playIf you believe that life is a journey, you certainly aren’t wrong. We are continually seeking and finding. If you believe your life is a novel, I can attest that every moment you experience is another page in the chapter of your life. If you feel that life is a battle, I hope it is because you like the conquest of games. Positive energy is infinitely more motivating than negative energy. If you are a defeatist, and consider that life beats you down, then it surely will, regardless of your actual problems.

One of my journeys was to record my musical RIO with the help of Russ Daughtry. He was a good friend to all and a fabulous musician. RIO was a 32-song operetta—Russ was recording all of the guitar parts for me. When we began the project in 1996, he was a robust, renaissance man. Within months, however, his legs began tingling and after a while, he had a hard time walking. I would have to help him slide down my basement stairs to the studio. Within the year, I had to tape the pick to his hands so he could finish his parts. Back then, there was no way to diagnose ALS—Doctors could only conclude what he had after all other tests resulted negative.

When he was given the death sentence, he did not let the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease end his career. For the last 3½ years Russ could no longer use his arms, but his wife Laura bought a keyboard synthesizer and a computer software program to record music. He could operate it with a head mouse without the use of his hands. He produced a CD, “Songs From the Iron Chair,” with 14 of the songs that he composed. I visited him as he was putting the finishing touches on his CD. Ironically, the last thing that ALS destroys is functions of the head, and so he sang one of his songs for me. It was a poignant ballad. When Russ finished singing, he smiled at me and said, “That just rocks my world!”

This was my defining moment when I decided, “life is what you make it.” It’s irreverent what kind of hand you are dealt; it’s all about how you play it.

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