Sometimes the best vacation is a staycation. –author unknown
I love the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” for many reasons…but especially for the line,”there’s no place like home.” It’s just so true. Of course, one never knows just how much they love home until they move away. At least that’s how it was for me. That’s why this next song made my summer music playlist. I can remember coming home to visit my parents and my dad blasting this song on repeat FOR HOURS AND HOURS in the garage. The funniest thing was that no one complained. In fact, there were many times that I caught family members singing along!
“Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys came out in the summer of 2004. I was in my late 20s, married with one child…and I was pretty much anything but hip. But there’s something about this song that just makes you feel cool–regardless of age. “Heaven,” written by a trio of brothers from Texas, captures a laid back summer vibe with its infectious chorus. Peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 100, the tune went on to No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts for 16 weeks. Interestingly enough, the song also registered on the country music charts, too. The song eventually led to two Grammy nominations and one win in 2005. Their biggest hit to date, this song set the tone for so many that summer.
It doesn’t take much for me to remember that afternoon at my parent’s house. It’s always a party when we visit! Lots of family, food and laughter. I can still see my son (a toddler at the time) working his dance moves outside in the garage with my dad. Whenever I hear “Heaven” it puts a smile on my face and I am grateful for both summer and a place to call home!
Up Next: SONG 7…”That’s when I had most of my fun….”
I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this. –Susan Branch
“Steal My Sunshine” by Len hit the airwaves during my first summer as a resident of sunny California. The song was all things Golden State–feel good, shiny, pop-inspired, retro and contemporary fun–imagine how surprised I was to find out that it was the product of a Canadian group! This little goodie hit the pop charts in 1999 but takes some of its great music flavor from both the 70s and the 80s. Besides all that, who doesn’t love a song whose music video features an orange moped posse?
While crawling through my Bay Area commute, I recall scanning my radio presets only to discover this song playing simultaneously on two stations! Whaaaat? Both the pop and the alternative station spinning the same tune, whoa–this song must be special! So I turned it up and quickly added another song to my list of favorites. “Steal My Sunshine” was inspired by a night at a rave, helped reunite an estranged brother and sister, and almost didn’t make it make it onto the group’s CD (fortunately it was retrieved from its hiding place…under the cowriter’s bed!) All of this makes for quite the story behind a song that landed in Billboard 100’s top ten and on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “Best Summer Songs of All Time.”
This catchy song was still receiving plenty of airplay when I finally had an opportunity to visit Los Angeles that same fall. It was the perfect background music for a trip to Venice Beach, celebrity sight-seeing and soaking up all things California. Today you can still find it on a number of summer playlists…including mine. All the more reason to love a song that enjoys elite “one-hit wonder” status as it “perfectly captured that warm, lazy feeling you get when late summer still seems like it could last forever,” at least according to Stylus Magazine (2007.) And I think they’re right on.
Summer is finally in full swing, but I’ve been listening to this jam continuously since April! “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was a chart-topper in 1991. Back then, I was a self-involved high school student and summertime was my time 🙂
When you’re a teenager summer means staying up late, sleeping in, pajamas all day, and ice cream for lunch…behavior completely unacceptable for adults (?) And what would summer be without friends? Back then my BFF and I made a pact to go out every single night…and in our small town that meant cruising Main street. Never mind that we were the only car out on a Tuesday night. Never mind the miles we burned (or the gas we wasted.) Never mind how crazy our parents thought we were. We had each other AND our music…and one of those songs was this one.
A summer playlist staple, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won a Grammy for Best Rap song that year. The tune also topped out at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and was eventually re-released as a new remix in 2012. (A little different from the original by fun nonetheless!)
Twenty-six years later, “Summertime” still represents all of the highlights of my teenage life between May and August. Sunglasses, flip flops, no place to go and all day to get there. There were cookouts, afternoons at the pool, backyard volleyball, water fights, cruising, river parties, friends and of course, boys. And even when I managed to grow up a little and snag some part-time work…SUMMERTIME was always my full-time job.
The ocean is a mighty harmonist. –William Wordsworth
Listening to “Beyond the Sea” is like starring in your own personal musical. I imagine sand, surf, sunshine and fun! I’m the lead (of course,) gracefully dancing alongside a dreamy surfer WHO CAN SING. There’s an ensemble of dancers and extras moving melodically to the beat. And in unison, the cast perfectly depicts life on the beach…all while belting out the oh-so-catchy chorus!
Long before I ever visited the ocean this song painted an amazing picture…one that didn’t disappoint. In real life, the ocean is a force all it’s own and being near it provides some sort of “magical power” (I believe they call it positive ions.) Whatever it is, it’s calming and peaceful. It’s mesmerizing and energizing. It’s blue perfection.
