Amy: One Year Later

Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Amy Joyner-Francis.  Students around the state are enjoying their last day of Spring Break before the weekend kicks in and they go back to school on Monday.  The leaves are popping out and flowers are in bloom.  It’s a foggy and overcast morning, just like the one on April 21st, 2016.  Those who contributed to Amy’s death have gone through the legal sentence and two out of three await sentencing.

I still think about Amy’s death quite a bit.  It was a shock to all of us in Delaware that students could be so vicious.  We learned the details of Amy’s death after.  We know there was a sharp increase in the number of fights at Howard High School of Technology.  We know social media played a huge role in the events leading to her death.  We know the perpetrators planned the fight ahead of time.  But nothing prevented Amy’s death.  It should have.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be Amy’s family.  No parent should ever lose a child.  But this case was very public.

I look at it this way, based on my beliefs.  Amy has spent a year in Heaven with God our Father.  She doesn’t know pain or suffering and I have no doubt she has shared her love with her family and friends.  Her grace could be the feeling of calm and peace some of them felt in odd moments over the past year.

I hope we have learned some lessons from Amy’s death.  I hope her death meant something and it contributed to something bigger.  I hope we have learned to be a little bit kinder to people and to be a little more forgiving.  I hope we have learned that sometimes words of healing are better than hands of violence.  It won’t take away the heartache and grief so many still feel for her, but we all get a lifetime.

Advertisements

February Shuffle 2.0

Round 2 for February.  What will come up on the shuffle?  I have no clue.  But let’s start!

“Sway”, Blue October: This came out four years ago.  When you get married, you can fall into the same routines.  Couples do this all the time.  Make time for each other even if you have a billion things going on.

“If Anyone Falls”, Stevie Nicks: 1983.  For some reason, I consider this one of the “big” music years for me.  It seemed like every band that was out there had music out that year.  At least to a teenage kid.  Nicks sultry voice captured many fans between Fleetwood Mac and her solo work.  People listening to this song now probably think “Damn, they used a lot of keyboards back then.”  It was all synth back then.  Even Van Halen went through a stint.

“Messiah”, The Farm: I miss The Farm.  They had three albums out in the early 1990s and vanished into obscurity.  I remember driving back from my friends Jerry and Rich’s apartment one night when I first heard this song.  I was driving off the Blue Route in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  The sun was setting on a warm June night.  Or was it July, I don’t remember.  I always think of that sunset when I hear this song.

“Rio”, Duran Duran: Another blast from the 1983 past!  Duran Duran came out just as MTV was getting really big.  “Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it’s very nice.”  I don’t know what the hell they are talking about but the chorus just flows from the lips when you are alone in your car and you hear this on an “oldies” station.

“This Time Of Year”, Better Than Ezra: One of my faves from 1995.  I went through a period of about two months that fall when I had to be VERY patient.  It was tough.  I used the time to my advantage and attempted to learn Swedish before I moved there.  I don’t know why this song reminds me of that.  All those index cards and books trying to learn this language.  I didn’t do too bad.  When I got to Sweden no one knew what the heck I was saying.  My tone probably sounded like I was from Mars or something.  This is in a country where everyone knows English, except in the places you really need it: banks, doctor offices, girlfriend’s parents house, etc.

“Breathing Underwater”, Metric: We all have these times, when the pressures of life just mount and build up.  Before you know it you reach a point where you feel stuck and trapped in the deep vastness of it all.  If you aren’t careful, you can get stuck in this rut.  That’s when you need to reach out to those around you.  Never be afraid to ask for help.  Or a listening ear.  And never ignore someone when they ask the same of you.

“Please Don’t Go”, KC & The Sunshine Band: I am not afraid to admit this was the first record I ever bought.  Well, the 45 that is.  It was late 1979.  Truth be told, I didn’t actually buy it.  A bunch of us in our neighborhood went Christmas caroling (does anyone do that anymore?) and after, there was a party at our house with Hot Chocolate and cookies.  There was a gift exchange.  I really, really wanted to get this as my present.  I remember the days after I got it, just spending time in my bedroom playing this song over and over again.  Singing very loud.  Probably too loud for the rest of my poor family.  I always loved the ballads.  Not sure why.

“The Gambler”, Kenny Rogers: The song is better than the movie.  Another song from the same era as the last song.  I loved living in Roanoke, VA.  It was only four years, but all of us in the neighborhood were like family.  At least the way I remember it.  Everyone eventually left.  But it was a great time in my life.  Innocence…

“You Will Leave A Mark”, A Silent Film: The beginning of this song is crazy!  A slow piano bit and then it just opens up and kicks ass all over the place.  This came out in 2010.  A time of reflection and what I call the slow learn.  I used to spend way too much money on an old comic book hobby.  This was the last gasp of that bad hobby.  Not that I don’t read them from time to time, but this was the beginning of the end of a habit gone wrong.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but it took me a long time to realize why I engaged in this activity.  I realize those answers now and I made peace with it a long time ago.

“Angel Dust”, New Order: Speaking of synth music, New Order was the king of it back in the day!  I didn’t get into them until 1986 when Brotherhood came out, but I still remember hearing this song and just being amazed at what a band could really do with a synthesizer.  Go on Youtube and listen to “alternative music” from the old days.

“Time Of Our Lives”, Paul Van Dyk: During the early summer of 2004, I spent a lot of time inside my house.  Jacob was only a few months old.  HBO always has awesome songs when they do a trailer of all their shows and movies.  I heard this and spent the next few days trying to figure out who sang this.  It took forever!  Deb and Jacob left California about six days before I did.  I stayed back and finished packing, made sure our cars got towed, and stuck around that last day for the movers (which came a day late).  I rented a car during the last few days.  One day I had some time to myself so I just drove around the Imperial Valley.  I played this song a lot.  When I dropped the car off at the airport, I remember the check-out guy asking if I enjoyed my stay.  I said “Yes I did!”  It was an almost four year stay.  I got married and had a child when I lived there.  Of course I enjoyed my stay!

