Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thankful for.... being waylaid

We have been at the beach this past week, and today was our last full day here.  I was determined to make the most of it.  Hubby is not much for swimming in the ocean, so he happily sat on a blanket in the sand and read, as I swam.  Periodically, I would leave the water to sit and chat with him, drink some water, and make sure I was not getting too much sun (I failed at that last one, ouch!).

After one of my breaks, I was heading out to the waves, when I heard a tiny little voice cry out "follow me".  I turned around to see a little girl playing in the surf.  I though maybe she was just talking to the water, so I started to walk out into the waves.  Suddenly, she ran up to me, quite insistent, and cried "I SAID, follow me!".  She then ran off to a pile of sand she created, and kept making sure I was following her.  When I got over to her, she told me the pile of sand was from her digging her own pool.  She then told me that she would let anyone come to her pool, all they had to do was ask.  It was so simple, so sweet, so accepting.  She said "You can come into my pool if you want".  So, of course, I sat in the wet sand, and chatted with her.  She rattled on and on, about how she was at the beach with her mommy and daddy, and it was a "honeymoon", which I think was her word for vacation.  She asked if I lived at the beach, and when I told her no, but I wished I could, her breathless reply was "wouldn't that be lovely?".  She told me her name was Kate, and pointed her mom out to me.  Her mom smiled and waved, which leads me to believe she is used to Kate making friends with strangers like this.  

Kate began drawing in the sand and squealing when the surf would wash away her drawings.  Then she noticed that when the surf receded, tons of tiny little clams could be seen.  She then picked a handful of them and gave them to me, and told me to take them home with me.  I thanked her, and told her I was going to put them in my beach bag.  

I walked over to Hubby, told him I never made it to the water, and explained why.  I finally did go into the waves, and during my next break, I watched Kate frolic with more of her new found friends.  She approached people of all ages, races, body types, you name it.  She was spreading joy with equal opportunity.  

As I watched Kate walking along the beach with her dad, I could not help but think of all the people she must have made smile today.


In the Big City: A Night with John and Jonathan

I know, I know, this blog post is way overdue.  I meant to do it last weekend, and time got away from me as we were preparing for vacation.

Shortly after Hubby and I got married, he introduced me to the musical stylings of a guy named Jonathon Coulton.  Jonathan used to be a computer guy, with musical dreams.  He took a leap of faith and left his programming job to follow those dreams.  His early songs contain lyrics that really appeal to the geek culture, on topics such as robots, zombies, and (surprise) computer programmers.  He completed a project called Thing a Week, where each week he wrote a new song, many of which are pure brilliance.  His newest album features songs which seem a bit more mature, deeper, and heartfelt, although the same can be said for many of his older songs as well.

Last fall, we got to see Jonathan open for They Might Be Giants.  While the concert as a whole was great, we totally enjoyed his opening act more than the headline performance.  It was then that we vowed that if JoCo ever came to Pittsburgh as a headliner, we would, without a doubt, go see him.  We found out that JoCo was in fact going to be in Pittsburgh this summer, and despite the fact that his show was a mere 3 days before we were leaving for vacation, tickets were purchased fortwith.  As the days, hours, then minutes to the show ticked away, I could barely contain my excitement.

We arrived at the the venue, Rex Theater, five minutes after the doors opened.  This means we got right up to the stage.  This is an intimate feeling venue to begin with, but being at the front was tantamount to being at a little coffee shop performance.  I could just tell this was going to be amazing.

As the show time arrived, I noticed this guy casually taking the stage, tuning a guitar, and I thought, man, that is a burly looking sound guy.  Silly me, that was no sound guy, that was John Roderick, lead singer of the band The Long Winters, and my new fangirl crush.  He started talking a bit, and really engaged the audience.  He asked for a request for his first song, and someone yelled out "Cinnamon" (video is not from my show, but another show in the tour).  He sang the song, and Hubby and I became instant lifelong fans.  His voice is so pure, and mellow.  And his singing is so earnest, honest, and unrestrained.  He clearly loves what he does, and has fun every time he performs.  Not to mention there is something incredibly romantic about his performance.



  Don't just take my word for it, view the video I shot. I wish I had shot more, he was that amazing.


