Book Review: “Blinds, Patches, and Twine” by Bobby Hagar Harrell

With foreword by Bobby Hagar Harrell’s brother—rock star Sammy Hagar—this is a memoir of how a young girl grew up amidst the rage and confusion (and wasted potential) of an alcoholic and abusive father who was once a great boxer—and how one family managed not only to survive, but to prosper in spite of the circumstances they were subjected to–primarily due to their mother’s love and indomitable spirit.

The oldest of four children, Harrell writes eloquently about her childhood memories. She doesn’t mention much about her brother Sammy, so if you’re expecting this to be a book about how it must have felt to grow up in the shadow of a man who went on to become a rock star, that is not the case. I applaud Harrell for that. I was wondering how she was going to pull it off but she did it splendidly. It is the story of Harrell’s  experiences, her courage, her perspective, her struggle, and her search for her identity.

In the early years, the Hagar family pretty much lived in campgrounds—moving from one to the other while their mother worked picking fruit to help put food on the table because their dad couldn’t stay away from the whiskey. Harrell writes about the many times when their father would come home drunk and belligerent at the end of the day, and how their mother would herd all the children out the window and to a pre-determined hiding place. There they’d cover themselves with blankets until their father passed out and it was safe for them to return to their beds. Wow. Talk about a traumatic experience for an impressionable child.

Harrell paints a beautiful picture with words; her prose alone is poetic but she also includes some of her poems in this book. My favorite is on page 138, which begins “I learned about God in a boysenberry patch…” I also loved “I Remember Me”. Great stuff.

It takes a brave soul to write a book of this nature, and Harrell is so honest here, she even includes a copy of her father’s autopsy report outlining the details of his death at age 51.

Families affected by alcoholism are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in many people’s lives, so I’m sure this book had to be cathartic for the author, and I’m sure it is her desire that it may also be cathartic to others who may have endured the pain of growing up under similar circumstances. Blinds, Patches, and Twine has a happy ending though—it serves as an example to the rest of us that no matter what situation one is born into, there is always hope. Harrell sums it up nicely on the last page:

…I celebrate and thank God every day for a mother who showed us, through time and effort, how to love, laugh, forgive and: How to look for Peace amidst chaos. How to pick the Beauty from the disarray. How to rescue Pride out of disappointment. How to siphon Knowledge out of ignorance. And—how to do it all with love.

Lots of great pictures here as well.

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Superstition and Beliefs

I’ve been watching some interesting shows on TV lately, shows about different superstitions and beliefs around the world. Some of them terrify me—exorcisms and people who pierce themselves with hooks that are connected to weights, then climb a hundred steps dragging the weights up the stairs—and all of this to appease their god or gods. And there was a segment about women deemed witches by their peers and driven out of their villages because the crops failed that year or because there was an unexplained death in the village.

A lot of those stories featured superstitions and customs in third world countries, but people in the United States believe some pretty weird stuff too, like “if a black cat crosses your path, it’s bad luck” or “if you break a mirror it’s seven years of bad luck,” to name a few mild ones.

I got to thinking about all these things and how they related to me, because I’ve had a lot of unexplained incidents happen to me over the past decade that some might call crazy. And as I was experiencing those things, there were often times where I wondered if I was simply inventing them in my mind or if my perception of reality had somehow become seriously flawed.

So where does belief in the supernatural get out of hand and cross the border into insanity or in the very least, when does it become an unhealthy belief? Perhaps it’s a matter of interpretation, because in those third world societies, I’m sure they didn’t consider the things they were doing unusual or cruel or wrong in any way. They were raised with those superstitions and that’s the way things have always been done.

This reminds me of a story a friend once told me about a family who had a rather unusual tradition of how they cooked roast beef. Before putting the roast in the oven, they always cut it in half. Generation after generation prepared the roast in this way, until one day, a mother was preparing the meat to put in the oven and her daughter questioned it. “Mom, why do you always cut the roast in half before you cook it?”

Her mother replied, “Because that’s how my mom taught me to do it.”

Unsatisfied, the young girl then asked her mother’s mother and got the same response. Since her great-grandma was still living, she then asked her, “Does cutting the roast in half give it a better flavor or something?”

