KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 9

No one likes shady beaches.  –author unknown

Summertime…it’s all fun and games…until it isn’t.  No one dreams of having a bad summer and yet they still exist.  But if summer isn’t all sunshine, thank heaven for quirky 80s songs that make the bad days bearable!  Here’s where “Cruel Summer” by English pop group, Bananarama, comes in.  Added to my summer music countdown for it’s easy chorus and spunky sound, it just screams summer…and then some.

The song actually debuted in 1983, but became a hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1984 thanks to the movie, “The Karate Kid.”  The lyrics tell the story of one stuck in a miserable, hot city AFTER a bad breakup.  Ouch!   Unlucky in love, and unsure what to do next, the singer is mired in a hopeless situation.  Shot on location in New York City during a record heat wave, the group didn’t have to do much acting.  Unaccustomed to oppressive city temps, the girls share that they simply wanted to shoot the video in NYC because they hadn’t been there before and may have bitten off more than they could chew.  Group member, Siobhan Fahey, details the misadventures of the video shoot in her book,  “I Want My MTV.”

I was nine years old when this song was all the rage.  I remember the ratty hair, big belts and overalls and did my best to emulate the look!  And of course, I remember singing this song…over and over (and over.)  Today, I sing this song in an attempt to bring back the 80s…AND to torture my kids, of course 🙂

Up Next:  SONG 10…”it wasn’t a rock….”

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KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 8

Life is better in flip flops.  –author unknown

Probably not the first song that comes to mind when one puts together a summer playlist, “Island in the Sun” by Weezer made the list simply for its juxtaposition of bliss and melancholy.  When I hear this song I think of summer longing…a desire to escape not necessarily because you’re in a bad place, but simply because.  It’s a love song of sorts…two people who get away for what seems like a never-ending vacation where there are no worries, no cares and no responsibilities.  Sounds like a summer destination to me!

Making the song extra catchy is its straight-faced “hip, hip” background vocals and the almost monotone lyrics.  Not Weezer’s most famous song, still it did manage to earn a place on several music charts overseas.  Also interesting, the band made two (very different) videos for this tune in 2001.  The first depicted a Mexican wedding where the traditional festivities carried on around the band as if they didn’t exist.  The second video shows the band interacting with wild animals at a refuge (actually somewhere in California although they do a good job making it look like Africa.)  The latter, receiving the most air time on MTV.  Personally, I love the wedding–those deadpan faces among the happy-go-lucky bride and groom get me every time!

This mellow, California vibe is perfect for a lazy, daydreaming sort of summer day.  The kind of day where if you’re lucky enough to own a hammock you can “wish” yourself away to your own personal island in the sun.

Up Next:  SONG 9…”it’s a cruel, cruel summer….”

 

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 7

Summer is a state of mind.  –author unknown

College radio.  It’s not for the faint of heart!  Ok, I’m not trying to be dramatic but the eclectic nature of college radio makes it barely palatable for a large chunk of the “listening” population.  That being said, I still find myself tuning in occasionally for the sheer randomness that it offers.  I “worked” at my college radio station…sure it was in the news department, but the news is flanked by programming and a lot of that programming is music after all.  This opened the door to a wide variety of music genres and styles and for whatever reason (at least for me) it opened the door to a gem of a group called Sly and the Family Stone.

By the time I “discovered” them, a greatest hits CD existed…and boy did I love it!  Optimistic, upbeat, socially progressive, soulful, it quickly became one of my favorites and “Hot Fun in the Summertime” stood out above the rest.  I’m not sure what I like better…the way the song builds, the creative use of strings or the horns (probably the horns.)  The song just oozes good times.  I found it interesting to learn that this tune actually came out in August of 1969…at the end of summer.  Sly and the Family Stone performed it as part of their set at Woodstock helping to propel them to stardom and push the song to the No. 2 spot on Billboard Hot 100.  The song is also listed on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 of all time and is considered by many to be a “summer anthem.”

