Today my guest is Carlos Baker. We talk about his music, his new book, the challenges he went through in his childhood, surviving adult depression and being the primary parent in a new country.
In this Episode:
- A challenging childhood illness: how parents and children can experience difficulties differently 01:00
- Not being equipped for adult adversity 18:50
- Dealing with adult depression 21:40
- “The beginning of an amazing adventure in Germany” 24:00
- Parenting choices and being the primary caregiver 26:00
- Living geographically apart for a time 33:20
- Living out a passion. Music and Writing 38:30
Contact Carlos Baker
Songs for Ivy book
Trigger warning, this book deals with alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide child neglect and death and dying. It is a journey of acceptance and being surrounded by those who are true friends.
Welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with travelling partners!
My name is Rhoda Bangerter. I'm a certified coach and the author of the book ‘Holding the Fort Abroad’. Today we're going to hear a story, a real story. My guest is Carlos Baker. He's a musician, an author, a dad who's moved continents, and he has also lived a few times away from his family.
We'll be talking about all of that, of course, but he's also had some difficult moments and challenges in his life, which he will share with us too. And I hope that this conversation will be encouraging to you as you listen.
So, Carlos, thank you very much for being with me today!Carlos Baker:
Rhoda, thank you for having me. I appreciate it!Rhoda Bangerter:
First of all, sort of give us a little bit of a sense of where you come from. I don't know, that could be a loaded question, but sort of where you come from, where you've moved, a little bit about your story.Carlos Baker:
Yeah, I was born and raised outside of Providence, Rhode Island, so a, New Englander, and yeah, so I still have a lot of family there. Spent the first up until college there and I was one of those guys that when I left for college, I never went back or thought I was never going to go back. I definitely thought I was going to be off into the world. And I got a degree.
And once college was over and my wife and I got married and had a baby, I quickly found myself back in the town that I grew up in, outside of Rhode Island and working in that area and at least attempting to do the traditional life where we bought a house and I got a job and did all that stuff.
But my artist brain didn't allow that. And I quickly found myself in a very tumultuous mental health situation where I just basically deteriorated to not being able to function anymore. And at that point, my wife and I packed up our house and our then seven, six and four year old and we moved to the little village that she was born and raised in in northern Germany. So we've been out here outside of Hanover for the last 14 years of our lives.Rhoda Bangerter:
So that's the quick geographical story, anyway.Rhoda Bangerter:
That was, that contains a lot of story just there. So growing up, there was no thinking, oh, I'll go live abroad or.Carlos Baker:
It's funny when we look back at our lives, right? Kind of the big event that happened in my life that seemed to have shaped my childhood was I had a very traditional, wonderful childhood up until I was 12, 13 years old. We lived on a farm next to my grandfather, so my father built a home on a kind of a gentleman's farm. And we had a very beautiful childhood in that. We had motorcycles and tractors and animals and horses and cows. We were very blessed.Rhoda Bangerter:
Always outdoors, and just great relationships. At least we had great relationships with family members. Of course now, as I got older and heard all the gossip, I realized there was plenty of turmoil within the family relationships that I wasn't aware of with the aunts and all that kind of stuff. But as far as I'm concerned, it was a wonderful childhood. And then when I was twelve and a half, December of 87, they found a tumor in my -- cancerous tumor in my left knee and in both my lungs.
So I kind of went from being an all American kid with a family that we were wild and free and all of a sudden we spent the next two years of our lives in Boston Children's Hospital in the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. And although I wasn't once again aware of it, everyone assumed that I was going to not survive because it was just one thing after another of setback after setback, and ultimately, for whatever reason, against all odds, with 0% chance, I did survive.
And ultimately, after two years of trying to save my leg and many surgeries on my lungs, they amputated my left leg just to the middle of my thigh. And from there then I was 14 and a half and life began once again. It was kind of on pause for a few years because we basically lived in Boston. But interestingly that story, I think when I tell that story to people, it sounds so tragic and so hard and so scary. And now that I'm a parent, of course I recognize how insanely crazy that must have been for my parents.
