"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stepfamily (re-post 11.18.10)

Stepfamilies can be confusing... to everyone.

Today I received a beautiful, heartfelt note from a dear friend that I care about very much. We have been friends since high school and though we are very busy and live in different regions of the country, and because we don't see or talk to each as often as we would like we always seem to keep in touch just enough to realize how much we mean to each other. We were our high schools "first ever" prom king and queen and each others biggest fan as she watched me play basketball and I watched her cheer. The only thing more beautiful than her smile and eyes is her spirit and her heart. Below is the note she sent me today:

Hey Shawn, I just watched a podcast from the church I go to here in Atlanta. I love your writing and your love for God so I thought that you might enjoy watching it too. I hope that you don't take offense but it speaks to marriage, divorce and remarriage. I thought it might give you some peace and maybe even inspire you in some way to speak with our next generation. You do have 12,000 visitors by the way! I have two girls and have been through a divorce (my parents') and would so love for them to know more than I did! Please know this is being passed along with a ton of love in my heart for you. PS. I am sending to other family and friends too! I am that person! Here is the link: It is part 5!

So with that thoughtful note I wanted to respond to her small request and re-post a piece I wrote this past November entitled "Stepfamily".

Summer of 2006

My hope is that everyone continues "to hope" and "to believe" that they can make their family as great as they want... no matter the circumstance. -sbb


Blend: to mix (various sorts or grades) in order to obtain a particular kind or quality: Blend a little red paint with the blue paint.


A couple months ago a friend asked me to write a piece on family and ever since that moment the concept of family has been running around in my head. First I must say I was honored this person wanted to read something written by me on this topic and that trying to write a short and concise piece on such an enormous topic isn't the easiest of tasks. There are many different directions and definitions one can entertain, opinions and views one can observe when discussing the topic of family. And though it is my plan to write about the "traditional" family during this Holiday Season I wanted to touch upon the "stepfamily" first for the simple fact there are more stepfamilies than traditional families in America today.

A stepfamily by definition is: 

A relationship that is formed by marriage or long-term cohabitation of two individuals, when one or both have at least one child from a previous relationship living part-time or full-time in the household. The individual who is not the biological parent of the child or children is referred to as the stepparent. Stepfamilies are also called blended families.

It is interesting note that American law has no comprehensive definition of a stepfamily.

When delving deeper into the term "stepfamily" one realizes that the prefix "step" comes from the old English steop-, which meant "related by marriage rather than blood" and is an old Teutonic word denoting bereavement or orphaned.  In Colonial times a 'steopbarin' was a child who had lost a parent and gained a stepparent, and the very gaining of a stepparent was often associated with loss and hardship. The terms connotation is understandable when you realize that from 1658 to 1705 in southern Maryland, 67 percent of the married or widowed men who died left behind a family of all minor children. If the children were fortunate, they'd find themselves in a stepfamily – the product of their mother's quick remarriage. If not, the children could become wards of the state, apprenticed to a tradesman, or even sold as slaves.

Overall, the term "step" denoted a derogatory meaning for many centuries.

As we can see the term "step" struggled in the past to project a positive image and the unions that produce stepfamilies today have done more than struggle; boasting high divorce rates and in many instances providing miserable living conditions.

Statistically speaking, stepfamilies have not fared very well. The statistics concerning stepfamilies in the U.S. are in a word - staggering. Below are some figures supplied by the US Bureau of Census:
  • 1300 new stepfamilies are forming every day.
  • Over 50% of US families are remarried or re-coupled.
  • The average marriage in America lasts only seven years.
  • One out of two marriages ends in divorce.
  • 75% remarry
  • 66% of those living together or remarried break up, when children are involved.
  • 80% of remarried, or re-coupled, partners with children both have careers.
  • 50% of the 60 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and that parent's current partner.
  • Over 80% of women who enter into stepfamilies are career women. These women do not have to endure the unexpected rigors of remarriage.
  • A Boston University psychologist researcher reported that of the career women who had married men with children over 75% said that, "if they had do it again they would NOT marry a man with children."
  • 50% of all women, not just mothers, are likely to live in a stepfamily relationship, when we include living-together families in our definition of the stepfamily." states Professor of Sociology Larry L. Bumpass of the University of Wisconsin.
The reason I share these facts is because stepfamilies are a part of almost everyone's lives in some way, shape or form. In the US today 46% of all weddings are remarriages for at least one partner AND most of these marriages include children from previous relationships. Also, approximately 30% of all weddings in the US give birth to a stepfamily (i.e., are stepcouple weddings), and 60-70% of these "stepcouple" marriages will end in legal divorce.

