Friday, September 30, 2016

Songs and Long Ago Memories

"I was listening to the radio; I heard a song reminded me of long ago."
Eddie Money: I Wanna Go Back

I don’t know about most people, but many times when I hear a song from the past, it often triggers memories I’ve associated with the song.

Out in the country, when I was still young enough not to be in school, I remember quite well an old yellow rectangular radio box. It was in the kitchen. My mom would have it tuned in to the nearest local radio station. 

I remember that situation because I heard a song that really caught my attention. Mind you, I was only four years old. But I still remember that feeling to this day: hearing Bob Dylan’s Blowin” in the Wind come across that old radio in the kitchen. Probably set me on my road to question authority and to dislike rules.

From the decade of 1980-1990, here are a few selected songs and associated memories.

John Lennon – Woman. College freshman, dancing at a dorm party on St. Patrick’s Day 1981 and all of us breaking the college alcohol policy.  Green (spiked) punch.

US Highway 136, Nebraska
April Wine – Just Between You and Me. Back home during my first college summer break. Off some patch of grass near US Highway 136 and Republican City, Nebraska, I happened to find a party:  I can still recall the beauty of the star lit sky.

Talking Heads - Burning Down the House The dance halls in LeMars, Iowa.  What crazy good times.

Elvis Costello – What’s so funny about Peace Love and Understandin’. An anthem while a college newspaper editor to push me further in writing passionate editorials.

Duran Duran – Hungry like the Wolf. Had the pleasure of having the Marriott feed me every day while living in Washington, D.C.  They would blast songs at a high decibel across their cafĂ© area – nothing like eating while hearing the pornographic ending of this song (the extended version).

Twisted Sister – We’re not going to Take It. Kemper Arena, Kansas City, at a Twisted Sister concert. Can still remember the bass guitar waves hitting my chest like a hammer.

Genesis – Invisible Touch. A private, members-only club, Gammons, in Lawrence, Kansas where I played backgammon for hours, ate free food during happy hour, and met a lot of KU coeds. The day I left Lawrence heading for some type of life in northern Kentucky, this was the last song I heard from a Kansas City radio station as it faded off into the distance.

The Who – Eminence Front. Right next door to Gammons was a smartly located pizza shop, Pizza Shuttle. One early morning after leaving Gammons while I was waiting for my pizza to be made, I can still remember the conversation between the employees. Eminence Front begins playing. Employee one asks employee two – who plays this song? Employee two replies, exactly. Employee one looks quizzical.

Corey Hart – Never Surrender and Bruce Cockburn If I had a Rocket Launcher. KU student in Lawrence, KS. Two songs that helped me back onto the road of spiritual discovery. 

Dive Bar, Covington, Kentucky

U2 – Angel of Harlem. At a dive bar in Covington, Kentucky picking up fast games of pool.

John Mellencamp – Paper in Fire. Clubbing in Cincinnati dance halls along the riverfront. What crazy times.

Midnight Oil – Beds are Burnin’. Small venue in Cincinnati packed to the gills rocking out to political rock music. 

The band Velcro Pygmies. Yesterday’s. The happening Chattanooga night club. I loved Yesterday’s – ran a bar tab, great music, met a lot of people, and the Pygmies just blew me away with their energetic performances.

Please enjoy a playlist of the 14 songs mentioned in this post.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What I did for Two Weekends in July - PTA Summer Leadership Training!

Summer Leadership Training at Knoxville.

Imagine six people from different parts of the state piling workshop materials and luggage into one van and that group traveling to different cities in Tennessee.  Well, that's what I did.  Tennessee PTA annual summer leadership training was split up this year into a three-day weekend and a two-day weekend.

Chattanooga - Johnson City - Knoxville was the first part. Then Nashville - Memphis was the second part. I led workshops at four of the five stops, missing out on the stop in Memphis.  I met a lot of new PTA friends and reconnected with current PTA friends.  The traveling team built a camaraderie traveling from the state office in Nashville to Chattanooga, to Johnson City, to Knoxville, and back to the state office to unload.  And in Nashville the next weekend, we met up again to lead workshops. Four of the six travel team went on to Memphis the next day to lead another series of workshops.