Jamming out to this song reminds me of summertime in good, ol’ Lawrence, Kansas…cruising up the hill in my little red car blasting the CD (I’m sure my music choice turned a few heads!)  I was tickled to learn years later that the group hailed from the San Francisco area…my absolute favorite city for summertime fun!  I still enjoy their greatest hits collection today and if you listen closely you just might see me blasting their music again…this time in my red swagger wagon!  Not as cool, but just as fun.

Up next:  SONG 8…”hip, hip.  Hip, hip.”

June Bugs in May (A Horror Story)

Insects are my secret fear. That’s what terrifies me more than anything – insects.  —Michael O’Donoghue

This will probably only make sense to those who know me best: I HATE June bugs!  I don’t remember when my phobia began, but I’m pretty sure that it’s hereditary since I have early childhood memories of my mom, my aunts, my cousins and my sister shrieking in terror when one would come around on a warm spring/summer night.  By the time I was in junior high, the phobia was in full force…as my good friend, Joy, and I would part ways at the street light halfway between our houses.  Under this light it would seem that June bugs gathered by the thousands…just looking for young girls with long hair to attack.  Of course, we played it cool…walking to the street light, quickly saying our goodbyes and running like maniacs back to our houses screaming all the way!  I think it’s their large bodies, hard shells, sticky limbs, drunken flight patterns and the sheer noisiness of the little beasts that send me into a tizzy.  YUCK!

June bug memeTurns out that up until now, my fear of June bugs was strictly theoretical.  You see all that time I spent dodging them and screaming about them and running from them was merely child’s play.  I had never actually had one land on me.  I’ve never had to pull one from my hair.  Mostly, when I saw one I ran the other direction and if I came across one on the ground well, I stepped on it and tried not to throw up (it’s that body crushing sound that makes me want to hurl.)  This system was my response to these scary critters and while it may not sound like a great plan, it had always worked…that is up until last night….

While sitting around a warm campfire, preparing s’mores on an especially beautiful night I met my fear head on (so to speak, ) but let me back up just a bit–I should probably set this up a little.  My kiddos were having friends over and with all the comings and goings I left the outdoor lights on.  I wanted parents and kids arriving at our house to have a little light…especially since the bulb in the lamp-post that lights the sidewalk had burned out.  This meant the flood light that illuminates the patio and basketball goal was on…for HOURS!  It was during this time that a swarm of June bugs made their way to our house.  There were so many that my son and his friend took to trying to exterminate the problem by clubbing them with sticks (probably a boy thing) and stepping on them.  This was all well and good (or so I thought) because 1.  it gave them something to do while they were waiting for every one to arrive and 2. they were killing the June bugs!  By the time we were ready to get started I foolishly believed that the June bugs were no longer and issue and that any remaining little beasts would simply move on to someone else’s yard once we turned out the lights.  But, NO.

The only good June bug--a dead one!

The only good June bug–a dead one!

Throughout the campfire we could HEAR the June bugs lurking.  Much of the noise came from June bugs running into the garage wall where the light had once been.  There was even a loud popping noise when the less brilliant bugs sizzled up in the fire–much to the amusement of the kids.  And finally there was the crackling noise of the June bugs beneath MY feet as I moved about helping the kiddos make their s’mores.  Each crunchy moment made me want to lose my dinner and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to stomach eating a s’more myself.  After about 20 minutes my thoughts drifted away from these horrible bugs and on to the silly ghosts stories that were being told.  But wouldn’t you know it…just when I finally got past the situation enough to put together my own ooey gooey, delicious s’more I felt something.  No it wasn’t in my hair or on my arm…no the sinister little beast was crawling up my pant leg–ON THE INSIDE!