But oddly for me, it wasn't so bad because I guess because of my personality type, which is kind of always super naive, always assuming everything would work out, kind of a very positive guy by nature. I didn't know I could die. Even though all my buddies around me were dying, even though I was faced with all this stuff, I just assumed I'd get through it sooner or later and move on with my life.
And even two years later, if a 14 and a half year old boy loses his leg to the middle of his thigh again, you'd imagine it's such a horrible experience. For me, I had just lived two years of my life with being sick from chemotherapy and cancer and all this kind of stuff, and my leg, they had tried for so long to try and save it. It was such a hindrance in holding me back because I had this staph infection in it and it was just all, so when ultimately we made the decision to amputate and did it, it was like a celebration for me.
So everything I experienced during those years was kind of counterintuitive of how you'd at least how -- if I look back, if I think to myself, oh, that must have been really hard for me. But it was actually quite beautiful. And I loved the nurses. And it's very odd. When I think back again now, I recognize how hard it must have been on my parents. And it certainly took its toll on both of them. And I think my father never recovered in some ways from that kind of experience where his baby boy, he was expecting me not to make it.Rhoda Bangerter:
That's a lesson for us parents, right, sometimes. Because we put our emotions on our kids and we're like, oh, poor thing, poor thing. And they're experiencing it completely differently than how we experience it.Carlos Baker:
And they were so good about it too. They were so positive. We were one of those families where we never said the word cancer. I was sick for two years and we never said the word.Rhoda Bangerter:
And you never said the word?Carlos Baker:
No. And it wasn't for years later I would say tumor. I wouldn't generally say cancer. It's funny, right, how we all have our ways of handling it. My dad, he is or was a real silly guy, businessman, but as a general personality, a happy go lucky, silly man. And that was his role in the hospital. He was all the kids that were also going through these chemotherapies. He was the silly dad that came in and was laughing with them.
And of course with me, when we spent those days, unfortunately, with the different type of chemotherapies, it would be days of vomiting 1000 times over three or four or five day period with these methotrexate and these type of drugs that are so toxic on the body. My dad's role was just to be silly. And I responded to that because I was kind of like, that.Rhoda Bangerter:
Sounds like your parents had sort of a philosophy of life, of how they were going to handle this and how they're going to help you through it. Do you think that came through? Do you think they did it on purpose? Or it was just their way of being?Carlos Baker:
I was going to say, or not. Or it was just intuitive. And they were so powerful. Again, I can just imagine the feeling of powerlessness. The surgeries and the chemotherapy and then the constant those. Again, as you can imagine when you're every three months, you go in for those X-rays and bone scans and what's next. And at one point after a year, I try not to dwell on this, make it too long, but after a year of chemotherapy. So my chemotherapy was coming to an end. It was a year protocol. Twelve months. We went in for all the checkups, bone scans and all that. And they found a grapefruit sized tumor in my right lung.
So basically what that meant was the chemotherapy, that you have a 50-50 chance of surviving this osteogenic sarcoma. It basically meant that didn't work. And now either go make some memories or perhaps try some experimental type stuff. So the doctors went to my parents and said, what do you want? Do you want to try and remove this tumor, which means remove the right lung and try some other stuff, or do you want to go make some memories in quality of life? Right?
And this is a very odd part of the story, but the night before we decided to go through the surgery and the night before, my mom had heard in this little church in Seekonk, Massachusetts, which is kind of near where we grew up, was having some sort of a traveling guy that was a healer. And I'm not a super religious guy to this day, and my family is not a very religious family.
We didn't grow up going to church, but we went to this church. And to make a long story short, the man was calling people out. And I was a 13 year old kid with no hair and on crutches, and I weighed about 80 pounds because I was all skin and bones. And he called me up and he said, the Lord has sent me to heal you. And all these people, maybe 15. This is how I remember it. It was so many years ago, but 15, 20 people put their hands on my body, on my chest, and were speaking in tongue. They were just making noises.