Her great-grandmother smiled and said, “Well, I started doing it that way because the roast was too big to fit into the pan I had, so I had to use two smaller ones, and I cut the roast in half to fit into the pans!”

And so, a tradition, a sort of superstition, was born.

Often our superstitions are established out of fear—fear of bucking the system, fear of the unknown, of things we cannot see with our eyes. And at the same time, we also have a need to find explanations for the reasons things happen the way they do–it’s a matter of survival of our species. But what do we do when there is no logical explanation? Like why the crops fail or why a seemingly healthy child dies for no apparent reason? Or why lightning strikes a certain man on the golf course—one in particular—but not the others he’s with? Are these circumstances merely random flukes of nature?

It’s times like these that we sometimes turn to our spiritual beliefs, because there is no other way to explain things. But when does believing in the supernatural get out of hand? And where did I get the notion that such beliefs can get out of hand? Maybe it’s because I believe in the importance of balance. In martial arts, I learned that in order to be whole, one must nurture one’s body, mind, and spirit in equal amounts. If one of these becomes more important than the others, it’s time to reevaluate. This makes sense to me.

And yet, there are monks and nuns who do nothing but meditate and pray all the time, but someone has to feed them, house them, clothe them, do they not? Can one’s mind float above one’s body the entire time, even when preparing food, cleaning house, washing clothes, or going to the bathroom? Perhaps. I’ve heard it said that that’s the ultimate state—not to allow one’s self to be distracted by the outside world because the outside world is just illusion. That could very well be true.

So maybe the villagers who were condemning those women were simply blinded by illusion. And yet, it was “fact” that the crops failed that year and the entire village faced possible starvation because of the loss of food, so they felt compelled to do something about it. They didn’t realize (logic) that by ousting someone, it wasn’t going to provide a means to feed their people that year; they only believed that by doing so, it would prevent the same thing from happening in the future, because it must have worked once before. Maybe that’s a lot of the problem with the world: people feel victimized and powerless, so it’s easier to blame someone else than to accept responsibility.

Perhaps the real solution is to believe in ourselves—believing, KNOWING that we are NOT powerless and that no one is to blame but ourselves. And yet, how does that apply in cases of horrendous things happening to innocent people? They didn’t choose their lot, because if they would have known ahead of time what was going to happen, they likely wouldn’t have chosen to be in that setting. I also know there are those who would argue this point and say that yes, we choose everything in life, including when and how we are going to die—we choose this before we are born. But that’s a whole different topic.

I  personally don’t think those villagers were crazy because of their beliefs; they were simply doing things the same way they’d always been done—and maybe it’s my own fear that makes me think that they were doing something wrong—although hurting others is NEVER acceptable.

There’s a lot to be said for tradition—I think it’s wonderful and important to honor our heritage. However, I also think it’s important to question things and to examine our hearts to see how we feel about the things we unquestioningly accept as true and right, merely because that’s how it’s always been done. Maybe that’s where the border lies between unhealthy beliefs and belief in the supernatural—in the stepping back and examining our reasons for our thoughts and actions and adjusting them accordingly–by restoring personal balance–if necessary.




Book Giveaway Winners Announced!

CONGRATULATIONS to Joan Ruggerillo and Jill Olk, the winners of the free copies of “Dance of the Electric Hummingbird.” This drawing was held in memory of Sherry Altice Chenoweth, who passed away suddenly on September 4, 2012. She will be missed.

The names of all those who entered were put into a word document, then cut apart, folded in half twice, and placed in a gift bag. The names were drawn by two separate people. I find it interesting that the numbers of the names drawn were #24 and #42 respectively.

A HUGE thank you to all who entered the contest. You are all winners in my opinion!

Please stay tuned, as there will be more contests coming soon–and a special surprise!

Free Book Giveaway to Honor a Fallen Friend

 In memory of a dear friend, Sherry Altice Chenoweth, who passed away unexpectedly on September 4, 2012, I am going to draw TWO names for a free, autographed copy of “Dance of the Electric Hummingbird” in Sherry’s honor.

To be eligible, you MUST send your email address to by Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Drawing will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Winners will be notified  by email and once verified, their names will be posted on, as well as

Please use “Sherry’s Drawing” as the subject line of your email. If you’ve entered previous contests, you WILL need to re-enter to be eligible for this drawing since it is for special circumstances. Thank you.

