Monday, April 30, 2012

Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper is so much more than a girl who wants to have fun. 

After releasing her iconic hit “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” she released “Time After Time” as a single, which became her second most successful song.

When I was growing up Cyndi Lauper and Madonna seemed similar.  They both had the same dyed hair and clothing style.  Now if you compared the two, they could not be more different.  While Madonna has continued to work hard to be in the public eye and up with trends in pop music, Lauper has taken a quieter route. 

This artist in this acoustic performance of “Time After Time,” is who Cyndi Lauper has evolved into and there’s hints of this sensitivity and maturity in “Time After Time.”

Lauper takes the cliché of “time after time,” the idea that someone does something persistently, often with a negative feeling into a feeling of reassurance.  With gentle imagery in the first verse and the feeling of longing and sadness she reassures in the chorus that she will be there.

With unforgettable and thought-provoking lines like “the second hand unwinds,” and “the drum beats out of time,” Lauper paints a beautiful picture of insecurity, hope and love.  Lauper has an almost child-like voice.  It’s small, but powerful like Lauper herself.  Within her small stature there is a powerful artists and within her gentle voice there is great expression and depth. 

I grew up with this song and never thought anything of it until seeing it featured in an 8th grade play I went to last weekend.

The promise of this song is not something that you understand early in life.  When you are young you have parents, friends and sibling and you don’t think that they will ever not be there. 
Then you grow up and people pass away, friends move away and you realize how everything in life doesn’t last forever.  You can’t know for sure that you can always be there for someone but you can promise. 

When you do this, it’s not about lying or being unrealistic, it’s about expressing a feeling.  It’s saying that against the odds, against reality, you will be there.  That desire and commitment to do whatever you can, time after time to be there, is what connects us to the ones we love and motivates us to be not for ourselves but for each other.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Year 2: Week 31 - Being An Expert

This morning during my middle school orchestra rehearsal I looked down at my score and saw the word “morendo” towards the end of the song.  As the students were playing while I was conducting I racked my brain trying to remember what this word meant.

I asked my students to play an earlier section of the piece and as they played I got out my iPad and looked up the term.  After I stopped the students and gave them some feedback I asked them if they knew the term “morendo.”  After an interesting discussion in which one of my students insisted that it meant “purple” (seriously people?  Context clues?  Why would a composer write a color in a piece of music?)  I informed them morendo was Italian for gently dying away. 

After explaining to them that this meant for them to gradually play softer and not to literally die away (yes, that was a real concern from my students) we rehearsed this section.

One of the keys to being a great teacher is being an expert in the subject that you teach.  Students can see through a teacher who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about in a second.  Think back on teachers that you disliked.  Chances are one reason you didn’t connect with some of those teachers is that you simply didn’t buy them as experts.

Now I’m not saying that you have to have an encyclopedic knowledge about everything associated with your subject, but you should do enough homework so that you have a grasp on the context of what you are teaching so you can answer students’ questions.

Part of the key to being an expert is admitting what you don’t know.  Talking authoritatively about something you know a lot about earns you respect from your students.  Talking authoritatively about something you don’t really know much about does the opposite.  Students don’t disrespect teachers who admit to not knowing something tangentially related to a subject.  But they think teachers are jokes that pretend to know things they don’t.

If a student asks a valid question that you don’t know, admit you don't know the answer and look it up together.  This helps teaches students how to attain knowledge and shows that his or her inquiry is important enough to you that you want to look it up not only for their sake but for your own. 

As much as students are impressed by teachers who are experts they love teachers who are interested in learning with them about things they are interested in.  When you take a question from a student, admit you don’t know the answer and then take time to look it up, it’s an expression of care. 

Be an expert, do your homework, but don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.  Yes teaching is about passing on knowledge but it's also about expressing care, and engaging students in personal and meaningful learning experiences. 

Also, it doesn't hurt to keep an iPad within reach.     

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Brown Corduroy Pants

One of the memories that came up during today was one time when I was walking down the street with my father.  I was at the age when I was old enough to walk but young enough to need to reach up to grab my father’s hand.