So it was quite intimidating for me, very emotional, because it was a little scary. And I must admit, I did feel something, whatever the group energy, whatever it was. So it was a very odd experience, needless to say. I was always a goofy git. And I remember we were walking out the church and I got to kind of this grassy area, and I threw both my crutches to the sides, and I was like, I'm cure just acting like an idiot, like a dumb 13 year old kid. And my dad's like you can't. Carlos. Come on. That's disrespectful.
So the end of the story is I went in for surgery the next day, expecting they were going to either remove a lobe or the entire lung. And there was nothing in the lung. The tumor was gone. Modern medicine doesn't really know how to explain it other than to say it happens. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the body can cure itself, perhaps, yeah.
So I woke up to that news, and the doctors told my parents, when this happens because we don't know how to explain it, we're not going to do anything. We're done with chemotherapy, and we're going to let the body figure itself out. And that was the experience I had with cancer, because I never went back.Rhoda Bangerter:
That is an incredible story. And I'm a Christian. So I'm a Christian. And to hear a story like that, I'm like, whoa, well, let's not underestimate what's going on. It’s faith.Carlos Baker:
It's funny because a lot of people, you must be so religious as a result, and oddly, I am not at all in fact, I'm an atheist, but something happened. I know that. One of my buddy, a doctor friend, when I told him that story about maybe five years ago, I loved his response.
He said, listen, whether you're religious and you want to believe that, whatever you want to believe, one possible way of thinking it about it is when surgeons replace a kidney or whatever it is, and they put a foreign thing inside the body, within hours, your body is immediately attacking that foreign substance and killing it. Right?
So it could be said that we have the ability to kind of attack these very specific areas. How we do that, how we can figure out a way to do that, is the question. But however you want to look at it, I experienced it. I survived when I wasn't supposed to, and I'm still here.Rhoda Bangerter:
And you're here. So what would you say to parents now that you've lived it as a child and then you've become a parent yourself? What would you say to parents living something like that? Especially some parents live abroad outside their home country. They don't always know the medical system. They don't always speak the language. A lot of the people listening, sometimes they're the lone parent. What would you say to the parents then? I mean, is there anything you can say?Carlos Baker:
I don't know. I think, we as humans, we all handle all our challenges differently. Gosh, I was so blessed in retrospect, I did go through I remember years later in my teens, I did go through that. Why did I survive? And all those other buddies of mine not, I did go through that stuff, but in the end, gosh, there's not so much you can tell people what to do. It's just kind of how we handle, I was just lucky that I'm a glass half full guy.
I honestly believe that when people ask me, I say, I'll be honest with you, I was a dumb, naive kid. I'm a dumb, naive adult. I still think everything's going to work out in my world, even at times where I've had mental health issues and I never thought it was going to end that way. I always assumed things would work out.Rhoda Bangerter:
Your parents didn't cry over you. They didn't cry in front of you. They didn't despair and sort of, right? They were positive. Not in the fact that you want to sort of pretend or anything, but I think there's probably something in that that they didn't sort of kind of lament next to you and sort of pretty much kind of…Carlos Baker:
I agree. No dwelling, right.Rhoda Bangerter:
Yeah, no dwelling. Not that it's bad, and I don't want to make anybody feel bad if they're doing that. [Crosstalk] Yeah, there's a fine line, but I think your parents obviously handled it in a certain way, whether it was natural or thought through.Carlos Baker:
And the whole community that was my grandparents, my family, the actual community, my friends, I had so many people that were so wonderful and gave me so much energy. And I remember I was very close with my grandmother, and I went to my grandmother's house to spend some time with her after school, which I did often, and I called her Nani.
I said, Nani, I was learning about the Great Depression and what was like the worst thing to happen in your life, like, thinking she was going to say, oh, my family, and she was like, well, I guess you and I said, no, really? And I thought she was joking. I said no. Really?
