounded out in a half hour... maybe an hour. Scott was stoked. I was happy. We were now up to roughly six all-new songs!

We still had no drummer. It was just Scott and me. Randy didn't seem interested. We made a few calls... Linda (our previous drummer), Robert (our almost drummer one time)... it just wasn't panning out. Scott and I made a trip to the music store and I used the trip to upgrade our PA. And then, Mike called Scott. Mike was Launch Pad's drummer for roughly a year before Scott joined and perhaps two more after Scott joined (I don't remember... maybe it wasn't quite that long). Our chemistry was undeniable. In fact, Mike played drums on all of the songs on the first Launch Pad CD. Indeed, I considered just dropping all the way out of Launch Pad when Mike left because I didn't really want to do it without him. As a bass player, I guess I get pretty attached to my drummers. So Mike called Scott, who told him what we were doing. Mike couldn't make it over on Saturday but Scott followed up with him on Monday and now we're going to get together this Saturday with an eye toward perhaps pulling this thing together. The idea is that we'll do (at least) these six new songs and port over some of the Launch Pad songs that I primarily sang (Has Beens, Do You Got The Stones?, Live Life, Bring It On, etc.) and the one Scott wrote/performed (Shades of Gray) to start with. That's plenty of material. And I'm sure we'll write more.

So my somewhat melancholy beginning of this post now morphs into something hopeful.

And I will leave it on that note.

Until next time...

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Photo Loop Of Lori

The following is a link to the photo loop that I put together for Lori's funeral reception.

Here We Go Again

Okay. So I just suffered a devastating loss roughly a month and a half ago. And, in assessing my goals and my plans and shifting my focus, I've decided to resume this blog, as well as my nonfiction blog, Zooming Thru Life. So this blog will be where my love of words and need to rant will often collide and runneth over onto the page. Posts will be frequent if not regular. Today, I started with posting my wife's eulogy from her March 1 funeral. I'm still reeling and so is our daughter. And I'm sure some of that will be fodder for future posts.

I continue to write and publish. Planetfall should be out this summer. That is a huge milestone for me. A Stranger On Bay Street came out late last year and the second book in the series, A Stranger At The Gallows (technically a chronological prequel) should release near the end of the year (unless it doesn't). More on that stuff as I continue to blog.

And the music... without Lori, I'm not sure where Launch Pad stands. But I will continue to write and perform and more news on that will be forthcoming from this blog as well.

So please spread the word: The Carhart Blog is back (as if anyone cares). Tell your friends, subscribe, keep coming back, contribute to the discussion, etc. Hope to see you around.

- Paul M. Carhart

In Loving Memory of Lori Esther Hedgpeth Carhart

February 25, 1970 – February 18, 2014

I possess, according to my late wife, a trait she termed as Carhart Confidence. I don’t suppose it was a compliment. Lori was shy and reserved. She did not like to draw attention to herself. I, on the other hand, don’t have a problem standing out. Indeed, one of our favorite lines was Jim Carrey’s zinger from the end of the film Bruce Almighty: “Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.” And so today I invoke said confidence to stand before you and say a few things about my wife, Lori. I trust that she will be rolling her eyes somewhere in the great beyond.

In the late spring of 2002, thanks to the conspiratorial ways of Lori’s dad and my sister, Lori and I began talking long distance between California and Colorado where I was living at the time. She had the sweetest voice and was almost shy. But she was also very smart and had her own ideas about things. That summer I flew back to California to visit my family and boy did my arms hurt.

I took a day to meet Lori and go out to lunch with her. Lunch turned into a movie and dinner. I remember thinking that night that, if she made an effort to drive me to the airport the next day, surely she was interested. I was relieved to discover that she not only picked me up, but she also took me to a little park where we could stroll hand-in-hand and chat before she dropped me at the airport. Before I got on my plane, I endeavored to kiss her into her soul. I didn’t want her to forget me in my absence. I told her, “You’re making me not want to leave.” And it was true.

A few weeks later, Lori visited me in Colorado. By Thanksgiving, we were engaged. Lori was a first grade teacher when we met and she intended to finish out the school year before we were to be married. Over spring break 2003, Lori and her parents brought all of her belongings out to the small home I had rented for us in Colorado. On August 2, 2003 we tied the knot. Barely a month later, Melody was growing inside of her mommy.

At the time, Lori’s dad had said something to the effect that he thought maybe we should have waited a bit to have a baby. But Lori had always wanted to have children and we were already in our thirties. In many ways, we were making up for lost time. That was probably for the best. For how were we to know we would only have ten years together?

Indeed, we were schooled early into our marriage about the brevity of our time here on earth. My dad passed away roughly two years after we got married. And Lori’s dad left us a mere six months later. Had we waited, neither of them would have got to hold Melody. And, although she doesn’t really remember them, Melody would not have go to meet them either.

Lori was almost mule-headed when she set her sights on something. To her, having a family was synonymous with owning a house. And what started as viewing model homes as no-money fun quickly became a campaign and Lori was leading the charge. I remember waking up one Sunday morning to find the bed empty. I stumbled into the front of our rental house and there she was at the dining room table, pencil in-hand. “I figured out how we can get that one that we liked yesterday,” she said as she showed me the paper. “We should go back over there today.” And so, even before Melody was born, we had purchased our first home in Colorado Springs, only a few short minutes from my job.