My dad was wearing brown corduroy pants.  As I was walking down the street I made sure to keep my eyes on his pants so I wouldn’t loose track of my dad.  It was a busy sidewalk and the different people and the changing scenery caught my attention.  Every couple steps I’d remember that I needed to stay with my dad so I’d look around find those pants and relax knowing that I was safe.

Then something caught my eye or maybe I had a question for my dad so I reached up and grabbed my father’s hand to get his attention.  Then a voice unfamiliar to me spoke and I looked up and saw that I had grabbed the hand of a stranger.

Where was my dad?  Was I lost?  Before I could panic, my dad only a couple steps ahead saw what happened, apologized to the other man and took my hand.

As we continued walking I was embarrassed but more than that I was confused how I could make a mistake like that.  I was so sure.  I just had to follow those brown pants and I would be fine, but that wasn’t enough.   

I had figured out that all I needed to do was watch what was at my eye level to be safe and to stay with my dad.  But in that moment I realized it wasn’t enough.  I had to look up.  So I learned to look at people’s faces to know who they were and where to go in my life.  As I got through high school, I realized that this wasn’t enough and that I had to look deeper than the surface of people’s appearances to find security and strength in the people in my life.

Reaching up and grabbing the hand of that stranger still haunts me.  That feeling of shock and disorientation has never left me.  I am afraid that that maybe the “brown corduroys,” the goals and the beliefs that I’m using to guide my choices belong to a complete stranger and are an illusion.

I guess the only way to find out is to reach up and grab that hand. 

If the hand you hold is what you think it is then your path is confirmed but if it isn’t well, dad was a only a couple steps away and so just as long as you keep walking and look up, you’ll be okay. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jack of All Trade by Bruce Springsteen

Optimism is difficult.

 In a world that so often shows us that people are selfish and mean, being pessimistic and cynical is the logical result. Unless you are ignorant of the darkness in the world, it takes work and effort to be optimistic and hopeful. One way to do this is to simply ignore the fact that innocent people are dying and unimaginable acts of evil are occurring right now in this world.  Or we take the more difficult road and try to reconcile all of the pain and suffering with the blessings in our own lives.

“Jack Of All Trades,” one of the new songs from Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball is about the struggle to maintain optimism and hope.

It is one of Springsteen’s most beautiful songs and is also one of his most disturbing works. After four and half minutes of reassurance and hope, Bruce’s final lyrics are of violence and hate: “If I had me a gun, I’d fine the bastards and shoot them on sight.”

Springsteen paints the portrait of a man who is reassuring someone he loves that things will be all right. He’s a jack-of-all-trades. He knows how to do a lot of different things and he’s willing to do them all.

He looks on the bright side of life. As the hurricane blows he thinks of the blue sky breaking and how “we’ll star caring for each other like Jesus said that we might.” He contemplates the economic inequality of bankers growing fat while the workingman grows thin.

There is no anger in these words just a quiet acceptance of how this is part of life. Some people see this line as a attack on Wall Street, I simply see it as a reality of our history and a necessary evil to the growth of our country and the economic cycles that shape our lives. Even though he knows that this will happen again, he says, “we'll be all right.”

They’ve stood the drought, so they can stand the flood, they can handle anything. Along with his partner he will just make do, because they have in the past. But this man is just a man. He’s angry, he’s sad and he’s frustrated.  In the end of the song, he simply has to let it out.

There’s no anger in these words. Just a quiet surrender because there’s no one person to blame for the economic hardships of our times. This impulse is one that he is powerless to make a reality but it haunts him and it’s undeniably part of his life.

I have impulses to lash out to go on rants against people that frustrate me.  We all do.  I have been tempted over and over to use to blog as a forum to vent and rail against people. Part of me knows that if I go in that direction I will probably get more readers, but I can’t. I’m made my choice for this blog and my life.

Every time, I make an optimistic statement I have to brace myself against others who would be cynical, who would rather have their fears confirmed than their hopes proved wrong. I also have to prepare myself against my own doubts and fears that tell me that things can’t happen, that people aren’t good and that the world isn't a good place. But you can’t give up and Bruce doesn’t let us. He shows this not through the words but rather through the instruments.

