Processing

It’s been three years since Dad died. I wrote this piece immediately after his funeral. I couldn’t post it. It was too close. Three years on, I have come into a different place of grief than what I talk about in the original post. I have more times when there is the pain of loss, the anger at him missing out on accomplishments of my family, the sadness of things I want to share with him. Grief is a strange burden that changes and hides and comes at unexpected times.  This is a long post and it’s certainly more personal than most posts, but if you’re interested, please read on.

I’ve put off writing this post for three weeks. Has it been more? Three and a half? This has nothing to do with education and everything to do with me as a person. Me as a learning, growing and changing person.

So, I’m going to start where I stopped. I’m pretty sure this is going to fall into the category of TLDR (too long, didn’t read) for some of you, and that’s okay. Like I said, this is for me, and it’s something that I need to get out…

…This morning I buried my dad. I say I buried him, but my mom, my brother, and our families buried my dad, my mom’s husband of 52 years, and 5 girls Grandpa/PopPop.

It was a cold, beautiful sunny morning.  The minister met us there and read from his Book of Worship, he said a brief prayer, and then it was over. The whole thing was less than 15 minutes. This is what Dad wanted. He laid out some very specific plans with our preacher. This summer when he was in the hospital he told the family, “Whether I get out of here or not, call the preacher and make an appointment with him. I have some things I need to tell him.”

Later in the afternoon, we held a memorial for him. It was a celebration of his life. It wasn’t a funeral because there wasn’t a casket. It was a memorial service. It was the memorial service that my dad wanted. The service played out as Dad planned it.

The family received family and friends for over an hour. It was incredibly moving. I was very touched by the amount of people that came to pay respects to my dad. I was beyond touched by the number of my friends that showed up to support me.

When it happened, Dad passing, I was with my students as they were rehearsing for the annual Trinity School Christmas Program.  I knew it was coming, my whole family did. We had moved Dad from the hospital to home hospice, but still when I got word it was a sudden slamming on the brakes.

I’ve been making it through as the time has passed. I never thought I wouldn’t, but I’ve been oddly okay with the whole thing. My dad died, though, and I feel like there’s some way that I should be feeling. Obviously, I’m sad. I miss him. I miss him calling me to tell me about an Eagles concert on PBS or calling when he’s at the farm asking if there’s anything I need when he literally couldn’t do it b/c he was 65 miles away.

But I haven’t been so sad that I can’t function. And I feel like I’m not doing it right.

I know there’s not a prescribed way to grieve. I know that, but still…

A couple of weeks after he had died I was in my Man/Boy Room. One of the cats had knocked junk over, as cats are known to do. When I went to clean it up I found the notes that my students had made for me the day Dad died.

That opened up the tear ducts. They had written me personal messages, they had included Bible verses. It makes me tear up a little right now as I’m writing this. They are so touching, and it means so much to me that my seventeen 10-11-year-olds reached out to me in this way.

It was one of those moments that solidifies my choice in careers. I never doubt being a teacher. Well, maybe every once in a while when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and the lesson I thought would take an entire period crumbles after a few minutes.

Where’s this even going? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s like the title says, I’m processing. And part of that processing is being back in the swing of my normal routine. Being surrounded by seventeen 5th Graders that I can share my world with. I give to them and they give to me. Sometimes it’s an even swap and sometimes it’s more one way than the other. And that’s what it’s about, right? Give and take?

One of the things I said in Dad’s service was about something he gave me, and that is  to always help someone out when you can. Always make that choice to help someone out because you never know when you might need some help. And that goes along with the process of give and take.

I miss you, Dad, and I’m sad that you’re not with us anymore, but you left us with so much. I hope to be able to do the same.

 

 

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An Amazing Perk of Teaching – Outdoor Ed!

This past week, several teachers from Trinity School took 68 Fifth Graders up to Camp Will-A-Way in Winder, GA for the first our yearly overnight trips.

