Tag Archives: marriage

Our Best Habit

I got an email from a friend today, and it started me thinking about the things we do that build relationships, particularly marriage relationships. We’re in that stage where kids and careers are stealing away time from just the two of us, and we have to be more “on purpose” with almost everything in our lives.

So, here’s the big questions: what’s one thing you do, one habit or ritual, that builds up your relationship with your significant other.

Gretchen and I have struggled for years to figure out how to get regular time together. Date nights are great, but they end up being more expensive than we can really afford right now. Instead, we do a once-a-week “Late Dinner”. We feed the kids crap food at 5, let them have a movie night until 8, then one of use gets them to bed and the other starts cooking. We cook good food, we relax with no time pressure, and we talk in the kitchen while we do it. We sit down at maybe 8:30 or later, and we have a slow dinner. No kids, no distractions, just time to sit and talk.

It’s a new ritual, but so far, I think it’s our best habit. And it’s on my mind because I’m missing it tonight for a crap gig. Sorry, love.

What’s your best habit?

Child of Sorrows

For my songwriting class at CSULA, we have to write a different kind of song each week. This week, Da Blues.

Here it is. My staggeringly white attempt to write the blues. I had to resist the urge to make the whole song about this time I ordered a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks, but got a Soy Latte instead. Oh Lord, why must I suffer.

Child of Sorrows

Finished it, here’s the full demo:
Child of Sorrows – Final

Child of Sorrows

I am a child of sorrows
The Good Lord won’t let die
I am a child of sorrows
The Good Lord won’t let die
Lord knows I’ve been trying
With whiskey and with rye
But I ain’t done suff’ring yet

I am a child of money
But that don’t mean a thing
I am a child of money
But that don’t mean a thing
She kicked me out at 17
And I ain’t seen her since,
Oh I ain’t done suff’ring yet

I married a good woman,
And you know I turned her bad
I married a good woman,
And you know I turned her bad
The joy I took away from her
Is the only joy I’ve had
Oh I ain’t done suff’ring yet

I went to see the preacher
About my heart of sin
I went to see the preacher
About my heart of sin
Well he looked me up
And he looked me down
And he kicked me out again
Said I ain’t done suff’ring yet,
No I ain’t done suff’ring yet,
Well I ain’t done suf’ring yet.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Okay, let’s get one things straight. Addison Road isn’t going anywhere. All this awesome has permanent staying power, and no upstart rag of a 10 billion dollar social network site is gonna shut this party down.

Let’s get another thing straight. Don’t text me at 2 am to ask me when I’m going to start writing again. The answer is the same as it’s always been. Whenever the hell I feel like it, Dan!

Let’s get a third thing straight. I missed you all this summer. Well, not you, Dan. But the rest of you. So, in fine back-to-school tradition, here’s how I spent my summer vacation.


All of this obscene wealth and technical progress has conspired to gift us, the blessed generation, with something of inestimable value: time. We luxuriate in an excess of time. No previous generation has had to devote so little of their time to acquiring the basic necessities of life, and yet we squander this gift like it’s gutter trash. These were my thoughts in May, when my wife and my University conspired together to give me the gift of three days. I spent them on a mountaintop in Malibu, at a Catholic retreat center, writing music. The result was a new composition for trumpet, piano, and laptop titled “Serra”.

I also played keyboards on a trashy j-pop album for Sony Records, which was actually much more fun than it sounds.


Not the artist, the month. Although the artist did visit. June and Stick and the munchkins made the trip down to LA to stay with us at our new house, which has plenty of room for guests. Plenty of room. Except that a few days before they showed up, Gretchen’s sister also made the trip out to LA to stay with us at our new house, which has plenty of room for guests. With her 3 kids. Our house does not sleep 5 adults and 7 kids comfortably. Also, it was that weekend that we decided to throw a Princess Party to celebrate Sophia’s 4th birthday. All in all, it was 3 day of unmitigated chaos. It got to be so much that Stick even had to drown his sorrows in 1/3 of a glass of wine!