In the middle of the song there’s a hopeful horn interlude. These notes comfort like a lullaby and give a feeling of security. As we are left shocked by Springsteen words of violence, the horns come back with a beautiful arching melody.  This juxtaposition raises questions and Springsteen has a full minute of music to help us understand what is happening in this song.

Tom Morello provides a guitar solo that starts fiercely and slowly rises up like frustrated cries of anguish and despair. The horns, the hope returns and doesn’t let the pain take over. As the guitar reaches it’s peak, supported by the horns, it releases all of the anger and let’s us forgive the singer for his anger.

Like optimism and hope itself, “Jack Of All Trades” is a difficult song to understand. It takes us to places that are uncomfortable and challenges our assumptions about ourselves, the feelings we hold dear and the feelings we try to ignore.

Optimism is not about denying the bad things in life.  It's making sure we don't miss the great things that happen every day.  If you don't fight for this perspective, when the blue sky breaks you will not be able to feel the warmth of the sun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Year 2: Week 30 – Patience

One of the traits that people often say teachers possess is patience.  There’s this idea that teachers have an inexhaustible well of patience as they work with children.  Is this really necessary to be a great teacher?

I never considered “patience” as one of my traits.  I’m flattered that people feel this way about me, but it’s not something I feel comfortable with. I guess I am pretty patient with my students.  However, I don’t really think so.

Patience is the ability to work through something with somebody in a situation that you don’t understand.  The reason I have no problem helping a student work through a musical concept is not because I have the patience to do so but because I try to understand why my students are confused. 

We get impatient with things in life that we don’t understand.  Like when a car doesn’t start or the internet stops working.  Most of the times we get frustrated in situations like this because we don’t know what went wrong and we don’t really have the tools to fix these situations.

I understand that modern musical notation is not intuitive at all.  I understand that it’s really hard for my third graders to have a recorder in their hand and not make a distracting noise.  And I also understand school is hard for kids and sometimes affording them a little compassion when they are trying to figure thing out is important.

I don’t always have the tools to help my students understand what I’m teaching, but most of the time I can figure something out.  The key here really isn’t patience but rather it’s a determination and a willingness to try to understand the confusion.

There are definitely times in teaching when expressing a lack of patience is also importance.  I let me students know when they are slipping on basic expectations like raising their hands and how I get frustrated with this issue.  They need to know that there are some things in life that they deserve patience and other things in life that they just have to get together quickly.

Teaching requires a profound understanding of children that I am only starting to develop.  It is in this understanding that we find out who our students are and the best way to help them learn.

There are times when I’m teaching that I feel frustration well up inside and I have to take a step back and try to figure out the way my students are thinking.  We don’t feel like we are being patient with people that we understand.  So instead of looking for that well of patience try to find a memory of confusion to connect yourself with the students you are working with.  

Yes, strive for patience but more importantly work to know your students and with that knowledge you will be amazed the lengths you are willing to go to help them.        

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Top 5 Girl Groups

I discussed Boy Bands last week, so it's only fair to show the ladies some love.  Here's some of my favorite Girl Groups songs

5.  "Whatta Man" by Salt-n-Pepa featuring En Vogue

This is what was great about music in the 1990s.  An incredible rap girl group with one of the greatest female vocal groups of the time.  This song exudes confidence, fun and attitude and features an irresistible beat and an unforgettable hook.

4.  "Goodbye" by The Spice Girls

After Ginger Spice left, The Spice Girls recorded this heartfelt song about the transitions in life.  The Spice Girls invigorated pop music in the 1990s.  Recent tours have proved that they weren't just a flash in the pan and that their message of Girl Power truly had meaning (this earlier post discussed "Wannabe."

3.  "Celebrity Skin" by Hole

This movie trailer about the drummer from Hole reminds us the importance of this band. 

This was a great band and while "Celebrity Skin" may be one of their more mainstream songs, it's a delightful but dark confession by Courtney Love that was part of her come back after the death of her husband and rock legend Kurt Cobain.

