Tag Archives: music

Top Five Songs

Faithful readers know that I enjoy using music (and other videos) in my posts. I will share a mini soundtrack or look at life events through songs (“20 Years of Marriage”). So, the idea of my top five songs was a fun idea, until I tried to decide on the songs!

I thought about different ways to present the top five: by favorites, connections to memories, and even by the depth of the lyrics (an idea that I am saving for a later post). For this post I decided to share a favorite song from each decade that reveals something about me. A creative way to show you different sides of me. So, grab some headphones and get ready to listen to some good songs and get to know me a little bit.

70s

Artist: Gerry Rafferty

Song: “Baker Street”

I will send a photo of the radio display to family and friends when this song comes on the radio. The lyrics for this song, especially the first verse, connect with me. The underlying idea that life will be better tomorrow is a universal theme, and so is the cost of living that way.

80s

Artist: Living Colour 

Song: “Cult of Personality”

This decade was tough to choose. Music is a big part of the teen years. Listening to songs before games, jamming out in the car while cruising, and in the 80’s making mixtapes (“Throwback: Mixtapes”). When this song came out, I was an instant fan. You could find me singing this song in the hallways of school (I still sing in the hallways).

90s

Artist: Prince

Song: “The Love We Make”

Anyone who truly knows me knew Prince would make this list. Choosing the decade and the song has been the hardest aspect of this list. Prince has some seriously deep spiritual songs. “The Love We Make” is the closest song I know that reflects my own spiritual views. I had to share a live version of the song.

2000s

Artist: Lupe Fiasco

Song: “Superstar”

I would sing this song at bedtime to my oldest daughter. It was on the playlist for my track team when we would have to practice indoors. The song’s lyric, “If you are what you say you are, a superstar, then have no fear…” is a perfect line for all the activities I was involved in during the 2000s.

2010s

Artist: Thirty Seconds to Mars

Song: “Closer to the Edge”

This song started the decade and would highlight all the change that happened for me during those ten years. There were some really tough times for me, especially professionally. Yet, one of my best memories is dancing to this song in the kitchen with my second son.

Wow, this was a tough list. Going through the music brought back memories, both good and bad. Here’s to the next decade and all the good music to come.

Tomorrow I will write about the top five characteristics I think you need to live your best life.

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Blueberry Muffins and a Number One Song

For a while now, we have been listening to the top 40 countdown on the 80s channel on XM radio while making blueberry muffins. We get to hear the top 10 songs, with breakfast usually ready while the number one song for the week plays. This week in 1986 was “Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red.

This morning, the kitchen was full. My second son had returned from a trip with his friends, and my oldest son’s girlfriend was visiting. Everyone was filling their plates: scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins, glasses of milk, and bacon. It was a typical Sunday morning.

Earlier in the countdown was the song, “Like a Rock” by Bob Seger (I don’t remember what position on the chart it was). There is a verse in the song about how 20 years have flown by: 

Twenty years now

Where’d they go?

Twenty years

I don’t know

I sit and I wonder sometimes

Where they’ve gone

Mixed with the sad vibe of “Holding Back the Years” I thought about how bittersweet our Sunday routine is.

In one way, our blueberry muffin breakfast holds back the years because it brings us together as a family. Every tradition a family participates in is a way to stop time. It strengthens the bond of love and joy that creates a timeless bubble for everyone to live in, no matter how much time has passed or how much someone has grown. 

Because time does pass, we do grow older, we do change. Sitting at the table, it was bittersweet to know that in a few months both of my sons would be out in the world. My youngest daughter doesn’t need my help taking the paper cup off of her muffin anymore. My children were growing, time was moving forward. 

There was nothing I could do about it, but yet this morning, we were together, family. That will never change. Contrary to the lyrics of “Holding Back the Years”, our tradition of blueberry muffins is a chance for something good to happen, for love to happen.