So there I was with my marshmallow stick in one hand and my fixin’s in the other when I could feel something moving up my leg (darn those wide leg, boot cut jeans.)  Okay, I thought, be calm…we have company.  We don’t want to panic the children.  I’ll just crush it up against my leg and then it will fall out, right?  (As I type this I can’t believe those words crossed my mind!)  So I quickly transferred everything to one hand and smacked my knee with the other.  I heard and felt the crunch.  I shook out my pant leg, but nothing fell out.  Surely, I had killed the thing!  I mean, I hit it pretty hard.  I shook my pant leg even more, stepping out of my sandal and using the moonlight to search out the area.  NOTHING.  Alright, maybe it fell out and I just didn’t see it.  Yeah, that sounds good.  I’ll go with that.  Thinking that the issue had resolved itself, I went back to the task at hand and set out to assemble my s’more.  As soon as I bit into that little square of goodness that same feeling returned to my leg.  This time I couldn’t help but react.  I jumped, squirmed and announced, “There’s a bug in my pants!”  You can imagine the giggles and fits of laughter.  Great.  So again I smacked my knee as hard as I could and this time I knew without a doubt that I had succeeded in killing that thing.  You can’t deny BUG JUICE! (Excuse me now while I once again try NOT to throw up!)

What I realized last night is that somewhere along the way, I must have grown up.  While I still wholeheartedly claim AND proclaim my June bug phobia–somehow I got through that moment.  In the past a trauma like this would have completely ruined my night, but not this time.  Instead, I shook out my pant leg (again) and what was left of the bug fell out (of course, I immediately stepped on it for good measure.) Then I moved past it.  We finished up our s’mores and Steve and I enjoyed chatting by the fire until nothing was left but smoldering embers.  It was so peaceful.  Obviously, I didn’t want to discover another bug up my leg, but I wasn’t afraid to let my feet rest on the same slab of concrete where the incident occurred.  Call me crazy, but this is BIG GIRL stuff!  I felt so good and proud of myself (especially after that squishy spot dried on my pant leg.)  Sometimes it truly is the little victories…”sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”…and sometimes you just get over it and move on as dignified as possible…BUG JUICE and all!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

 

Utilizing the Walk-Up Song (A Baseball Tactic for Real Life)

Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.  -Ernie Harwell

kiddos at ball game

Baseball fans for life 🙂

When you park your back-end on a bleacher for a good chunk of the summer, your mind occasionally wanders.  I think it’s a by-product of the summer air, sunshine and warm nights, and the endless possibilities stretched out before you as a favorite player/team take the field.  This magical time at the ball diamond lends itself to reflection and contemplation.  And as a result, I’ve come to appreciate the game on an entirely new level this season.

If you’ve played the sport (or you know someone who has,) you’ve heard the adage “baseball is 90% mental, the other half physical.”  While I’m not sure exactly how the math adds up, I do think there’s a lot to be said for the mental game.  Everything from practice and coaching to adequate sleep time and game day meals, contributes to and sets the tone for a player’s performance during a game.  From little league to MLB, players have their own unique rituals–special socks, flavored sunflower seeds, eye black design and even music…e.g., “the walk up song.”  Sure team’s have been playing tunes in the locker room for years.  Music selections that inspire and pump up the crowd are blared from the speakers at numerous sporting venues.  We’ve all seen images of ball players from every sport getting off the team bus with headphones/ear buds playing their favorite jams.  This attempt to block out the world, focus on the task at hand, energize the athlete and ultimately get him into the zone, have been going on for decades.  For a non-athlete like myself, the process is fascinating!  And thus, the baseball walk-up song has been at the forefront of my mind this summer…so much so that I’ve been experimenting with the concept on my children (how’s that for parenting?)

Before you starting thinking that I must have a lot of time on my hands (or that I’m an insane baseball mom,) let me explain.  I’ve always thought of sports as a metaphor for life:  work hard, practice and learn the basics, prepare, be a sponge, respect the coach, LISTEN, try your best, believe in yourself, be a team player, never blame the officials, realize that there will be both good AND bad days (and the bad days don’t define you), stay coachable and finally HAVE FUN!  Baseball teaches these concepts, but there’s one more notion that I had somewhat overlooked (until now,) and that’s attitude– you know, confidence and the mental game. When our children are young, I think we focus on fundamentals and rightly so (there’s only so much teaching that can be absorbed at that age.)  As they grow up and develop we can add the nuances, the fine distinctions that play a big role in success and in the long run, enjoyment and satisfaction with one’s efforts.  Accomplishing a goal in any area of life hinges on these details.  And if the details include being in the right frame of mind (and not relying on luck, superstitions or circumstances) then the baseball walk up song makes a lot of sense.

