Walking Thoughts

This morning it was about 57 degrees outside. I decided not to wear a sweatshirt because I always end up taking it off and tying it around my waist. My walk started out chilly, and stayed that way. Maybe it was because of the temperature that my thoughts jumped around in my head this morning…

I decided to listen to Dream Academy on my walk. The first song “Life in a Northern Town” has a line that got me thinking about the craziness of the moment.

I considered how many life changing events have happened over my lifetime. How many times people said we would be different when things went back to normal. That’s when I saw a bird hopping along a lawn with a beak full of grass and sticks. Obviously building a nest nearby. I was just passing a cul de-sac where a new home was being built. Three houses down from us, a new family was moving in. They arrived yesterday.

Home has always been a foundation of our lives. Sadly, this pandemic has elevated the sad reality that home is not a good place for all people. Domestic and child abuse cases have risen during this pandemic. Divorce rates are expected to rise after the lockdowns. Home should be the best place to be right now. As a father and husband, I was trying to make sure home was the best place to be for my family.

The wind was a constant on my walk. My bare arms took the blunt of the chill. The cold actually felt like sleeves on my arms. It felt good in a way. As I turned corners, or walked along the curve of a street, the wind would shift from my shoulders to my face. Walking through the wind gave me a defining edge. I felt my arms swing through, my forehead chilled and my eyes squinted. I felt like me, I felt a boundary to my existence which has been blurring like the way days are blending together. Walking through the cold heightened my sense of self this morning.

I followed a curve of a street that led me to a street filled with blossom petals.

I was struck by the beauty and sadness of the scene. The trees in the area were still mostly filled with the blossoms. And the blossoms would be replaced with leaves and the trees would have a different look, a different beauty. But the situation reminded me that everything changes. Endings happen. There are new beginnings. And pain is part of that process. Whether it is regret or the feeling of loss, our heart goes through that pain. If we truly live our lives with an open heart, we will feel both sides of the spectrum. Joy and sorrow. That’s good. Those emotions give us a defining edge too.

I turned the last corner. I had three blocks till I was home. As life does sometimes, the music in my earbuds played a most appropriate song…

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100,000 Words

It Is All Connected. My little corner of the internet where I have spent seven years writing about life. I hope I have inspired readers, made them laugh, and maybe think about things at a deeper level. In a few lines I will hit a crazy milestone; 100,000 words on just this blog. (I do have two other blogs.) I know it is cheesy, but I wanted a certain word to be that 100,000 word, while also reminiscing about my writing journey. I have about ten words to that milestone, the word is…

WHY

There it is.

I considered lots of words to be the milestone word. Words that reflect what I believe, what I do, who I am. But, in the end, the word WHY reflects a central idea to my life. Answering the question, understanding my reasons for doing things has given me a clear, yet still difficult, path to follow in my career, family, and personal life. Now that I have passed that milestone, let’s look back and discuss WHY I write.

This blog has been an adventure. 2012 was the second year of this blog and the highest word count: 21,183, yet only one like for the whole year. Last year, 2019, was the highest year for likes: 281. In one way, not very impressive. I only have just over 8,000 views total for my blog. In our social media culture this means I am an unknown. Yet, I know that people have read my posts.

  • There are 105 different countries that have read my blog.
  • For the last 5 years someone has read a post I have written every single day.
  • Over a thousand times, someone has found my blog because of a search engine result.
  • My “National Honor Society Speech” is the single most read blog post.

So, why do I write? 

First, I just have to. Writing is the lens I see the world through, especially my poetry. (You can read all my poems I wrote for the Poetry Month Challenge at my creative writing blog.) I have notebooks filled with poems. I understand the pain and joy of this world through the written word.

Which then brings me to the second reason I write, to connect with people. Every writer wants to know that someone has enjoyed their works. It means that a part of the writer has made an impact with another person in this world. That is a powerful thing. I hope my works have inspired, moved, enlightened others. Simple as that.

The final reason is that writing, creating, is fun. I love the process of creating a blog post. Creating a header, finding a video, deciding on the layout. It brings me joy, even when I write about the hardships of this life.

Here is to the next 100,000 words. And thank you, to you reader. Whether this is the first post you have read, or the hundreth, I am glad we could connect.

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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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What are you doing?

The video was produced by my son. This is our first poetry video. We are working on a new video as I write.

My third daughter is teaching herself how to play songs on her keyboard. She learned the opening to “Purple Rain” for me.

I took my daughters to a crane viewing site by the river to learn how to draw landscapes.

I know life is challenging right now. I am teaching English online. My kids are attending college through kindergarten on line.

It is tough in so many different ways. But maybe this is also an opportunity. An opportunity for you, for your family, to do something you didn’t have time for… to do something outside your normal routine before the pandemic. Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to build your skills to go after your dreams.

What are you doing, today?

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I used to

I used to get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for the day. One cup of coffee, yogurt, and a banana. I would get back into bed (on my wife’s side) for a few minutes as my wife would finish getting ready for the day. I would shower while she ate breakfast.

But now, we get up at random times.

 

I used to teach in front of students. I could tell who was having a bad day. I could tell if my hyper class would have to be reined in because the lesson needed focus from them. My day was a roller coaster of grading, answering emails, and teaching.