Bobby Darin’s rendition of “Beyond the Sea” made the song famous in 1959 when it reached no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, his version was one of several remakes of Jack Lawrence’s rendition of “Beyond the Sea.” And Lawrence’s adaptation was actually taken from the French song “La Mer” by Charles Trenet. Trenet’s original melody was an ode to the ocean while Lawrence’s interpretation was rewritten to be that of a love song. Quite a history for a little ditty that has been featured in countless movies and televisions series since it originated in the 1940s. All that aside, it’s the perfect addition to my summer music playlist…taking me oceanside…even if it’s only in my imagination!
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. –Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
So, I’m thinking about putting my current mommy neuroticism on hold for just a bit and going with the flow this summer. Way?WAY! You see I was totally inspired (that’s “totes” inspired for you millennials) the other day by this clever blog about creating a ’70s style summer for ours kids. While I could absolutely relate to the writer’s top 10, the bulk of my childhood actually took place in the 80s…complete with jams, jelly shoes, Hypercolor t-shirts, mix-tapes and some of the best movies/television EVER! Thinking about that place in time brings back memories of super rad summers…chillin’ with choice family and friends, no grody schedules bringing us down, livin’ it up with totally tubular fashion, and maxing out with non-stop gnarly fun 🙂 Back then we turned our nose up at bogus rules and wigged out parents that just didn’t understand the 80s way of life. Dudes and dudettes, the 80s were BOSS and wouldn’t it be totally righteous of me to share those good times with my kiddos? Agreed? Cool beans.
Here’s my take on the ULTIMATE 80s summer. Grab your shades, fetch your fingerless gloves, style that hair sky-high…and prepare for AWESOME. It’s going to be a tripendicular good time…major.
Wear what you want…how you want. Have you seen some of the styles from the 80s? Hideous, sure, but fun and unique every time. I don’t remember my folks saying, “cover up” or “that’s too revealing” because in the 80s it was about funky layers and mismatched everything. So Mom didn’t do laundry last night? Whatever, kid…you’re living in the 80s now and your faded gym shorts look good with that yellow button down shirt…just remember to pair it with your converse sneakers and a backwards ball cap. K-RAD.
Watch TV…a lot of TV…actually the same shows over and over. Back in the day nothing new came out in the summer on television. It was rerun city, baby, and I LOVED IT! I didn’t mind hitting the couch, remote in hand and settling in for rerun episodes of Three’s Company, The Facts of Life and Family Ties. So you’re replaying them during the show’s regular time slot? Still must see TV for me! Get hooked on my mom’s soap operas…there’s nothing else on, why not? HBO is showing Sixteen Candles for the third time today? I’m glued anyway. While I’m not on board with letting my kids get hooked on soaps, I see no harm in letting them binge watch some retro goodies like Boy Meets World, The Sandlot and Goonies. Excellent!
Drink Kool-Aid ALL DAY and eat your weight in Popsicles. They always tell you to stay hydrated…especially in the heat of summer. I know it sounds like a lot of sugar (and it is,) but that doesn’t mean anything to the 80s kid. Orange Kool-Aid (same color and “flavor” as juice) was perfectly acceptable at breakfast with a bowl of cereal and toast. The punch version was a staple at every birthday party I ever attended. Lemonade Kool-Aid was just as good as fresh-squeezed and PINK lemonade Kool-Aid was the beverage of choice for the uppity, preppie set. When you’re not sucking down this sugar-water, head on over to the freezer for a frozen treat. Popsicles are inexpensive and unless you want to risk brain freeze, they can kill a lot of time. Hands down…there is nothing like working on a grape popsicle while sitting on your front porch during a scorching hot, summer day, my friends. Go ahead, kiddos, enjoy (to the max!)
Sunglasses are a must…even indoors and ESPECIALLY at night. That’s right. Wear your shades, like all the time! Your specs speak volumes about who you are and what you stand for…sporty, goofy, cool and if you can pull off the flip-up sunglasses look…all the better! The coolest kids I knew during childhood had a pair for every day of the week (probably mallrats.) So come on kiddos, grab your plastic eyewear of choice and get your spec-tacular summer started.
Baseball and sunflower seeds. This pretty much sums up my existence during my childhood summers. This duo provided evening entertainment as well as a pseudo dinnertime meal. In the 80s we didn’t have all the fancy flavors they do now…we ate our salted sunflower seeds until our lips were swollen and we lost all feeling in our tongue. When we were done…we begged for more! This vicious cycle is never so appealing as when we’re camped out at the baseball diamond. Sure, you have those who prefer peanuts siting in the stands, but nothing really fills a hole (or maybe burns one in your throat) quite like sunflowers seeds. Bonus points on your 80s summer if you can score some Astro Pops at the ball park (those bad boys look soooo much cooler than they taste!)
