Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The story behind my "Words and Music": my father, ALS, and trying to give back

Not a lot of people are aware of my experience with ALS, or more commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease", a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects over 5,600 new people and their families annually. My father was diagnosed with ALS when I was 10 years old and it quickly adjusted my lifestyle for the remainder of my adolescence.

The disease deteriorates the nerves, eventually atrophying the muscles, and forcing immobility. The most horrifying part is that the mind stays completely healthy...so while the body is wasting away, unable to move or to speak, the mind is still thinking as much, if not more, than it ever had. For over 6 years, I assisted my mom and my sister in caring for my dad as his body weakened and declined before our eyes. While my friends were out at football games or going to movies, I was on a pretty tight departure and arrival curfew but not for normal reasons of a teenager - I was back home around 10pm to help my mother put my dad to bed. Or to feed him and take him to the bathroom and provide help that no one really understood. His friends slowly disappeared (although new ones appeared that we never saw coming and will always be extremely grateful for) along with his ability to communicate.

Anytime I tell my story of my father and the disease that ultimately took him, I always have to interject and let it be known that my mother, who is easily the strongest and most able person I'll ever meet, did an AMAZING job of making sure I had as much of a normal childhood as possible. As we became more experienced with the situation, she assumed the duties all by herself so that I could hang out with my friends of a Saturday night or go to karate class a few nights a week. So there are small slivers of normalcy but they are rare.

So why am I telling you this? No, it's not to completely depress you around the holidays or give you one more thing to fear. But you must be aware and remember that such a horrible disease exists and it discriminates against NO ONE. There is no known cause or cure and the world needs all the help it can get to battle against it.

I am telling you this because I recently had an opportunity to assist in the best way that I know how and included my song "Home Free" on a compilation CD called "Words & Music Nashville". If you've seen "Home Free" live before, you may have heard me talk about how it was written as a tribute to my father, who, while in the Air Force for 22 years, flew F-4's in Vietnam and was an extremely proud veteran. So as further tribute towards curing his disease, I have included "Home Free" and will be donating 100% of my proceeds from this album to the ALS Association. The ALS Association is just one of the organizations that is doing everything possible to fight for a cure and to assist the people and families of those that are afflicted with ALS.

So please do what you can, if you can. To find out more about "Words & Music Nashville" and get a few copies, as well as discover all the incredible artists and talent that are included on the project, go to AdroitRecords.com. Not only do you get some of the most amazingly unforgettable music from Nashville but you also contribute to a cause that's extremely close and personal to me. And I am grateful! Thank you for reading this and, as always, for listening...



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mason in Country Weekly, hitting the stands on 12/29/08!!

Hey guys - some really cool news: I'll be featured in the January 12th issue of Country Weekly magazine!! It hits the newstands on December 29th so make sure you get yourself a copy. I'll be doing my best to look sexy and cool and Country-Weekly-worthy in the ListenUp! section AND it will include a FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD of "Goodbye Woman" on their website:


So get your copy and get your free download and spread the word!! Hope you enjoy...thanks for listening!



Thursday, December 11, 2008

This is Max...

This is Max...

Max has literally been my best friend for the past 9 years - you may have heard about him or seen pictures or even come across his path here and there. I've been lucky enough to see him nearly every day (whether I was in the mood for it or not) and count on his boundless enthusiasm to brighten it.

Max was born in Knoxville, TN, a Golden Retriever/Irish Setter mix with 4 or 5 black-and-white splotched brothers and sisters. I have no clue why he was the only golden pup but maybe it just meant that he wanted to stand out and get everyones attention.

I've taken Max out west a couple of times, to hang out with his step-sister, Kalua, in Tucson and back east to see his cousins, Cisco and Maggie in Maryland...his favorite thing in the world is to take rides and he would literally go with me anywhere that I wanted to go as long as it was in the car. And nothing ever compared to the days that we went down to the Stones River off Percy Priest Lake. A quick 1-mile run and he'd splash into the river, jump off the dock a time or two, and chase some ducks around.

Max is truly a fixture in my life...and is always the one constant that everyone asks about whenever they haven't seen me or us in a little while. "How's Max?!" is a pretty common question to answer. There answer has never changed much over the years: "Max is fine...happy as hell and more energy than he had yesterday..." I started commenting on Max looking a little stiff in the mornings but he's never shown any grey or any signs of slowing down...

And anyone who has ever dog-sat Max will have a story about him escaping. He ran out of the front door...he ran out the back door...he made his own door...he slipped his choke collar...even the vet/kennel has a story about him bolting out the damn front door. When he was 2, he was gone for an entire day before some lady found him about 3/4 of a mile away and finally called in the evening to say she'd found him. He's always been the explorer and the scout and always the leader.

Max has no enemies in the world. He's defended his honor and let us all know that he's grumpy here and there...but otherwise, he truly lives like he was born to be your best friend for those few moments. And he loooooooves cats. Maybe he wishes he were a cat, I don't know...but he thinks that cats just flat-out rock. He'd play for hours with his old buddy, Griffin, and has tried to buddy-up with his new pal, Noel (she's not so sure, though) - it might make for a nice Disney movie, maybe...if it were up to him, he'd be sharing a strand of spaghetti with a cat...

Over the past few months, Max started an odd habit...as soon as I come home for the day, he demands that he climb up on the bed and then jump up and put his front paws on my shoulders and give me a hug! Of course, I've hugged him back...otherwise, he will pout and grunt and voice his displeasure until this little ritual has been completed. Again, this hasn't been all of his life...only in the past few months...

There are so many things about him that I could talk about and go on about but I'm sure you get the idea. I love this dog. I love this dog as much as anyone could love anything. Like I said, he has been my best friend for 9 years, my solid rock through wavering relationships, my believer when there wasn't much to believe in, the only thing that has stayed absolutely constant and dependable since I've moved to Tennessee...

Max died unexpectedly on November 10th, 2008. I can't dwell on how immense of a hole has been left with his absence...I could but I won't. In life, Max wanted to be everywhere so part of him is going to be in the Stones River, part of him will be back on the ranch in Arizona with Kalua, who we lost back in March too...and part of him will stay with me. He really was one of the best dogs in the world and easily the best dog I've ever had. I just wanted to share him with you and let you get to know him a little bit, if only in these pictures. I hope he made you smile for a few minutes like he did for me for 9 years.
I'm going to miss him.