2.  "Wide Open Spaces" by The Dixie Chicks

One of the comments people often say about the Dixie Chicks is about how well they can play.  I wrote this earlier post about their powerful song "Not Ready To Be Nice," about their controversial statements about President Bush (as well as this post about "Easy Silence").  My first exposure to this ladies was "Wide Open Spaces" a beautiful tribute to nature.  The most amazing thing about this song is musically it sounds so beautiful and open you can almost feel the sunshine.

1.  "There's No Stopping Us Now" by The Supremes

Most people know The Supremes from "You Can't Hurry Love" (which I discussed in this earlier post).  "There's No Stopping Us Now" shows Diana Ross opening up with the elegant Supremes providing Heavenly back-up.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction

"One Direction?"

The older I get the more I rely on my students to keep me in touch with what's going on in pop music.  After hearing rave reviews about One Direction from my 8th graders girls, I caught them performing on Saturday Night Live. 

My wife, Diana's first comment was “these guys are cute and they kind of look like your students.” I had to agree (with the looking like my students part, I mean I guess they are cute. . ). There appearance is friendly and harmless with a mix of modern fashion with traditional sensibilities.

My first reaction was: “wow, these guys are having fun.” Everything from the light choreography to the way the moved on stage exuded relaxation and enjoyment. There’s an idea that musicians need to be serious and I understand there is an appeal to the silent type, but I like to see my musicians smiling on stage.. Some of my favorites artists Taylor Swift, genuinely seem to enjoy their job and that you a long way. And their performance got me all the way through “What Makes You Beautiful” without skepticism and cynicism.

I mentioned the choreography which isn’t so much dancing but well timed movements across the stage into different formations. These moves are smooth and work well with the song. I’d rather them perform this way and focus on their singing.  Now, the most immediate question when people seem to ask out of boy bands are whether or not they can sing. Well, here’s your answer:

Just voices, not doubled up with backing and guitar and the result is: yes they can sing. “What Makes You Beautiful” doesn’t push any of them into their falsetto like other songs on their album, so we don’t see their full range here. But they do pull it off. They have harmony, they sing in tune. No, they aren’t Freddie Mercury or Aretha, but for a boy band, the vocals are very strong.

The song itself is a great first single. It’s keying into the same Taylor Swift teenage perspective fantasies and realities. The music doesn’t talk down the way young feel and it doesn’t over sexualize teenage situations with ideas that are beyond their age.

“What Makes You Beautiful,” has one the sweetest sentiments I’ve heard in a song in a long time. They are singing about how a girl doesn’t think she’s beautiful and he’s trying to convince her of that fact. What’s really nice is that the things that make her beautiful to our protagonist are not superficial things. He likes the way she flips her hair not the way her butt looks in her jeans. What really makes her beautiful is the fact that she doesn’t see herself as beautiful, which reflects her character and her personality. 

No, it’s not the fact that she has a low self-esteem that makes her beautiful, it’s that she’s not someone who flaunts her good looks. She’s a girl who doesn’t spend forever on her make-up. She just doesn’t see herself as a beauty queen. This is a girl you can relate to.

Boy bands are an important tradition in pop music. Yes, everything that One Direction is doing here has been done before. But that’s okay, because this kind of music needs to keep coming back to make us smile and have fun with music. What I respect about One Direction is that they are continuing a tradition. That little hiccup thing during the verse, that’s a musical reference to Buddy Holly, and that’s awesome.

I have no clue how long these boys will be around. Is there a Justin Timberlake in that crowd, maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that this group is a refreshing, fun and harmless. There will be inevitable backlash from men because they don’t understand why girls like them and adults who take themselves way too seriously.

Get over yourselves and take a moment to have some fun with One Direction and you might just figure out what makes this music so beautiful.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Would You Go With Me by Josh Turner

“Would you like to go out with me?”

This is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to ask. The funny thing is that I’ve only had to ask this question once when I wasn’t sure of the answer and that was to Diana. I didn’t go out on many first dates because most of them were put together through circumstance or the girl asked me out.