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We call these Outdoor Ed – outdoor education. The Fifth Grade takes two trips each year, one in the fall and the other in spring. The Sixth Grade also takes two trips, but they take on a different tone. This post is not about Sixth Grade though. Outdoor Ed is pretty much exactly what its name indicates – education classes that take place outdoors. The students rotated in groups through six different classes; the climbing wall, canoeing, two low ropes challenge courses, ceramics, and horseback riding. It is a time for team building and coming together as a grade level. Coach Brian is the trip coordinator and he instructs the students to think in terms of, “We, not me. What is going to be best for the group rather than what will be best for me.”

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Saw ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ tonight. It was as good as I was hoping it would be. GQ and I both agreed that we weren’t the biggest Mr. Rogers fan growing up. I remember thinking the King was creepy. I definitely have memories of watching the show, but as a kid, Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street have more of a lasting impact on me than Mr. Rogers.
 
That being said, Mr. Rogers’ message of you are fine just the way you are was and is a message worth putting out there. I’ve read a lot of reviews where people said they ugly cried the whole way through the movie. I think people that are going to do that are either people that don’t work with kids or those who have forgotten their inner child.
 
There were parts that made me smile, parts that tugged at my heart, and parts that surprised me.
 
One of the biggest takeaways I have from this movie is how radical Mr. Rogers was when he started, and honestly throughout his entire broadcast history. While almost every other show was doing physical comedy and showing characters embarrassing themselves in all kinds of ways, he consistently kept his message the same.
 
I highly recommend this movie to anyone. Obviously, people familiar with Mr. Rogers will like it best, but I would think kids who have never experienced him or his show would get some good out of it, too.

Influential Albums – Day 6

The Clash – S/T (US version)

I wish I knew where I heard The Clash for the first time. I got this on cassette – that was the format I used pretty much exclusively at the time – in California, I think at Tower Records in San Francisco. I was in 9th grade and my family was in SF for a conference my dad was involved in. I guess I heard something off London Calling, maybe had even gotten it at that point? Anyway, I love The Clash and this one totally struck a chord with me. Loud, raw, catchy. I know the lyrics are a very important part of the band, but to be perfectly honest, I’m a melody man. A song’s got to have a great hook and music to pull me in. I’ll incorrectly sing the words to songs for years. I am a serial lyric mishearer. So, again, I know the lyrics to The Clash are super important to whole thing of The Clash, but at the same time, so were their looks. They were calculatedly put together by the band. That has nothing to do with anything other than make me feel like less lame for not fully committing myself to the lyrics.

My dad did not understand or like my punk rock inclinations. I did not understand his disdain for it. To me, there were a lot of comparisons between the early, original rock ‘n roll he turned me on to and bands like The Clash. They even covered, “I Fought the Law”, not on this album, but nonetheless. Three chords, catchy songs, brazen attitude. It seemed synonymous to me. I get it now. Punk rock was an affront to a lot he held near and dear and I’m sure had he heard, “I’m So Bored With the USA”, he would have been none too pleased.

My favorite tracks from this one are – again, no certain order – “Police and Thieves”, “Garageland” (Gehr-aj), “Hate and War”, and “Career Opportunities

A podcast I listen to – and you should too – “The Great Albums Podcast” did one on London Calling not long ago and it was great. I was unaware that Joe Strummer wrote most of the songs, whether it was he or Mick Jones that sung. The Clash always did great covers, too. They could have put out an album of just their covers and it would have been great. The hosts of The Great Albums talk about how The Clash always make the covers they do their own, and it’s totally true. As mentioned earlier, “I Fought the Law” (Bobby Fuller Four version) could totally come from the pen and paper of a young, British punk rocker.

Not seeing The Clash play live is something I am sad about. I don’t know if the band would have gotten back together had Joe Strummer not died. Their induction into the R ‘n R Hall of Fame – who are those sharped dressed, hair slicked down men? – was interesting to see. I don’t know if Joe would have been part of that or not. He had moved away from punk rock as he got older, but he was still revolutionary. Mick Jones moved away from punk too with Big Audio Dynamite. I read somewhere that Joe was up for playing, but he died shortly before their induction. Damn.