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June 5, 2021 Soundtrack

Now that summer has started, I’ve been walking everyday. I’ve also been writing everyday. I’ve gone back to writing with pen and paper. I can feel the weight of the past school year starting to ease from my shoulders. It feels good. I like listening to music while I write and walk, so I thought it would be fun to share with you the top five songs I’ve been listening to lately. Kind of a small soundtrack of my life at the moment. A fun blog, but no guarantees that I won’t get deep in this post. Enjoy!

Track One: “Something Here” by Day Wave

Even though this song was released four years ago, I recently started listening to Day Wave and this is the song that got me hooked. What makes it a song I have on repeat is how much it connects with this time in my life. As the pandemic is starting to turn for the better, a tough school year is over… I feel like life is starting over, that “there’s something here” and I can’t wait to see what it is.

Track Two: “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince

Another older song, OK, a classic even. Besides me being a Prince fan, this song lifts my spirit. Not only because it is a great song to dance to or to sing karaoke with my daughter, but also the spiritual subject matter. The song is from Jesus’ point of view. The line “I’m your conscience / I am love / All I really need is to know that you believe” gets me every time.

Track Three: “Mercy” by Ayron Jones

This might be the soundtrack for our country right now. I happen to get into Ayron Jones’ music because I started following him on Instagram during the pandemic. Ayron would do these small live concerts at random times. I love his honest energy on this song.

Track Four: “I Guess I Just Feel Like” by John Mayer

You know when you feel down, so you play music to match that feeling and somehow you feel better because of it? That’s what this song does for me. The second verse hits home for me:

I guess I just feel like good things are gone

And the weight of my worries is too much to take on

I think I remember the dream that I had

That love’s gonna save us from a world that’s gone mad

I guess I just feel like

What happened to that?

I still believe that honest Love will save us. I just don’t know how to share enough of it in this world to make a difference. Almost everyday Hate or Apathy seems to be the course of action we choose. I do feel like giving up… but I don’t.

Track Five: “Anywhere Without You” by Whole Damn Mess

Another band I discovered on social media. This song feels like summer to me and it mirrors my own feelings for my wife. For the last 20 years we have been a team. Traveling to our kids’ activities, grocery shopping, even helping out by taking tickets with me at school, we have been together. Oh, we have had those “lightning” moments, but overall spending my days with her builds my strength and brings me joy.

So, I hope you enjoyed the mini soundtrack for my life at the moment. Share your soundtrack with me in the comments. 

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A New Foundation

I love it when life inspires me with dots. For my regular readers you understand, if you’re new to this blog, dots are moments in life that connect to reveal a theme or idea that I share in a post. Yesterday, life provided two dots to highlight an important aspect I had been thinking about.

In the morning I was reading the book, Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep, while waiting for my wife to complete her doctor appointment. I read through the part of the story when the earthquake devastated the neighborhood except for Miss Whitlaw’s home. “‘Papa always built well. He said he wanted a house that could hold a herd of thundering elephants -’ … No one had constructed the houses along the street as well as Miss Whitlaw’s father had built his” (pg 157).

At the time, I was just enjoying the story, not connecting any deep life themes. Until about an hour later when we headed out to get groceries.

I know it is hard to see, but this house is having a new foundation built underneath it. You can see how the ground underneath of the house is being dug out, you can see sunlight toward the back of the hole. They have half the road blocked off for the trucks and the excavator. There are temporary supports in place. Putting in a new foundation looks like a lot of work, but it can be done.

As I am prone to do, the metaphor of a foundation connected in my head, maybe because I have used it before in a blog post about parenting (“Trust Your Foundation“). However,  this time I connected the metaphor to our personal foundations, which are built with the help of our parents in our younger years. If the foundation is strong at the beginning, like in the book, we can withstand an earthquake. It doesn’t mean the house isn’t damaged, but we will be standing after the storm.

Not everyone has that strong of a start. People can feel lost in this life. They can feel like they can’t withstand the troubles life brings, but the second dot makes an important counterpoint. With some hard work, any house can have a new foundation. You have to dig deep, find the support you need, then take the time to build a new foundation for your house to rest upon.  

Our foundation is the base of our everyday life. The foundation supports our goals and provides us a stable home to live in. Our foundation will be tested in this life, there will be storms. We will stand or fall based on how well we built our base–even if we are older, working on a new foundation.