And she said, no, really, you getting sick was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. And I said, what are you talking about, like I literally didn’t -- that I was at that age where I really didn't recognize the weight of me being sick, how it affected the community around me. Right?Rhoda Bangerter:
Wow. Yeah.Carlos Baker:
And I remember I said, what are you talking about? He said, Carlos, that was so devastating to all of us. We didn't know if you were going to survive. And I was like, oh, my goodness, my sickness affected. And then I started realizing that affected my brother. It affected certainly more than me because I almost became a celebrity as a result, because I was that kid in town that was bald and going through chemotherapy and….Rhoda Bangerter:
Getting a lot of attention. Right?Carlos Baker:
Getting a lot. Very odd. Yeah, I'm a strange guy, man. I always was.Rhoda Bangerter:
Well, then you're an adult. You marry someone from a different country. Well, young, right? And then you move to that person's country. That's a big deal. How did you live, all of that? And you had kids when you arrived in Germany? So did you learn German straight away? How did those first years go?Carlos Baker:
Oh, gee, well, we've been here 14 years, and my German is terrible.Rhoda Bangerter:
That's okay. That's good for people who don't speak encouraging.Carlos Baker:
And that's the problem. The problem in Germany is everyone speaks English. Right?Rhoda Bangerter:
You can get away, right? With not…Carlos Baker:
Which is good and bad. But I must say, I understand 100%, and I can communicate because I'm not shy. For instance, my in laws don't speak a word of English, so I can fake it. But yeah, I was in my early 30s. We had three kids. I was really, really struggling with mental health issues. I'd gone to work for the family, a family business, a fourth generation family business.
And I had a falling out with a family member that was at that point where we had three kids at home. My wife was a stay at home mother. She was having a hard time. I was working way too many hours and wasn't as present as I could have been just because and at that point, work was kind of almost my respite because I had so much fun working with the family. And it's a big business, but I had a really nice role in it.
And then I had this falling out with a family member, and it threw me for a loop. I wasn't prepared. I didn't know how to handle it. I had never really dealt with adult adversity at that point. I was faced with, okay, now what? And my brain couldn't handle it.
So I started going through the panic attack stuff and anxiety and really kind of regressed to the point where I just couldn't function. I was able to function with the kids. I was able to parent, but I couldn't function in the real world anymore. I couldn't have normal conversations. I was so fearful of this anxiety and these panic attacks, and I wasn't.
And the worst part of it is I wasn't telling anybody. That's the hard part. I wasn't being honest with anyone. And my wife is a psychologist. She has a master's degree in psychology. And I wasn't even really sharing with her this bizarre fear because I didn't know. I just didn't know what I was feeling. I just knew that every second of the day, I was fearing these panic attacks, I certainly wasn't no longer functioning at work.
So at some point, unfortunately, it took way too long. It was a couple of years of living like that and still taking a salary from a family business, but no longer able to really work in any reasonable way. And then I also happened. My best friend in the world growing up, also worked for my father, so we worked together for about eight years. And when I went through kind of this anxiety depression stuff, I just pulled myself away from everybody.
So after two years of not talking to him, not talking to my brother, not talking to really anyone, just kind of pretending I was working, it's very confusing when I think back at some point, my best friend, I would just not allow people to kind of catch me to talk. I was just literally trying to stay away from the real world. And he kind of caught me, and he said, how are you doing?
And I'm like, oh, yeah, I'm doing great. I'm fine. And then I said, how about you? He said, to be honest with you, I'm thinking of leaving the business. And that's really hard because you know how great this place is. The people are so great, but I think it's time for me to so that was kind of the gist of the conversation.
So that day the conversation ended, I got my car, and I finally said, okay, my best friend in the world just told me that the place we work is wonderful, and all the people we work with are wonderful. And I used to think that I loved all these people, and now I hate them and despise them. So something's got to be, it was like a light bulb went off. I was like, it has to be me. I must be broken. It was just that moment, and I literally drove that day. I called my wife, and I said, I'm driving to it's called butler. It's a mental health hospital in Rhode Island, in Providence, Rhode Island.
And I drove straight there. I walked in, and I said, I'm screwed up.
