Thanksgiving … is a daily condition

Most family people who also have children and grandchildren can relate to the state of being thankful. It’s actually pretty easy to be thankful if your life is good and your kids are doing well also.

T and I watched our parents at this age live with grace and dignity. I often tell my siblings who missed seeing our mom grow through her 40s, 50s, and 60s that they missed the best of her in many ways. I’m thankful that our children and grandchildren met her there too.

But most successful people also learn to be thankful for the balance that comes with the inherent challenges of living. Jazz musicians often call this the blues. These blues help us grow toward realizing those good times. We have found that good times simply result from many years of positive effort being rewarded in some cool tangible context. We’ve seen this in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives as well as in our own.


Our Children and Grandchildren help give us perspective.

During a conversation the other day, T and I decided that one of the coolest aspects of this stage and life is that we’ve lived long enough to have already had a significantly positive impact upon the lives of other people. Our children. Our grandchildren. Our friends. Our colleagues. As well as the general people of those communities where we have been fortunate to make our home over the years as a family.

A relatively recent photograph of me with my sons and grandsons

Micah is now the age I was when I retired from my active duty military career after 22-years of continuous service. Lorri is now the age I was when I was selected for the special assignment as the First Sergeant of the Student Company at the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia. Seth is now the age I was when I was selected for the special musical assignment with the NATO Band in Naples, Italy. Ethan is now the age I was when I chose to go to the Army band at Ansbach, Germany where Terri and I first met. Ariana is now the age I was when I was accepted to the Army Band Group Leader Course at the Armed Forces School of Music. Owen is now the age I was when I got serious about music and practicing the saxophone. Avery is now the age I was when my father was still active duty Air Force and we still lived at Kincheloe Air Force Base in the Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan Air Defense Sector. Hayden is now the age I was when I got my first “big boy” hair cut.


As Parents and Grandparents we still learn from our kids.

When our children first left home as young adults our instinct was to protect them as we did when they were children. We didn’t know any better and had to learn how to be parents of adults. Over the years we’ve (or rather I have) learned to trust what they were taught and trust they have practical common sense. Over protective to a fault sometimes.

Our daughter Lor, our son Seth, and our two youngest grandchildren

I will add to this parental transition and growth was my own personal distrust of most people in our society and nation as a black man. Yes, that sounds really awful considering everything positive and wonderful that I have been part of and have done throughout my life and career. But, since everyone has something to confront, this issue has been part of the deal of me becoming who I am in a more mature form. Reconciling contradictions is the essence of life after all. And it’s often a challenge for others to understand we are all works in progress no matter how old or experienced.

Our daughter Lor, our son Seth, and our two youngest grandchildren

The cool thing about being a grandparent is that you can look at your children and grandchildren and they will show you that you won life. You ran the table. They help you realize that you already have everything you need. Yes, our children and grandchildren taught us that. Even that littlest guy who seems to have lost total patience with the photo shoot.

We are truly thankful everyday.

Parenthood is forever …

Our mother, Vi Burnett said something to me once about her family and us children that I continue to find to be subtly insightful.

“You don’t know what type of people you are raising. You just do your best and hope life doesn’t hurt them too badly that it dampens their spirit.”

— Mom Burnett

She also often quoted the adage that our children are only “on loan to us for a few years.”

But the thing that really stuck most of all is when she said that “you will never forget the times when all of your children were still living in your home.”

I understand her context much better now that I am the exact age she was when she said that to me in the 1990s. And, it’s true.

It’s not that you want to smother your children and keep them from engaging their own lives. It’s that you miss the times and when you finally figure out what you are doing, your kiddos are gone. It’s both beautiful and melancholy at once.

The goal of parenthood – bringing people into the world who didn’t ask to be here – is to nurture positive contributors to this world.

In hindsight, I can say we have done that in parenting both our son and daughter.

We’re equally proud of both of them as kick-ass adults and just as in love with them today as we were on those days we respectively met each of them in their delivery hospitals.

Music Producers and Recording Artists

We were professional musicians before we met each other in the middle 1970s while working overseas for the U.S. Army’s music program.

Our children and grandchildren likely associate music being created and instruments being played in our home as just a part of life while growing up and over the subsequent years.