“Flight of the Snowbirds”, David Foster: I’ve spoken on past shuffles about how I fell into a depression in the Fall of 1990.  As hard as it was, digging out of it was an interesting time.  That moment when you realize it is over and life can begin again is one I will always remember.  It was snowing out and I put this instrumental song on.  It just seemed perfect for that moment.  It was a new beginning.

“I Grieve”, Peter Gabriel: The first time I heard this song was when “City of Angels” came out in 1998.  That movie haunted me, but in a good way.  I often wonder if angels are on Earth like they were in that movie.  Watching over us.  Coaxing us in moments when we need them the most but don’t realize it.  A gentle push here or an awakening moment there.  I still remember when the little girl died in the movie.  An angel asked her what she liked the most here and she said “Pajamas”.

“People Are People”, Depeche Mode: This was one of those songs that got a lot of airplay back in the 80s.  It was just kind of there.  Years later I actually listened to the lyrics and they were brilliant!  Things like racism and discrimination have always bothered me.  We all live on the same planet.  We all bleed the same blood.  When this song came out, the Uncanny X-Men was the best selling comic in the country.  If you’ve seen the movies, you know the X-Men are mutants.  People feared and hated them.  They were bullied and even killed.  It was the comic equivalent of what this country did to black people for centuries.  Laugh if you want, but I think that comic instilled my hatred of people hating other people.  “I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man help me understand.”

“Tom Sawyer”, Rush: If you listened to rock music in 1981, this song catapulted Rush to the top of the charts.  There are some songs you switch when you hear them on the radio or on a shuffle.  This song is not one of them.  I listen to it from beginning to end, start to finish.  The world is love!

“The Same Moon”, Phil Collins: Never released as a single, I have always felt this song was one of Phil’s best.  It holds a very special meaning for me.  Once upon a time someone told me something about the moon.  It was one of the sweetest and most beautiful things anyone has ever said to me in my life.  They say words are just words and actions mean more.  But for this memory, the words were the action.

“Time Ago”, Black Lab: When you chase a dream you need to be very careful you aren’t just wanting what you once had.  Tricky words and hard to explain.  Sometimes, and it really sucks, you can’t get something back that you once had.  You can drown in that loss or rise above it and move on.

“Universal Daddy”, Alphaville: The first time I went to Kryptons, the coolest nightclub in Westchester County in the mid to late 1980s, I heard this song.  I was with my friend Pete.  I wasn’t much of a dancer, but when this song came on I got my groove and went out on the dance floor.  I danced the rest of the night (except when my friend Vicki the waitress kept hooking me up with drinks, thank God I didn’t have my driver’s license yet).  By the end of the night I was a sweaty mess.  But it was fun!

“The Trick Is To Keep Breathing”, Garbage: I actually had a Facebook conversation with someone about this song just last week.  Life is funny like that!   This song, along with the whole album it came from, Version 2.0, reminds me of a trip I took to visit friends in Sweden in 1999.  I left two years earlier and truth be told I broke up with my Swedish girlfriend and moved back to America.  Going back there felt very strange.  She was engaged and about to get married.  I was still bitter about that but I was the one that made the choice to move back.  Looking back now, going back was the right thing to do.  It helped me to realize I made a choice that was best for all involved.

“Some Nights”, Fun: This song reminds me of Campus Community School.  Not the bad memories, but the good ones.  When I was teaching the 8th and 9th graders.  Mrs. Eldridge and her Brainstormers or whatever she called them.  Talking to the kids.  Trying to understand this new generation.  Once in a while I see one of those students and some remember me, some don’t.  Most of them graduated last year.  At the time, I gave serious thought about going into teaching.  But then things went bad for my son and I lost that desire.  And after all I learned about what teachers go through the past few years, no way in hell would I get into teaching in this environment!  But some nights I did want to.

“Here Comes The Feeling”, Asia: 1982 and 1983 belonged to Asia in my house.  All of us Ohlandt brothers loved this band.  I think at one point we each owned their albums separately.  No sharing allowed!  Funny how that worked out.  Nowadays we could just download it from each other’s iPod and save a ton of money.

“Elevation (Influx Remix)”, U2: Have you ever created a situation where a song fits an action?  I did that with this song.  When I lived out in California, I would take long drives.  I remember one Sunday afternoon when I just drove towards a mountain.  I wanted to drive up that mountain.  So I did.  When you see Hollywood movies of people driving along the coast and the windy roads, forget about it!  Mount San Jacinto is an interesting place.  When you drive up it, there are tons of rock formations.  But when you get to the top, pine trees take over the landscape.  There are a few lookout spots for drivers where you can see for miles and miles.  At the top of the mountain is a town called Idyllwild.  It is an artsy type town that is over 5,400 feet above sea level.  If you go past the town, there is a lake where folks go camping.  I found all this in a day.

idyllwild

“Hear Me”, Imagine Dragons: We all want to be heard.  I always think it is very sad when someone can’t get their feelings out.  It is humiliating.  With that comes a level of decency with how someone gets those feelings out.  But all too often when someone feels they aren’t being heard, those feelings become confusing and feel out of control.  We are only human.  What was once someone not being heard morphs into something bigger and the problems get bigger and bigger.