Something's not right with me. And they were so good, they got me in to see a psychiatrist immediately. And I was super honest with them. I said, here's the story. I haven't driven in the same car with anyone but my wife and my kids for two years I haven't talked to. And he's like, okay, well, yeah, you're going through depression. We'll get you fixed up. You'll feel back to yourself in a few weeks.Rhoda Bangerter:
And it was true, of course, started with some Xanax and Klonopin, but ultimately ended up on the same meds that I'm on now, which has been, I guess, 15 years now, of I think in America, it's called effects, or it was just like the movies, man. Within a week, the sun came out, and that crazy wet blanket, or however people describe it, it lifted. And I was like, oh, okay. I can actually live normally.
Unfortunately, for those of people who've gone through depression, that was the honeymoon part of coming out of depression. The work was still to be done. On dealing with the emotion for me, which was shame of getting myself into that position, shame of failing, shame of being weak, all the stuff that you then have to deal with, which took me far too many years to finally work through.
But it was literally that day when I came home from my wife, and I said, here's the story. I just talked to a guy. I'm on these meds, and from one day to the next, we decided to move to Germany with no plans. We didn't have any housing here. I didn't have any money. We didn't have no savings because we were young family.
And we packed up our house in a container, and we were in the little village, I guess maybe 60 days later. That was in 2009. So our house was underwater. That was kind of during that housing nightmare, the housing bubble. So the house was underwater. We left the keys to the bank. We moved to Germany, and we moved into the home that my wife's grandmother, who was 95, lived in the home. Her mother, who was in her 60s, lived in the home, and her brother and his three kids lived in the home.
So we moved into a household with four generations with no bedrooms that we could take. They just kind of put us up. They were so good to us. And I think everyone was aware that I was obviously not in a very healthy place, and I didn't speak German. But that was the beginning of an amazing kind of adventure here in Germany. And, boy, we look back at it and say, that saved -- not only did it save our lives, because we got out of a world that I couldn't stay in. It would have been hard to stay in that family business. And we started a new chapter. It was really beautiful, actually.Rhoda Bangerter:
Wow. Thing is, I was going to say it's courageous, but sometimes you just take a decision, right, because you know it's the right one and you go for it without knowing where necessarily it's going to lead.Carlos Baker:
Yeah. And I give my wife a lot of credit on that one. My wife was the one that I don't know, at that point, I wouldn't have been able to make any major decisions. I think she was also in retrospect, we had three kids in 36 months because we were older when we started. That was our plan. We thought that was a great idea in theory. Turns out it's not a great idea.Rhoda Bangerter:
That's a lot.Carlos Baker:
Yeah. We had 12 months apart, and then 24 months later we had another one. So she was also struggling and really wanted to be around her community, so I give her a lot of credit for driving that decision. And I followed. And in retrospect, it was the greatest decision I could have ever asked for because Germany is wonderful. Perhaps maybe anywhere we went would have been wonderful for me because it was a new start and I needed that at that point in my life. But Germany for families, and it's really a great place to live.Rhoda Bangerter:
So you had the environment and the space and the time to sort of repair and learn and figure out how you wanted to go. And then so she started working and you raised the kids.Carlos Baker:
Yeah. I mean, it was really for me, going back to work at that point would have been a challenge because I didn't speak German, and emotionally, I just wasn't ready. She went right back to work. She found a job and actually has been at that job for 14 years. She loves it.
And I was given this opportunity to raise at that point, 7, 6 and 4 year old, which meant driving them to school, bringing them in and out of kindergarten, all the things with no ability to speak the language, and it was the greatest. I figured out how to cook. I quickly learned all the stuff that you got to learn, how to make pasta and the things that kids eat.Rhoda Bangerter:
And then you had a fourth?Carlos Baker:
Which is crazy. In 2011, that was two years after we had got here, we had another baby. And of course, Germany has wonderful maternity and paternity laws. So my wife did stay home for not quite a year, but I think it was about nine months until she went back to work. But then I got to raise a baby, which, Lord, I never thought I would have had that experience.Rhoda Bangerter:
So what was it like? So were you the only dad often in groups?Carlos Baker:
Oh, I was the only father. Oh, yeah. Now I'm a little bit I'm obviously 14 years. I was always into bodybuilding, even though I had an artificial leg. I was an athletic boy. So my sport, starting at 14 and a half, became bodybuilding. And that's what I called it. Going to the gym and all that stuff was trying to get in shape, trying to get big. So I did that for literally 35 years.