Players will tell you that a certain degree of thoughtfulness goes into their walk up song choice.  The selection is used to invoke baseball nostalgia, entertain fans, instill confidence, set a tone for success and maybe even intimidate the opponent.  Above all, it gives the player a moment to focus, be still, assess the situation, breathe and maybe even smile.  The value of the strategy is obvious.  So, why leave this mental game method strictly to secular areas like sports?  Imagine if we purposefully approached our daily lives in this manner?

For years, I have used scripture and music as a source of peace, to call my spirit into focus, and essentially to put myself in a good mood.  When walking into a job interview, the doctor’s office, approaching a loved one with a difficult situation, in parenting, ministry, and countless other situations… this practice has proven helpful in preparing myself for whatever lies ahead–both good and bad.  And I know that it works!  Psychologists often refer to this approach as “visualization,” a mental technique geared to create success and/or positive outcomes.  While all of this sounds pretty heavy, I think there’s a place for it in both serious and less weighty scenarios…and you may already be using this strategy without even realizing it.  Here’s how it works:  You’re all set for a night out on the town with your friends–you know the right music will set the tone.  Family road trip?  You create a playlist that incorporates a little something for everyone in the car.  Special date night or anniversary…a little Sinatra never hurt anyone!  You get the picture 🙂

So here’s where it comes full circle….  My baseball musing went from the bleachers to my favorite players–my kiddos.  These competitive and determined little league players often put a lot of pressure on themselves.  As a parent, we want our children to have SUCCESS as well as FUN and having a good attitude plays a key role in that.  It wasn’t long before our pregame routine included a couple of walk-up songs.  Sean has two or three songs that he looks forward to hearing as we cruise over to the ball park.  Casey enjoys listening to her own personalized playlist before games, but also before practice as well.  Look, I’m not saying this tactic is the missing link between Losertown and Winnerville…but it sure has led to high-spirits, less pressure, and a lot more smiles!  Ultimately, I hope it’s a game plan that the children will carry with them as the grow up, not just where sports are concerned, but for life.  Setting the tone truly can make a difference!

We have a choice in how we approach, prepare and deal with every situation that comes our way…and the mental game has a lot to do with just how successful we will handle both the highs and the lows.  And personally, I welcome any positive strategy that sets us up to “win.”  I’ve even claimed my own walk-up song, a little ditty that rolls through my head as I’m pouring coffee in the morning.  Because come on…we could all use that extra something (especially at 6am!)

 

May Daze? (5 Suggestions for Summertime Sanity)

A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp.  —Raymond Duncan

In case you were wondering, I just might have an inside track on why this Mother’s Day thing lands in May.  This made-up homage to matriarchs across the country is every Mom’s safety net for surviving this crazy month!  End of school activities, assignments and field trips, music programs, award ceremonies, graduations, and even sport practices and games…managing each of these calendar fillers is no small task.  And, sorry fellas, many times this falls on a Mother’s to do list.  So it makes sense that Moms everywhere get this ONE day…filled with cards and sentiment, meals prepared in our honor, flowers and gifts.  We are conveniently recognized and fussed over just before the ax drops–that’s right…I’m talking about SUMMER break!

Back in the EASY days of summer.  May 2009

Back in the EASY days of summer…when a “doggie” sprinkler could make them happy. (May 2009)

Don’t get me wrong…school’s out!  Thank goodness.  I mean, I know the kids are happy…and I’m pretty excited, too.  No longer will I be a slave to the alarm clock.  I’m done packing lunches for the time being (the occasional picnic aside.)  I don’t have to arrange appointments, pick-ups, drop-offs, meetings, haircuts, etc… according to the school calendar.  We can linger over lunch and enjoy late dinners.  Yes, it’s summer and that’s a good thing…at least it is on most days.  Because in reality, summer is a lot of work .  Hear me out…I love the idea of having the kids home with me.  It’s our chance to hang out together, talk and reconnect, try new things and visit favorite places.  But we’re less than a week in and I’m already starting to notice a few things:

First, I might be in control of this ship but my crew has pretty loud opinions about where I’m leading.

