Hats Off! (aka: Graduation Day)

My 17yo son has graduated from high school.

Hooray!

My Kid on Graduation Day

The end of 13 years of homework struggles, 13 years of report card anxiety, 13 years of parent-teacher conferences and dropoff/pickup arrangements. The end! Woohooo! *Throws hat in the air*

Of course, the end of one era often signals the beginning of another era. For my son, this marks the beginning of his years as a young adult, and the start of college. Which of course, means a few more years of homework struggles and report-card anxiety (for him). It also means, hopefully, his entry into the workforce as a scrub, like the rest of us had to do at some point in our youth. Yes, kid, I want fries with that. Welcome to the Real World.

As my son and his class marched along to Pomp and Circumstances in their flowing green robes and tasseled hats, I was filled with pride, relief, and excitement about my son’s next phase of life and what it may bring. I was also filled with thoughts about the very idea of graduation. According to Merriam Webster, one definition of “graduate” is: to pass from one stage of experience, proficiency, or prestige to a usually higher one. We all graduate numerous times throughout our lives. We graduate from high school and begin college. We graduate from childhood to become young adults. We graduate from university to begin our careers. From single-hood to married life. From being green, inexperienced neophytes to experts in our field.

Graduation ceremony

Our graduations, as we ascend the staircase of life, don’t always come with flowing robes and tasseled hats. We don’t always celebrate each rite-of-passage with parties and hoopla. But maybe we should. Maybe, each time we accomplish an important, long-term goal or achievement, we should celebrate just like graduates on the day of their high school or college graduation. You did it! You passed! Your hard work and dedication has paid off, and now you have the reward of entering a new phase in your life. Drink up friends. Let’s cut the cake and throw our hats in the air, and celebrate our life’s successes together.

Graduation throw hat in the air

Playlist for Graduates of All Kinds

Unwritten– Natasha Bedingfield

Graduation (Friends Forever) — Vitamin C

It’s Time — Imagine Dragons

Ain’t it Fun? — Hayley Williams

School’s Out — Alice Cooper

It’s Good to Be Alive — Andy Grammer

The Climb — Miley Cyrus

On Top of the World — Imagine Dragons

I Hope You Dance — Lee Ann Womack

Don’t You Forget About Me — Simple Minds

Closing Time — Semisonic

It’s My Life — Bon Jovi

100 Years — Five for Fighting

World — Five for Fighting

Titanium — David Guetta (ft. Sia)

Best Day of My Life — American Authors

Celebration — Kool & the Gang

Hall of Fame — The Script

 

 

Last week, my 17yo son graduated from high school.

Hooray!

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Themey Awards (aka: Theme Song Karaoke)

Cameras are flashing. Crowds are cheering. The celebrities have finished parading down the red carpet. Are you ready? It’s time for the Themey Awards!

Yes, that’s a thing. Okay, not a legit thing, exactly. But it should be. With all the buzz over the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys (and oh yeah, Oscars), I just thought I’d use the momentum to throw in my plug for a new award shoe. One that celebrates some of the most entertaining, memorable music in pop culture.

Theme songs.

I have a huge thing for television show theme songs. Half the time, I never even watch the show. But you’d better believe that when the theme song begins, I am right there in front of the TV, singing along. Theme songs are like the Superbowl™ commercials of the TV world, and they deserve to be awarded. So here we go:

The Theme Song Karaoke Award – Given to the opening theme song that inspires the most people to grab their hairbrush microphones and sing along.

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have THE FACTS OF LIFE! THE FACTS OF LIFE!”

Close contender: “Super-powered mind! But can it go canine as it rescues the day from sheer destruction? This is the theme song of Jimmy Neutron!”

jimmy-neutron-boy-genius

Okay, quiet down, everyone. No more singing. Time to move on to category 2.

The Bruised Arm Award – Given to the theme song that results in the most bruised arms, because our co-watchers can’t help but punch us during that one part of the song.

This category resulted in a two-way tie between the theme song from Friends (“So no one told you life was gonna be this way – PUNCHPUNCHPUNCHPUNCH!!!”) and the theme song to Beverly Hills, 90210 (Original cast).

The Top-of-Your-Lungs Award – For the theme song you just can’t sing – you have to belt out at the top of your lungs. And the winner is:

“Are ya ready kids? AYE AYE, CAPTAIN! I can’t heeeaaar you! AYE AYE, CAPTAIN!”

The Gotta-Play-Airdrums Award – Because there isn’t a single person alive who can hear this theme song without jamming along on airdrums, and possibly air guitar, too.

 

The Unexpected Blast-From-the-Past Award goes to a theme song that lots of you either don’t remember or have happily forgotten:

“Believe it or not, I’m walking on air. I never thought I could feel so free-ee-ee!”