And so when I got here, I was this big American guy with long hair, and because I'm an American and I'm not too bright, the first thing I did once we figured out the money situation, instead of buying a small little Volkswagen, whatever people drive here, the small little car.Rhoda Bangerter:
What, you got a motorbike?Carlos Baker:
No, I got, like, a big, stupid SUV. Because that's what we know, right? Like. That's what I know. I always drove. So I'm driving around the Village in this big, dumb, monster suburban, and I'm all American. I think people just thought that I was a little nuts and there was no other guys that were walking into the kindergarten with their babies.
But the community here has been amazing. I'm a friendly guy, so I love kids. So I got to know every single kid in the town and every kid in all three of the children's classes, and I had a blast, man. I had such a blast raising the kids. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it and how present I was for a bunch of reasons.
One, because it was at a time in my life where my brain was, I think, resetting itself. And I was so excited to be really in the moment with all these experiences. And I think I'm an artist. I've always been a writer and always had a notebook in hand. And given this opportunity to watch my kids grow up, I was super aware of it.
We weren't that generation with phones and iPads, so when we were in the car or when we were together, we were really together. We were talking and we were listening to music, and I was sharing with them who I am. It was just a very organic kind of way to raise children, as opposed to now, it seems like, well, life has changed, right? Things have changed.Rhoda Bangerter:
Yeah. You raise them as you are. Right? That's how we all do it. We raise them as we are. You can't raise them any other way. You have to raise them according to how you see the world.Carlos Baker:
The fact that they were mine. It's so interesting in retrospect, the way our family system works. And I know everyone's is different, but the way ours works is my wife really has more of, I would imagine, the traditional male role, which is more not just the going to work. Yes, she goes to work every day, and I stay home. So that is different, but even our roles, emotionally, I'm the more loving of the two of us, and she's the disciplinarian. She's much more like – [Crosstalk]Rhoda Bangerter:
You're the nurturer. You're more the nurturer.Carlos Baker:
And our personalities have always been like that. In college, I was a free spirit. I was always full of the devil and always silly and laughing, and she was always very serious. It's just who she is. That's her personality type without being disrespectful. Very traditionally German, really…Rhoda Bangerter:
Disciplined. Got a 4.0 in college, was a full ride, volleyball scholarship athlete. And it went into the parenting style in that we were constantly on the run doing stuff and acting silly and listening to music loud. And my wife was constantly kind of yelling at us, just always stressed out. That's kind of her personality. And I adore her.
So when I say this, I'm really making statements that are true. I'm not judging. That's who she is. And I've loved her for 32 years because of that. But very, very tough on the kids, very, very high expectations.Rhoda Bangerter:
That's a nice balance. I think that's a nice balance. That's what they say, right? Opposites often attract, and then it provides that balance. Rather than seeing it as two opposing views, see it as something that can be mixed, and it brings the two sides of a coin.
So you've also spent time away from the family, and that's something I just wanted to touch on because there were things you wanted to do and to be able to do them, well, you chose to do them in another country. Yeah, and I think that's interesting.Carlos Baker:
From the day we arrived here, music became a part of my life again. So I was always a musician, always playing, always writing. But the day that we arrived here, I brought my contrabass upright bass, we call it, and my bass guitar, and immediately found a wonderful community here.
So that actually helped me tremendously to start writing again and to start nurturing that part of my personality, which is super important in retrospect for my mental health. So I always kind of was able to find my own stuff, my own time away from the kids that all of us need, right, to stay healthy and balanced.