Stargazing…oh, yeah. I can’t remember if we borrowed the telescope or if it was just handed down to us, but either way we were the luckiest kids on the block (even if we didn’t really know how to use the silly thing!) We spent countless nights outside on our back porch just checking out the moon and trying to spot planets among the stars. We looked for constellations and laid flat on the picnic table in our yard to take in all the night sky’s wonders. It was peaceful and totally stellar at the same time. Come on kids, put down your technology and open your eyes to something so much better! Shooting stars and meteor showers are just as mind-blowing today as they were in the 80s.
Brush up on your gaming skills, dude. No, I’m not talking about video games…I’m talking about real games…as in the type you gather around a table to play! Growing up in the 80s we took our games pretty seriously. Bragging rights were always at stake, occasionally money was involved, and sometimes a stupid dare was the prize. Either way, we played to win. All night Monopoly games, vicious games of Sorry and Battleship, and my favorite–card games. Nothing says summer like a knock down game of Spoons! This is definitely on my list for this summer. My kiddos need to learn this throw back game and maybe even how to throw a few elbows in the process…I said we play to win, remember.
Fun…on the cheap, duh. Ahhh, yes…the 80s were a good decade for America. As kids, most of us didn’t know that we were average middle class and that was okay. We didn’t expect new cars, designer clothes or the latest gadget. We were content with simple things and made the most of our days with basic, cheap fun. For example, we grew up without Supersoakers and Nerf water guns. The sprinkler and the garden hose provided all the fun we needed. Water balloon ambushing an unsuspecting friend walking into the backyard was good for a million laughs. I can remember neighborhood water wars…and when our rinky-dink water guns weren’t enough to win the battle we repurposed 2 liter soda bottles to soak each other to the bone. Make-shift water games and activities are the absolute best…and my kiddos have already started creating their own water fun with friends this summer. No pool required. For added inexpensive fun, check out free zoos (yes, they do exist,) state parks and road side attractions. You have not lived until you’ve had your photo taken with an extreme size, concrete animal or the world’s largest something or other! Homebodies can make a whole mess of fun with a good, old-fashioned watermelon feed…complete with seed-spitting contest. Go ahead, invite the neighbors.
Summer music playlist…for sure. In the 80s, a mix-tape took time and skill…and usually involved a pretty hip friend. Getting the hook-up on the latest songs sometimes meant that you had to listen to the radio and quickly hit the record button when your favorite jam came on. I remember countless tapes where I missed the first few beats of a song, you could hear the commercials or maybe even a little of the the DJ talking (pretty amateurish, I now, but whatevs.) I also remember the awesome feeling that came with getting a “real” mix tape, where someone with an elaborate music collection or DJ skills put together only the best. Rockin’ out in your bedroom with your boom box full blast…there’s nothing quite like it. A close second would be toolin’ around town with your Walkman in tow. Poolside fun requires just the right set of jams, too! When we were old enough to cruise Main Street the perfect mix tape could make or break the night. Today’s kiddos love music just as much and here’s where their technology could actually come in handy. With the swipe of a finger, kids can create their own, FREE summer music playlists or tap into ready-made lists on music streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Pandora. It amazes me just how much 80s music they already know thanks to pop culture, but the best part is when I pull up the old music videos for them to see with their own eyes! Thank you, YouTube. Let’s just say it’s good for a lot of laughs 🙂
So take a chill pill and relax. After all, savoring summer isn’t privy to just one decade. We can all take part in this bodacious ride! Summertime is where we write some of our best stories. It’s where we create many of our favorite memories and cement those relationships we will always treasure. This is where best friends are made, family road trips take place, where crushes and first loves are experienced and we collectively have a chance to breathe and reset. Take in the warm temperatures, go places you’ve never been, laugh a lot and when you run out of things to do–start the list all over. The rules are different in the summer…and the 80s rules…well they just RULE! Parents, say hello to what just might be your best summer yet. Totally (to the max.)
The question isn’t “what are we going to do,” the question is “what aren’t we going to do?”–Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
All you need is a good dose of vitamin sea. –author unknown
So much of that great summer vibe revolves around water. Whether you’re fortunate enough to live near the coast, spend weekends at the lake, or just have access to a pool…summer requires water (and a lot of it!) The surfy sound of “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s fits perfectly into my summer playlist for all the right reasons. This 1970s tune has a catchy new wave sound, lots of nonsensical beach/ocean references, and its chorus just goes on and on (and on!)
“Rock Lobster” was written by two original band members and released two different times. The first rendition was a little over four minutes long while its second release comes it at around seven minutes! The song is a staple of any B-52s set and enjoyed chart topping success worldwide…listed at No. 147 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song remains popular today thanks to its appearance in current shows like The Family Guy (among others) and its also featured on the video games Just Dance 4 and Rock Band 3.