Second, we don’t necessary have the same idea of fun anymore.  It wasn’t long ago when the local library provided a lot of our summer entertainment.  I have one child (who shall remain nameless) who is balking at the notion that reading is fun.  It goes something like this, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH READING I HAVE TO DO AT SCHOOL?”  Followed by a look of exasperation and disbelief 😦

Third, hanging out in the backyard with bubbles and sidewalk chalk doesn’t cut it.  Since when?  I’m an adult and I STILL love bubbles and sidewalk chalk!  But no, apparently this isn’t cool anymore.  I’m learning that the only permissible backyard fun includes water balloons and half the neighborhood.

Fourth, boys and girls.  I’m still trying to figure this one out.  Sometimes it’s acceptable for boys and girls to hang out together.  Other times suggesting such an idea will garner a look that turns you into stone.  If somebody has the lowdown on this one…please let me know!

Fifth, here’s a newsflash….  Gone are the days when my children choose each other as their best playmate.  Instead, every activity must involve FRIENDS!  I know my kids are getting older (middle school and upper elementary,) but can’t they at least fake getting along with each other?  And how about throwing this into the mix:  My brother advised me just a few weeks ago that having people over at your own house is the BEST way to keep tabs on your kids and their friends.  This win-win scenario (???) means that we get to be the “fun” house and maintain some kind of control over our kiddos and their activities.  I’ll have to get back to you on that one….

photo (7)In an attempt to make peace in our house, I’ve established a few Summer Rules.  Gentle reminders that (honestly) are always in place, but managed to make their way onto the kitchen whiteboard for emphasis.  Look, I have good kids…but let’s face it, we’re all works in progress.  I heard a radio program the other day that suggested that parents should focus more on raising GOOD PEOPLE rather than SUCCESSFUL BRATS.  Sign me up!  I bought the t-shirt on the proud parent thing…wore it a few times and put it in a drawer. It’s not that I don’t think my kids are the greatest (I do), but these days I’m opting for a more realistic approach to my “momness.” More like a, “Yep, those are my kiddos–good and bad.”  Indeed, we are in this for the long haul.

So here’s my plan for Summertime Sanity.  It’s not rocket science and we all probably know these things, but sometimes putting them out there helps the cause.  So here goes:

1.  Pray, not just often, but more like ALL the time.  I’m not really all that concerned with being the perfect parent, but I do want to honor God in my role as a mother.  I believe He has blessed me with two precious children and I want to do all that I can to show them God’s love and grace through Jesus’ example.

2.  Remember that it’s okay to say NO!  Sometimes it seems easier to give in…especially after a long (long) day.  It’s at this point that I try to remind myself that I ultimately know what’s best for them.  For the most part, they know that asking repeatedly will not change my mind.  When they were very young I would tell them that begging was absolutely unacceptable and it would equate to not only NO right now, but NO in the future as well.

3.  Less is more.  We don’t have to fill up every single second of summer with activities.  Many parenting experts have warned us about the hazards of over-scheduling.  I know for myself that it’s in these unscripted moments where I find my kids singing silly songs, making up games and otherwise just getting along (even if it’s only for five minutes.)

4.  Look for the lessons.  The more time you spend with your kids, the more opportunities you have to be the teacher.  Some of my favorite moments with my kids have occurred in front of the TV, at the movies, or while listening to the radio.  I like to ask them what they think the show/song is trying to say, what they know about the actor/artist, and I encourage them to put on their “God goggles” and find a spiritual message in whatever we’re watching/listening to.  Sure, they sometimes cry “buzz kill,” but other times it sparks some pretty interesting conversation.

