Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I grew up in a family of strong opinions. Family conversations around the dinner table were often debates, and we could even argue with each other on things we agreed about. Still, there were a few absolutes in our home: God is good. BYU > U of U. Country music sucks. These are things that were always assumed in my home, and whose truthfulness was no more to be considered or questioned than that of the existence of earth and air. These truths simply are. Considering this, I said a very interesting thing to Emily this morning: "You know what I like about country music?"

I recognized the gravity of that statement before it was ever said. Emily caught on after a couple hours, as evidenced in the email she sent that said "There. It's in writing. You actually said that you like country music. Hooray!"

Before we get too carried away with the fact that Emily definitely overextended the original meaning of my statement, let me say that she had every reason to be excited and amazed. She grew up in a family, a town, and a state where "country" isn't just "some kind of music". It's the music. It's life. And that's what I said to her: "You know what I like about country music? It's about life."

So what could cause me, a tried-and-true, dyed-in-the-wool country music antagonist to abandon my last defenses and admit to liking something about country music, even if not the genre itself? Let me say that it's been a gradual process that began with forced exposure to it on account of sharing living conditions with Emily. I've had years to listen to country whether I like it or not, and at least intellectually analyze it the same way we consider disagreeable political views or historical religions. After a while, I started noticing that country music, regardless of the subject, it generally easy to follow. Contrast this with many varieties of alternative, punk or pop music whose lyrics, even if intelligible, are completely nonsensical. I think 90% of lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linkin Park, They Might Be Giants, for example, are not to be understood by mankind.

This morning, Emily came home from swimming and declared "I have found my life's theme song."

"Wow," I said. "This is a big day for you."

"It is," she exclaimed and proceeded to show me the following music video on youtube. I suggest watching it before continuing.

As a bit of background, and to better understand the background behind my new statement on country music, I invite you to read the post that Emily put on our blog today. Since our blog is open to invited readers only, I need to include it here.

"Life has been kind of stressful for me recently. It seems like the ups and downs of motherhood have been mostly pulling me down. I find myself being jealous of people who can get out of the house and go to work. Some of that is probably caused by the fact that I'm tied down to a 4 month old and a 2 year old who never nap at the same time. Between the two of them, we're lucky if we get a 30 minute trip out of the house during the day.

"This has led me to wonder what I'm doing with my life. I worked so hard to graduate and now what I have to show for it is wiping stinky bums and a lack of patience. Having children has tried my patience more than anything else in life. There are no deadlines in motherhood; no tests and no final grade until this life is through. I think that's what makes it sometimes makes it seem like it will never end. There's nothing scheduled to work toward, just the slow trudging forward of the daily tasks of life.

"My friend Christine phrased this stage of motherhood perfectly when she described it as "the perpetually tied down, oh-so-free life of a mother." The life of a mother is the mundane/monotonous and yet unexpected. How is it that I can have so many hours in a day and feel like I accomplish so little? I don't feel like I should be satisfied with my day when the only things I accomplish are nursing a baby and making dinner. What about Ella? What about Steve? To feel productive I need to take care of their needs too.

"I went swimming this morning and on the way home heard this song. Although I could change the lyrics to things like: the baby didn't sleep today, the toddler was disobedient, my house is a mess, but I feel guilty if I clean it while the kids are awake and by the time they're asleep I'm too tired and unmotivated to clean. My husband is leaving for 3 months, I feel insecure about my parenting and disciplining, my closest friend just moved away, I'm out of ideas of how to entertain a two year old. Sounds like life to me.

"In spite of these frustrations though, I know deep inside that what I'm doing at home is the most important thing. It's the little moments: playing with Ella in her pool, getting Ivan up from a nap and seeing his toothless grin, tickling him and listening to his gurgle, watching Steve play "hide and go bonk" with Ella, eating dinner as a family, going on a good run, having family night, listening to Ella sing, watching my babies sleep. Laughing at something silly that Ella said, reminiscing about fun trips we've taken, planning family vacations. Reading books to Ella, rocking Ivan to sleep, cuddling with my babies.

"Each day I'm working on enjoying the small moments, the quiet moments. The day is full of them, but if I get caught up in the responsibilities that aren't getting taken care of, then I miss the magic moments with my kids. Days are not going to be perfect and I know that the ups and downs are still going to come. I just want to be able to look back at this time with my young children and not have regrets. I want them to remember how much I loved them and the fun things that we did together. I want to be remembered as a happy mom. That's my ultimate goal: to be a Happy Mom.

"Yes, this is my new theme song:

Sounds like life to me plain old destiny

Yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty
You gotta hold on tight just enjoy the ride
Get used to all this unpredictability
Sounds like life

Man I know its tough but you gotta suck it up

To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
Sounds like life to me
Sounds like life

"And as we like to say in good ol' Wyo, 'Cowboy up!'"

Now, I have seen time and time again how country music has this effect on people. They sing about things like how hard it is to give up your daughter, how families are the best part of life, how nerds get an inflated sense of self online or how you can still have steamy hot lovin' with your wife after years and years of marriage. In short, life. Even the sleeziest and most detestable country songs are still nonetheless easily understood reflections of real thoughts that real people have.
More to the point, when my wife was having real difficulties with her actual life, she didn't feel any comfort or any sense of identification with idealistic songs about social revolution, pithy political ballads or esoteric nerd rock. She latched on to a song about life, made it about her life, and was able to cope with problems just that much better. And really, that's what I like about country music.


  1. Wow, that was a long comment. I'm happy that you're starting to give country music a chance.

  2. Like yourself, I am the beneficiary of marrying a beautiful young lady who opened my eyes to the great world of country music. Just let go Steve and embrace!

  3. I don't know if I remember the debates so much growing up, but you're right about the absolutes. Our children will be raised with similar values as a member of the ABC Club: Anything But Country.

  4. It's interesting to read what adult children think about their upbringing and what they remember about family life. To express myself, I'll revert to my college degree in microbiology: Family dynamics - it's an ever changing, mutating, thriving, living organism. I love my family!