In 2019, at which time I was still the primary caregiver, my best friend in Chicago got sick. I decided, I had to tell my wife and four kids. I said, I've decided to move to Chicago for six months to help a friend. And of course, my wife at that point was not happy about that decision because she was working and I was taking….Rhoda Bangerter:
That was a long time.Carlos Baker:
That was a long time. Yeah. From February till the end of the summer. And it was hard. Of course, with technology, it's a little bit easier, perhaps, than past generations because you can video chat every day. And I did put a lot on my wife's plate where she now had to do all the shopping and all the laundry and all the -- we don't have a household that we ask our kids to do chores. For some reason, she was faced with doing all that stuff.
But I also got to experience one of the greatest six months of my life. First of all, in helping a friend that I thought was important. I had gone through that stuff and lived in a hospital for two years. And now my best bud was faced with that same challenge. I was there with him from 07:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night, and then a professional caregiver came in and sat with him throughout the night.
But that experience, I think, also, not only was it good for my relationship with my wife, because it gave again respectfully, it helped her realize when I was gone, how much of a partnership we were. All of a sudden, she had to do all the stuff that I was doing. I don't want to cause trouble in my marriage, but maybe she took that stuff for granted, like all of us sometimes do with our partners, right? Wasn't easy for her, but…Rhoda Bangerter:
You made it look easy.Carlos Baker:
Well, that's the thing is, man, to this day, we only have one at home now, but I do the laundry and I do the kitchen and I go shopping and I cook so happily. I have never once in 14 years complained about doing laundry. I actually like it. I'm one of those people that I do not mind folding clothes and I do not mind going shopping. And yeah, I came back after six months and I feel like our marriage was stronger than it had ever been after those six months.
And my kids, I think they also learned a valuable lesson, right? That sometimes you got to go. They got to experience through pictures and through stories this crazy challenge that this human who I loved was going through, and all this stuff that he had to face. He became a fully handicapped person and they got to see, oh, my father made sacrifices, right?Rhoda Bangerter:
This is what you do for a friend. This is how you -- [Crosstalk]Carlos Baker:
This is how you show love, right? This is how you show you care for.Rhoda Bangerter:
This is how you show love, yeah.Carlos Baker:
There was a little of data. What is that pay it forward? Wasn't that the saying that people used to say, there was a little bit of that, I had lost my leg when I was a kid -- [Crosstalk] Yeah. He was faced with losing his limbs, and I knew that world and I knew that I had something to give, I had something to share with him and help him get through. And we're still very, very close and he is forever grateful. He's still here, he's still fighting, and he's so appreciative.
So that was the first time I left the family. That was six months. Since then, I have been much more aggressive. When I need to go do stuff, I go. And my wife is actually quite supportive of it. I spent last all of 2022 in Chicago making an album, actually making my second album, which is streaming all over the world now. Little plug here.Rhoda Bangerter:
Oh, my God! What's the title? What's the name of the album?Carlos Baker:
The name of my band is called CK Baker Band or the name of my project. And I write all the music. And I've worked with a wonderful producer from Chicago named Brian Deck who produced the Counting Crows and a bunch of -- he's towards the end of his career. Now he's a little bit older. Yeah, I spent last year and I came back.
And once again, when I came back, I feel like every time I go and come back my wife and I seem to find another gear in our relationship. And as of today, I can happily say that I think we're more content now than we ever have been in our marriage, which is pretty d*** cool.Rhoda Bangerter:
That is so nice. That is really nice. So your album, what kind of soundtrack is it? I mean, what mood am I in when I listen to it or what mood will they bring me into?Carlos Baker:
Lyrics are all very dark. Everything that -- it must be for me kind of the purging of the darkness that's in my brain. So it's talking a lot about depression and kind of the monster that's inside us that, at least for me, is always kind of I always feel like unless I'm very aware and always doing work, which I am working on myself, I always feel like that monster is chasing me. I don't know if we all feel that way or if that's just the artist in me, but it's a rock album.Rhoda Bangerter:
I think a lot of us do.Carlos Baker:
Yeah, a lot of us do. And maybe a lot of us don't work as much as we should. I'm so aware of it and not afraid of it anymore, but I am aware and I am constantly making sure, keeping myself in check. But the album, I'm so proud of it. It's a rock album and I'm a singer and I'm the songwriter singer, and I play bass.Rhoda Bangerter:
And your book, can you tell us a bit about that? Because I just took a look at it and read the blurb of it and I'm like, oh, this also looks very interesting.Carlos Baker:
Yeah. It ties into all of this stuff. Always been a big reader. Reading was -- I think reading was one of the ways that helped me get through my darkest days because I would often hide in a book and kind of go into that world of whatever book we were reading at the time.
