Apr 262016
 

When my son was in public school, it was determined he had Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Otherwise a normal kid,he had a mild problem concentrating. He understood most of his teachers,but on his bad days, he just smiles and says he was “slow to learn and fast to forget.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states it affects 11% of school-age children – including 19 percent of high school age boys – struggling with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. So, naturally, as parents, we were concerned not only with his marks, but with how he viewed his own potential.

However, the psychiatrist and ‘special needs’ staff – who had indentified our son’s ADHD – had a conflict dealing with his grade seven home room teacher. He refused to change his teaching ways… saying the classroom for “dumdums” was down the hall.

“How can you just leave me standing?/Alone in a world so cold?” When Doves Cry  by Prince

In my experience, all great teaching is built on acceptance. A teacher can be respected for their knowledge, but a great teacher is loved because they care.

Then things changed for the better.

His secondary school guidance teacher – who didn’t let the confines of a wheel chair disable her from thinking of possibilities  – was an educator our son trusted. It took some time to convince him that he could handle university work, but she taught him to develop a disciplined approach, along with some study strategies and time management skills; his confidence doubled. Who can put a price on that?

It’s probably, why he became the emphatic, encouraging teacher (and parent) he is today: demonstrating any willing professional can easily adapt ADHD teaching skills – and better understanding of all students.

I wasn’t diagnosed with it until adulthood, but related signs were there, including: anxiousness, wanting everything done yesterday, and trying to do too much. ‘All or nothing’ became my motto, but at what costs? Now, I see this way of living is no way to die.

My best learning experience didn’t involve a “teacher”… it was at the reigns of an older horse named, Johnny. He was the pride of Pat – a champion western horse rider, trainer and breeder.

The two were a natural training tandem, and when I, as a rookie rider, started by putting Johnny’s saddle blanket upside down, Pat said, “Well, you really are a beginner aren’t you?” Johnny sighed.

Yet, by the end of the practice, she asked me to take Johnny back to the barn; and along the way, I had to lean over, unlatch the gate, ride through and turn Johnny again and close the gate. I didn’t learn until afterwards that this was an advanced skill – not normally taught to beginners. Pat said, “I figured you could handle it… Johnny likes you!”

“And feelin’ good was good enough for me…” – Me and Bobby McGee, by Kris Kristofferson

Pat and Johnny proved what having a little faith in someone can do.

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca              The Music In Me
April, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 252016
 

Last week our youngest celebrated her ‘30 something’ birthday – and what a start to life she’s had!

It all began one day when I thought someone had left the radio playing upstairs – only to find one of our girls (then a 3rd grader) singing to herself… unaware of how good she sounded. What followed, in the years leading up to womanhood, saw her enrolling in singing lessons, joining a band, playing at some of Toronto’s top clubs and winning a government grant (to produce an introductory CD)… we all thought they were “on their way.”

When their CD came out, the original songs were well received, but her warm, “pitch-perfect” voice seemed buried in the instrumentation background. Apparently, this was deliberate as it was considered in vogue. We all wondered why, if the group had this “ethereal” voice, it wasn’t featured along with those intriguing lyrics emanating from her heart.

“And with a voice like Ella’s ringing out,
There’s no way the band can lose”
Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder 

Plus, after she came back from an international jazz festival in Poland, much of the production arrangements – creative input she’d been promised – had been completed. Whatever the reasons, it seemed like a lack of faith – something she highly valued.

“How on earth did I get so jaded?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Life’s mysteries seem so faded”Runaway Train by Soul Asylum

The management entertainment team who signed her because she wrote (let’s say) ‘Green’ music, now expected her to write ‘Red’ music’ – because that was getting radio play. Not wanting to copy someone else’s style, she explained, “Dad, even if I’m successful doing it their way, but I’m not happy, is it worth it?” She and her group voted and made the hard decision to disband – two going on to earn their music degrees.

Worried her career talent would never sustain past this point, I talked with Canadian folk recording legend Valdy, who after hearing the story, graciously invited her to write some lyrics for his new album. Being a father himself, I believed he was moved to offer help because he didn’t want to see any young artist’s future in music die. With such dedication to the arts, no wonder he’s been awarded the ‘Order of Canada’ for a lifetime of individual and social responsibility. She was grateful for his support – we love him – yet, in the end, felt she hadn’t earned the right. Valdy understood.

“Runaway train, never goin’ back,
Wrong way on a one-way track”

I just wasn’t seeing things through her eyes. As much as I wanted it for her; it was her life. No matter how well-intentioned my urgings were, I had to let go or become ‘another brick in the wall’. I could never control all the outcomes in life, why act as if I could?

Letting go was a challenge. But her forgiveness and an old piece of paraphrased scripture saved the day for me: “It may not come when you want, but when it does it’ll be right on time.”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca               The Music In Me
March, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 202016
 

“Gather ’round me, everybody…
Feel a sermon comin’ on me
The topic will be sin,  And that’s what I’m ag’in'”
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen

Over the past two years, I’ve been involved in resurrecting our ‘60’s rock band, with some of the original members. And, based on the simple, eternal flame of friendship – and, doing what we love – we reclaimed a prize we thought lost.

“If you wanna hear my story
Then settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin’
The attitude of doin’ right”

We decided we were going to do justice to the classic songs, their creators, and performers… feeling everything else would fall into place. However, early on, one of our members was diagnosed with cancer. And, despite undergoing chemo and radiation treatment, he still attended 90% of our scheduled practices. Such is the measure of his resolve and commitment to do something worthy. We stand in awe of him: he has become the rock to our roll. Rob’s battled on; he’s beaten the cancer into submission; he’s our hero!