“You Learn”, Alanis Morissette: A few months after I moved to Sweden, I was on a bus going to my girlfriend’s parents house.  She had gone back a couple days earlier.  I spent a lot of that time writing a letter to my parents.  I remember writing about this song to them in the letter.  At the time, I didn’t picture one day leaving the country.  It was hard to express that to my parents who were across an ocean.

“The One I Love”, David Gray: Once upon a time I heard this song and thought of Deb and I getting old together.  Flash forward eleven years later.  Deb and I were at John Carney’s Inaugural Ball.  We were on the dance floor and there was this older couple dancing together.  I remember saying “That’s us in twenty years.”

“All We Ever Knew”, The Head & The Heart: I wonder every day what happens next.  I just don’t know.  A million thoughts swirl through my mind.  A million different paths and roads I could take.  It is consuming.  I miss the days when I could just sit back and enjoy life.  But it is a time of responsibility and courage.  Of making decisions that seem like the right thing one day and a horrible one the next.  Why isn’t this enough?  There are things I cannot control.  Things where I don’t even factor into the decision-making process.  That is the hardest part.  Coming to terms with this and having to accept it.

January Shuffle 3.0

Is the third time the charm?  Let’s find out! Continue reading “January Shuffle 3.0”

January Shuffle 2.0

I did this a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed it so much I thought I would do it again.  So here we go! Continue reading “January Shuffle 2.0”

The January Shuffle

Music.  It reverberates the soul.  It brings back memories of good and bad times.  When I listen to music, every song brings back something for me.  It could be sadness, anger, hope, triumph, or happiness.  It can remind me of a time period in my life or a specific person.  One of my favorite things to do is put music on shuffle and see what comes up.  I love the shuffle cause you never know what is going to come up.  Anything goes.  I thought I would write a post about what songs come up and what those songs mean to me.  Something a little different.

“Where’s The Ocean”, Toni Childs: The album came out a few years earlier but I first heard this song in 1990.  It was a very difficult time for me.  I was in college, taking six classes after switching my major from business to psychology.  I was working part-time, had a girlfriend, and was cast in a play at college.  It was too much and I fell apart for a while.  I was only 20 and it felt like I was spinning my wheels in ice.  As a result, I wound up switching my major the next semester to communications.  It was a tough time but the lessons I learned from it still help me now.

“Sounds Like A Melody”, Alphaville: Like the last song, I didn’t get into Alphaville until a couple of years after their debut album came out.  But 1987 heralded many changes in my life.  Especially once I became a senior in high school.  I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.  I had already decided to skip a year after high school instead of going to college.  In the meantime, I partied and partied hard.  I used to go to a nightclub called Kryptons back then.  I was, of course, under age, but having a friend as a bartender helped a lot!  They would play this song there and my friends and I would attempt to dance and probably looked like idiots.  I have lots of memories at Kryptons and most of them are fun times.  I have no clue if the old club is still there.  It changed owners and names a lot in the decade after that.

“Absolutely Still”, Better Than Ezra: Better Than Ezra is one of my favorite bands of all time.  Most people know them by their biggest hits, “Good” or “Desperately Wanting”.  But for me, all their albums are a gold-mine.  This song came out in 2009.  I remember the first time I heard this song.  I was driving my son to daycare and the words just hit a chord inside me.  It made me think of family and the blessings we take for granted.

“I Won’t Let You Go”, Switchfoot:  This band is a Christian band.  Most people don’t know that.  They hit the mainstream back in the early 2000s.  This song came out this fall but I just heard it last month.  When you really listen to the words, it can be confusing.  At first I thought it was about a guy swearing not to give up his woman.  But I soon realized the singer is actually singing through God’s viewpoint.

“Selling The Drama”, Live: 1994.  Senior Year of College.  Senior Week.  I can’t remember for the life of me if I was sober at any point that week.  Live hit it big with this song.  Ed Kowalcyzk has an amazing voice.  This was in the middle of the grunge movement and Live was right up there with Nirvana and Pearl Jam that year.

“In Your Eyes”, Peter Gabriel: Most people know this song from the movie “Say Anything” from 1989.  But the song came out in 1986.  I remember going up to Cape Cod with my cousin Liz one weekend to see our grandparents.  We listened to this album on the way up along with a few others.  I remember walking on the jetty at the beach one night.  I spent many summer days growing up on that jetty.  It was before my junior year of high school.  My life changed a lot during my sophomore year.  New friends, new hang-outs.

“San Diego”, Blink 182: This is from their album that came out last year.  This band is from San Diego.  I lived north of San Diego for a few years back in 2001 to 2004.  My future wife and I moved out there.  We actually lived in a small suburb of San Diego called Rancho Bernardo for about eight months before we bought a house in Riverside County.  But I worked in Rancho Bernardo the entire time I lived there.  California is an awesome place to live.  And no place is better than San Diego.  You can go to the beach and then to Julian about an hour away if you want to see snow in the winter.  I did that one day.  It was awesome!

“My Fault”, Imagine Dragons: I always think of the first year of the Firefly Music Festival when I hear any song from Imagine Dragons first album.  I also think of my mom, who was very sick at that time.  It was 2012.  I felt massive change coming on the horizon.  I knew my Mom wouldn’t last much longer (she passed away in May, 2013).  My son’s disabilities were growing.  Things weren’t good.  But I tried to hang on to hope as best I could.