 I remember trying to change the wording to make it seem less formal (“you want to hang out sometime?”) but the meaning is the same. Believe it or not, the first time I asked, Diana said no. She was busy dealing with some stuff and her rejection wasn’t a reflection of her feelings on me. I didn’t know that at the time, so I kept trying.

As most people would advise, our first date was meeting at a public place like a restaurant. Slowly the degree of trust worked up to a point where went on adventures into Chicago and day trips up to Wisconsin.

Now besides work we go together to almost everything we do. Whether it’s something that is for both of us like going to the library or accompanying Diana on a trip to Walgreens, we go with each other. We go together. We don’t have to, it’s just nice because having her with me even with the most mundane errands turns it into an adventure.

Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me,” is about asking somebody out not just for a date but for life. It’s about sharing the experiences, as unpredictable as they can be and being okay with going wherever with your partner just as long as they are there with you.

Turner continues the grand country tradition of Baritone singing. Probably the most notable country singer to sing in a low voice is Johnny Cash. While most male mainstream male pop singers sing in a high tenor voice like Justin Timberlake, country music is filled with low singing legends.

Straining through high notes creates a great sense of desperation and drama in music, which fits a lot of pop and soul music. While people who sing high with good training don’t need to strain to hit higher notes, many people who can easily sing high notes often make it sound like they are reaching.

The thing about singing low is that you can’t really force it. Low range is limited while the high vocal range can be expanded through training. To get good low tones you have to be relaxed.  The sound that great low voices like Turner expresses relaxed and laid back feeling. Turner does a nice job of keeping this feeling as he moves up to his tenor range during the chorus.

Along with a beautiful Mandolin, banjo and guitar backing, “Would You Go With Me,” quickly sets a mood that is relaxed like an endless Sunday afternoon but gently flowing like a stream through a forest.

Turner asks his love is she will go with him through moments of excitement “streets of fire, “ and experiences of uncertainty “would it be okay if I didn’t know the way.” He speaks about optimism “could you not look down forever?” and the freedom they can experience together. In the center of this this song is a simple confession of love with a simple question.   While the song never provides an answer the feeling of the song does and you know that he is asking her this question in middle of a journey she is happy to go on with him.

Diana, in my life, is knowing that there will always be someone to go with me if I need it and even when I don’t. It’s security and it’s trust. It’s something that is important, something we all need. There are time when I hesitate to go somewhere with Diana.  Here’s the thing, sometimes I regret not going with Diana but I never regret going along with Diana.

Be brave, ask someone to go with you and next time somebody you care about asks you to go with them, put down whatever you are doing and go. You never know what great adventures await you because you are spending time with someone you love.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Top 5 Boy Bands Songs

Before I take some time to consider the new boy band One Direction, let's take a look at my personal 5 favorite boy bands songs:

5.  "Shape Of My Heart" by The Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys ushered in a new era in Boy Bands in the early 1990s.  While they didn't dance as well as some other groups they had charisma and were able to turn standard pop fair into enormous hits.  Oh, and they could actually sing which is demonstrated in the performance above.  "Shape Of My Heart" is a later hit that is "I Want It That Way" with lyrics that make a little bit more sense and an amazing bridge.   

4.  "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men

This was the lead single off of their first album.  Before they scored hits with slow songs and  expressions of how they would make love to you (check out this post), these boyz could really rock.  

3.  "Tearing Up My Heart" by 'N Sync

A beautifully crafted song, this song starts out with a solo calling out an awesome hook.  We all knew there was something special about the break-down of this song, little did we know that it was Justin Timberlake and the artist he would become.

2.  "Just A Little Misunderstanding" by The Jackson 5

This song was an album cut.  AN ALBUM cut!  This means they recorded this song and didn't think it was very good so they didn't release it as a single.  Seriously.  Any boy band that has album cuts this strong is truly amazing. 

1.  "Twist And Shout" by The Beatles

The Beatles were important for many reasons and one of them was because they were the first boy band in pop music.  Yes, the Beatles became so much more than a boy band but watching this performance it becomes clear what every boy band tries to capture.  Like so many other things in pop music The Beatles did it first and they did it best. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Sign by Ace of Base

What does the “The Sign” mean to you?

