Hot Flash: Rock n Roll Mama

The very first video from my mamaband, Hot Flash.

Many thanks to Steve Pendlebury for his mad production skills. Props to Brian Johnson for the audio. Applause to Patrice Moerman for creating this awesome song. And hats off to Katy Johnson for her rhythm, vocals, and set decoration.

See it on youTube at


At the Summit: The Agile Process of Bringing the Rough Drafts to Atlanta

I was so excited to be included as one of the bloggers for this year’s STC Summit in Atlanta. My blog posts are the story of bringing the Rough Drafts band to the Summit’s 60th Anniversary celebration party, comparing them to Agile sprints.

You can read them here:

Part 1 is about how it almost did not happen.

Part 2 is about overcoming a few obstacles.

Part 3 is the happy ending.

The Rough Drafts band at #STC13

Left to right: Stephen Adler, Rich Maggiani, Viqui Dill, and Robert Hershenow

Where I’m From

This is my version of the Where I’m From poem by George Ella Lyon.

Some of us are writing our own versions.

I am from years of piano lessons,
from Mel Bay easy guitar method books
and hours of complicated scales and exercises.

I am from the a cassette recorder playing me
playing the piano part to Chicago’s Colour My World
as I play along on the flute.

I am from the smooth feel of the white keys,
the bumpy awkward feel of the black sharps and flats,
the dull but painless pull of nylon strings,
and the satisfying pain of throbbing callouses on the tips of my fingers
as I finally graduated to real steel strings.

I am from mom and dad driving me to lessons
and making sure I practiced, from the sound
of my loud clumsy daily practice
mixing with the smell of dinner cooking in the next room.

I am from mom and dad attending every concert, recital, and show
and mom saving S&H Green Stamps for a real wooden metronome.

From “anything worth having is worth working for”
and “we’re so proud of you”.
From knowing three chords
and sharing each and every one with my Girl Scout troop
on the long bus trip from Houston to San Antonio in the spring of 1972.

I am from Amazing Grace, In The Garden, and Take Me Home Country Roads.

I’m from the valley beneath the Roanoke star,
climbing in and out of ancient railroad cars at the Transportation Museum,
and returning to Roanoke now only for weddings and funerals.

From visiting Virginia Tech with my dad as a child
as he said “This is where you’ll take math”,
from seeing his photograph with the class of 1960
hanging in the building where I got the highest grade in the class
in 5-hour thermo,
and from moving my own son into Eggleston dorm
just like his grandpa of the same name.

I am from sharing the music and passing on the vision.
I stood on the shoulders of some really tall men and women to reach the top shelf.
And I know that the best things are sometimes found buried in the cupboard down below.

Blessed Are the Poor

I did not grow up poor. We were an upper middle class family. My dad, our primary bread-winner, was an engineer in the chemical industry and we never went without anything.

Once when I asked my dad, “Daddy, are we rich?” he told me “Yes, because we are rich in LOVE.” And that was that. We were indeed rich, rich in love, and pretty much rich in material things, too.

The Talent Show

Fast forward to 1973. I am sitting in the dark multi-purpose room of my junior high school, watching the spring talent show.

On stage is a girl with a guitar. I don’t remember her name but I knew her to be one of my classmates and the daughter of our school janitor. She sang a beautiful song she had written herself, set in a minor key, and with a simple message: don’t judge based on appearances.

I remember as I sat there, I could feel her own personal pain being poured out into the words and music of the song. She must have had a tough road, attending the school at which her dad was employed. We weren’t overtly cruel to her, at least I don’t remember being cruel, but we must have been distant and judgmental. I could hear that in her song.

Even now, 40 years later, I remember every word of that song. I remember her pain, and how she turned it into beauty which she lavished on all of us that day in the darkened auditorium. Here is what I remember:

Hey Hey Simpson 

  1. When I was just eleven, there was a fat boy on our block.
    His name was Leonard Simpson, and we laughed at him a lot.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

  2. He wore torn and tattered clothes. His old man cut his hair.
    He wore high-topped army boots, and sleeveless underwear.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

  3. That was eighteen years ago. Now I’m twenty-nine.
    Simpson died a while ago, a hero of some kind.
    They say a small young colored boy was pestered by a gang.
    Simpson helped him get away and was beat to death by chains.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

  4. Funny  how the years go by, success so lit by loss
    Reminds me oh so long ago of a man, some blood, and a cross.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

Blessed are the Poor

So thank you to that long-ago singer/songwriter. Your song still echos in my memory.

More than that, thank you for showing me the truth about who was really poor, who was really rich, and who was truly blessed.