“Hey Jude”, The Beatles: There will never be another band like The Beatles.  My earliest musical memories involved The Beatles.  They broke up the year I was born but my parents had many of their albums.  I remember listening to them all the time.  But it would be years until I got “Hey Jude”.  This is one of McCartney’s best songs in my opinion.  I saw him in concert back in 1990 up in Philly and the crowd went nuts when this song began.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends”, Green Day: While this song came out in 2004, 9/11 was still very fresh in my mind.  I don’t know if this song is about that tragic day, but I always think about it when I hear this song.  No event in my lifetime left a scar like that day did.  I still remember every single second of that day and the night before.  We had just bought a large screen TV but there were issues with the first one we got.  The screen would get blurry and we couldn’t see anything.  This was when I lived in California.  I got up for work at about 5am, which would have been 8am on the east coast.  I had a horrible dream the night before.  Guerilla soldiers were cutting people with knives at some camp.  That wasn’t something I normally dreamed about at all.  I remember taking a shower and remembering the dream.  It disturbed me on many levels.  The day before I read something in the local newspaper about two nuns who had been freed by the Taliban.  They were recounting their experience with the Taliban.  One of them remembered seeing an office.  On the wall was a calendar of planes.  After I got ready for work, I was drinking a cup of coffee.  My wife and I drove together to work since we both worked in San Diego and we lived an hour north.  I heard something on the tv (with no visible screen) about a plane flying into a building.  I assumed it was in the Mid-East.  I went outside for a smoke and when I came back in the reporter said “another plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”  I sat there with my jaw wide open.  I yelled to my wife what happened.

“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)”, The Byrds: When I was about seven or eight, my family and I were driving to church one day.  I had heard this song before.  But for some reason I can’t remember, my mother began explaining how this song came from Ecclesiastes in The Bible.  I remember thinking it was really cool that such a popular song came from The Bible.  It is one of my favorite parts of The Bible.  “There is a time for every purpose under Heaven.”  I actually try to hold on to that when things get rough.  How there is a reason for everything.  We may not know it at the time but sometimes we understand why and what it led to later on.

“Sleepwalker”, The Wallflowers:  In October of 2000, my future wife and I moved to California.  We packed up a U-Haul and drove across the country.  I drove the U-Haul and towed my car behind it.  My wife drove her car behind me.  It took about five days.  On the fourth day, we left our hotel in Amarillo, Texas.  From there we hit New Mexico and then Arizona.  We stopped by a mall in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I heard “Sleepwalker” a few times in the weeks before we moved.  As I passed a record store, I saw the album it was on just came out.  I instantly bought the CD.  From Flagstaff, we drove through mountains that take your breath away.  All the way down to Phoenix.  I replayed “Sleepwalker” a lot during that long winding journey through Arizona.  I saw the sun set to the west as I drove through terrain I had never seen before in my life.  Majestic doesn’t even describe what I felt during this ride.

“Sold Me Down The River”, The Alarm:  I moved to Pennsylvania in 1989.  Remember how I said I was taking a year off after high school?  That year was up.  My parents moved from New York and I went with them.  I decided to start college at Bucks County Community College.  A new friend of mine introduced me to The Alarm.  This song had just come out and I heard it on a Philly radio station called WMMR.  I used to take drives up and down the Delaware River back in those days.  This song was on a lot back then!

“The Space Between”, Dave Matthews Band:  This song reminds me of my fiancé.  Who is now my wife!  This song came out shortly after we became engaged.  The lyrics don’t match what was going on with us, but it reminds me of that time.  The love of my life!

“Communication”, The Cardigans: Shortly after my son Jacob was born in 2004, my wife and I made the decision to move back east.  She was off work for maternity leave for six weeks and then it was my turn.  When I wasn’t spending the day with my son, in those rare moments when he consistently slept, I was packing things up for the big move.  I bought the album “Long Gone Before Daylight” one day and it became my soundtrack for that time.  I remember playing this song as Jacob was sleeping in his aquarium swing.  He looked so peaceful, just rocking back and forth.  When our children are babies, we can remember these moments.  To this day when I see him sleeping, I have that same feeling.  Peaceful.

“Human”, The Killers: Fall 2008.  No one knew what the heck Brandon Flowers was talking about with this song.  “Are we human or are we dancer?”  It didn’t matter.  I loved this song and still do.  I was in the midst of some adult growing pains when this song came out.  Without going into details, it is something we all go through at one period in our lives.  When we mistake confidence as hubris and we become arrogant.

“Take It All Back”, Judah and the Lion: Right now, this is probably my favorite song.  Ever since Mumford & Sons came out, banjos have become a bigger part of music.  At least the music I like to listen to.  This song actually mentions the word banjo.  And then slides into one of the best banjo riffs I’ve ever heard.

“The Tide Is High”, Blondie: If you were alive in December 1980, you know this song.  I lived in Roanoke, Virginia at the time.  I knew we would be moving to New York the next Spring.  But life was good when you are ten.  I remember roller skating to this song at Olympic Skating Rink in Vinton, VA.  I had been a big Blondie fan ever since “Heart of Glass” came out.  Still love this song!

“Let Go”, Frou Frou: In January of 2005, we had been in Delaware for a few months.  I was working at the Bank of America call center in Dover.  I remember a lot of snow.  I had just watched the DVD of “Garden State” and bought the soundtrack.  I remember leaving work one night.  The snow was coming down.  There weren’t many cars on Route 13 in Dover.  This song came on.  I hate driving in snow.  It gives me this weird agita I don’t like at all.  I remember hearing this song and saying to myself “Let Go” as I drove through the snowy roads back home.

“Strangelove”, Depeche Mode: Remember that night club Kryptons I talked about earlier?  This is another one of those 1987 songs that always reminds me of Kryptons.  My friend Pete and my second cousin Krista who was visiting from Oregon decided to go out one night and we wound up there.  I remember having too much Cranberry and Vodka that night.  My bartender friend used to hook me up!

“Come Original”, 311: 1999:  Autumn.  I had just turned 29.  My twenties were crazy.  Maybe it was because I knew I would be turning thirty soon.  I felt my need to party diminish greatly that fall.  Going out three to four nights a week were starting to show.  I wanted, no, needed something more.  After a while, I felt like I was just playing the same record over and over again, every week.  I began dating my future wife that December.