To my wife, it’s a song that came out when she was around 9 years old. For a talent show her and a couple of her friends came up with a dance for this song and performed it. My wife’s understanding of this song back then wasn’t very deep. She thought that this song was literally about a sign.

This song was huge. “The Sign” was the #1 one song of 1994 and sold over nine million copies in America alone. Part of it’s appeal was its drum beat but also that this song had layers beyond the idea of a “printed sign.”

For me, the song is about someone seeing a sign in the sense of an action revealing something deeper. Like when you are going out on a date with someone who is constantly texting throughout dinner, that’s a “sign,” that he or she is not that into you and lacks elementary social skills.

What’s the sign in this song? They never say. It’s kind of like Meat Loaf ‘s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). People don’t seem to know what “that” is (even though the song pretty clearly lays out that it is cheating/adultery).  “The Sign” doesn’t really help us in a literal sense understand the sing but we get an emotional sense what finally seeing the sign feels like.

You get a sense of this in the way that the chorus of this song opens up harmonically. But the best part that describes this and my favorite part of the song is when the song modulates (suddenly changes keys). This occurs at the end of the instrumental break after the second chorus: “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes and I am happy not living without you. . . ”

There’s a beautiful sense of freedom that happens in that moment. The song changes from that point on from a contemplation of circumstance to a celebration. While I love this moment and this song, I don’t know if the song is strong enough to appeal outside of my memories.

Is this song notable for any other reason than nostalgia? I don’t know. I’m too biased having grown up with this song in my life to know for sure. I can’t help but wonder if pop music that means so little to me actually means a lot to the younger generation and will continue to mean something to them as they grow up. It’s hard to say, but songs like “The Sign,” make me take pause before I criticize the latest pop music trend, because sometimes nostalgia is enough of a reason to make a song meaningful.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Year 2: Week 29 – Children With An Attitude

Students with “attitude” don’t really bother me.  I don’t let my kids get away with expressing rude teenage behavior but it’s not one of those things that I really mind dealing with. 

“Attitude” is that thing that a lot of people I talk to about teaching wonder about.  They don’t understand how we as teachers deal with behavior from students, which can be irritating and annoying.  Well, before we get too deep into this, let’s define our terms.  

When people talk about attitude in reference to teenagers they are usually referring to behavior like eye-rolling, sarcastic comments and talking back.  In some ways we aren’t really so much talking about students’ attitude in actuality but behavior that is irritating and negative. 

The reason I don’t think this is “attitude” because a girl who sarcastically roles her eyes doesn’t necessarily view the world in the way that she is expressing.  Often, when I discuss behavior related in most people’s eyes as “bad attitude,” they don’t full understand what they are expressing with their comments.  Does that mean that they don’t deserve to be reprimanded for their behavior?  No, but it does mean there is an important education that needs to happen to truly help this teenager express themselves.

Teenagers are not fully developed human beings.  They have a lot of growing up to do not only physically but also emotionally.  The problem is that a lot of them look a lot older than they actually are so we treat them more like adults then their actual age, which often only makes matters worse.

I’m not saying that we should talk down to kids, what I’m saying is that we need to approach situations in which “attitude” as a problem not with great anger, but with questions.  Why did you role your eyes?  What do you think that expresses to people around you?  You don’t know, well let me explain to you what adults think.  Is that what you want people to think about you?

I think in general it’s not a great strategy to go off on a kid who’s giving you attitude.  I know it’s hard not to, but it’s like fighting fire with fire.  Even if that kid backs down after being yelled at and apologizes, it’s not out of respect, it’s to placate you.

The best way to deal with “attitude” is to prevent it.  Teenagers express attitude when they are insecure, don’t feel safe and don’t feel validated.  The more you can do that early on in your relationship with teenage students to make them feel like they matter, the less “attitude” you are going to deal with. 

I’m not going to pretend that dealing with “attitude” isn’t a constant part of my teaching.  It’s annoying and it can really take up a lot of time.  But just don’t forget that they are kids trying to figure who they are and they need our help, not our scorn to get to the best of themselves.      

