Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's Important

Last week my father texted me to say that he probably had the flu and wouldn't be able to get together one night. On Saturday my mother called me to say that it wasn't the flu. Dad had a blood infection. A serious blood infection. He'd finally gone to see the doctor and that he would be starting heavy rounds of antibiotics that day. Even more worrying, my father has an artificial heart valve that was put in almost 25 years ago. If the valve became infected it would mean another heart surgery.

On Sunday my mother called to say that they were admitting my dad to the hospital on Monday morning. They wanted to watch him more closely. He still had high fevers. Thankfully on Monday we found out that his valve was apparently not infected. He'll most likely not need another open heart surgery. Now it's just a matter of blasting him with enough antibiotics to kill the bug. When I saw him on Saturday, before the hospitalization, he looked gray and pale and weak. He was clearly sick, clearly hurting. And I went home with a pretty heavy  heart. But the news on Monday and seeing the return of his appetite and color has made these last couple days a relief.

From the first phone call on Saturday until today, I've been in a bit of a daze. I spent part of Saturday with my dad, I spent most of Monday at the hospital with him, and I'm making it a point to see him every day. The news of his illness was a wake up call. It has reminded me that most of the issues I thought I had, aren't all that important. It reminds me that there are things in life that are important (family, friends, time, interests...) and there are things that are unimportant. I've been slacking at the office but I've been writing up a storm. I've been laying off social media but I've been spending lots of face-time and phone time. I've been telling people I love them. I've been making time. I've been doing the things that make me come alive.

As I watch my dad recover, and his color and personality return to normal, I send my gratitude out into the world. And I'm reminded of what I know is important and what I used to think was important. It's sad that it took almost losing my father to realize this, but I'm happy to have both the lesson and a soon-to-be healthy father. I'd rather not have just the lesson.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Poetry Saturday

Because I'm late for Friday.

I found this poem while looking for a Robert Service poem about daydreaming. I still haven't found the original one, but the moment I read the first stanza of this one, I was in love. This poem hit me right in the gut. It says so many things I want to say, particularly about how my job and my values clash. Sadly I know nothing about John Boyle O'Reilly, except that he lived from 1844 to 1890 and was an big Irish rights activist. I'll have to read more of his work. His tone sounds a lot like Service.

The Cry of the Dreamer
by John Boyle O'Reilly

I am tired of planning and toiling
In the crowded hives of men:
Heart-weary of building and spoiling,
And spoiling and building again.
And I long for the dear old river,
Where I dreamed my youth away;
For a dreamer lives forever,
And a toiler dies in a day.

I am sick of the showy seeming
Of a life that is half a lie;
Of the faces lined with scheming
In the throng that hurries by.
From the sleepless thoughts' endeavour,
I would go where the children play;
For a dreamer lives forever,
And a thinker dies in a day.

I can feel no pride, but pity
For the burdens the rich endure;
There is nothing sweet in the city
But the patient lives of the poor.
Oh, the little hands too skillful,
And the child-mind choked with weeds!
The daughter's heart grown willful,
And the father's heart that bleeds!

No, no! from the street's rude bustle,
From the trophies of mart and stage,
I would fly to the woods' low rustle
And the meadows' kindly page.
Let me dream as of old by the river,
And be loved for the dream alway;
For a dreamer lives forever,
And a toiler dies in a day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The National

A few weeks ago I had mentioned that I was listening to the band The National regularly. I owned a couple of songs by them that were on constant repeat. Since that time, those couple songs have been joined by a lot more and I have become officially obsessed with the band. I have gone back through all of the bands earlier albums (they have 8) to listen to their older material. I have watched hundreds of videos of their songs. I've sought out articles on them. A full 10% of my main playlist is now made up of National songs. Seriously I'm thinking I'll need a twelve-step program soon.