“Blessed”, Elton John: This song reminds me of November of 1995.  Before I moved to Sweden in 1996, I spent about a week there visiting someone.  As she drove me to the airport that snowy, cold, and dark November morning, I already knew I would be moving there.  So did she.  This song was playing as she pulled out of her driveway.  It was 5:30 in the morning.  Flash forward to last week.  I hadn’t heard this song in years.  Whenever I heard it in the past, it reminded me of that person.  For a long time.  I put all that behind me a long time ago, well before I got married.  But when I heard it, I actually listened to the words.  It is about a man getting ready to have a child.  I couldn’t help but think of Jacob and how blessed I feel to have him in my life and proud I am of him.

“Smoky Mountain Rain”, Ronnie Milsap: Yes, you will find me listening to a little bit of country.  Not the modern-day country music, but music from when I lived in Roanoke as a small boy.  This was one of those songs.  I believe it is another 1980 song.  A lot of the songs from that time period I would hear listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every Sunday night.  I used to tape them on my tape recorder.  I think I may still have one of those cassette tapes lying around somewhere!

“City Of Blinding Lights”, U2: This is in my top five favorite U2 songs.  Easily.  Everything just flows, the piano, the guitar, the bass, the drums.  But Bono’s words hit home with me the first time I heard it.  “Blessings not just for the ones who kneel, luckily.”  When Bono sings “I’m getting ready to leave the ground”, The Edge takes off with this swirling riff that leads to the main chorus.  Aside from being a great song, it also reminds me of one dark night in my life.  I got into a terrible fight with someone in my life and it led to a very strained relationship between the two of us that has never quite been the same since.  It was stupid and silly stuff that started it.  I lacked the patience at the time to deal with that stupid and silly stuff and it is something I regret to this day.

“Take It Easy”, The Eagles: Glenn Frey passed away last year.  It bummed me out for a while.  Probably more than David Bowie who passed a week earlier.  When I lived in Roanoke as a child, I considered this my golden years.  When life was innocent and pure.  Not tainted by politics and real-life issues.  Just being a kid.  Playing with friends.  Taking long walks for hours without worrying about someone kidnapping me like we tend to think nowadays with our own kids.  Exploring the world I lived in every chance I had.  Making all those kid mistakes and just bouncing right back.  I miss those days.  Not days I could or would live in again, but with a fondness that brightens my soul.  And The Eagles were right there the whole time!

“When You’re Falling”, Afro-Celt Sound System and Peter Gabriel: This reminds me of the move from that suburb of San Diego to Riverside County in May of 2001.  To a little town called Menifee.  To our beautiful two-story home with the small back-yard.  Watching the sun set over Mount San Jacinto those first times.  Fixing up our home.  Buying a lawn mower for the first time.  Painting rooms.  Sitting on the patio with the love of my life on those warm nights.  It all seemed so simple and easy back then.

“I Will Follow”, U2: back again!  I saw them in 1985 during their Unforgetable Fire Tour.  In New Haven, Connecticut.  It was the first concert I ever went to.  Bono would just grab someone from the audience and let them play his guitar or dance with them.  As the band has aged over the past thirty-five plus years, it can be hard to imagine them back in those younger days.  How many bands stick around for this long with the same line-up from when they first started?

“Still The One”, Orleans: This reminds me of the summer of 1978.  I was eight years old.  We belonged to this swim club called Aquanet.  My brothers and I spent many of our summer days there.  Swimming, shooting pool, buying candy from the food court, running around, the life guard telling me not to run, listening to the songs of the summer.  Those were the days!

“Since You’ve Been Gone”, The Outfield: This song has a specific story and meaning.  I was in a fight with a friend and I stopped myself from picking up the phone for a long time.  I heard this song in August of 1987.  Right after, I picked up the phone and just said “Let’s meet.”  Sometimes when we let go of our stubbornness it can be a good thing!

“Reunion”, Collective Soul: May 1995.  A transition.  Letting go and letting in.  “Change has been what change will be.  Time will tell then time will ease.  Now my curtain has been drawn and my heart can go where my heart does belong.  I’m goin’ home.”

“Rock The Casbah”, The Clash: Once upon a time, The Clash was the best band in the world.  During their latter days, they hit it big when “Combat Rock” came out in 1982.  There was no more tubular song that fall then “Rock The Casbah”.  This is one of those songs that never seems to come off my MP3 player!

“I Will Follow You Into The Dark”, Death Cab For Cutie: As we get older, we tend to lose people we love more and more.  Sometimes it happens unexpectedly and others it is a long road to travel.  This song reminds me of the fear the dying must have.  A terrifying feeling of an ending.  I believe in Heaven and eternal life.  I believe our souls embark to a life greater than one we can ever imagine.  But that one moment scares me.  I pray I don’t die alone.  I can think of nothing more miserable.  I want those I love to be around me so I can hopefully say goodbye.

“The Sound of Sunshine”, Michael Franti & Spearhead: Another Firefly song.  When this band played, the sun came out after a morning of rain.  Soon, the band played this song.  Beach balls started flying through the crowd.  Everyone was singing along.  People were smiling and dancing.  Enjoying life.  It was the sound of sunshine.

“Times Like These”, The Foo Fighters: In the fall of 2002, I remember driving down the 15 (yes, on the West Coast people put “the” before major highways) and hearing this song on 91x.  That journey from Menifee to Rancho Bernardo.  Menifee to Murietta to Temecula to Fallbrook to Escondido to Rancho Bernardo.  Through the mountains.  The endless line of stopped cars no matter what road you think will be a short cut.  Road rage all around you.  Motorcycles whizzing by as you sit there forever.  Sometimes you just crank the volume all the way to the top and sing your ass off.