(Close contenders included theme songs for The Great Space Coaster, The Patty Duke Show, and Fame).

And finally, we have the OMG, PLEASE GET THAT STUPID EARWORM FROM HELL OUT OF MY HEAD award, bestowed upon the worst of the worst addictive theme songs. First, the runners-up:

  1. “Grab your backpack, let’s go! Jump in! Vamonos! You can lead the wa-ay! Hey hey!”
  2. .”We’re Kids Incorporated! K! I! D! S! Yeah! Kids Incorporated…”
  3. .”I’m just a kid who’s four! Each day I grow some more! I love exploring, I’m Caillou…”

And the winner, by unanimous vote (of one) is:

 

You’re welcome. No, sorry. I really can’t help to remove that earworm. Maybe it only goes away if you find and rescue that poor animal in twouble somewhere.

Anyway, what was your favorite part of the First (and probably last) Annual Themey Awards? I liked that part, too. ¡Adios!

 

 

 

 

Game Time (The iPod Shuffle Game)

And now, for something completely different…

Then again, not so different. Seeing as my brain is worn out after a day of work, and Mom stuff, and studying programming (for fun, of course), and seeing as I was already on the topic of never growing up, I thought it may be time for a game. I know, right? Hooray, a game! I love games!

Okay, get your music player out, and prepare to hit that shuffle button. You heard right – it’s once again time for every music lover’s favorite time-waster:

The iPod Shuffle Game

music-1920-1080-wallpaper

In case you don’t already know the rules, here they are:

  1. Put your music player on shuffle.
  2. For each question, press the Next button to get your answer.
  3. You must write down (or say) the name of the song, no matter how silly it is. (Cheating optional)

Ready? Here goes…

  1. How do you feel today?

Foxey Lady – Jimi Hendrix

[Oh my! Okay, kind of accurate, even. 😉 ]

 

  1. What do other people think of you?

This Love – Maroon 5

[Fire in my eyes? Chaos controlling their minds?]

 

  1. How do you describe yourself?

Oops!…I Did it Again – Britney Spears

[*Shocked face* What!? Me?! But..but…I AM that innocent!]

 

  1. What is your life’s purpose?

True Colors – Cyndi Lauper

[This actually made sense once I thought about it]

 

  1. What crosses your mind often?

Patience – Guns n’ Roses

[So true! Be patient me, be patient…]

 

  1. What do you think of the person you love/luv?

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

[Haha! Not exactly, but this was very, very funny!]

 

  1. What is your life motto?

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2

[Some days, yes.]

 

  1. What song will they play at your funeral?

You Be Illin’ – Run DMC

[Lol! Quite unexpected.]

 

  1. What do you dream about?

Get Lucky – Pharrell Williams

[Mmmaybe… 😉 ]

 

  1. What gives you nightmares?

Baby Beluga – Raffi

[AAACCK! A whale! Wait -why on earth is Raffi is still in my iTunes collection?]

 

  1. What was the last lie you told?

I See Fire – Jasmine Thompson

[But there really was a fire, I swear!]

 

  1. What embarrasses you?

La Isla Bonita – Madonna

[Huh?]

 

  1. How do you feel about your coworkers/friends?

I’ll Be There for You – Bon Jovi

[Awww!]

 

  1. What is your biggest secret?

Superman (It’s Not Easy) – Five for Fighting

[Oh great, now you all know my secret]

 

  1. What gets your heart pounding?

Bonito – Jarabe de Palo

[Dancing to this song gets my heart pounding! ¡Bonito! Todo me parece bonito…]

 

Game over – Thanks for playing!

A Very Musical Monday (or Whenever)

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

sound-of-music-tour So physically, I am seated at a desk, but mentally, I am running through meadows of wildflowers somewhere in the Bavarian Alps with the Von Trapp family. Singing, of course. Loudly. Want to join me? Doe, a deer, a female deer…

I know, I know, not everyone is crazy about musicals. In fact, I have met quite a few people who would rather hop on the express train to Hell than be forced to watch a musical. As for me, I think that real life would be so much better as a Rodgers and Hammerstein production. Can you imagine? One dreary Monday morning, everyone is seated in cubicles, typing away at their computers. Then suddenly, everyone is waltzing through the office, tap-dancing on top of desks, voices raised in song about how much they hate Monday mornings. For five blockbuster minutes, there is a perfectly-coordinated whirlwind of song and dance and color. And then – work resumes as though nothing happened at all.

musical production Okay fine. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen, unless you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the midst of an Improv Everywhere flash mob. The rest of us are resigned to watching musicals on TV, or, if we can afford it, seeing them live. A couple of days ago, my daughter and I had the privilege of attending a Sound of Music sing-a-long at a large, gorgeous old theatre filled with other enthusiasts. Although I had already watched the musical countless times before, it was an entirely new experience watching it with a crowd – waving props in the air, booing and hissing at the villains, cheering for Maria and the Von Trapp family, and, of course, singing along to the familiar tunes. It was quite a treat for my daughter, too, as she had never seen the entire show before (and is now a musical-loving convert).

