Category Archives: Celebrate Like There’s No Tomorrow

Never let a chance pass you by for celebrating what you’ve done right, mourning your poor choices, and having a triple shot of something with a man you love, a best friend you adore, or a sympathetic, total stranger you’ll never see again.

Oh, George, you took the words right out of my mouth

I went to see George Strait in concert many, many years ago in Boise, Idaho. It was the mid- or late 1980s. He was (and still is) lovely, and he can sing so beautifully, so perfectly country. The concert was wonderful. And I fell asleep. He stood on the stage with his band at his back, white cowboy hat on his head, and played the guitar while he crooned. And I nodded off.

George Strait, playing guitar and crooning (2008).

George Strait, still playing guitar and crooning (2008). Image source: Wikipedia.

That’s not to say I don’t adore him still. I do. I just recently discovered a CD of his hits and loaded it onto iTunes, then saved a few on my “Bring It On 2013” playlist. I’m listening to him croon right this minute (he looks good in a black hat, too). “You’re Something Special to Me” is playing as I begin writing here. George and this song have got to be the equivalent of Frank Sinatra singing when he was younger, like this with Tommy Dorsey, “I’ll Never Smile Again.” Can’t you just see the women swooning for both/either? I can.

In fact, as I started thinking along these lines, heaven help me, I recalled a Looney Tunes cartoon where a Bing Crosby-like rooster and a Frank Sinatra-esque rooster sing to help the chickens lay more eggs for the WWII effort. It is called, I swear: “Swooner Crooner.” If you ever have a chance to watch it, dear reader, you’ll see how I feel about George Strait (except for the egg laying bit–that’s just, ahem, gross).

I’m so sad I fell asleep during his concert, but he lulled me. JUST like he’s doing right now. I am being lulled this instant. I just want to curl up into his voice and remember how good I have it–how grand and filled with joy my life is–because it is.

As I approach 2013, this George Strait song reminds me of all the special people I have known and loved and who have loved me, have gifted me with their love. Life is hard, but when love is the thing we remember fills the core of our lives–what ill could bring us down?

I’m just happy I found you again, George, you are something special to me.

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Filed under All the Way Open, Celebrate Like There's No Tomorrow, Digging Deep, For Good, Music is Love, What I'm Thinking

Post while you can

I have had several friends talk to me about the end of the world, or the apocalypse, seen numerous FB posts or news stories, films, all about the end that is scheduled for 21 December 2012. Bunk, I say. But if I’m wrong, you better get thee to a blog and post while you can.

I’m right, though, and here’s why: it’s the bicentenary of Robert Browning and Charles Dickens this year (mentioned this in a previous post), and nothing untoward could possibly happen to mar this year. I do love the hullabaloo surrounding the whole end-of-days thing. Some folks need to have a hobby–and there are worse things to focus on than this. I suppose.

Stars. They fall on Alabama.

Stars. They fall on Alabama. Stars are supposed to play some key part in the apocalypse. Right. When pigs fly.

I think I’ll just make a play list, gaze at the stars, and plan to do all my holiday shopping at the last minute from Dec. 22 to Dec. 24, like I do every year.

And if some transformative event happens, I will roll with it. I am in favor of transformation. Change is life; as a friend says, “when you’re through changing, you’re through.”

To have fun with my playlist, I think I’ll include all the songs I know that are about change. I think I’ll name the list: “Post-Apocalypse Change Or Die Trying” Playlist (PACODT List). (I should have really saved this post until 22 December, but if I’m wrong and I go down swinging, you, gentle reader, may hunt me down and say: “I told you so; you suck; you were so wrong; welcome to the Dark Side.” Or whatever comes to mind to humiliate me for my hubris.)

Number one on the list has to be Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good.” I think that’s the point of all apocalypse talk–we may be “waiting on the world to change,” but there’s no question that “change is gonna come,” and it will “do you good,” because “the more things change,” the more they stay the same; we all know you’re “going through changes,” so you’ll need to “roll with the changes,” but remember “some things never change,” even if “some people change.” And ch-ch-ch-changes are all about transformations, and before you know it, the apocalypse might “change the world.”