“Rain In The Summertime”, The Alarm: Another Alarm song.  But this is my all-time fave of the Welsh band.  “And then I run ’til the breath tears my throat and the pain hits my side.  As if I run fast enough, I can leave all the pain and the sadness behind.”  I’ve run a lot in my life.  I’ve run towards things and away from things.  I’ve physically run.  Away from bullies.  For exercise.  For work.  I’ve run after my dog when she got out of the house a few times.  What has always fascinated me about long-distance runners is the wall.  That moment when they go past that point of exertion and get that extra shot of adrenaline and keep going.  Lately I’ve been looking for that wall.  I want to tear it down and go to that next level.

“What You Need”, INXS: It is hard for me to think of any INXS song without thinking of Michael Hutchence.  He was the lead singer and he died twenty years ago.  He killed himself.  He couldn’t hold on for just one more day.  As Bono from U2 said, he was “stuck in a moment you can’t get out of”.  A decade before that, INXS was on top.  Before “Kick” shot them through the stratosphere, they came out with “Listen Like Thieves”.  “What You Need” was the lead single and it showcased INXS at their musical peak.  Hutchence wailing, the horns blowing, building up to the crescendo.  Some music is just about the band.

“One More Time”, The Cure: In the fall of 1987, my paternal grandmother passed away from cancer.  It hurt, a lot.  She was the first major family member I lost.  My first grandparent to leave this earth.  We were close.  A few years before, I spent a week with her and my grandfather up at Cape Cod.  It wasn’t really on the Cape, but we always called it that.  It wasn’t far from the Cape though.  A beach town called Mattapoisett in Buzzards Bay.  They lived in this enclave called Antossawamock.  I remember one evening during that week, my grandmother and I just sat there talking on the couch, for hours.  She understood me in ways others didn’t.  I tell people the best way to build a relationship with my son is to make that connection.  Once you have that, you are golden.  I had that with my grandmother.  After her memorial service, I walked along the beach listening to this song.  I just wanted one more time.

“Swing Life Away”, Rise Against: Another song from 2004 that reminds me of my son’s first few months.  Wondering what his life would be like.  All the hope and promise.  Watching him during those May and June days sleeping in that aquarium swing.  Taking him for walks to Lake Menifee.  Waiting for his Mommy to get home from work.  Changing his diapers.  Just holding him for what seemed like forever.  Rocking him in the rocking chair listening to a Reggae nursery rhyme CD.  Reading tons of books to him.  Days I cherish.  Days I wouldn’t trade for any other day in the world.

“Ordinary World”, Duran Duran: I wasn’t expecting a great Duran Duran song driving back to college in January 1993.  But there it was.  Driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike back to Cabrini College.  For months after, I would pop this song on.  I remember working on the school newspaper, The Loquitur.  I was the Associate News Editor.  On Tuesday evenings, you could count on myself and the other staff toiling away until way after midnight putting the paper together to send to the printer the next morning for a Thursday release.  We were a team.  We disagreed, we fought, we argued.  But when it came time to getting it done every week, we laughed, we joked, and we worked.  We made it happen.  And we never failed.  This was in the days before the internet changed journalism by leaps and bounds.  So we literally cut and pasted.  We cropped photos by scissors.  And then scanned them in.  It was fun!

“Don’t Ask The Reason Why”, Restless Heart: Growing up is tough enough.  Trying to cross that bridge between your teenage years and adulthood can be very tough.  It always helps when you have a friend to travel with.  I like to look back now and realize that I once had a best friend and we helped each other on that journey.  Through the laughter and the pain, we both made it to adulthood.  We all have those people where things get so bad you don’t talk to them anymore.  Far too much scar tissue.  But as the years have gone by, I recognize that place and time in my life with purpose.  How it wasn’t as bad as I once thought it was.  That time led to my carefree and reckless twenties.  Which led to settling down from that.  Which led to meeting Deb.  Which led to my incredible and awesome son.  Which led me to now.  I let go of the angst from that time period a long time ago.  Sometimes I want to say hi to my old friend.  But I understand the distance has a reason.  I hope you are well.

“Red Skies”, The Fixx: Back in 1982, the Cold War was in full swing.  We were all scared of the bomb.  Both the USA and Russia continued their nuclear buildup and we lived on the razor’s edge.  No one could have foreseen the collapse of the Soviet Union years later at that time.  It was the most important world event of the time.  After seeing “The Day After” in 1983, the horror of nuclear war came home on the TV screen.  People vaporized in an instant.  I tried to understand how two countries were hell bent on destroying each other.  It never made sense to me.

“Next Generation”, Alphaville: I found this song as a b-side on a 45.  For those who may be too young to understand what the hell I’m talking about, back then songs from albums had singles.  You could get them as a smaller vinyl record called a 45 or as a cassingle (a cassette single).  This dovetails with the last song somewhat.  Alphaville is a German band.  At that time, Berlin was still divided by a wall.  An East and West Berlin existed along with West Germany and East Germany.  It was the settlement Germany had to give to make peace after World War II.  The Russians got part of the country resulting in two different countries, a democratic and free state and a communist one.  Alphaville sang about that dynamic in a lot of their earlier songs.  When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many folks in the world were terrified of a reunified Germany.  They thought they would go back to their old habits of the earlier 2oth century.  But the next generation made sure that didn’t happen.