The documentary on The Clash (there are several, but I really liked this one) and Joe Strummer are both worth watching. Go get your punk rock on and listen to The Clash.

Influential Albums – Day 5

The Stone Roses – Stone Roses

These guys. Talk about burning bright and burning out. That is what The Stone Roses did. I guess I saw the video for Fools Gold (Full version) on 120 Minutes then read about them in one of GQ’s Sassy magazines, The article started off talking about the lead off song, “I Wanna Be Adored”. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

One of my college roommates, the elusive and not-heard-from-again-Tim Smith must have had the CD. It might have been a cassette, because that’s what I had it on. It was in my car and Panasonic Walkman knock off A LOT. The whole Madchester scene was big, but Stone Roses were the very, very top of the crop.

Their album cover art was inspired by Jackson Pollock and even name drop him on one of their b-sides. More on those next. “Going Down“. They are, in turn, name dropped by one of my favorite current bands, The Fratellis, on “For the Girl” – ‘she was into the Stones when I was into the Roses’

When I got to UGA and worked at WUOG I was amazed by all the b-sides I didn’t know about. B-sides in general, I think, are much more of a British band thing than American artists. I may be wrong about that, but it seems like all the best b-side songs I’ve heard are from British bands.

Anyway, The Stone Roses never took off like I think they deserved to and I think that has a lot to do with their self-destructive habits and behavior. The stories are all out there and you can read up on it if you’re interested. Needless to say, they needed to keep the ball rolling, but instead it was stopped and their career suffered for it.

Atmospheric, groove heavy, and transcendent. Those are the words/phrase I would use to describe this album. Anytime I can find something like this first album I dive in. It has not happened very often. It definitely did not happen with Second Coming. I’m not even putting a link to it.

I turned a few people onto Stone Roses, but not that many. Whatever. They must have fallen into that category of being too British. Some people can’t take that, but not me. That just makes me love them more.

They were hugely influential to other British bands as they documentary I watched on them made clear. Too bad they burned too brightly. I’m not sure they could have outdid this first album. They definitely fit into the category of “Debut Albums So Good the Band Did Not Ever Have To Release Anything Else and They Would Still Be Considered Pivotal”.

Stand out tracks for me, well, all of them. Top five from the album, in no order, “I Wanna Be Adored”, “I Am the Resurrection”, “Elephant Stone” “She Bangs the Drum”, and “This is the One”.

I got a Stone Roses collection and it’s great, but I recently went back and listened to this album, and besides “Don’t Stop” it’s an album that needs to be heard as a whole. I guess, if you’re so inclined, you could consider, “Don’t Stop” like “Within Without You” from Sgt. Peppers’. I am not a fan of it. I understand its importance and its place, but I’m not a fan.

Last thing, extended mixes. The Stone Roses had a thing of taking songs and going with them. Extended versions, not dance remixes, but just extended jams that were, I’m guessing, a BIG part of the Madchester thing. Extended dances to get your groove on with whatever was turning your groove up. I’m not sure what those kids were into. I just dug the jams. So, here’s “I Am the Resurrection” (Full version)

Influential Albums – Day 4

Adam and the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

There are lots of links in here. I hope you go to all of them because they’re a lot of fun!

I don’t remember when or where I got introduced to Adam Ant, probably Atlanta’s Video Music Channel, but wherever it was I took to his music, his artistic flair, and his persona pretty much immediately. Well, actually, I do remember seeing the Prince Charming album cover in Turtles, probably when it came out and thinking it was really weird. Who knew that within a few years I’d be trying to draw that same cover and making my dad concerned over this album cover being in his house and his son listening to this heavily made up Prince Charming.

The album of his that had the most influence on me was Kings of the Wild Frontier. The drums. The drum beats. I came to find out later that it was the Burundi beat. I found a great article on the recording of Kings as well as Prince Charming and Adam’s first solo album today when I was looking up info about the Burundi beat. Anytime I hear drums like that, Adam and the Ants immediately come to mind. Most recently it has been, White Rabbits, “Percussion Gun”.