Lori’s pregnancy with Melody was difficult, to say the least. She was plagued with high blood pressure that the doctors had a very hard time getting under control. Ultimately, the doctors told Lori to have the baby early. Basically, they gave up. On April 19, two months before her due date, Melody started her habit of getting up early that continues to this day. Even that was difficult, resulting in Melody in the NICU in one hospital and Lori in the ICU in another hospital and me darting between the two locations, trying to keep two females happy, which we all know is pretty much an impossible task. The entire experience made such a negative impact on Lori that she wished to never darken the door of a hospital or doctor’s office again.

From the start, Melody was the center of Lori’s world and this would be true for the rest of Lori’s life. Over the course of a series of moves, first from Colorado to California and then all around the Long Beach area, ultimately landing us downtown, Lori made Melody the primary focus of our family. Especially after we lost our second daughter mid-pregnancy, focusing on Melody was the only way Lori could move on. There were other miscarriages following, each breaking Lori’s heart all the more. And each time, she redoubled her focus on the systematic and ever-increasing spoiling of Melody. Indeed, even when shopping on a shoestring, she would inevitability find the cutest stuffed animal in the store. And she would say to me, “Daddy, we only have one little girl,” which can be translated as, “we should buy this for Melody even though we just bought one almost identical to it for her yesterday.” And this was how an entire top bunk was transformed into a plush zoo.

Lori also cherished the arts and her worship of God. And she dedicated herself to proving that the former could be used to serve the latter. And so when we stepped down from leading worship at various churches, we started Launch Pad: A band and ministry that was about God without being about church and churchiness. Musically, we were influenced by everything that had ever influenced any one in the band and yet we sounded like none of our influences because we weren’t trying to sound like anyone but ourselves. We structured ourselves almost like a jam band so Lori could have the sonic canvas required for her voice to soar in absolute freedom. It was true that our band wasn’t for everyone, both onstage and beyond the stage. We cycled through drummers as if we were actually Spinal Tap. And not everyone “got it.” But that didn’t stop Lori. As usual, once she set her mind to something, she intended to see it through.

And so was born the monthly Blackfriars Theatre gatherings in our home where we would play the typical Launch Pad set. People could worship, dance, rock out or whatever their heart desired. And afterwards, we would do an open mic session (or three) with guitars and vocals. Usually backed up by Launch Pad’s rhythm section, people would mess around with their favorite songs or even original material. It was a great way to connect and to show artistic support. I believe this was the direction we were meant to go in.

However, the realization of this vision was cut tragically short. On the morning of February 6, 2014, just five days after what would become Lori’s final house concert, Melody’s mommy informed me that she thought she had pinched a nerve in her foot during the previous morning’s run. In reality, only 19 days before her 44th birthday, she had suffered a devastating stroke, the ultimate effects of which we would not know for many days. Twelve days later, my sweet Lori was no longer with us on this earth. Just as I had not wanted to leave her at the airport, I’m convinced that she would not have wanted to leave Melody and me behind.

But the choice wasn’t hers.

In the end, I believe Lori knew something was wrong with her. She had lost sensation and mobility in her right leg and it was creeping into her right arm. She begged me not to send her to the hospital, but to pray for her instead. As I finished praying, the two of us on our couch in the house that we had worked so hard to restore, her head lay upon my shoulder and my head rested against hers. I said to her the simplest of words, “I love you, Lori.” There was no hesitation in her reply, “I love you too.”

That was the last coherent conversation we had.

Lori always wanted to have a lot of children. But we were only ever able to have Melody. But in the life beyond, Lori is now the mommy of our other daughter, Lyric, as well as three other miscarried children. Now she can finally be the mommy she always wanted to be.

Naturally, there was much more to our life together than what I’ve outlined here. If you make it to the reception, you can view many pictures, each one worth a thousand un-uttered words. And I haven’t even got into the dog! There were so many things Lori still wanted to do. She longed to go to Ireland and Scotland. She looked forward to celebrating the 100th birthday of our Craftsman home that we’ve been restoring for the past six years. I’m sure she would not have passed up another chance to roll her eyes at me for some perceived infraction of etiquette. I know she wanted to continue to sing and play and worship with the band. Most of all, I know she wanted to see Melody grow up, go to college, get married and have children of her own.

And perhaps she can still witness these things from where she is. I don’t know. If so, I’m sure she’ll roll her eyes at me more than a few times in the years to come. But seriously, she’s left me with some pretty big shoes to fill. And I wear a thirteen, folks. She was the best possible mommy to Melody and she will be utterly missed by both of us and by everyone who ever met her. All I can do is promise to take the baton and finish the race the best I know how.

If I could say one final thing to Lori, it would be this: “You have been the best mommy. I did my best to love you and to protect you. Now I have to be the best daddy and love and protect Melody. Your daughter loves you and we will never forget you. And we will do our best to not disappoint you.”

And to Lori’s and my colleagues, friends and family who have gathered here today, I thank you for your time and support. I only wish to leave you with this final parting thought:

Life is a short, wonderful, devastating adventure. Live it well. Protect it. Feel everything. Listen deeply. Forgive often, even if not asked. And love with all your heart. There just isn't time to do anything less.

- Paul M. Carhart, Lori's husband