“You Are Not Alone”, The Eagles: In 2007, after 27 years, the Eagles were reunited and it felt so good!  One of the songs on their new album, “You Are Not Alone”, was sung by the late Glenn Frey.  I wrote earlier about that moment of death and the horrifying feeling it must be.  I like to think of this song as that next step as our spirit soars to Heaven.  Into the loving arms of Our Father.  Death is very tough for the living.  But it is life for the dying.  That can be a hard concept to grasp for some people.  In the years since my mom passed, I’ve tried explaining this to my son who still has tough moments with it.  But I tell him she is happy now and she wouldn’t want him to cry about it anymore.  And that she wants nothing more than for him to be happy.

“Forever Young”, Alphaville: The first Alphaville song I ever heard.  The one that made me understand things on that cold and snowy Tuesday morning in December back in 1986.  The song that made me see a different world where we can be whatever we make of ourselves.

“We’ve Got Tonight”, Bob Seger: When we are young, we so desperately want to love and be loved.  We make so many mistakes trying to find that one person.  We stumble down that tricky road.  We dream and hope.  We cry and yell.  We fall and rise.  We find new loves in the wake of the old ones.  Love can take a long time to discover the central mystery to it all.  That defining moment when you realize what life is really about.  When you put away the toys of youth and see life in a new way.  I won’t tell you what it is.  If you don’t know, you aren’t there yet.  And that is a journey we all must make ourselves.

Okay, enough for one night.  I’ll have to do this again sometime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Us

colors

I painted this cause I felt like the play was about life, you know, and life is about color. And we each get to come along and we add our own color to the painting.  And even though it’s not very big, the painting, you still have to figure that it goes on forever, you know, you still have to figure that it goes on forever, you know, in each direction, to like infinity, cause that’s kind of like life.  It’s really crazy if you think about it, a hundred years ago some guy that I never met came to this country with a suitcase.  He has a son, who has a son, who has me.  So at first, when I was painting, I was thinking, up here, maybe that was that guy’s part of the painting, and down here, that’s my part of the painting.  And then I started to think, what if we’re all in the painting everywhere?  What if we’re in the painting before we’re born, what if we’re in it after we die?  And these colors we keep adding, what if they keep getting added on top of one another until eventually we’re not different colors anymore, we’re just… one thing, just one painting?  My dad isn’t with us anymore.  He’s not alive, but he’s with us.  He’s with me every day.  It all just sort of fits somehow.  Even if you don’t understand how yet.  And people will die in our lives, people that we love.  In the future, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now.  It’s kind of beautiful, right, if you think about it.  Just because someone dies, just because you can’t see them or talk to them anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not still in the painting.  I think that’s maybe the point of the whole thing.  There’s no dying.  There’s no you, or me, or them, it’s just us.  And this sloppy, wild, colorful, magical thing that has no beginning, has no end, it’s right here.  I think it’s us. 

 

 

 

*Special thanks to Liz and John…

The Search Is Over

Sometimes you find something you forgot you were looking for.

This was the case today.  My wife, son and I went down to Rehoboth Beach.  Our destinations: Funland and some of the arcades.  Just a loose, carefree trip with no hassles and no issues.  As many who read this blog already know, I have a son with disabilities.  Multiple disabilities.  His main disability is Tourette Syndrome, but with that comes a host of comorbidities.  Those include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sometimes they all collide at once and it results in an untenable situation.

This happened today.  When we got there, we got some Grotto’s Pizza and walked down to Funland.  My wife and son went on the pirate ship dragon ride and then we did the bumper cars.  After, my wife wanted to chill on the beach for a bit so I brought my son to the arcade.  You know those grappling hook games that usually cost a dollar?  The ones where you have to position the hook over something, the hook drops down, and if you are very lucky it will grab the prize you wanted and you get it.  I gave my son some money and watched him do his thing.  Yes, I know these games are a big scam, and I tell him every time we go.  He knows it before and after, but when he is playing it this seems to escape his memory.  In a sense, it is like gambling.

I watched him getting frustrated after the third or fourth attempt and I told him he may want to give up.  I got “the look” and was told to go away.  Sometimes you have to learn lessons and this was obviously one of those times.  It’s happened before with a simple shrug and then he gets over it.  Keep in mind, there are tons of people in there and sounds coming from all the different machines.  After he had been on two amusement park rides with thousands of people all around us.  The overwhelming smell of different foods and the sea salt smell coming up from the ocean, the sounds of people laughing, talking, crying, the sights of flashing lights in the arcade, bumper cars coming at him, the slight ugh feeling from the pirate ride, and severe frustration building up from the rigged grappling hook games.  I advised him he didn’t have too much money left and he might want to save it for something else.  This is when his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder kicked in.  He had to beat this game of rigged chance no matter what.  It was all-consuming to him.  After he blew his money he became very upset.

I told him I would talk to the manager about the hook did grab three things on three different games only to release the object of his choice and drop it in stunning defeat.  The manager said that is just how the games are set up but people do win prizes at times.  I knew this.  But I had to make sure my son knew it.  He was allowed to spend x amount of money and that was it.  He blew it in ten minutes.  Like I said, these things happened before, but today was just the perfect storm of whatever was bubbling up inside him heading up to the surface at lightning speed.  I called my wife and asked her to come up from the beach.  She came up and we tried to console my son.  We could have given him a million dollars right then and there and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Words were said, and we were all upset.  People were looking at us.  This happens with children with disabilities.  For us, this is normal.  For those watching who don’t have children with special needs it is like watching the worst dysfunctional family ever.  I’ve grown immune to this over the years and I don’t let it bother me.  They haven’t walked in our shoes, so they just don’t know.