 From the Sea of Love video (read about its origins here)

And this is not typical for me. While I quickly become obsessed with authors and artists, music is generally not something I've become infatuated with. This is the first time in my life that I can point to each member of any band and tell you their names. Even with really ultra famous bands I can't do it. But I can list each member of The National and what instrument/role they play. Of course it helps that they are a band of brothers. Aaron and Bryce Dessner are the twins who both play guitar. Normally they are up front and center with the lead singer. Scott Devendorf plays bass and often stands near to his brother Bryan Devendorf who plays drums. The only band member to not have a brother in the band is Matt Berninger, the baritone voiced lead singer.

Aaron, Scott, Matt, Bryan, and Bryce

The band members all grew up in Cinncinati but didn't really start playing music together seriously until they all moved to Brooklyn for various jobs. Most of their early work is about working in white collar jobs and hating it. It wasn't until after their breakout album Boxer that they were able to think about quitting and going into music full time. Aaron and Bryce are heavily involved in the music scene outside of the band and have even curated music festivals. Bryce, who is a classical guitarist as well and who I have a bit of crush on, has worked as a composer creating his own orchestral and classical pieces.

Some people have called the bands songs melancholy or morose but I actually find them very uplifting. There is a catharsis in hearing them that brings me back to songs again and again. Most of the lyrics are about tough times, heartbreaks, and sadness, but I often find myself happy while singing along. Poor Jeff has heard nothing but snatches of National lyrics from me in months. Luckily he's come to enjoy their music too, although he hasn't been bit with the same obsession. But the songs just pull me in. They are catchy songs that grow on me each time I hear them.

I have tickets to see them live for the first time in October in Kansas City. It's the only thing I want for my birthday. Having seen videos of their live performances, I can't wait to see them in person. Until then I'll see if there are any songs that I've managed to miss from their older albums and try not to drive Jeff too crazy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Not in Nottingham

Perhaps it says something about me that one my favorite songs from any Disney movie is the rather downbeat, almost depressing, Not in Nottingham from Robin Hood. When I was growing up we watched Robin Hood a lot. It was one of my favorite movies and Robin Hood, that fox, was one of my first crushes. And Roger Miller's sad, hauntingly beautiful version of Not in Nottingham was the one song I would sing from the movie. 

There are certain songs that just hit you the right way and stick with you through life. Almost thirty years after hearing that song for the first time, I'm still looking for a copy I can call my own. Disney has only once, to my knowledge, released the song in a physical form. It was part of the record soundtrack. Sadly, that record is one of the few that I can't find in my parent's house. We have the cover, but not the record. It's not on iTunes or Spotify or Pandora or LastFM. I'm not surprised that Disney would prefer to focus on the more upbeat songs from its movies but there is just something wonderful about that song. 

I'm clearly not the only one who loves the song. When I go looking for it, I find all sorts of covers of the song. Los Lobos did a version. Benjamin Baker did a version. I just found a version by Mumford and Sons. If you google Not in Nottingham, you'll find hundreds of covers with a couple versions of the original mixed in. But nothing that I can put on my iPod to hum along to later. So I'll keep looking. And hopefully find that old record. I'll wear out the needle listening to that song but it will be worth it. "Every town, has its ups and downs..." 

For those of you who've never seen Robin Hood or heard the song, check out the original here. And the Mumford and Sons version isn't too bad. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I went to the Henry Doorly Zoo on Sunday and I think I took three pictures of animals. And two of those were of the same animal. I was at one of the best zoos in the country and didn't bother to take animal pictures. I'll tell you it's because I had a more enjoyable subject. My nephew.

Jeff's brother Greg and his wife Jen came up to visit us this past weekend and brought their adorable 2 year old son Callen. I've mentioned my nephew before in this post. I took a couple dozen pictures of Callen and very few others. He's a cute kid. He's a good kid. And I enjoyed getting the chance to play aunt all weekend.

We went to the beach, we played on playground equipment, we went shopping, and then we drove to Omaha to go to the zoo. In between I played with my rubber duck collection, I got attacked by plastic dinosaurs, I read book, and I had tea parties. I spent the weekend making my nephew giggle, which in term made me very, very happy. Oh and I also spent time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Thanks guys for coming up! It was wonderful.

And if you don't think the kid has a contagious smile, just watch this video.