We as a society are also seeing a higher rate of children born out of wedlock and finding a home with stepparents. Today 1/3 of all children entering stepfamilies were born to an unmarried mother rather than having divorced parents (National Survey of Families and Households) and 40% of unmarried mothers are living with their child’s biological father at the time of birth, but because of the fragility of cohabitating relationships, one in three of these families break up.

It's also important to mention that the divorce rate is 50% higher for couples remarrying that have kids versus those couples that tie the knot the second time without kids... if both come to marriage with kids the divorce rates is over 70%. The divorce rate for first time couples is 50%

As important as the stats themselves are, investigating the reasons why the numbers are so high is paramount. 

There are many reasons why families don't work out but the main reasons that were often cited were:
  1. Undefined role for stepparent, mainly in the area of discipline, as it pertains to the children.
  2. The issue of jealousy on the part of the child, stepparent or ex spouse, or all three.
  3. Financial struggle for the biological father because of alimony or child support, or both.
Also, one can't dismiss or ignore the fact that too many people get married too soon after the last marriage denying themselves the time to heal, learn and grow from that experience and ultimately from that loss.

Now that you are thoroughly depressed and discouraged concerning the prospects of a blended family being successful let me provide some thought, hope and encouragement.

I know...cheesy, but I had to...

Stepfamilies can and do work.

The stepfamilies that succeed are the ones that have the strongest leadership and have members of the family that know when to step in, step back and step up. In these families stepparents realize that they said "I do" to the children, as well as, their new spouse. The biological parent recognizes, realizes and communicates his or her approval that the non-biological parent has a different, but nonetheless important, love and attachment for their stepchildren. 

A stepparent's love is different, and in my opinion, will never match the love of a biological parent and there is nothing wrong with that... it's just a fact.

I know some will have a problem with that comment but it wasn't meant as a criticism, it's just very difficult to love your spouse's child, or children, with the same depth, intensity and resolve that the biological parent does.

In the end, stepfamilies that succeed decide to travel down the road of peace, understanding and love. They don't bash the "other" family verbally for how they do things in their home but address any situations that need to be addressed in their own home. People are different and they realize and accept that. This view point takes maturity and strength of character. The married couple also understands that it won't be "just them" in the beginning and that the "honeymoon" phase will be short lived. For better or worse they accept that they are inheriting an "ex-wife or ex-husband in-law" and that more often than not they will be heard from and that the ex will have a say in certain issues when it is their child that is involved.

To have any other expectation would be foolish.

So with everything you just read take a deep breath and during this Holiday Season take a step back and quiet yourself. Realize that during this time of the year things can go sideways rapidly and when the dust settles what we see in our rear view mirrors is anger, disappointment and hurt feelings. Trying to organize, communicate and pursue a bag full of schedules can be tough on everyone during this time of year. To be a legitimate leader you have to humble yourself; you have to take the high road.

Be understanding. Be thoughtful.

Stepmothers do this when they understand that they are often grief counselors during the holiday seasons, especially if their stepfamily is new and if there are younger children involved. It is very tough on children to "share" their parents and spend time going from house to house; home to home. Stepfathers also play a major role when they realize that it's OK to allow for feelings to be communicated and when they listen more than they speak. Kids just want to know that they are being heard and the quickest way for a stepchild to warm up to a stepparent is when they realize that you hear them. 

Remember, you can't hear with your mouth open.

The greatest gift we can give our blended families this year is a gift of peace. Make this Holiday Season better for everyone involved and for all of those you come in contact with. Make everyone else a priority. Make each member of your "family" a priority and serve them with a smile on your face and love in your heart. If you do this everyone wins.

Everyone has a role to play, make sure you play yours and give the gift of love and selflessness to your family this Holiday Season.

sbb 18.11.10

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Great Physician

Heal: to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment. (2) To bring to an end or conclusion, as conflicts between people or groups, usually with the strong implication of restoring former amity; settle; reconcile: They tried to heal the rift between them but were unsuccessful.