So, I got into Adam and the Ants in 7th grade, and I got totally into it. I dressed as white face stripe Adam for Halloween and convinced several of my friends to dress up as him, or as the Ants, too. I would include British words in notes that I’d pass to my friends. This was pre-internet, I looked wherever I could.  I found a concert that showed on MTV of Adam and the Ants in Japan. I found some books on the band. I should say also that when I was getting into the band, the band broke up. Adam went solo. That’s all good and fine and I kept up with him through Manners and Physique in 1990. It wasn’t really my gig, it had some bright spots, but I was moving on by that point.

My love of awesome music videos comes partly from Adam and the Ants videos. Stand and Deliver and Prince Charming are awesome. They are little movies and they are just fun.  

Looking back at the songs from the Kings album, there are a few standouts and there are few stinkers. That’s hindsight talking though. At the time, the album fit on one side of a 90 minute TDK cassette and I listened to them all and loved them all. My favorite from the album is probably “Antmusic” and “Dog Eat Dog”. I’m excited because “Ants Invasion” has been remixed and probably remade by someone for the new Ant-Man & Wasp movie

Good stuff.

Influential Albums – Day 3

Neil Young – Decade

So, another compilation. Twice in this 10 day span I’ve done that, but again, this is how I was introduced to a very important musical figure in my life. My friend, Craig Pickel (yep) introduced me to Neil on many rides in her (yep) little Honda CRX. Decade on the tape deck, wings or chips and salsa from Jaggers in our bellies, and Life as the conversation topic.

Neil changed the way I played guitar. By the time I started listening to him, I guess I’d been playing for 3 years or so. So many of the people I listened to had lots of effects and weird chords and were technically much more advanced than I was. When I got Neil Young Complete Music Volume 2 I saw chords that I knew and could play with no problem. There were a bunch of songs I hadn’t heard yet in that book so I bought the Decade songbook and just went to town. Both acoustic and electric, Neil pretty much kept things pretty simple. Even the finger picking he did on “Sugar Mountain” and “The Needle and the Damage Done” were straight ahead enough that I could figure it out. I never learned to read music, but I remember sitting down and figuring out the guitar part of “Ohio” from CSNY. I had a little music reading knowledge and took what I had and wrote down the notes to learn it.

I played A LOT of Neil Young on guitar. I was up in Athens finishing school and like a lot of guys up there, I had thoughts, dreams, fantasies about playing guitar in Athens and then…the world. Well, everybody’s got to start somewhere and I tried to play out at a few places, pizza places, open mics, coffee houses. I’d play some Neil, some R.E.M., a Beatles song or two then inevitably somebody would call out, “Play ‘Margaritaville’.” I’d say I didn’t know it. “Well play ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ then.” I’d say I didn’t know that one either. “What do you know, then?” I know a lot of Neil Young. So, I didn’t play too many of those places. Also, I did know those songs, but that’s not what I was into, so I didn’t play them.

As time went on I delved into Neil’s catalog and starting getting more of his releases. Neil Young & the Blue Notes, This Note’s For You was one of the first records I bought when I started buying albums again. I thought it was pretty cool, I dug the horns (still do!) I had kept up with his struggles with Geffen Records and knew that he had gotten back on Reprise Records.

One of my favorite cassettes that I have of his is Comes a Time. It’s funny because I don’t think there are any of those songs on Decade. I’ll end this with one of my favorite lines from one of Neil’s Buffalo Springfield songs, “Mr Soul”, “She said you’re strange, but don’t change and I let her.”

What it could have been

The Allman Brothers Band – Beginnings

As much as I loved Neil Young, I would have totally been Duane Allman. Holy cow! I’ve put this down before, but if The Allman Brothers Band never made another album after their first one, they still would be regarded as pivotal musicmakers. The interplay between Duane and Dickey, the drumming of Butch and Jaimoe, the thumping bass of Barry, and Greg on the Hammond, well, there you go. This album, cassette, CD spent a lot of time on my different players during my hippie wanna be period, as did some other jam bands, but The Allmans are the ones that have kept their flavor the longest for me.