I love this song for so many reasons…its whimsical throwback beat that never goes out of style, the call and response vocals between the men and women in the group, and for its marathon run time! The B-52s have always been one of my favorites (especially for karaoke 🙂 ) Plus, you can’t go wrong with a summer jam whose popularity has spanned almost 50 years!
Up Next: SONG 11…”just close your eyes and I’ll take you there.”
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 🙂
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.
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.
MOMS. Because not all superheroes wear capes! -author unknown
In case you didn’t know it, that’s MOM upside down!
Okay, all kidding aside, WOW is the only word that comes to mind for me this Mother’s Day. I’m not sure what made this year’s holiday different, but I feel very compelled to give a huge shout out to other mothers today. I feel like belting out a great big THANK YOU…complete with song and dance (not to mention a few hugs!) But mostly, I just want you all to know that I see you and I really just couldn’t do this mothering thing without you.
Some have said that being a mother is the most important job on the planet. Something along the lines of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” And there’s plenty more sayings out there to describe motherhood (and, believe it or not, most of them are favorable!) Still there’s nothing like being deep in the parenting trenches to remind you that you cannot do this alone. We need each other…sometimes desperately. I need you to be my eyes and ears, I need you to catch my kids doing good AND to give me the heads up when they make poor decisions. I need you to double-check our kids whereabouts and sleepover plans with me…because communicating in the tween/teen years can be difficult and responsibility/accountability are crucial. I need you to share advice and help me navigate through tough situations. And I need you to be loving examples, safe places, and trusted adults whom my kids can turn to, if needed. And I promise to do the same…because motherhood is an interesting club. It’s not necessarily hard to join (although I’m sensitive to the fact that it can be.) There’s no pre-mom exam. No age limit. No “green light.” Some of us fit in from the get go. Others clamor to get in. Some of us enter hesitantly, if not reluctantly. Many of us trudge through. And some of us never quite find our place. Regardless, once you’re in…YOU’RE IN. And there’s no guarantee of success in this club. There’s no real manual. No graduation. And sometimes, in spite of the numbers, it can be a pretty lonely place. I can’t speak for everybody, but for myself I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting into. Albeit the oldest of four, growing up in a very large extended family, having countless hours of babysitting under my belt and with a “mother hen” type personality…I never felt like I was ready. In fact, during my teen years and early twenties, I was pretty dead set against becoming a mother. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I wasn’t up for the task. At age 26, my son was born…and while this was a well thought out and planned event I still knew on some level that I had no idea what I was in for (despite all my research)–and I was right!
We all know that our bodies change when we have a child. Hormones fluctuate, things shift, etc., but what happens to your heart has to be the most remarkable, extraordinary change of all! While the other changes occur over a matter of months, it seems that your heart changes almost immediately. Your priorities change, your instincts change, your thought processes change…basically, what I’m trying to say here is that EVERYTHING changes. What I was really least prepared for was the general roller coaster ride of motherhood. The wins and the losses. The ups and the downs. I’m pretty much a planner (and a bit of a control freak) and motherhood is everything but a well-defined plan and you can throw any hope of control out the window. Plan A quickly moves through the alphabet to Plan Z, and in no set pattern. What works one day (and for one child) quickly falls to the wayside in lieu of something completely different for another child (or the same kiddo down the road.) Uggghhh.
So for all this (and so much more) I continue to look to you, fellow mothers. Without other mothers, I’m not sure where I would be. I’m grateful to have my own mother to serve as an example and a guide. Grateful for a mother-in-law who offers love and encouragement. Grateful for a sister, who lovingly mothers all the nieces and nephews and her own stepkids with a natural mothering gift. I’m grateful for sister-in-laws who treat my kids like their own. And I’m especially grateful for the mothers of my children’s friends, the “church” moms, the “teacher” moms, the “neighbor” moms and other mothers in my community. You all ROCK! BIG thanks for your kind hearts, for the rides to and from practices/games, for the driving them through the fast food line and including them in your family plans. Thank you for the birthday cakes, countless sleepovers, day trips and shopping excursions. Thanks for bridging the gap when our family schedules were overloaded. Thank you for sharing photos of my kids and yours just doing their thing. Thank you for the “Walmart Updates.” Thank you for not judging them harshly, for understanding that they are in a unique circumstance (as are most kids) and for offering them grace and love. Thank you for including them in your family life. And thank you for your example…often times it’s your own mothering actions that speak volumes.
So let’s forget the mom-shaming, the parenting peer pressure, and all the other nonsense. And instead, keep breathing life and love into each other’s kiddos. Keep talking, keep texting, keep cheering, keep showing up and keep vigilant. Please continue to keep your eyes open…looking out for my kids and others. Thank you for filling my ears (and heart) with bright spots that you see in my children. I see the same bright spots in your kiddos, too!
We truly are on each other’s team. Happy, happy Mother’s Day!
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25