Help. Engage. Act. Love

This past Tuesday I came across an article on the front page of the USA Today entitled, In Ark., redefining how we see American Art. The piece immediately gained my attention because of my love for art and museums. And though my house wouldn't be mistaken for an art museum, or the dwelling of a serious art collector, it is a goal of mine to someday to own a few, cool and relevant, pieces of artwork. I would also love to be in the position to give as gifts meaningful pieces of artwork to family and friends alike.


The second reason the article got my attention was because of the subtitle: "Museum is brainchild of Wal-Mart heiress." In the piece Rick Jarvis went on to explain how the $21 billion heiress, Alice Walton, and her shiny new "8 separate building" museum that totals 200,000 square feet in size, and it's $800 million endowment from the family of founders of Wal-Mart, was about to shake up the entire art world. And thought the museum is named the Crystal Bridges Museum there seems to be some bridges that have been all but burned in the art community. Many of the art community elite are disappointed at how Walton has purchased many quality and significant pieces of art at prices that simply can't realistically be matched, and for the fact that said celebrated pieces will be residing in a museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I say good for her.

I must add that I'm a fan of Wal-Mart. I don't shop there much, mainly because it doesn't come to mind, but what does come to mind is any U.S. business that has 8,400 stores and annual sales of $405 billion is a great thing for our country, our country's economy and for the 1.3 million people employed by Wal-Mart in the United States.

We can't have enough U.S. business' like Wal-Mart.

 Alice Walmart

Walmart's main reason for building a museum in Bentonville is to give access to more people that can't afford to travel to the expensive metropolitan destinations that are home to many of our country's great museums. 

Art should be experienced by everyone. 

New Orleans artist, and close personal friend of Walmart, Robert Tannen stated; "It's not just bringing it to a small town. It's making that art more accessible to more people," Tannen went on to say, "Why should art only be only be in these few major urban centers? Why shouldn't more Americans have access to it?"

In the end, it's not just about art. It's about the human experience.

I say bravo. Bravo indeed.
Over the past four decades Alice Walmart has been snatching up pieces of art like Derek Jeter snatches up ground-balls; often and with little difficulty. 

In 2005 Walmart purchased the Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirit for a cool $35 million and Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter.

Walmart has become a major player in the art world. Her collection boasts over 500 paintings and sculptures from the Colonial period to present day. Her works range from Charles Wilson Peale's 18th century portrait of George Washington to an Andy Warhol silkscreen of Dolly Parton.  

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1781.
Charles Wilson Peale
But it was the painting that got away from Walmart that caught my eye. Upon seeing the painting for the first time it immediately became one of my favorite paintings. Hopefully, I can purchase a fine art replica oil on canvas of this painting someday.


The painting is the masterpiece of Thomas Eakins entitled The Gross Clinic

The Gross Clinic 
(click on the picture)
I love it. 

The detail, the color, everything about it is amazing to me.

I have already decided that the painting will be featured as mybabyroc's masthead in July 2012. July is the only month I use a color picture for my sites masthead, all other months are black and white vintage photos.

Thomas Eakins
The man in the center of Eakins' painting was Samuel David Gross (July 8, 1805 – May 6, 1884). Gross was an American academic trauma surgeon. Surgeon biographer Isaac Minis Hays called Gross "The Nestor of American Surgery." In 1875 Dr. Gross was is immortalized in Thomas Eakins', The Gross Clinic, believed by many to be the most important American painting of the nineteenth century. 

The Gross Clinic, or, The Clinic of Dr. Gross, is an oil painting on canvas that stands 8 feet by 6.5 feet. In the painting, Dr. Samuel David Gross, a seventy-year-old professor dressed in a black frock coat, lectures a group of Jefferson Medical College students. Included among the group is a self-portrait of Eakins, who is seated to the right of the tunnel railing, sketching or writing. Seen over Dr. Gross's right shoulder is the clinic clerk, Dr. Franklin West, taking notes on the operation. Eakins's signature is painted into the painting, on the front of the surgical table.