Influential Albums – Day 3

 

The Beatles – Meet the Beatles

The first Beatles album I heard was their 20 Greatest Hits. I remember hearing it when I was probably in 7th grade riding to a football game with a couple of friends and I was imitating the harmonica sound in “Love Me Do”. Sounds about right for a 7th grade boy. My favorite Beatles album is Revolver.

This album though, is influential because it’s the first one that I got for myself. Nowadays, I prefer the British versions to the American ones, but  back then I didn’t know any different and this was my exposure to any of their songs that weren’t greatest hits and any that I might have heard on Z-93 or 96 Rock growing up. I think my elementary school music teacher probably had us sing, “Yellow Submarine”, but that could be a shared memory of someone else.

The excitement of most of the songs on this album, to me, was electric. It has the hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and those are GREAT, but the deeper album cuts I really, really love. “Hold Me Tight” and “LIttle Child”. I can’t include music links because all the actual Beatles songs have been taken off YouTube. The slower songs on this album I don’t particularly love, but they fit. They are a snapshot of what the band was at the time – a group making their way through the world, trying to make it big. I’m sure they had NO idea; although, it was certainly starting at this time. They would appear on The Ed Sullivan show shortly after this was released in the US.

This album has LOTS and LOTS of “yeah”s. LOTS of them. There’s a whole lot of clapping too on these songs. It must have been pretty tiring to spend the time working out and recording  those claps.

The Beatles’ harmonies has always been one of my favorite parts of the group and they fascinated me when I heard this album. I love to sing and I am much more of a melody person than a harmony person, but I wish I could come up with harmony lines. I’m sure I could with practice or teaching or whatever. I guess with the Beach Boys and the Four Freshmen the harmonies were big here in America. I’ve always thought that Paul Anka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” had to be influential to The Beatles’ early work. I know The Everly Brothers definitely were, but the line, “I beg of you…” and all the intro lines to the verses are very Beatlesque, even though their originals were just starting to be developed at the time.

I listened to this album on my way to school this morning and there were parts I’d forgotten, but by and large it was as exciting and exhilarating today as it was more than 30 years ago. Good Lord, more than 30 years ago. I had a great time singing along and trying to hit the harmony parts right. When I was younger I used to play with the balance a lot and listen to just the vocal track in one speaker and then just the instrumental track at different times. Whether it was the instruments bleeding through the vocals side or the chorus coming in on the instruments side, I just dug it.

I’ll end with two songs, George’s, “Don’t Bother Me” and the closing song, “Not a Second Time”. I like George’s songs. He was kind of thrown a bone on the records. At first it was, ‘Here, George, sing this cover or sing this song John wrote”, but then he started writing his own. Imagine the courage it took to bring a song to Lennon and McCartney! “Don’t Bother Me” is a great first original for George to bring to the group. “I’ve got no time for you right now, don’t bother me.” I loved that line as a teenager and still love it today. “Not a Second Time” is such a great song because you can tell the character still really wants to be with the girl he’s singing about, but he knows he can’t. He was hurt too badly the first time, and he’s not going to do it, not a second time.

What it could have been

Jellyfish – Bellybutton

Harmonies? Check. Clever lyrics? Check. Pure pop awesomeness? Double check. I found Jellyfish when I worked at the UGA radio station, WUOG. I totally fell in love with them. After listening to them I basically decided they were a continuation of Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was just a continuation of Paul’s experimental/baroque Beatles genius. I have Jellyfish Pandora station and as soon as I figure out how to work Spotify correctly, I will have one on that, too.