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Art Of TV Theme Songs

I realized that all of my favorite television shows have great theme songs (this earlier post discussed the theme from Buffy The Vampire Slayer).  What I love about a good thing theme song is that it immediately reminds you why you are watching the show and gets you prepared for a great viewing experience.  Here's some of my current favorites:

Up All Night

New Girl

How I Me Your Mother (This is the original, it's worth the wait). 

The Sopranos

And my current favorite:

Yeah, I don't even find that show very funny. It usually takes me three of four attempts to finish an episode. But that theme is so catchy!

Monday, April 2, 2012

10 Moments Of The Past 10 Years

Last Friday I turned 30-years old. I talked about this a couple weeks ago in this blog post. 

After thinking about this moment, I feel the best way to move forward is to acknowledge the most meaningful moments in the past decade of my life. These ten moments include times of sorrow, joy, confusion and clarity. The ones that are hyperlinked go to blog posts that describe these moments. It’s been an amazing decade:

10. The Alma Mater - In the past decade, I finished my undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and also completed my Master’s there. When I think about my experience, all the things the learned and all the people that I met, one thing stands out as representing what it means to have gone to Northwestern: The Northwestern University Alma Mater. This song captures the spirit of Northwestern University, which served me well for the past decade and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.


9. The Return of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band -  First it was seeing Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band at Comiskey Park. Then it was the albums, Magic and Working On A Dream. Along with Springsteen’s solo album and his Seeger Sessions work, this body of work represents the most important musical influence of my last decade. Above my desk there this a picture of Bruce walking into a stadium. It’s a reminder of the energy and life that music can bring and what it means to serve an audience.

8. Hope In Politics - The campaign and nomination of President Obama forever changed the way that I viewed politics and my life. I still believe in the system because I believe in the American people. Obama taught me that cynicism has no place in the world that is so full of hope and possibility. A lot has changed since his inauguration but what hasn’t changed is how that moment continues to inspire.

7. Losing My First Job - When I found out my contract wasn’t renewed from my first teaching job, I was devastated. It wasn’t the right place for me but I don’t know if I had the courage to leave on my own. Without this push, I wouldn’t have become a teaching assistant or ended up in the job I have now that I love. This was the beginning of a journey that started with me in pieces rebuilding myself into the man that I am proud to be now.

6. The Purple Reaction: On November 3rd, 2008 after months of consideration I started this blog. It started off as a blog about music but has become so much more. The subjects have become wide and varied but it’s never stopped being a celebration of life. I feel proud and grateful to have been able to share this creation with all of my readers.

5. Buffy Getting Attacked: There are so many moments with Buffy that I cherish but it was the attack and all the emotions that accompanied this event that showed me how much Buffy means to me. Buffy is not just a dog, she’s family and she’s one of my best friends.

4. My first student - "Sarah may not be the reason that I continue to be an educator, but she was the reason I fell in love with teaching."

3. Saying goodbye to my Grandfather -  The eulogy I wrote for my grandfather was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. Surprisingly it wasn’t that hard to give. Seeing my family and feeling the love in the room as I spoke about how much my grandfather meant to all of us was a celebration of life.

2. Amelia - On March 13th, at 10:47pm my niece Amelia was born. Hearing about her birth over the phone simply made the world feel beautiful. I haven’t met her, but I am overcome with emotions thinking about that moment, being her uncle and how proud I am of my brother and sister-in-law.

Amelia you are proof that in this dark world there is hope,  that love unites us beyond the differences that divide and that life is wonderful.  You are beautiful, you are important and you will change the lives of the people you encounter on this journey called life for the better.  I know this for a fact because you have already changed mine.   

1. Meeting Diana for the first time - I don’t remember what we said to each other when we first met, I simply remember something different about Diana. After ten years, I can finally articulate what I couldn’t back then. Diana is simply the most amazing person I have ever met in my life.  Everything that I’ve gone through in the last ten years only holds meaning because I’ve shared these moments with Diana.