Once he was finished, there was a short break, and then the man himself, Jonathan Coulton took the stage.  I may have squealed a time or two.  Or ten.  I make no bones about the fact that Hubby and I are geeks, but we were in good company, as this was a room full of geeky awesome people, and JoCo was our king.

Jonathan's music is fun, and musically quite intricate.  His songs are really so full of heart, packaged in such a way that us nerdy types will relate.  And a lot of his music is just really really fun.  Again, here is someone who clearly loves performing.



I was happy that he played a lot of his old standards, as well as cuts from his newest album, Artificial Heart. He did a good blend of silly songs and serious songs, playing some of our favorites of each type. He even let "his henchman" sing a song, which was excellent.

 Once again, do not take my word for it that JoCo is amazing. Listen for yourself.

Both John and Jonathan put up with a lot of ribbing from the crowd. Nerd type people often do not realize when a joke has gone too far, and are prone to perfecting the art of beating a dead horse.  As a result, there were way too many jokes about the performers ordering us pizza, based off of John's quip about a burgh based pizzaria named Pizzaburgh, mentioned in the opening act. Still, the guys all took the jokes in stride, and I felt like they both made a real effort to connect with the audience, which contained all ages. I was standing near a father who was with his preteen son and teen son, all three singing the words, and Jonathan spoke to the youngest son during the show. You could tell it made that kid's night.

The show ended with John taking the stage with Jonathan and his band, to sing some songs together, including their duet from the Artificial Heart album, Nemeses.

And then, the best show closer ever, they played a cover of Bad Company's Feel Like Making Love (this video is not from my show but another show during the tour, still, you get the idea).  It was nothing short of amazing, and I am still kicking myself for not recording it.  John Roderick was playing a broken guitar, and he still kicked major tail.

The show was nothing short of pure magic.  We stayed after to meet John Roderick, and buy one of The Long Winters' albums, which he happily autographed.  We wanted to wait for JoCo, but we were exhausted and still had a long drive home, so sadly, we had to leave.

Since the concert, over a week ago, I have listened to pretty much nothing but the Jonathan Coulton station on Pandora (to which I also added The Long Winters), and I cannot wait until I can see both of these amazing performers in concert again.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

Auk6DwDCQAE0uJd.jpg-largeLast summer, I wrote about how proud I was as I watched my brother graduate from his Nurse Practitioner program at OSU.  Now, I get to proudly tell you about watching my sister graduate from her Early Childhood Education program at Ohio University.

Back home, we have a regional campus of Ohio University.  It is the campus that I attended when I went for my undergrad education.  It offers amazing educational opportunities to those who seek them out, it provides an educational environment for people who would otherwise have no access to higher education.  Because it is a strictly commuter campus, the scheduling often allows for "non traditional" students to begin or continue their educational endeavors.  My sister was one of those "non traditional" students.

Four years ago, after much thought, Kim decided she wanted to go to college to become a teacher.  To anyone who really knows her, this is no surprise.  My sister is amazingly patient when it comes to small children, and creative in ways I could never dream of being.  She has a way of engaging with kids that makes them just take a shine to her.  It is kind of magical to watch.  So, her becoming a teacher seemed as natural as breathing.  But it required a lot of work.  For four years, I have watched my sister balance work, family, a home, and school.  While this often required a bit of juggling, she never let any of the balls she juggled drop.  And I have watched her husband and kids help support her along her journey.

I have seen my sister make wonderful friends in her program, friendships that will last a lifetime.


This past weekend, all the hard work finally paid off.  My sister graduated from college.  And not just graduated, she graduated Magna Cum Laude.  Where we are from, it is still somewhat rare for people to have a college education.  The fact that my parents have three kids, all of who are college graduates, is a big deal.  I cannot tell you how incredibly proud we all are of her.  I had tears in my eyes pretty much the entire weekend, because I was so proud of her I could just burst.  The fact that she was graduating from my own Alma Mater made it that much sweeter.



We got to hold a graduation party for her, and so many people came out to celebrate the momentous occasion.  While we did have to chase away some rain, the day ended with a beautiful rainbow which ended on my parents' property.

Thank you Kim, for allowing me to be a part of your journey, for inspiring me to never give up on my own dreams, and for being such an incredible role model to those around you.  I love you so much, and am so proud of you.