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

This dedication to his craft hasn’t changed since we were kids – like not standing up for his brother at his wedding because we had a last-minute gig. His family was not pleased!
So, when standing shoulder to shoulder with someone with such a laser focus, how can you not play to your utmost?As Gmail creator Paul Buchheit, said, “Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.” Being true to yourself; putting quality over quantity, and daring to ‘do the right thing’, has lasting rewards.

That’s a worthy goal. But, who will show us the way… the courage not to give in to our fears? Often, it will come from those with the most challenges and personal limitations – especially from family and friends.

I remember Uncle Earl – confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis: a disease he said he wouldn’t have wanted to wish on anyone. But, when people visited him, it was they who we’re cheered up; he had so many funny stories! So, how much we improve people’s lives is something totally within our control no matter the circumstances.

Last week, our family attended the funeral service for our friend Neil; a man who lived to give. His son, Perry, remembered when he anonymously paid for the breakfast of a complete stranger – with a knowing wink and smile to Perry. It was typical of a man who would drop everything to help anyone who asked… and many who didn’t. Neil was loved.

“You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene”

Yes, negativity is real, but we’re not naïve in our hope – seems we can afford to be generous – realizing that we ‘reap what we sow.’

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca               The Music In Me
February 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 292016
 

Over the years, I’ve found that what counts is not what happens next, but what happens after that.

For example, I remember leaving a place in London, for a “better opportunity” in Toronto – only to end up back in London with an even better job. So, if I hadn’t gone to Toronto in the first place, I wouldn’t have found out about the next career situation back in London.

Another time, my wife and I were devastated when we lost out on buying a farmhouse outside London. But, a few months later, I got a promotion/transfer to Kitchener; and after that, we were able to buy the perfect hobby farm for our excited family. Again, if we’d bought that original farm setup, we’d only have had to sell it anyway… leaving us heartbroken.

With experience comes perspective.But, what do we do with all that knowledge we’ve stored up? It’s no good after we die; why not pass it on? You’ve heard of Generation X, Y, and… is it Z now? Well, for the sake of simplicity, let’s call them Generation ‘Next’. We can find many ways to help them, and in the process make ourselves more useful… to share our love.

“Son, I’ve made a life
Out of readin’ people’s faces…
So if you don’t mind me sayin’
I can see you’re out of aces…
I’ll give you some advice”
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

However, I still remember my dad saying that you can talk to some people ‘til you’re blue in the face, but most have to learn from the ‘school of hard knocks.’ (Put your hand up if that sounds familiar?) Hey, I haven’t earned these lines on my face for nothing.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Mother Teresa, when asked about trying to help our world when there’s so much need said, “I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual… to love the person… to come in contact with him.”

We older ones may know a lot, but we don’t know everything. In fact, it’s a wise person who remembers that difference. Today’s high-tech generation ‘Nexters’ have a lot to offer. Nevertheless, we need to listen and care – just like others did for us – in order for them to reach their full potential.

In the latest Stars Wars movie, a young hero of the next generation offers to ‘pass the torch’ – the new challenge – back to an older Star Wars heroe, hoping for guidance. Will he return, and fully “engage” again, offers what he knows to the young people who are coming next? Or, we he continue to withdraw from life?

Engaging has its risks. My father cautioned me about one of the ironies of life  – if you give advice that works out, you’ll never get credit; however, if you give advice that doesn’t work out, you’ll certainly be criticized. But, standing on the sidelines condemning and complaining won’t make our world any better. As Gandhi said, “Be the change.”

So, depending how you perceive it, ‘May the force be with you!’

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca         The Music In Me
January, 2016

 

 

 

Dec 032015
 

“I didn’t know what day it was
When you walked into the room
I said hello unnoticed
You said goodbye too soon”
You’re In My Heart by Rod Stewart  

Recently, my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful photo of my  wife – smiling sweetly as ever. And, judging by her looks and attire, it was from a few decades ago when we had first fallen madly in love. Being the older (and wiser?) one, I thought I knew a good thing when I saw it.

Holding that photo now, it seems she’s seeing straight through the camera and right into my heart.

You may have noticed people with a dominant eye – one either of happiness; or, the other more serious: each eye telling a different story. The ancient mystics talked about the eyes as being the pathway to the soul… and what darkness if that light is gone! But rarely do you see both eyes full of light, as with hers, positively dancing with life and love.

So, it may come as a surprise to learn that I almost threw it all away.

Kenny Rogers, who performs his last concert this month, has said there’s a fine line between being selfish and being driven. And, earlier in my life, I crossed that line by taking her love for granted.

We’d been spending an evening with friends celebrating our Christmas engagement. But, I became sarcastic towards her – just because I could. I thought I was being funny… even as our friends tried to stop me. She’d given me a warning look to shut up, but I recklessly disregarded her feelings.

As I continued, those same eyes normally filled with love, now turned on me like a cornered tigress – revealing shock, betrayal and sadness, they flashed with anger and hurt – something I hope I never see again. They were saying, “It’s over!”

“I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad,
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby, that I ever had… I made my baby cry.”
River by Joni Mitchell

I had to grow up fast… from being a “cowboy” to a man… figuratively, throwing myself at her feet; literally, begging for forgiveness. I learned two things from that experience: without mutual respect there is no relationship, and that I needed her more than she needed me.

“And she believes in me
I’ll never know just what she sees in me… God her love is true” –
She Believes in Me
by Kenny Rogers

I’ve placed that photo on the bedside table… giving thanks every day. But, the thought occurred to me: when was the last time I really looked into my wife’s eyes? I’m sad to say, not lately.

Fortunately, I don’t have to live in a Kodachrome past, but even if I did… the greatest Christmas gift I have – or will ever have – would still beat within me.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you”
Song for a Winter’s Night by Gordon Lightfoot

Merry Christmas to you… and yours!

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca        The Music In Me
December 2015