Let’s hope the apocalypse is about fab intellectual transformations that come about through open hearts, open minds, and open educational resources. These are “changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes” that I could really get behind.

The PACODT List: song title, artist.

  • A Change Would Do You Good, Sheryl Crow
  • Change, Churchill
  • Change, Taylor Swift
  • Change, Carrie Underwood
  • Change, Tracy Chapman
  • Change, John Waite
  • Changes, 2Pac & Talent (thank goodness someone tossed in an “s”)
  • Change, Blind Melon
  • Change, Lecrae
  • Changes, David Bowie
  • Change, Tears for Fears
  • Change, T-Pain
  • Change, Sean Kingston
  • Change, Kim Hyun-a
  • Change, Diddy
  • Are thinking what I am? Get a damn thesaurus people. I found one online in 6 seconds with over 75 possible OTHER words for “change.”
  • Change, Staind
  • Change, Black Stone Cherry
  • Change, Lloyd Banks
  • Change, Kimberley Locke
  • Change, Good Charlotte
  • Changes, 3 Doors Down
  • There are many, many more. Oh have mercy anyway. Let’s change this up a bit and go with more than just “change” as the main title of the song.
  • And just in case you notice, the below argue for and against change–depending on whether a job’s been lost, a love lost, or a chance lost. Or in the case of Hank Williams, Jr., he just has an axe to grind about change.
  • Waiting on the World to Change, John Mayer
  • A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke (this is the first and my favorite, but I must say Seal treats this song with grace; not mad for Al Green’s version, but Otis Redding is very fine with this)
  • Going Through Changes, Eminem
  • Change My Mind, One Direction
  • Don’t Change for Me, Gin Blossoms
  • Change the World, Eric Clapton (oh sigh)
  • Change Your Mind, Sister Hazel
  • Cool Change, Little River Band
  • Some People Change, Montgomery Gentry
  • Roll with the Changes, REO Speedwagon
  • What I Cannot Change, LeAnn Rimes
  • We Never Change, Coldplay
  • We Can Change, Belinda Carlisle
  • Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, Jimmy Buffett
  • I’d Love to Change the World, Ten Years After
  • Don’t Change, INXS
  • Never Change, Jay-Z
  • Never Gonna Chang, Drive-By Truckers
  • See the Changes, Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • The More Things Change, Bon Jovi
  • Keep the Change, Hank Williams, Jr.
  • Some Things Never Change, Sara Evans
  • Some People Change, Kenny Chesney
  • Am I Ever Gonna Change, Extreme
  • I Don’t Want to Change the World, Ozzy Osbourne
  • Change It, Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Weekend Sex Change, The Dillinger Escape Plan (I couldn’t leave this one out)
  • This Changes Everything, Dead Sara (a little of this)
  • That Changes Everything, John Michael Montgomery (and a little of that)
  • Money Changes Everything, Cyndi Lauper
  • Love Changes Everything, Michael Ball, et al.
  • Nothing Ever Changes, Stevie Nicks
  • Ain’t No Change, The Be Good Tanyas
  • Baby, Don’t Change Your Mind, Gladys Knight and the Pips
  • Change or Die, Papa Roach
  • Change the World, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  • Things Change, 50 Cent
  • So Many Changes, Dan Fogelberg
  • I Wouldn’t Change You if I Could, Ricky Scaggs (thanks, Ricky–I appreciate that)
  • What Never Changes, Forevermore
  • There’ll Be Some Changes Made from Fosse (Go, Bob Fosse)
  • Changes I’ve Been Going Through, Mary J. Blige
  • Time Changes Everything, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (Johnny Cash rocks this song, too–just in case you’re interested in changing things up just a bit.)

There’s no better place to stop than on this song by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, because time does change everything.

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Don't make 'em like that anymore, because "time changes everything."

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. They don’t make ’em like that anymore, because “time changes everything.”

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Filed under Celebrate Like There's No Tomorrow, Feeling vulnerable?, Is Change Gonna Come?, Let's Go On With The Show, The Show Must Go On, Wish I Was A General

Administrators write. I mean that two ways.

I mean that in a declarative way and as an imperative, too. Perhaps I mean the second more forcefully–I’m in an imperative mood.