In 2017, my daughters were at that age where we were buying for Christmas time. At Christmas, we were getting them a bunch of different young adult books like Fall to the Stars and kind of this stuff that 14 year old girls would read. We probably got them each five books, and I always read all their -- I'll read anything, so I would always read anything they were reading, too, just out of curiosity, more than anything.
And I remember I read a few of the back blurbs of the back of them, and I was like, I think I could write a book, because I think the beauty of young adult books is it's not always fine prose. A lot of times, prose actually would get in the way for young adults because it would complicate the reading process. I actually like sometimes reading young adult books because they're easy.
So I said, I'm not a writer per se, but maybe I could write a book. That was 2016, Christmas and the first day of 2017. I approached it very much the way I write as a musician and songwriters, songs, in that I didn't have any plan. I'm going to see what happens. I'm going to let it flow and kind of see if I can write a book, whatever that means.
And of course, the topic, the main character was a 16 year old girl. Because I had just spent the last ten years of my life raising my daughters and watching them go through puberty and watching them have their first boyfriend and talking about it and really kind of just enjoying watching these two beautiful young adults growing up really very much involved.
So they quickly became the main character, became a 16 year old girl. And then there's just all the things that were important in my life, all the people that made an impression upon me, they tend to be people that were flawed.
So a guy that I grew up with that I, to this day adore, he was a 20 year heroin addict, so of course, that made an impression upon me. All the conversations I had with him about that those things is what's, you know, that's what stuck in my mind. So I kind of just let it flow. And about 18 months later, I had 130,000 words, which is about how much a book is supposed to be.
And then I found a wonderful editor out of Israel who took me on, kind of a developmental editor, not a line editor, and she helped kind of whittle the book down to the way it was, closer to where it's supposed to be. And I rewrote it maybe ten times, just I listened to everything she said, and ultimately it landed at about 80,000 words. And I'm not Shakespeare, but, man, am I proud of it.Rhoda Bangerter:
Yeah. So it's for teenage girls, primarily, but I would definitely read it. As a grown little more than 16 year old girl, I think. I would definitely read it.Carlos Baker:
It's a little dark. There's dark parts. There's issues in it. But I think especially with this generation, man, people, 14 year old kids, 16 year old kids, they are so much further along than you and I were when we were kids. In the end, it's about human flaws. There's about five different stories, kind of interwoven, and each one of those characters has their flaws.Rhoda Bangerter:
Does it end well or does it end?Carlos Baker:
That's who we are, we're all flawed. It ends incredibly trash.Rhoda Bangerter:
I'm going to cry.Carlos Baker:
Well, no, no, I shouldn't say that. No, no, no, it ends in the way it's supposed to. My favorite book of all time is a book called Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. And in the end, it ends in the most possible tragic way. All the characters that you love don't survive at the end, but that is the way the book is. It's real? Yeah, it's real.Rhoda Bangerter:
Yeah. Unfortunately, sometimes. But those are the books sometimes that grip us and that are the ones that are the most realistic, that feel the most realistic, because we're like, well, yes, this is how life goes sometimes. [Crosstalk] Otherwise, you're like just a fairy tale. Brilliant! Well, thank you so much for sharing. Thank you for sort of telling us about more about your life and everything. And we'll put all the names and all the links in the show notes. Is there anything you want to add before we wrap up?Carlos Baker:
No. I so appreciate it. I love what you're doing, and I really enjoyed speaking with you, Rhoda.Rhoda Bangerter:
Well, thank you very much.
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Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.