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The Power of a Father

I have over six different drafts of this post. I have different introductions, pop culture references, links, and music in the rough drafts. The issue I want to talk about is the power of fatherhood. More specifically the devastating power of not having a father in a child’s life.

I have been working with the idea of doing a series of posts about what it is really like to be a dad, but an episode of Happy Days got me thinking about the effects of not having a father in my life and the effect it has for other kids. I had never seen the episode of Happy Days before. My youngest daughter likes the show Happy Days. We watch the show on MeTV. One Sunday afternoon the episode, “Arthur, Arthur,”  was playing. The episode is part of the last season of the show. By the end, I was in tears.

The story line of Fonzie and his dad is highlighted in season 6 with the episode, “Christmas Time”.

My story is different.  I have shared parts of that in a past post (Life Lessons About Fatherhood). The feelings of abandonment, anger, and questions of why are similar, though.  But in “Arthur, Arthur” there is a moment that rocked my soul. I have tried to find a clip of the episode, but there is not one to be found. In the episode Fonzie finds out his father has died. That changes everything. Fronzie expresses how he always hoped that someday he would be able to see his father. That while his dad was alive there was always a chance to understand why his dad left. A chance to heal the emotional wounds. With his dad passing, that opportunity was gone. Fonzie would never get to know why. The wounds would never fully heal.

The episode ends with Fonzie showing the broken gold watch his father wanted him to have. He wasn’t going to get the watch fixed because it represented his dad the way it was. A broken watch for a broken relationship.

I understand how Fonzie felt… in my own way. But that specific pain of a son (or a daughter) not having a father in their life is almost universal.

This song was released my senior year of high school. By that time, I hadn’t talked to my father for about eight years. But had lived with three step-dads and a few boyfriends that my mother had. The lines “I didn’t write these pages / And my script’s been rearranged.” expresses one of the perspectives children have when a parent leaves them.

Being abandoned by people who are supposed to guide you in this life is devastating. I know I am focusing on fathers, but the same holds true for mothers. 

There are too many kids trying to navigate this life on their own. And they write their stories with a foundation of loss, of uncertainty, and a deep sense of not being enough, not being loved because their parents are not there. 

I am not a perfect father or husband. But I try every day. And maybe that is the hardest part of looking back. I am raising six kids. Even though I make mistakes, I try to make sure they know they are loved. It is not easy, but I am proud of my kids. I am proud of the home I have built.

But everyday I wonder why wasn’t I worth the effort?

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Reflections Jan 27, 2021

The girls are settling down. The house is becoming quiet. My headphones are playing some of my favorite songs as I build a writing playlist on Spotify. Earlier I wrote a poem for my personal challenge to write a poem in 100 different forms. It was poem 81, a haibun titled, “A Father’s Gift.

But the writing muse is still burning. I am not sure where this post will end up, but it should be good (it will be musical).

I am tired. I am tired on so many levels, from the perpetual cycle of hate expressed in our culture, to the perceived apathy of living from people around me. I could link to any number of news articles to reveal how much pure negativity there is in this world, but I am tired of viewing those stories. If I took a random picture anytime during the day, it would show people staring at their phones. As if the height of living is text messages and photos saturated with filters.

In some ways, life is pretty simple. It is who we are and what we do with our time. A simple concept, yet filled with possibilities. Maybe it is because I am just months away from my 50th birthday, but time is a constant force in my thinking. I swear I can hear the grains of sand when all is quiet. I still have goals and aspirations I want to accomplish… the time to complete those is running out.

Again, maybe it is because I’ve been living for 50 years but I know that love works. I do believe that we have the choice on who we are. We are in control of how we treat people. What I don’t understand is how we keep thinking hate and pain make this world a better place. What saddens me the most is how deep this has gone. How many kids aren’t loved by their parents. How mean we can be to someone sitting next to us. How easy it is to tweet venom.

I have faith, though. Love is more powerful. Love is strength. I know I can’t change the world, but I can build my world, my home, my life with the foundation of Love. That is a start.