I hope that this musical sing-a-long thing will become a new trend. I would so love to join together with hundreds of people to sing along to other great musicals, like Into the Woods, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Grease, and Mary Poppins. Maybe even Les Miserables, although I must confess that I would prefer to see a live production of Les Mis, which is among my greatest goals in life.

Les MiserablesIn the meantime, I think that I will feed my passion for musicals by going on a musical binge. After all, there are still quite a few great musicals out there that I’ve never seen (shocking, I know). Maybe I will work my way through the list of AFI’s 25 Greatest Movie Musicals of All Time. That looks like a very good place to start.

Doctor_Horrible Singalong blog

Yes, I even enjoyed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Immensely.

There’s a Song for That (aka: Musical Motivation)

musical discipline Looking for an effective way to motivate your older kids and teens to clean up the house? It’s simple – just sing a song. I use this strategy all the time with my kids, and it goes something like this:

Me: Didn’t I ask you guys to wash the dishes and take out the garbage? Drop what you’re doing and get the work done.

Kids: Aw, but Mom, I need to finish this level!

Me: Video games can wait. Clean-up comes first.

Kids: *Ignore*

Me: You have five seconds before I start singing the Barney clean-up song.

Kids: Noooo! Anything but that! *Scramble to get the chores done.*

Okay fine, fine. It doesn’t work every time. In fact, thanks to the invention of super-expensive, high-quality, noise-canceling headphones, my kids are now immune to my Mary Poppins treatment. But when their ears are free, my voice allows me to become the all-powerful Enforcer. teens-headphones-ignore

If there’s one thing I learned from my years of teaching young children, it is that music can be a very powerful motivator. There is a song out there for every mood, need, or occasion in life. Need a boost to get into an energetic workout? Crank up the volume on your techno/electronica playlist. Need to relax and unwind at the end of a stressful day? Try some mellow smooth jazz or new-age tunes. Need to motivate your kids to clean up the house, improve their manners, or be kind to one another? Nothing motivates like singing the lyrics of Laurie Berkner, Raffi, or Disney showtunes. mary-poppins singing

Seriously. Want to see a sleepyhead teenage boy climb out of bed at record speed? Just belt out Let it Go at the top of your lungs. Works. Every. Time.

Now if only I could find some lyrics to motivate myself to stop procrastinating on my to-do list…

Wassail, Wassail (aka: Christmas Music Crazy)

Charlie Brown friends carolingSo here’s the thing – as cynical as I can be about Christmas, over-commercialization of holidays, etc., there is one thing that I absolutely adore about this time of year. Okay, maybe two or three. But still, the thing that gets me excited each December is something that cannot be wrapped in shiny paper and placed under the tree. (Okay wait…technically that is not true, since it can come in the form of iTunes gift cards, new earbuds, and mP3 players).

What I am trying to say – or perhaps I should sing it – is music. Music in and of itself is a marvelous thing. But there is something about Christmas music that adds an element of magic to the entire holiday season. Thanks to iTunes and Pandora, I now have around a dozen different holiday playlists, just ready to blast out as a festive soundtrack for whatever I am doing. Studying? I’ll throw on some Christmas Smooth Jazz, or Peaceful Solstice tunes. Washing dishes? Time to pump up the rhythm with contemporary radio Xmas hits. Wrapping gifts? Ahh, the perfect time for Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and the gang. And we can’t leave out my extensive collection of children’s holiday tunes.

(Real Conversation in My House):

Kids: But Mom, we’re too old for Raffi and Sesame Street Christmas songs!

Me: Please. No one is ever too old for Raffi or the Sesame Street cast. (Turns up the volume and sings Must Be Santa at top of lungs).

My only complaint about Christmas music is the lack of originality lately. After hearing the twentieth version of RockinAround the Christmas Tree within one hour, I am somewhat inclined to turn off the radio. In fact, I suppose I should add that to my own personal Grown-Up Christmas List: a few thoughtful and well-written new holiday tunes to add to the collection. Oh, plus live Christmas carolers wassailing in front of my house, just like in books and movies.   Disney Merry Christmas album

My kids enjoy Christmas songs, too. But sadly, none of them has inherited my obsession fierce passion for holiday music. They listen and sometimes sing along, sure. But when I was a kid, I used to lug around my portable plastic record player from room to room, so that I could pop on one of my many kids’ Christmas albums on the fly. (Yes, I still have a couple). My favorite childhood Christmas song was by the Disneyland Chorus, called, I Wish it Could Be Christmas All Year Long. It gave me such a warm, fluttery feeling in the cockles of my heart, that I literally used to sing it all year long. I am not even kidding.