We are now ARC recording artists with several releases on the market. We document our music on recordings as part of the inherent legacy representing some of our respective musical works created during the course of the journey of our lives.

A ‘selfie’ we took after finishing our musical performance with the special ensemble backing the Choir from Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts for Teach For America Kansas City at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts.

The Latest Recording Project

Our latest recording project will be produced and released commercially on the ARC label in 2020. A recent post thoroughly describes “The Standards Project.”

But, our very first recording session was produced during our off-duty hours while we were members of the Army Band at Ansbach, Germany.

The Very First Recording Session

Ansbach, Germany (Stadtmitte)

We have always believed in creating the type of life we want to live and that includes where our musical careers are concerned as well.

We don’t wait for things to happen to us. We work to make the things we want to happen.  This first recording session illustrates this fact in a very cool way. It was thoroughly planned as well.

By 1979 I was just about finished with the composition and arranging course I was enrolled in and taking from the Berklee College of Music in Boston by mailed correspondence. It took 3 years to compete.

I was writing lots of “tunes” by then and had officially joined the arranging staff of the Army band. Several of my charts were being played in concerts, shows or tours.

We hadn’t a clue of what we were doing as record producers beyond basic knowledge in terms of understanding the music and how to operate the equipment we were using to record.

We didn’t even consider post-production concerns or commercial distribution of the music we recorded.

We were simply learning and creating something musically positive for all of us to do rather than just sit around between the Army band gigs.

Our very first recording session date was December 18, 1979

We produced the recording with fellow Army musicians we worked with at that time.

? The images posted here are of my decades old hand-written notes, LOL!

We recorded one of my originals and my arrangement of Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House.” Following are the credits:

  • Bob Henry, engineer;
  • Larry Bennett and James McNeal, trumpet;
  • Christopher Burnett, alto saxophone;
  • R. Stephen Gilbert, tenor and soprano saxophones;
  • Gene Smith, trombone;
  • Leon Johnson, Fender Rhodes;
  • Bruce Shockley, bass;
  • and Dennis Butler, drums.
  • Terri Anderson Burnett and Christopher Burnett, producers.

For some reason, it all worked out.

Forty Years Later

We are still practicing, performing, teaching, writing and recording music.

Advice for the Ages

There’s no manual for living life that guarantees ultimate outcomes because people have the will to choose. And the travels during a life can wound some beyond repair.

As parents, you just live each day with the intent of creating positive experiences and environments where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. And, always love one another. That’s the best you can likely do as human beings and parents.

We adopted the philosophy to err on the side of love. When our children need us collectively and individually, we are always there for them to the best of our ability.

We are only mortal and do have favorites as parents though.

They are our favorite son and favorite daughter respectively.

Our late mother, Vi Burnett used to say:

“You never know what type of person you are ultimately raising – you simply do your best by your children and the decisions they ultimately make will determine who they become as autonomous adults.”

Advice for the ages. 

OUR DAUGHTER: With our daughter at her graduation ceremony from the University of New Mexico. She commissioned into the US Air Force and became the very first commissioned officer in the military history of our family. We love her very much and are proud of the high quality woman she is.

OUR SON: With our son who is a US Army veteran and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. In 2001, he deployed to Kosovo with the 10th Mountain Division. In 2003, he deployed to Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. We love him very much and are proud of the high quality man he is.

Work hard and be nice

Family Flashback ?

FEATURE PHOTO:
Our three eldest grandchildren.

In 2013 we drove to the Missouri Ozarks to get these three after they visited with their other grandparents. We got to hang with them for a while before their mom (our daughter) came to take them home. Fun summer adventures.

It was also cool to go back to the area we left as brand new empty nesters. We literally started our life together over again when we left there 17 years ago – coming back home to live in the Kansas City metro.

It seems to have proven true again that such things in life happen as they are supposed to.

Closure.

Our late mother Vi Burnett had many words of motivation and wisdom to share – most encouragement to overcome whatever adversities a person is going to inherently encounter in life.

She used to encourage me to use my talents to create the life I want to live. I saw her overcome. I saw her grow as an adult. I saw her become the best version of herself.

Here’s one of the phrases I constantly heard growing up: “Work hard and be nice (to other people).

I have learned this phrase in practice keeps you focused on what really matters.

#life #love #family