Also in June, I got commissioned by an amazing photographer in New York to compose a piano piece for the gallery opening of his next show. His manager somehow heard “The Science Project” from The Dailies record (I know, crazy, right?) and wanted something similar. (We think we know how this happened. If you google “The Dailies”, our band is the first hit, and this photographer is the second)


Ah, July. July, July, July. I learned so much from you, July. I learned that I can punch my liver 16 times in a night without passing out. I learned that the women who are hitting on you at the Hard Rock Casino are not amateurs (to all my bosses and my students and my wife, I know this only from observation, not from experience). I learned that disposable income tends to get disposed of. I learned that a good steak is improved by excellent company. I learned that Zack is a very quick study. I learned that the occasional 3-day fling of bachelor excess is fantastic, but that I am very glad to come home to my life.

At the end of July, the APU small group came back off the road, and we stepped into the studio. I was utterly, marvelously blown away. I can’t wait for you all to hear this album. It’s the best thing, by far, that has come out of that school. And yes, I am a little biased, but still. You gotta hear it.


On Thursday, at 3:15 in the morning, we got up, broke camp, strapped on our packs, and hiked 2 hours up and out of the wilderness in the dark. We had spent the week backpacking through the southern range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, some of the most beautiful wilderness anywhere. It was me, my father-in-law Phil, my brother-in-law Brian, and 4 other guys that were friends of Brian. I can’t really explain what a life changing experience this trip was for me. It was the first time in 10 years that I left my cellphone behind, had no email connection, nothing to distract me from being present in the moment. I spent long hours talking with Phil about life, work, family, priorities, and had some extended times of solitude to reassess the things I value in my life. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the next scene of The Michael Lee Experience: An Unauthorized Autobiography started that week.

We hiked out of the wilderness and got to the cars just as dawn was starting to break, and we drove to the trail-head of Redcloud, a 14,000 foot peak. We hiked up above the treeline, then above the scrub meadows, and finally got up above all vegetation. At about 13,000 feet, the air is so thin that you can only take one or two steps at a time before gasping for breath. Unless, of course, you are my inhuman stud of a 68-year-old father-in-law, in which case you just sort of jog your way up the trail, stopping every once in a while to make sure we’re still following. A thousand feet from the summit, we stood on the saddle between two peaks with the mountain range spread out before us like a painting. As we watched, thunder clouds started rolling over the peak, and a dozen people came pouring down the trail warning us off the peak.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to turn around that close to the summit, and head back down. The reality of Colorado weather is pretty brutal though, and you just can’t be the tallest thing standing on top of a bare granite mountain when lighting comes crashing down out of the sky.

The next day, I got on a plane and flew back to my family. On Saturday, we celebrated the marriage of Zack and Sara. On Sunday, I threw up twice.

On Monday, Gretchen and I left the kids with Linda (my birth-mom) and Thom, and headed to Napa to celebrated 10 years of wedded bliss! We drank wine, ate food, drank more wine (I threw up zero times), stayed at the best little inn anywhere, stayed at another place that smelled like cinnamon, drank more wine, and just generally luxuriated in each other’s company. We rediscovered our marriage, not just as a business partnership, or a baby-raising club, or as roommates, but as husband and wife. It was fantastic.

We ended the week by heading to Sharolyn and Jason’s house (they picked up our kids from Linda midway through the week), drank some more wine, and then home.

Also, in August, I started writing a musical with one of the artists I play for, who has an uncanny ability to make things happen. Think Stephen Sondheim meets Jon Brion.

August was a good month.

This was a good summer. Great, even.

We are a blessed generation, and I am a blessed man.

public anger

I’m sitting at an internet cafe, doing my e-chores. There is a married couple next to me having a very not-quiet fight. Something about some bills that didn’t get paid, and who dropped the ball, who is hiding mail from who, who is a control freak, who flirts more with coworkers at the Christmas party, whose still lives his life based on his mother’s approval … you get the picture.

All of the unhealthy relationship issues aside, I’m sitting here thinking about how rude public displays of anger like this are. Everyone else around is eavesdropping (no other option – they’re really loud) and everyone is uncomfortable.

I think I’m going to say something.