I decided to get something to drink.  If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is this: when both my wife and I try to help him, it seems to him like two against one.  One of us had to walk away.  That was me.  I came back and I took over.  My wife went back to the beach and my son and I sat there for about ten minutes.  Not speaking to each other because I knew he needed his space.  We got away from the crowds to a quieter area.  All of a sudden, he got up and just wanted to walk.  Sometimes the best way to get out of a storm is to walk away from it.  We checked out some of the shops on Main Street.  Tons of stores all around.  He was looking at phone cases in one store.  One of them had a buy one get one free sale.  He called my wife who was able to find her serenity watching the waves come in from the Atlantic Ocean.

We stopped by Snyder’s Candy Store.  He actually had a lot of fun in there.  They had Pez dispenser collections with sets of four Presidents in them going all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  There were action figures and candy-flavored crickets and all sorts of funny distractions for him in there.  The store was empty aside from us and the three workers.  My son found a little canister of “thinking putty” and asked if he could get it.  We have given him putty to use when he gets stressed out at times and it usually does the trick for him.  I said okay but he was still looking around.  I was looking at some of the different candies the store was selling.

Flashback to 1997.  At the time, I was living in Sweden.  That winter, I was in a candy store and they had these chocolate candies called chocolate rum balls.  It was a ball of chocolate with rum mixed in with chocolate sprinkles around it.  During the next five months I lived outside of Stockholm, I would frequently visit this store and get bags of these chocolate rum balls.  When I moved back to America, I couldn’t find them anywhere.  When I went back to visit some friends in Sweden in 1999, I brought a whole bunch back with me.  Ever since then, if I happened to be in a candy store, I would sometimes ask “Do you have chocolate rum balls?”  “Sorry, we don’t.”  After years, I just kind of gave up.

At Snyder’s Candy Store, I asked the cashier if he had these.  I think he thought I meant actual liquid rum was inside of them and he said they didn’t have them.  As I was paying for my son’s thinking putty, on the top shelf of the chocolates right next to the cash register they were there.  I yelled out “Oh my God, they have them!”  My son jumped back at his Dad’s weird moment of excitement.  I bought a quarter pound of them which gave me about fifteen of them.

ChocolateRumBalls

My wife called and she was getting something to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant so my son and I walked back to meet her.  We were all fine again.  A happy family.  He had his thinking putty, my wife had this dish she raves about every time we go to Rehoboth, and I had my chocolate rum balls I was looking for the past seventeen years.  Of course, the moment when only a 12 year old could give when telling my wife what I was eating with his silly grin didn’t escape me.  I offered some to him, but I think he thought his dad was a very odd man at this point and said no.  I savored every single one of those chocolate rum balls.  The taste brought back the memories of a 27 year old young man in a foreign country who missed home and knew he would be heading back at some point in the future.  I knew the language enough to get by and I had friends there, but it never felt like home.  In the winter, it could get very lonely with only a few hours of sunlight.  In the summer, I would frequently wake up at 2am in the morning as the sun came blazing in the window.  The circumstances that led me to Sweden were long and varied, but those circumstances were changing.  It was hard to leave, but it would have been harder to stay.

But I always missed those damn chocolate rum balls that were as elusive as a shooting star on a cloudy night.  I wasn’t meant to stay away from circumstances which led me to where I am now.  If it meant not eating chocolate rum balls for seventeen years, that was what had to be.  Life had an unexpected journey waiting in the wings and I had no clue about any of it.

Today, my long search ended.  I was able to taste memories long since forgotten.  Today was a day of senses for my entire family.  Sometimes they got to us, and other times they provided us comfort and strength.  Life isn’t perfect.  It never was and it never will be.  There will always be hurdles.  I accept that.  I have learned, and continue to learn, when my son needs my wife or I and when he just needs to work it out himself.  Sometimes I stumble with this reality.  Sometimes my patience is stretched to its limit and I lose my cool.  We all do this.  We all have our inner coping mechanisms that allow us to ride out any storms life throws at us.  Sometimes it is thinking putty.  And sometimes it is chocolate rum balls.

As we drove back from the beach, I found myself lost in thought.  Just staring at the setting sun and seeing the beautiful farms of Delaware all around me.  My son was asleep in the back seat and my wife had headphones on listening to music.  It was quiet.  Serene.  I wouldn’t trade today for anything.  Spending quality time with my wife and son, for all the angst in the beginning, was worth it.  Sometimes, when they don’t know it, I just look at them both and feel nothing but love.  These two people who God sent into my life.  The woman I love so much and the son I am meant to teach, guide, and love as long as I am able to.  God threw an extra piece in with his disabilities.  I don’t write much about the daily situations that manifest as a result of those disabilities.  But they happen.  It is as much a part of my life as anything else.  I could complain about how tough it is, but that doesn’t help my son.  I can try to mitigate situations the best I can, for him and others.  Which always leads me back to here.

He is why I fight.  Him, and every child like him.  The adults can bicker and make their silly rules, but I can clearly see that what matters most is the kids.  The ones who don’t always have someone looking out for their best interests.  The ones who don’t know half the crazy battles us adults play on their behalf.  The ones who are shut out of those conversations.  The ones who don’t get to decide where the money goes.  But these decisions affect their lives and play into their education.  Every subject I write about on here, I question if the things I find are good for kids.  Sadly, the answer is no most of the time.  This causes me to get in tug-of-war fights all the time.  Even my allies question what I do sometimes.  Some people think I’m crazy doing what I do.  Let them.  It’s not about them and it never was.

Today was just another walk on my journey through life.  It was a special day, with highs and lows, just like any other day.  Little victories to be won and moments to deal with.  But I have to think I was being told something today.  That at the moments when giving up seems like the best thing, and all you want to do is ask why, that I have to get past that and ask God to help my son instead of me.  He answered my prayers.  And I got a little extra something in the bargain!

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

-The Foo Fighters