And then there is the pursuit of dreams… if I could figure this part out… Would I like to make a living from writing? Yes, I would. Will I? I don’t know. Money is not the main goal of my writing aspiration, respect or recognition is. To know that when someone says my name, they consider me a writer, a poet. I understand that most of that falls on my shoulders. How I present myself to the world. I know I am a good poet. My words do make an impact for readers. Yet, I feel like the world views me as someone who has a nice hobby. And I don’t know how to change that…

A final note as I wrap up this informal and somewhat musical blog. Even in these troubling times, this life is wonderful. There is pain, troubles for us to overcome. That is what makes the next day better than today. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Have a good cup of coffee and turn up that jam and dance.

Because when it is all said and done, today is the only day you have. It’s worth living for.

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What are the Words?

A few weeks ago I attended an online education conference. The keynote speaker shared some information that got me thinking. He said that the use of the word “Love” had been decreasing in music. He did not provide any reference for this information. I tried to find a source to collaborate what he said. I couldn’t, but it still got me thinking because I use pop culture in my classes to make connections for the students. So, I decided to do an unofficial analysis of the top three songs from 2020, 2010, 2000, 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960, and 1950 according to Billboard’s Year End Hot 100 chart. I thought the top three songs from the years listed would give a good snapshot of what was popular at that time.

I created word clouds from the lyrics of the top three songs for the year. The most used words are larger in size. Stop words were automatically deleted (this was a challenging decision because these words were used in titles, but using them cluttered the word clouds). I removed all words that only appeared once in the songs. I’ll start with the word cloud, list the top three songs, and then share my insight briefly. Again, this is an unofficial look at these songs, but it is worth thinking about. Let’s start with 1950.

1950

1 . “Goodnight Irene” by Gordon Jenkins & The Weavers

2 . “Mona Lisa”  by Nat King Cole

3 . “Third Man Theme” (Instrumental) by Anton Karas 

It is obvious that names are the most used words in this word cloud, especially since one of the songs was an instrumental. “Lovely” does appear in the list.

1960

1. “Theme from A Summer Place” by Percy Faith

2. “He’ll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves

3. “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers

“Love” is a main word, but not the most used. The overall feel of the word cloud is about relationships. I find it interesting that we have a name again as a main word.

1970

1. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

2. “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by The Carpenters

3. “American Woman” by The Guess Who

This word cloud is tough to get a general feel for because the top three songs are so different in theme and style. The word “love” does not show up in any form.

1980

1. “Call Me” by Blondie

2. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” by Pink Floyd

3. “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

Knowing the songs, I was surprised that the words “brick” or “wall” were not more prominent. But “love” appears as a main word again, even with such a diverse group of songs.

1990

1. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips

2. “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette

3. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor

These songs had a similar vibe, which actually made for a smaller word cloud. “Love” is present now in three out of five word clouds, four if you count “lovely” in the 1950 word cloud.

2000

1. “Breathe” by Faith Hill

2. “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas

3. “Maria Maria” by Santana featuring The Product G&B

“Love” makes it into the word cloud (I did not place it in the center). Funny how Santana owned the year 2000, his name is a prominent word in the word cloud, too.

2010

1. “Tik Tok” by Kesha

2. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

3. “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train

This word cloud is filled with a variety of words, but “love” is not one of them. The songs range in topic and style, which presents a mumbled visual. I did notice that there are now words like “drunk” and “party”. Not that these words have never been in a song before, but these are the top three songs for that year.

2020

1. “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd

2. “Circles” by Post Malone

3. “The Box” by Roddy Ricch

“Love” makes it into the word cloud, but what you don’t see in this visual may be of more importance. This is the first word cloud that I deleted derogatory terms and the F-word. 

This is an unofficial look at the lyrics of popular songs. It is by no means meant to make a blanket statement about music or our culture. But it is worth thinking about because words have power, and our kids are singing these songs, making TiKTok videos to them. Pop Culture delivers a message to our society. Songs are part of that message. What are your thoughts on what you see happening with lyrics over the decades?