I mean, obviously not to them, because I hate confrontation, but to you all here on my super-blog instead.

Oh, and passive-aggressive angry couple, if you happen to stumble across this, he hid the letter from the DMV to force you to fail, because it proves that you need him to be in control, and she flirts with her coworkers because it’s her primary method of validating her self-worth. She gets drunk first so that she can claim she’s not responsible for her actions.

That will be $90.

TBAIP, Part 1: Teri

Welcome to the first post in a new series, which I’m calling This Blog Attracts Interesting People (TBAIP). Here’s how this works – I pick somebody who is a regular reader, and I ask them some questions. They have to either answer the questions, or send me $480 (cash only – I don’t trust you people).

First up in the batting order is Teri, sometimes known around these parts as Grammy. In real life, Grammy is the very hawt mother of Chad, and the grandmother of Ella, an accomplished Marriage and Family Therapist, a leader with Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and part-time bikini model. Those of you out there in readerland who are hipsters-in-training with your $200 vintage beaded pants, if you want to know what the real thing looks like, ask Teri about her days as a real-life Hippie! (if you can catch her between acid-induced flashbacks, that is)

So, Teri, lend us your time, and answer these questions 3.

1) I’m giving you a magic megaphone. It is purple, with sparkles, but that’s not what makes it magic. What makes it magic is this: if you say something into it, the person you are talking will actually hear you. No defensiveness, no dissembling, no nodding then forgetting. You can see how useful this would be. If you brought this megaphone to work with you, what phrase do you think you would most often say with it during therapy sessions?

2) Let’s talk about Paul. What’s the deal? I mean, nice guy and all that, and he seems to be slightly above average in the intelligence, personality, wisdom, patience, income, friendship, godliness, compassion, and snappy dressing categories, but apart from that, what did you ever see in the guy? Here’s what I really want to know: free-as-a-daisy hippie chick marries “the man”. 30-some years later, who won? Is he more like you, or are you more like him?

3) I hope this isn’t awkward for you, but I’m actually trying to build a Teri from scratch, using spare parts from other bikini models, and a few facial features from Michelle Pfeiffer. Once I get Clone Teri up and running, I’m planning on sitting her down with some books and DVDs, so that she has some of the same influences on her thinking that you’ve had. What should go on the required reading / watching list?

Swing away, my dear. Feel free to take them one at a time if you want.

I think it’s going to last.

Tomorrow Ash & I celebrate 5 years of marriage. When we got married, we decided we’d give it five years to make sure we weren’t making a mistake, and since he hasn’t mentioned divorce and we’re talking about getting a dog, I think it’s going to last.

The thing all your (honest) married friends tell you before you tie the knot is that marriage is Hard. And man…they aren’t kidding. It’s not for sissies. But the thing all your (honest and happy) married friends try to tell you before you tie the knot — but which doesn’t make any sense until you’re knee-deep in matrimony and another person’s dirty laundry — is that the Hardness is Good, that marriage’s special difficulties can help you become Good.

Of course, I don’t claim to have mastered Goodness after only five trial-run years. But I know that I am more the person I always wanted to be now, married to Ash, than I ever would have been otherwise. Besides the things he has taught me just by being himself — zeal, determination, compassion, comic timing (still working on this), fearlessness, truth-telling — I have learned (and continue to learn) so much about myself…things to cherish and things to change. Not to get all Jack Nicholson on ya, but Ash makes me want to be a better man person. Not because he won’t love me if I’m not, but because he already loves the me that isn’t.

So here’s to you, babe, and to five more and five more after that, and another 10 fives after that one. I guess we’re in for the long haul. I wouldn’t be anywhere or with anyone else. I like you. You’re funny and smart and tender and the way you say “poop” makes me laugh. And you stole my heart all over again when you suggested we should name the dog “Tipsy” after drinking two extra-large gin & tonics.

You’re incomparable. I love you.

On Marriage

Kyrie Yeshua

Bind tight these cords of covenant
Undergird and strengthen them
For this too is a ministration of grace

That two who are broken
Might be remade into one
In echo of your great covenant