What other Tennessee volunteer organization does this? Sending volunteers out, who give up vacation time and work pay, to travel to different parts of the state to connect, to network and to train local volunteers. I say not a single one except Tennessee PTA!

The PTA difference! 

Also - there were two restaurants worth mentioning for great food!

In Johnson City - we went to the Mad Greek with two local PTA leaders joining us for dinner.

In Knoxville - we went to the Cedar Bluff Aubrey's with several local PTA leaders joining us for dinner.

More group pictures from each of the stops that I attended:

Summer Leadership Training at Johnson City

Summer Leadership Training at Nashville

Summer Leadership Training at Chattanooga

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Remembering Dad on this Father's Day Weekend

On May 21st, my Dad died.

This was not an easy blog post to write less than a month later, but this is Father’s Day weekend.  I wrote this post as a remembrance in this moment of my life.

Dani wrote beautiful, moving words in her eulogy for Dad’s funeral – here is a snippet:

My grandfather was the most genuine, down-to-earth, and caring man in the universe, and even that is an understatement. Every moment spent with him, I was astounded by his kindness, his selflessness, and his passion. He never cared about anything halfway--when he loved something, he put his heart and soul into that love.
Indeed, Dad never did anything halfway, including sharing his love. I was blessed to be immersed into that world.
One day during the summer between my high school sophomore and junior years, Dad and I played a few sets of tennis on the courts next to Smith Center High School.  Tennis was a good recreational sport and we loved competition and it was good father/son time.  I tried to perfect my serve with a slow, curving first serve bounce. He was always patient as I had more cord serves than actual good ones.  On this particular day, after packing up our gear, Dad asked me a question out of the blue.

Was I ok with the move to Smith Center?

I was a little taken back – I had already completed two years of high school at SC.  But he knew the move was a shock to the ordinary.  My 16-year old reply was that the move was the best thing that ever happened to me.  And today, I’m a proud alum of Smith Center High.

But back to that move that shocked the ordinary.

Before Smith Center, Dad had lived his entire life on a farm that his grandfather purchased. It was in a remote location and was not close to anyone or anyplace. My family lived in that same house; a house that my great-grandfather built from quarried limestone.

After I was born, Dad rededicated his life to God and church. He increasingly moved onward to church leadership positions. He had a call to the ministry. But he was full of self-doubt. His disability gave him this doubt. His speech impediment stopped him. But a miracle happened from the pulpit – from the pulpit he could speak with the power of love, or during a funeral with the power to overcome grief, preaching from the heart because he was all in with the passion of love. What a witness he was for miracles.

When I was 14, Dad and our family left the farm behind. I became a PK. Our lives changed. A move that shocked the ordinary.

David posted a moving FB post on May 21 about Dad. Here is a snippet:

The world has lost a great man. He was strong and kind hearted. He helped me build strength and character, and helped shape what I hold to be my personal values that have shaped who I have become as a person.
Values – I could write a lot about the values learned from Dad. I delivered a short eulogy about one of those values at Dad’s graveside service.

After his funeral at the local church, the funeral procession drove several miles out of town to a country cemetery. A cemetery surrounded by nothing but miles of open land in any direction. I’ve never been comfortable being around caskets.  But standing less than two feet from Dad’s casket, I spoke about the value of family and what it meant to Dad.

Dad supported, led, and organized annual family reunions for many years on both sides of my family.  He enjoyed going to family outings and celebrating holidays with family.  And after his retirement from the ministry, he spent 15 years as a caretaker for that country cemetery – a cemetery where his parents were buried, and his brothers, and his sister and her husband, and his grandmother and grandfather, and uncles, and many more.  I talked about the connection of that cemetery and how it will be a part of our lives forever: a connection to Dad and to family.

I miss Dad. I can’t call him on the phone just to talk about life. That’s difficult for anyone who has lost a loved one.

I will end this post from a dream I had. There was a song made popular by Ronnie Milsap in the 70s. The song was played at a lot of weddings because of love. Well, funerals are about love too.

As I envisioned Dad meeting his Lord on that Saturday, these words from that song were rolling in my dream:

What a difference you’ve made in my life
What a difference you’ve made in my life
You’re my sunshine day and night

Oh, what a difference you’ve made – in my life.