5.  Love on them.  Extra time together means extra hugs and kisses.  Extra moments to sit next to or across from each other.  Extra hair ruffling (for my son) and extra hand-holding (for my daughter.)  Time is precious…do not let these moments pass you by.

I fully anticipate an eventful summer…one with both ups and downs.  There will be ballgames, swim lessons, Vacation Bible School, youth group events, and small getaways.  We’ll get along, not get along, all out fight and occasionally enjoy each other’s company.  Sometimes I’ll say no, other times yes and we’ll all move on.  I’m not interested in being a BFF, but instead I’m focusing on being M-O-M…plain and simple.  I will anticipate the best and get over everything else.  I can’t promise complete flexibility, but I will try hard not to be a total control freak.  And when fall rolls around I fully believe that we will be able to  point to shared highlights and lots of good memories.

Here’s to the best summer yet!!!

My Dates with Donna

The Donna Reed Show

Today I had a lunch date with Donna.  She makes me smile.  She makes me laugh.  I consider her to be both an unlikely mentor and an inspiration.  We get together every once in a while for lunch and occasionally coffee.

I met Donna years ago when I was a kid.  She and I hung out every night one summer.  After evenings at the baseball diamond, after endless Monopoly games, after midnight snacks, and long after my parents went to bed…Donna was there.  And so was her husband–Dr. Stone, Mary, Jeff and later, Trisha.

trisha

Trisha

The Donna Reed Show has had an odd place in my heart ever since.  I didn’t grow up in the era of her show.  I came upon her sitcom by chance, back in the days when Nick at Nite was in its infancy.  It came on very late and included other black and white shows like Mr. Ed, Dobie Gillis, My Three Sons, The Patty Duke Show and so many others that I came to adore as a kid.  Off all of these comedy classics, Donna Reed was my favorite.  My siblings and I laughed at Jeff’s antics and joked about how boy-crazy Mary was.  We wondered if Dr. Stone was the only pediatrician in Hilldale?  (Anyone ever notice how that man never had a moment to himself?  That poor town had the sickest children’s population ever imagined!)

Donna’s show was popular back in a time when family was more than important, it was everything.  Back when there were high standards and ideals.  Back when girls were expected to grow up to be ladies and even the orneriest boys grew into gentlemen.  Yes, I know it was just a TV show.  But even back in the late 80s/early 90s her show was relevant and fun.  And I latched on to it BIGTIME!  A permed-hair, gum snapping, jelly-shoe wearing kiddo like myself could easily step back into time and come up with applicable and memorable lessons in life.  I recall seeing the Stone family deal with time-management issues, sibling rivalry, the pros and cons of marriage and countless other teachings.  We saw them donate their time, help others and land themselves in all kinds of crazy jams.  We learned what to do and what not to do in 30 minute episodes.  And what stuck with me was the manner in which they carried themselves through good and bad situations and how they looked out for each other with kindness and loyalty.

It wasn’t like I was a neglected kid pining for this type of family.  I had a great family…Mom & Dad both in the home, siblings I loved and adored, a good neighborhood, middle class upbringing and on and on.  So for me, I guess it reinforced all the good that I already knew and cemented the concept of good that I would come to expect and demand of myself and my own family.

Nowadays most of my dates with Donna occur while my kids are in school and my husband is busy at work.  I’ve tried getting them to watch with me, but they don’t share my delight with Donna.  And, that’s okay.  Those TV moments have become somewhat sacred to me now.  It’s thirty minutes where my 80s kid-self can meet up with my laundry-folding, house cleaning, reluctant chef mom-self and be in perfect harmony.  In some ways I ended up becoming just like her…and for all her notable qualities, that really was the last thing I was trying to do!  But in rediscovering her show on DVD a few years ago (and loving it just as much now as I did then), I realize that Donna and I have become quite a duo…and I’m good with that.

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I straighten my apron and check on the roast…Alex will be home anytime now, Mary will need me to help set her hair, Jeff has homework to do, and Trisha lost the dog in the park (again).