Today, it is a little harder to pick a favorite Christmas song. There are so many wonderful songs, performed by a myriad of very talented artists. But there are a few special ones, which I feel compelled to listen to each December, in the same way that many of us are compelled to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or A Christmas Story each year (You know you do).

Christmas-Songs

MY TOP 10 CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST

  1. The Gift – Aeslin Debison
  1. Grown-Up Christmas List – Amy Grant
  1. Breath of Heaven – Amy Grant
  1. Happy Holidays – Andy Williams
  1. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
  1. Every single Bing Crosby Christmas song
  1. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
  1. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey
  1. Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby and David Bowie
  1. Let There Be Peace on Earth – Vince Gill
  1. Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  1. Carol of the Bells – David Foster

(Okay fine. Top Twelve).

Through the Reflection (aka: The Art of Questioning Art)

What is art? Is it famous paintings encased in glass at museums? Is it the classical music from two hundred years ago? Does modern pop music also count as art? Is it dance? Is it literature, scenery, or architecture? Is art, like Plato said, merely an imitation of an imitation; simply a deceptive illusion of life? Is it enough to simply say that we like art, or should art mean something more? How do we know the difference between what is art and what is entertainment?

The Goddess Minerva surrounded by the 9 Muses, who inspired each branch of the Arts

The Goddess Minerva surrounded by the 9 Muses, who inspired each branch of the Arts

 

I love the arts. And it is because of that passion for the arts that I ask these questions. Years ago, when I was a drama student in high school, my instructor posed the above question:  How do we know the difference between what is art and what is entertainment? The short answer is this: Entertainment simply serves to treat the senses, and everyone will experience it the same way. Art, however, is far deeper. Rarely will two people see it in the exact same way.

I prefer to put it like this: Entertainment tells us, this is the way life is. Art makes us ask the question, is this the way life is?

In other words: Buffy the Vampire Slayer = Entertainment. Girl sees vampire. Vampires are evil. Girl stakes vampires in the heart and kills them. Good wins. Yay for everyone!

However, Shaun of the Dead = Art. Because, although Shaun and his friends are out there killing the obviously evil brain-hungry zombies, we are left to wonder if the real “Zombie Apocalypse” is already happening all around us, only those zombies are the apathetic, complacent people we already know.  The film also poses the question, “When our loved ones transform into zombies, do we destroy them in order to save ourselves, or do we stay and help them?” (Surprisingly deep thinking from an otherwise silly and ridiculous movie).

Scene from Shaun of the Dead (2004). Is it art or entertainment? Are those zombies or concert fans? Or are the two one and the same?

Scene from Shaun of the Dead (2004). Is it art or entertainment? Are those zombies or concert fans? Or are the two one and the same?

There are many more ways to define the arts and why they matter to people. They are a reflection of the human spirit. They are an expression of that which we experience in the natural world. They are a tool for communicating the thoughts, ideas, and emotions which we cannot express in another way. But I think the most important thing is that whether it is through a painted canvas, an artfully crafted sculpture, a melody, poetic lyrics, an inspiring story, or dance, art has a way of touching and rousing the spirit like nothing else can. Perhaps there is a lot of truth in Plato’s definition of art as mere imitation of the real world. But often it is through those reflections of real life that we best see ourselves.

The Kiss (Lovers), 1908-1909 Gustav Klimt

The Kiss (Lovers), 1908-1909 Gustav Klimt

Why I Am An Artist

 

Can you see in the way I move

the flow of the river

flashing green ripples

of glittering suns?

The smooth curves of the earth

and violent, rocky  passion

of the sea?

Do you feel the way it moves inside of me?

Can you hear in the colors I paint

the harmonic battle

the clash and attack of drums that

startle melody awake?

The sweetness of flutes

rising to meet the dawn

like the song of the first bird of spring?

Do you hear it sing?

 

¿Puedes ver en la forma en que me muevo
el flujo del rio
las ondas verdes y brillantes
de soles relucientes?
¿Las curvas suaves de la tierra
y la pasión violenta y rocosa
del mar?
¿Sientes como se mueve en mi interior?
¿Puedes oir en los colores que pinto
la batalla armónica
el choque y ataque de la batería que
le despierta  sorprendida a la melodia?
¿La dulzura de las flautas
Que se levantan para encontrarse con el amanecer
Como la canción del primer pájaro de la primavera?
¿Lo oyes cantar?