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That’s My Song

Title with cassette tape

We are in the second week of school. We have our routine. Part of it is the drive to school. We have a certain radio station we listen to, we talk about the upcoming day. This morning my youngest daughter was enjoying the drive to school because the radio seemed to play all her favorite songs.

As soon as the music for the next song started to play she would say, “Ooohhh, I like this song!” Then she would read the title of the song off of the display and start singing along.

Singing with her, I was reminded of the simple joys in life.

Especially right now. Life is different. Part of our routine is making sure everyone has their mask for school. As a nation, I feel like we are crumbling under the weight of all the lines drawn in our society. Political. Cultural. Pandemic Issues. So many issues dissecting us, cutting up our sense of community and identity as a nation.

These are troubling times.

Yet, the simple joys intertwine in our daily life. A good cup of coffee. Hot cheese bread at dinner. Snack before bed… and a daughter who likes the next song on the radio…

“Ooohhh, I like this song!”

One of the songs we jammed out to…

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Blueberry Muffins on Father’s Day

Like almost every Sunday morning, we made blueberry muffins for breakfast. I brewed a cup of coffee, set the oven to 410 degrees, started some music on my phone and got the paper cups into the muffin pan. For new readers, making blueberry muffins is a foundational part of my family’s life and a running metaphor for this blog.

Today is also Father’s Day. As my playlist switched to the song “Wild Horses” by Gino Vanelli, I thought about how music and specific songs defined moments for me as a father. I thought it would be fun to share some of those moments and music as a celebration for Father’s Day. Grab some headphones as I share some good vibes about being a father.

“Arms Wide Open” was a staple on radio when my first child was born. Once I held my son for the first time, I understood this song, completely. The feeling of wonder and responsibility never faded for any of my children’s births. Fatherhood is not easy, but it is the greatest gift I’ve received in my life. Honestly, I believe the world can change from the home. I want this post to be a celebration, so I will simply say that I can not fathom how anyone, father or mother, can treat their children in so many horrible ways… Anyway, this song captures an honest view of the start of fatherhood.

There could be a number of songs here, in fact the song “Wild Horses” could be placed here, but this is a song my daughters like to dance to during our dance parties. Which we have done for about 20 years. On any random night we might have a dance party. We play music and dance. The fun part has been the change in music over the years. The boys had The Wiggles and “Jessie’s Girl.” Now, the girls have Imagine Dragons, Minecraft parody songs like, “Skelly Heart,” and SpongeBob. But the dance party has stayed, filled with music, laughter, and sweet dad moves.

This song started our family’s connection to the stage. My oldest son was 10 years old when he wanted to try out for Charlie in the musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for our youth community theater production. To audition he had to sing and dance to a song of his choice. He decided on “Cave In.” He decided to dance literally to the lyrics. He was auditioning against older kids who had been in theater for a while. Did I mention he had never performed in a play or musical before? He got the part. Watching my son on stage was my first taste of fatherly pride.

That moment when your child finds a place in the world and you get to experience it.  But also help foster it and be there through the rough spots. I will admit it is hard to not get caught up in that feeling. My children’s talents are theirs to develop and to reap the rewards from them. I am there to support them and enjoy the ride.

My oldest son isn’t the only one to enjoy the spotlight on the stage. My youngest daughters have been involved in our youth community theater program, too. Not to mention my adventure last year on the stage (What I am Learning). But it all started with my son using this song for his audition. And honestly, his last performance in high school as Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof, was my first taste of knowing how much it hurts to let them grow.

We are also a basketball family. Yes, my youngest daughters play basketball, and also volleyball and tennis. My oldest son played basketball through junior high. But basketball has been an area for my second son (who did do some summer theater when he was younger). My second son started playing when he was nine years old. We have traveled thousands of miles to tournaments and practices. Each season my son would have a song or two we would listen to before we arrived at the gym. Those songs changed every season, but “The Show Goes On” has been a staple for him through the years. The message rings true for me as a dad as I continue to drive miles for him and his sisters now.