10 Influential Albums – Day 2

The B-52’s Self Titled First Album

This would be another stone in my musical foundation. I’ve written about my exposure to the B-52’s before, so I’ll skip that. What I’ll do is talk about the amount of time I’ve spent dancing to Rock Lobster, the full 6:48 of it, not the shortened version. “Down! Down!!” The time I’ve spent trying name all 52 Girls. The time Glitter Queen and I had “Dance This Mess Around” played at our wedding reception because it’s just so good. How their version of “Downtown” is so different than Petula Clark’s version, and I totally want to go to THAT downtown instead of Petula Clark’s

I’ll talk about my memories of the seeing teens dance to this album and DEVO and thinking, “OH! I get it.” At the age of 9 or 10, when I saw them, and heard that music, I can’t tell you how pivotal a moment it was for me. On a podcast this morning, I heard journalist and Jann Wenner biographer, Joe Hagan say something that totally relates to this album, “just a fantastic expression or joy. If you listen to this record it’s fun and it’s funny.” He was talking about the Specials first album, but seriously, these songs on the B-52’s, that’s it.

I’ll tell you how over the years I’ve seen the B-52’s many, many times and how they always impress me, even when Cindy’s voice is failing because she has a cold, but she still is there doing the show.

I’ll tell you how I know I have an instant connection with someone when I see that they have this album, CD, digital file in their music collection.

I’ll tell you how Ramona’s doctor, the dearly departed, Dr. Yoder, had “Rock Lobster” as his ringtone and how that spoke volumes.

I’ll tell you how mustachioed Fred Schneider banging that cowbell in the song means more to me than the cowbell in “Honky Tonk Women”.

I’ll tell you how when I’m driving around listening to music I almost always think to myself, “How would this sound if it was a B-52’s song?” “Shut Up and Dance With Me” – totally could be one of theirs, Fred – “Come on, GIRL!!” Cindy & Kate harmonizing in their amazing way, “Don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me”. Then the 3 of them together, “SHUT UP and DANCE with me!” It’s a logical connection to “Dance This Mess Around”.

If you have this album and you haven’t listened to it recently, go and do it. If you only know the B-52’s because of “Roam” or “Love Shack”, I’m not sure what you’ll think of this, but I hope you go listen and I hope you love it like I do. So, don’t forget, “Planet Claire has pink air, all the trees are red. No one ever dies there. No one has a head…”

What it could have been

DEVO, New Traditionalists. Man, oh, man. Those teens listened to DEVO, too and again, it just spoke to me. So weird and so awesome. I think I’ve said this before, but I tried to get a group of my friends in 7th grade to dress up in matching white shirts and white pants and be DEVO for the day. I’m pretty sure an older brother of one of the guys convinced us that it was a bad idea.

10 Influential Albums – Day One

Oldies But Goodies Volume 1

A high school friend nominated me for this look at 10 influential albums in my life. I’m super excited and hope you’ll enjoy it. Each day I’ll look at an album that has been a big part of my life at one point or another. I tried to pick ones that have had a lasting impact on me. It hasn’t been easy and for every one I feature, I have one that I could have included, but then, it’s not 20 influential albums…

First up is a compilation. Some people say those don’t count, but I disagree, especially if it is one that first introduced me to several artists and songs that I love dearly to this day. This way my gateway to 50’s rock.

As a kid going on car trips with my family always meant listening to Dad’s music and that is what formed my foundation. Early rock ‘n roll, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly made up these collections. I loved playing them on the turntable! It was good, heavy vinyl, not any of the flimsy stuff that my current records were made of.  This particular album has so many great songs on it. Seems like Side 2 has more of my favorites on there. “Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)”, “Stranded in the Jungle”, and “Let the Good Times Roll” are definitely my favorite. These songs bring back so many memories, all good. I remember several years back Dad was able to burn this onto a CD for me. I honestly don’t know how because to the best of my knowledge he never hooked up his turntable capable of digital transferring, but he knew how much I loved these songs and somehow made it happen. 

It Could’ve Been

Chuck Berry – The Great 28

I know. Another compilation. However, it’s Chuck Berry. I’m not including this one because I have never gone and dug deep into Chuck’s catalog, therefore, as influential as he has been to my musical life, it doesn’t count the way today’s entry does. It does count in that it was an important part of my life when Glitter Queen and I got our second tattoo and this was the soundtrack. Full disclosure – we skipped past “Havana Moon”. That’s my least favorite Chuck Berry song.