Administrators write. We write a lot. If I counted the letters of recommendation, the emails, the notes, the reports, papers, presentations, or proposals I wrote each year, I would be in the 10s of 1000s of words. (If only I were paid by the word, everyone would want my job as an administrator.)

I can only say that writing, as a distraction from the rigors of administration, is extremely therapeutic–as in narrative therapy. Best part: it’s cheap. So administrators out there, you should write more.

I’m working on a book about my writing as a teacher, a scholar, an administrator. And since I decided this was a grand project, I have written three letters of recommendation, a few hundred emails, one huge degree/certificate program proposal, edited 12 essays, worked on three of my own, started a review of another essay for a journal, and blogged a bit for my two classes. Lots of writing that has nothing and everything to do with the book I want to write about living a writing life.

A haiku seems apropos as I have about 1,000 words left to craft before the end of the night on Sunday for one project. I’m so meeting that deadline even with one hand tied behind my back, or if I have to write upside down, backwards, wearing an eye patch.

a day of writing,

with any kind of writing,

is a splendid day

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Filed under Celebrate Like There's No Tomorrow, Showing Up, Writing and Identity

The National Day on Writing…

“The” National Day on Writing… as if there should only be one.  I’m always going to celebrate this day as if my life depended on it (and secretly every day of the year).  It’s a day perfectly made for me (though I’m sure Congress and the originators of the whole thing never considered my needs for a hot second).

Tomorrow is the big day.  This year I’m honored to celebrate the day with a former TCU student visiting AUM to talk about his writing, his music, how he works, and what it means to share words with the world.  My former TCU student.  (The lyrics of a song he recently wrote for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and TCU Frogs for the Cure contain the words of breast cancer survivors–that’s one way to share words.  Watch this video, all of it, and then go buy his song on iTunes.  If you don’t buy much music on iTunes, make an exception because you need to own this one song to help find a cure.)

He’s doing amazing things with music and writing.  I can’t believe I’ve got a former student who is doing such beautiful things with his life, or that I actually know what’s up with him.  Normally, I’ve got a lot of rabbit in me.  I’ve rarely lived or worked in one place for long.  I haven’t much seen my students again after I’ve taught for a term, a year, whatever.  Aunt Marianna nailed it when she said I was naturally discontent.  Not unhappy–just always yearning.  I distinctly remember her telling me when I was 15 years old, “Honey, you’ll struggle because of your natural discontent, but it’s also a gift.  Find the right use for the gift.”  (By the way, who says that to a 15-year old?)

Now I get it.

So Tim Halperin is making a difference in the world.  I’m proud of him–as if I had much to do with it–but whatever part I played for a semester, it is something that makes a difference… to me.  I often wonder if I matter.  Do my actions help anyone?  Do I say things that make people joyful?  Do I create an environment around me that gives people a chance to grow?  He says I did that.  Thank you, Tim.

He’s come to perform at my university for AUM Writes! Day.  We started a day of celebration last year, because I’m big on days that celebrate literacy. When I slaved for a publisher sometime in the mid-2000s, I celebrated International Literacy Day by begging the vice president, fellow employees, and a book distributor to find a way to give 1,400 books to a local elementary school.  We did it.  On International Literacy day that year, trucks and people rolled up to a little K-5 school outside Dallas and each student in the school got to pick out a book to keep and the rest, 750 books, were donated to the school library.  I thought that might have been one of the best moments of my life.  Only one of the best as it turns out.

Now I work for an education experience provider–a university.  We have a lot less money than publishers, but I really dig the freedom and what money we have is mostly well spent.  Would I rather have a talented musician talking to students about his writing process or a new rug?  No contest.

Talking with Tim, I realized how lucky I was as I said aloud how lucky I was.  Or perhaps, it’s just a kind of fate.  I seem to have operated my life like a boat: I point my boat in a direction I think I want to go and then hope some current will move me along where I’m supposed to go.  Occasionally someone climbs aboard and sticks an oar in the water and moves me around.  Sometimes a bigger boat crashes into me, and I really move around.  Fate got us both back into conversation–in a fashion much calmer than a mid-sea collision.