Below is a description of The Gross Clinic provided by Wikipedia:

Admired for its uncompromising realism, The Gross Clinic has an important place documenting the history of medicine—both because it honors the emergence of surgery as a healing profession (previously, surgery was associated primarily with amputation), and because it shows us what the surgical theater looked like in the nineteenth century. The painting is based on a surgery witnessed by Eakins, in which Gross treated a young man for osteomyelitis of the femur. Gross is pictured here performing a conservative operation as opposed to an amputation (which is how the patient would normally have been treated in previous decades). Here, surgeons crowd around the anesthetized patient in their frock coats. This is just prior to the adoption of a hygienic surgical environment (see asepsis). The Gross Clinic is thus often contrasted with Eakins's later painting The Agnew Clinic (1889), which depicts a cleaner, brighter, surgical theater. In comparing the two, we see the advancement in our understanding of the prevention of infection.
It is assumed that the patient was a teenage boy, although the exposed body is not entirely discernible as male or female; the painting is shocking for both the odd presentation of this figure and the matter-of-fact goriness of the procedure. Adding to the drama is the lone woman in the painting seen in the middle ground, possibly the patient's mother, cringing in distress. Her dramatic figure functions as a strong contrast to the calm, professional demeanor of the men who surround the patient. This bloody and very blunt depiction of surgery was shocking at the time it was first exhibited.

So you can see what the big ruckus was about when Walmart, in partnership with The National Gallery of Art, was positioned and poised to acquire Easkins' masterpiece from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia for $68 million.

One doesn't buy, one acquires, when the purchase price is $68 million.

But with that large purchasing price the art community of Philadelphia didn't go easily into the night. This was a piece that The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts couldn't lose. With a frantic citywide fundraiser drive and a loan, the painting was kept in Philadelphia.

Just as a side-note, four months later Alice Walton bought the cities second-most important painting: Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand, also by the Philadelphia native, Easkins, for a reported $20 million.

Oh well, not all is lost. Right?


So there it is, one of my favorite pieces of artwork, if not my favorite, is a picture of a 19th century healer; a doctor.

The great physician. 

As I chose the title for this piece I couldn't help recognize my need for the greatest physician of all; Jesus Christ. 

" c. 1648 56. Attributed to Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn and Studio, Dutch.

Many of us suffer daily with an innumerable amount of troubles and trials; issues and concerns. They range from the irritable to the life threatening; from the inconvenient to the serious. When sin was introduced to mankind in the third chapter of Genesis God forewarned us that trials and tribulations, suffering and sickness would be our lot until He returns again. 

But he also promised to those who believe in him that He wouldn't necessarily remove the valleys in our life, but that He would journey with us through them.

Either you believe that or you don't.

I do believe it.

 "Head of Christ"
"Head of Christ," c. 1648 1650 by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, is a part of the "Heads of Christ" series at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Psalm 147:3 states; "He helps the brokenhearted and binds their wounds." And David tells us in Psalm 103:2-3; "Praise the Lord, my soul, and never forget all the good he has done: He is the one who forgives all your sin, the one who heals all your diseases."  

In reading those pieces of scripture I realized that God is for me and not against me, and that disease isn't just about physical sickness and pain. Disease, sickness and pain, can be in the area of how we view ourselves or others, it can be defined by our lack of emotional or financial well being. 

Disease can mean many things to many people, but the one constant is no matter the disease, God, the Great Physician, can heal us.

Healing doesn't always mean life for the cancer patient or for the victim of a violent crime. Sometimes God's glory is displayed through death. I can't explain it nor do I want to experience it anytime soon, I just know that there are times that God does His best work in death and gains His greatest praise and glory when life sadly comes to an end. The greatest example of this is Jesus being crucified on the cross. 

Finally, I realize that it is highly unlikely I will ever own Thomas Easkins' masterpiece, The Gross Clinic, or any other of my most admired pieces of art, but what I can posses is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that is less about religion and more about relationship. A relationship that is constant, consistent and caring. A relationship that will provide daily peace, wonderful comfort and unconditional love that is without prejudice and merit.

And though I will never have Dr. Gross framed prominently over my desk, I can, and do, have God's word planted in my heart, His forgiveness cemented in my mind and his love framed in my heart each day.

"Head of Christ"
 "Head of Christ," c. 1648 54. Attributed to Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch.

The Great Physician.

He is available to all who seek Him and who is in need of His healing power.

And He is available today, not someday, but today, for all those who want to come into the presence of The Great Physician

sbb  20.8.11

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Listen Up

Rock and Roll: a style of popular music that derives in part from blues and folk music and is marked by a heavily accented beat and a simple, repetitive phrase structure.

It's hard to define Rock & Roll, but you know it when you hear it & SEE it.

Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in the 70's there were three things that stood out to me that I can still recall til this day: QFM96, black rock and roll concert tee shirts and that no one, and I mean no one, had hair quite like mine. 

Me in the 70's... I really can't say anything other than I told you so. 
I mean really look at that shirt!