This song is one of my oldest daughter’s favorite songs from the show Good Omens. She is the artist, the wild soul in this world. Her taste in music, art, literature, and other forms of media is different, and that is awesome. I remember sitting in her room listening to this song and others from the soundtrack. Something I would do as a teen with my friends. She has influenced her younger sisters in some of the shows they watch, but she has taught me the importance of allowing my kids to have their own interests, to foster their own views in this world. She brings a beauty and wider lens to my world. The depth of fatherhood is found in the uniqueness of each child and the path they follow.

For the last song, I wanted to find a song that came the closest to my view of what it means to be a dad. My view of fatherhood has changed as my children have grown. Each age brings a new understanding of what it means to be a father. The needs and demands change with each year and each child. The joys and pains are unique for each of my kids. I know that they have their own battles in this world, and it only gets harder for them as they become adults. But I will be there for them, for as long as I can.

And if they ever come home, blueberry muffins will be ready for them on Sunday morning.

 

 

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Thank You, Tears For Fears

On March 16 I sat in a meeting on how school was going to be continued in an online environment. Students would be let into the school in waves to get their stuff the next day. Life was changing fast. I returned to my classroom to get things in order. Like many people, I turned to music to help with the situation. I sat down at my desk and turned to the music of Tears for Fears. Honestly, I don’t know why… maybe subconsciously I was thinking of the song “Mad World”, but I started out with their album The Hurting and played through their discography.

That was over a month ago, but I haven’t stopped listening to Tears For Fears. Even this morning on my walk, I listened to the album, Elemental. Now, I have listened to other artists during this time. In fact, I may be listening to more music than I have in a long time. Music has a powerful way of helping us deal with our emotions. During this time, the music from Tears For Fears has been a part of the way I have dealt with this moment in time.

So, as a thank you to them, I thought I would write a blog post sharing a song from each of their albums that I connect to during this time. Grab your headphones, sit back to enjoy some music from Tears For Fears and some writing from me. And Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith if you get the chance to read this: Thank You for the music.

Album: The Hurting

Song: “Change”

Yes, “Mad World” would totally fit our times. But “Change” connects with me because of the idea that there will come a time in life when it is too late. Too late to mend a relationship. Too late to follow a dream. The song has that repeating line though, “You can change.” Just a touch of optimism.

Album: Songs from the Big Chair

Song: “The Working Hour”

The build up of the layers of instruments in the first two minutes of the song just put me in a deep thoughtful mindset. Then comes the lyrics, “These things that I’ve been told / Can rearrange / My world, my doubt / In time, but inside out” address my state of mind right now… honestly, I think it does for all of us.

Album: The Seeds of Love

Song: “Famous Last Words”

The music starts slow. The lyrics set the scene of lovers in the future, just being together, but then at about the 2:20 mark in the middle of the line “And we will carry war no more” the sound explodes, making my heart jump… in desire to have a time to sit with the people I love and have the chance to “Listening to the band that made us cry / We’ll have nothing to lose / We’ll have nothing to gain / Just to stay this real life situation / For one last refrain”.

Album: Elemental

Song: “Break It Down Again”

This song makes me happy, in a sad intellectual way, especially the lines “And all the love and all the love in the world / Won’t stop the rain from falling…” It may seem odd, but I enjoy thoughtful lyrics, even if they make me feel sad. I enjoy analyzing songs, movies, and even though this song isn’t totally about that, it reinforces for me to break it down.

Album: Raoul and the Kings of Spain 

Song: “Sketches of Pain”

This song speaks to my poetic side. How art often reflects our pain, our heartache. Art can bring beauty to our pain. This moment in history is providing me with a different kind of muse. This song reinforces the need to share my writing with you.

Album: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Song: “”Closest Thing To Heaven”

Even during these troubling times (which is the setting at the beginning of the song), there are good things in my life. The line, “Make love your destination,” is a powerful motivation to choose love every day. Family and friends, making new recipes, watching Miami Vice, is heaven right now.

Music helps us through tough times. For me, Tears For Fears is the music I need. Thank you, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith for your music.

Let me know what you are listening to during this pandemic.

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