Tim was a great student–a terrific writer who seriously worked the process and created smooth, easy-to-read prose.  I almost always tell students that the best papers are ones that don’t trip me up as a reader.  I am first a reader who wants to know something that they think is important to say.  If I stumble because I can’t understand, then I get all wrapped up in what I assigned.  I’d much rather just read than assess.  The gap between my reading pleasure and student writing is the teaching zone when I need to assess and guide.  Sometimes I’m good at finding what a writer needs to learn in order to improve.  At least I get my own motivations now and what purpose I might serve in the world.

I don’t remember all the work Tim created, but I remember it was easy to read and thoughtful.  One of his papers, though, was really fine; a profile on a musician/minister was visually well done (lots of green and photos of performances).  He was a breeze to teach: just did everything I said, was creative, thoughtful, and on time.  He was the first student I ever taught who invited me to an outside school event–an evening of his music at a coffee house (his then-girlfriend was in another class I was teaching).  I was delighted and entertained, and thought: he’s got it.  I also thought: 1) I hope he knows he has a gift; 2) I hope he finds joy in this gift always; 3) I hope he stays off drugs, then I bought four of his CDs and headed home to move away.

Of course, I lost track.  I moved away.  But I accidentally saw him graduate last year.  I went to see a long-time friend graduate from TCU (Maria who thinks I’m a ninja), and there he was.  We connected via email/Facebook later and got to talking about how I’d like to use his videos to teach project management and writing process.  One thing led to another (as so often happens when one chooses to live one’s life as an oarless boat); I got funding to bring him to the AUM campus to share his music and writing with my community.

Reconnecting meant I got to relive some of the most pleasant memories from that year.  I had been out of teaching for a long time when I started teaching his class: 8 am MWF in Aug. 2007, the first time I’d taught since the fall semester of 2000 when I’d been pregnant and working full-time for a publisher.  Not a brilliant move altogether, but there it was.  I’d committed to the department and to an elementary school partnership as well as to two dear friends who co-taught with me in a highly experimental three-teacher scenario while providing community-service credits to two high school students.  How did we think we could do it all?  We were full of ourselves and lucky (though, I will remind you, luck don’t go looking for no stumblebums).  We managed to do it.  I remember being engaged in that class and so full from the promise of the young people around me.  And yet I was exhausted.  That was it.  I couldn’t teach one more class ever again.  I knew it.  After the final exam, I remember crying because I knew I’d lost something, but I didn’t know what.  I walked home from that last class, two blocks was all, tears just streaming and steaming.  Christmas 2000 sucked.

Wait.  What happened to the pleasant moments I promised you?  Sorry.  Here they are:

My next walk on campus, seven years later, brought me back into the classroom–Aug. 2007.  (Much better, right?  On track and no tears.)  I was once again, employed full-time by a publisher, and had agreed to teach for the English Dept. at TCU (bless them always for the good they did me for so many years).  I remember thinking, hell, I can’t actually harm the students and maybe will do some good.  At the end of Ball Four (perhaps the single most personally influential book I’ve ever read, ever, ever, ever), Jim Bouton wrote about baseball, “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”  The thing that gripped me was teaching.  I just didn’t know it until I taught Tim’s class.  Each class I taught that day confirmed it.  I was finally in a place I was supposed to be.  From that day on, I knew I should be teaching, not publishing. (Though I haven’t exactly stopped wrangling around with publishers, it’s not the major focus of my life or employment anymore, esp. as I push back from entirely feeding at the table of corporate publishing excess and am working on a project that feels right and open because it is both of those things and more: Writing Spaces.  If I knew how to create footnotes in a blog, I’d have inserted one at the end of that last sentence speculating on whether I could legitimately mention Writing Spaces every time I created an entry in this blog no matter how I started out or what the general topic might be.  Bet on it.)

The end of that first day back in the classroom, I joined MLA so I could embark upon a traditional academic job search that fall.  And here I am celebrating The National Day on Writing for the second time, at an event that means so much to me, AUM Writes!, with my current students, colleagues, friends, and one former writing student who rocks, literally.  Fate.  Luck.  Yearning.  Or something else?  Discontent.  Who cares?

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