Once Upon A Song

In this digital age, we’re less inclined to go back and look at pictures we’ve taken. Michelle and I were talking the other day about this. Once pictures are snapped and stored, they become as much of a memory as the event they were meant to capture. Save for some scrapbookers and “non-conformists”, pictures aren’t even printed any more. Everything is digitally mastered, itemized, and stored away.  
My extended family has been communicating on a website built specifically for family communication, and we’ve recently been informed the site will be retired. I started going through the pictures we’ve posted to the site over the years and was flooded with nostalgia. So many memories. So many events. So many moments we thankfully captured. Maybe I should be taking more pictures so one day my kids can tell me I took way too many pictures, and then years later, be grateful I took so many pictures. And printed some.
Enough philosophizing. Here is a story of one piece my life as told through pictures. You’re welcome.
Once upon a time…
(See what I did there? A picture with a clock, talking about once upon a time….and it’s a picture of me and my Grandpa….I know, genius… By the way, that was my first New Years, and apparently neither one of us made it the final twenty minutes to midnight. We both conked out.)
I have always loved music. Always always always. When I was just a little tyke I used to sing Annie’s Tomorrow over and over and over again. Mom had a little electric organ and I would sit down and plunk out tunes by ear. Singing in church has always been a favorite past time. I am so thankful (beyond spiritual reasons) for the musical influence of growing up in the church – I learned to harmonize, and sing a Capella. I have always loved music. If there was music somewhere, I was usually close by. My big hair funneled the sound directly to my ears, so I could pick it up no matter. I just knew that one day I was going to be bigger than Reba McIntire. I was going to have albums and concerts and fans and be on tour all the time. (Of course, with a stage name like “Val Butts”, how could that not come to fruition??)
That’s my Uncle Ron. He’s always loved music, too. He had better hair than I did, and he played guitar. He also rode a motorcycle and even took me for a ride once. I have some pretty cool family members. Anyway, he would play guitar and sing for us, and sometimes he would play songs we could sing too. He has always loved music, and has written some wonderful songs himself. Come to think of it, I come from a pretty musically inclined family. Why did we never form a family band? Hmmm.
Eventually in school I joined choir, and sang to my heart’s content every school day. I still remember entire choral pieces all these years later. It’s kind of ridiculous. Ohhhhh magnum mysterium…et admirable sacrame-eeh-eeh-eeh-eeh-eh-eh-eh-eeehhh-eehhhhhn-tum. I sang our national anthem at school sporting events as often as they’d let me. I sang it before the demolition derby for a couple of years at our county fair. One older gentleman grabbed my arm as I walked back to my seat after one of those derby anthem performances. He said he was a WWII veteran, and that was one of the best anthem renditions he had ever heard. I started crying. (What? Me? Cry? How are there no pictures of me crying for as often as I do it?)
After Brent and I were married, I joined the worship team at church. Basically I was forced to….one of the elders, who was also Chief of Police, told me I was going to show up for rehearsal. How could a person not after the Chief of Police tells you that you are? I showed up and told them all I was “just there to observe”. That lasted about four minutes. The worship pastor invited me to sing with them. The rest is history. I loved – loved! – being on that worship team. The music, the singing, the people, and the pure, heart-felt worship every single week – I haven’t experienced anything like it since. 
We moved away, and I fell off the wagon with my singing. Leaving Wyoming impacted me more than I realized. However, I had said if American Idol ever came nearby, I would audition. Well, guess what happened the same year we moved? Minneapolis, baby. My BFF, Tiffani, flew to Fargo, we drove to the Cities together, and she was by my side through the whole thing. We showed up and stood in line beginning about 4:30 a.m. We met this contestant, Janine, and her boyfriend. They were hilarious.
Then we went inside to scope out the competition. All several million-bajillion-quadrillion of them. No big deal…
Then after hours and hours of waiting, and seeing this famous guy named Ryan Seacrest, I finally got my turn. The producer was looking right at me, and I was keeping a brave face. She told me I had a strong voice but that I wasn’t what they were looking for. Then she told all of us that none of us had what they were looking for that season. I smiled, I walked away, and when I got outside, I started crying. (See? All the time. How are there any pictures of me smiling when I just cry all the time?) Tiff came and found me, we walked back to the hotel room, and I slept off my sadness. Some chick named Jordin Sparks won that year. Her grandparents live in Fargo. Whatever.

I rebounded, though, because of this amazing thing called karaoke. I’ve even won a contest or two. This is my sister and I singing karaoke in Las Vegas. Outside. It was a hysterical evening, actually. When my sister sang Jessica Simpson’s Angels Instead, she gathered a huge crowd, and put on a performance I will never forget. Then we sang Celine Dion’s All By Myself….together, ironically…. and this picture captures the essence of our differences. I am all about serious vocal performance. She is about putting on a show. And she does a great job. 
In Wyoming, there was this bar called Whisky River, that had karaoke every week. When we’d go back home to visit, we’d go to this bar on karaoke night and sing. One time in particular, I remember a gentleman approaching my husband, and asking him if I was in a band. I think I was singing a Queen song (Fat Bottomed Girls) during his inquiry. That makes me laugh. I love karaoke, but I’m not sure how much it says about anyone’s talent when the audience is a bunch of inebriated individuals waiting (impatiently) for their turn to sing Patsy Cline’s Crazy, or Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot. It’s especially difficult to tolerate an entire evening at karaoke when I myself no longer imbibe
When my sister had her big wedding ceremony, she asked me to sing for her and my brother-in-law’s first dance. I was honored. I almost cried during the song. I powered through.
I went to a family reunion and got to sing with Uncle Ron and his band though. That was pretty cool. The funny thing was, it was my family, and I was so stinkin’ nervous. Something about being surrounded by my relatives instead of strangers – like, I was going to have to see and talk to these people again no matter how good or bad I did – was so intimidating. Thankfully, no one disowned me as a result of my performance.

I never made it big. I never caught my big break. I never signed an autograph or had crazy stalker fans. I was *not* the next American Idol. That’s okay, though. Truth be told, I got an even better deal. I have children now who I get to put to bed each night with a lullaby. I get to sing about how they’re my sunshine. I get to sing songs about how much Jesus loves them. On a good day, Little Miss will even let me sing a song from Frozen with her. I married a man who can sing. I mean the man can SING. Our kids will always think we’re crazy for busting out in song all the time. I don’t have to sell records or have a better song than the competition, or wear racy outfits to plaster on album covers. I just have to cradle my kids, and sing a tune they might enjoy. That in itself makes me love singing even more.

2 Replies to “Once Upon A Song”

  1. I'll never forget how nervous I was at your first solo in the school choir. Turns out, I had nothing to be nervous for. You were and are a great singer. Your husband is too! I am glad your life took the path it did because I bet it is what God intended for you instead of bus tours and fame.

    Love you, your kids and yours and Brents melodious voices!

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