Questions? Contact me at

Good luck everyone.

Rest in peace, dear Sherry. You will be missed but never forgotten.


Jonny Lang Concert Review – Loveland, Colorado

August 31, 2012
Thunder Mountain Amphitheater, Loveland, Colorado

Why is it that after I’ve just experienced a live concert that is so kick-ass amazing, I’m left feeling beat up, exhausted, and yet, indescribably invigorated?

Friday night, blues musician Jonny Lang performed at Thunder Mountain Amphitheater in Loveland, Colorado, and the phenomenal Mr. Lang, who never fails to blow his audience away, did it again.

With two local bands, Over the Rail and the Lindsey O’Brien Band opening for him, when Lang took the stage, he quietly picked up his guitar and with his long fingers stretched across the strings, began coaxing it into “Don’t Stop (For Anything).” Joining him onstage were Jim Anton on bass, Barry Alexander on drums, Dwan Hill on keyboards, and Akil Thompson on guitar.

I’ve watched Jonny change and grow over the years, taking the blues and playing them just as well as the old-time greats, (if there is such a thing as reincarnation, Jonny must have been one of the original blues masters–you just can’t manufacture that kind of soul) but he also turns them inside out and upside down and weaves them with different genres, such as gospel, R & B, Christian, soul, funk, and hard rock, as he did Friday night.

     Akil Thompson on guitar






Jim Anton on bass



I would be hard-pressed to find anything to criticize about the show, but if I had to name one, it would be that I would have liked to have heard “Still Rainin’” and “The Levee,” but that’s just me.

One cannot deny however, that Lang is a master not only of the guitar, but also of vocal ability. He captures his audience and grips them with each note like talons piercing unsuspecting flesh and we never want those talons to release us. A shining example of this was the intro to “Red Light.” Lang took us on an emotional rollercoaster with just his voice. What a treat. I’d like to ask him what goes through his mind when he’s up there performing because it seems like he’s in his own little world and yet, he gives two hundred and fifty percent every time, getting so deeply into the music that it’s hard to tell where his identity ends and that of the music begins. Maybe it doesn’t.

“Forty Days and Forthy Nights,” an old Muddy Waters tune, showcased Lang’s incredible guitar work–exceedingly impressive–without the use of a pick.

“Lie to Me,” always an audience favorite, began almost as an acoustical tease, then exploded in a metaphorical wall of fire and power until it consumed the entire amphitheater. It doesn’t get much better than this.

“Breakin’ Me” was performed with so much emotion that there was hardly a sound from the audience, and “Turn Around” had a funky R & B feel to it, as well as Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for the City.”




Barry Alexander on drums


     Dwan Hill on keyboards

The final song was “I Am,” another emotional piece, in which all the band members performed solos. At the end of the show, Lang stepped up to the mic, and with a boyish grin on his face, quipped, “I just don’t want it to end!” and we knew he meant it. I didn’t want it to end either.

Thanks to the fine people at Thunder Mountain Harley-Davidson and Clear Channel Radio (107.9 The Bear), I got to meet Jonny backstage. Again, he did not disappoint. He was warm, down-to-earth and comfortably chatting with his admirers—signing everything they offered, then happily posing for pictures. Someone said to him, “Jonny, you have more talent in your little finger than most people have in their whole body!” Jonny smiled and replied, “It’s practice, just practice.” I beg to differ. I could practice until my fingers fell off and never get close to what comes so effortlessly to him.


Backstage with Jonny Lang

Discovering what a gracious person he was only deepened my respect for him and my appreciation of his music.

This man does have more talent in his little finger than most people will ever have, and he’s happy to share it with you; just don’t be fooled by his soft-spoken manner and humble nature—when he opens his mouth to sing and moves his fingers across the strings of his guitar—he will swallow you whole. And you will love every minute of it.


Don’t Stop (For Anything)
A Quitter Never Wins
Turn Around
Red Light
Livin’ For the City
That Great Day
Breakin’ Me
Angel of Mercy
Lie To Me
Forty Days and Forty Nights
I Am

Photo Credits: ©Dee Walker