But now, I answer emails and grade assignments as they are completed online.

 

I used to believe that I would live forever. That I had time to do everything I wanted with my life. Life was an open highway.

But now, well actually, I’ve realized that my days are numbered for some time now. This moment in time dealing with the COVID-19 situation has reinforced the reality that life is fleeting. As a society we are forced to deal with so many factors we take for granted in our everyday life. A handshake, eating out, graduations, and just the joy of an open highway.

 

I used to distrust people. OK, to be honest I still do, but that is a personal journey.

But now, I wonder what the effects of this pandemic will have on our culture. We were already dealing with anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Dealing with screen time and its connections to these emotions.

 

I used to go to church with my family, shake hands with others during The Liturgy of the Eucharist (Peace Be With You).

But now, we watch Mass on TV. Hearing the echoes of the few people in attendance during the filming of the service.

 

I used to make one box of blueberry muffins. When the boys were young, 12 muffins were enough for the family.

But now, we have added scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, and we will have to start making 24 muffins as my oldest son has moved back home to finish his semester of college online.

 

I used to believe in love…

But now, I still do… There is no greater force in this life than Love. Oh, I know hate and other negative forces seem to gain more attention and seem to be more powerful. That the world is falling apart… but Love is what will rebuild the world.

 

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pandemic thoughts

Today is March 22, 2020.

Tomorrow our school will be continuing learning online.

Yesterday, at three different times, cars ran red lights. When I returned to my van after grocery shopping there were four, FOUR, shopping carts around my van.

We made chocolate chip muffins today.

The newspaper today had an article about what to do if a person’s home life is violent during this time.

Sports, concerts, and eating out have come to a halt. But home cooking, games of pitch and speed, and movie nights are popular in my household.

And just like other times, I wonder about the deeper meaning of it all.

Another article’s headline in today’s paper read “The New Normal”. But I disagree with that idea. This will pass. It will take time, but it will pass. Will anything change? Does it need to? Here is what I’ve learned so far…

First, everyday life can change for so many reasons. We have the popular idea to live life before you die, but honestly, our lives can “change” at any moment. This pandemic is forcing people to evaluate their lives in new ways, to actually see what their foundations are.

For some people they are forced to spend time with their family. You would think this would be a good thing. Sadly, it is not. As an educator, I know that some students are hungry right now, lonely, and even afraid. My heart has trouble with this knowledge for two reasons. One, because of my past. The second part is the question on how this is possible. I don’t know the answer. Family is one of my WHYs. I am not a perfect father or husband, but I take pride in building a home for my wife and children. I don’t understand why others don’t.

Activities are part of our culture and part of my family’s everyday life. Many people are talking about how the pandemic is revealing who is important in our country. The situation shows the disproportionate importance we give to athletes and celebrities. I agree, but that is not the factor I am talking about. This situation has taken away the opportunities many people have worked hard for. This is a negative outcome of our current state that hurts.

Nebraska was one of the few states to still play their boy’s state basketball tournament. As a dad, I was blessed to see my son play. However, all spring activities are on hold and will mostly likely be cancelled. I am the senior class sponsor for my school. That means I am responsible for graduation. We haven’t dealt with that situation yet. Our school’s musical is on hold. My second son is a high jumper. My oldest daughter doesn’t get to take her art field trip.

Sports, concerts, all activities are good for us as individuals and as a society. Honestly, even when you go out to eat at a local restaurant you are experiencing someone’s dream come true. Have we placed too much importance on these activities? Yes, but it is the wrong importance. Being a fan of a football team should not be a life or death situation. It should be a celebration of the opportunity to witness someone realizing their goals. To share in the joy of individuals doing something that sparks their spirit. This situation is disrupting people’s pursuit of their dreams. That is a heavy cost.

But maybe as a society we can celebrate these activities when we get to chase our dreams again.

I think that is enough rambling for now, thank you for reading.

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I’m Not OK

It was a tough day.

I learned about the song, “comethru” from a senior for an assignment last semester. I like incorporating music into my lessons. It allows me to see a different aspect of my students. This song was shared during our study of the book, Night. In chapter 6, Juliek plays a last “concert” for the prisoners with his violin. The students had to share a song that lifts their spirits when life gets rough.

Life is rough right now.

This morning the students were allowed into the school to get their stuff and talk to teachers about how their classes would be handled online. They were allowed in by grade every hour. At one point I had about 20 seniors in my class. They were laughing, enjoying the chance to be together… maybe for the last time as seniors.

“Five More Minutes” by Scotty McCreery was a song submitted as a poetic song for our poetry unit.

A classroom, a school, is an intense snapshot of life. Everyday is filled with the full spectrum of emotions. Of victories and heartbreak. Personal growth and steps backwards. Each student has their own journey, yet it is shared with everyone in the classroom. Some of the fears are the same for every student as they walk the path to graduation. But right now, we are all sharing the same fear and anxiety of the present moment.

For a few moments, I felt OK this morning. After everyone left, a senior came back in, hand out toward me. “I need one more,” he said. And we did our handshake that we do everyday in class…

I’m not OK now… But again, I should listen to my students… Another song submitted for an assignment.

 

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