As a young black kid the musical anthem inside my house comprised of The O'Jay's, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Jackson's (and the Jackson 5) and Al Green to name more than a few. But outside of the home, in the halls of Hilliard Junior High and Hilliard High School shop class, it was rock and roll; at the Hilliard pool in the summer time you could hear Foreigner, the Stones, AC/DC and Journey to name more than a few again.

I can still remember QFM's "Two for Tuesday" and Sunday night live concert replay, and stopping by Brian Clarridge's house every morning in 7th grade as he and his older brothers would have the Rolling Stones blaring in the house; I waited in astonishment, and for Brian to walk out in a black rock and roll T-shirt... he wore one almost everyday... 

And he wore one no matter the weather.

I can still remember Paul Brown, the pool manger, turning up Phil Collins In the Air Tonight as loud as the speakers, and parents, and senior management, would allow.

 Construction of the Hilliard pool in July of 1975

And yes, Kool and the Gang sneaked in over the speakers every once in awhile along with the Gap Band, Prince and Ray Parker Jr., thanks mainly to Eddie Welch, but it was still the sound of rock and roll I will always remember...

and cherish.

I fell in Love with The Police, the Rolling Stones and David Lee Roth's Van Halen early, but it has been over the past five years that I can't get enough of classic rock

I still love Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Commodores to name a few again, but there are many times when I'm working out I want to hear the GUITAR... you know what I'm talking about...
The Guitar

I want to hear the drums and the screaming voice of Robert Plant and Billy Squire. And speaking of Robert Plant, nice try Jane's Addiction with Jane Say's... it is a good song but you totally ripped it of Led Zeppelin's Over the Hills and Far Away. Just because you added steal drums to your "version" doesn't make it different or original.

Where was I.. ooh yea... rock and roll.

I want it and I want it loud.

I know... relax.

My wife just informed me to turn it down; "the kids are a sleep", she says.

I told her to take them outside... Yea right I did, this is my third marriage... I know the drill.

"Honey I just turned it down! Geez." 

Really, who says geez? I embarrassed for myself.

Anyway, the original thought for this piece was peace.

The need for it, the constant pursuit of it and the deepest desire to obtain it.


The last few weeks my peace of mind has all but evaded me. Whether it is the stress of the "career", issues with kids, wondering where the finances are and when they are going to show up or just life period; there are times it can all be a bit overwhelming. And as a man of faith it even more disconcerting because I know that I'm to cast all my cares onto Him.  

I'm not doing very well with that at the moment.

It is amazing to me the minute you begin to focus on your issues, problems and, or concerns, and not on God, you lose your way.

Every time. Every single time.

So where is all of this going? 

It is going to Boston.

Boston (1976)

It hit me yesterday while I was working out when a song began to play while my itouch was on random play. It was Boston and the song was Peace of Mind.

I'm going to refrain from sharing with you what the song said to me. I don't want to waste anymore of your time.

I just want you to listen.

Listen up.

Turn your speakers up and listen. Hopefully it will take you back, if you are of age, to a different time and maybe, just maybe, it will speak to you in some kind of way like it spoke to me.

Peace of mind... everyone wants it.

Maybe I will write about it someday. What I really need to do right now is spend some time in God's word and in prayer... yea that is all true, but for now I want to listen to what Boston has to say about it. Listen & enjoy.

 Peace of Mind

Now if your feelin' kinda low 'bout the dues
you've been payin'
Future's comin' much too slow
And you wanna run but somehow you keep on stayin'
Can't decide on which way to go
Yeah. Yeah.
I understand about indecision
But I don't care if I get behind
People living in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind

Now you're climbing to the top of the company ladder
Hope it doesn't take too long
Can't you see they'll come a day when it won't matter
Come a day when you'll be gone
I understand about indecision,
But I don't care if I get behind.
People living in competition;
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

Take a look ahead, Take a look ahead... Yea,yea,yea,yea

(guitar solo)

Well everybody's got advice they just
keep on givin'
Dosen't mean to much to me
Lots of people have to make believe
they're livin'
Can't decide who they should be

I understand about indecision,
But I don't care if I get behind.
People living in competition;
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

Take a look ahead, Take a look ahead...Yea,yea,yea,yea

Look ahead! 

...and there it was, the last two words of the song... Look ahead, don't look behind, don't look back... just look ahead!

...and look up.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 4:7

sbb  18.8.11