Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Falling Short

It's been quite a time of blog silence. I didn't win Auburn Idol. There. I'll just get right to the point. I thought I had it wrapped up. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I performed without flaw last Friday night. There was nothing I could have pointed to and said, "well if I had just done that better, I might have won." I did everything to the best of my ability. The judges just saw things differently than I (and those supporting me) did. Oh well. It really was fun while it lasted. It was great getting to be a "rock star" for a few weeks. I hope that my students had fun following the show and the results and coming to the hotel with crazy posters screaming their heads off.
And that's one of the things I'm most grateful for. The outpouring of support and kindness from friends and family has been incredible. People love any kind of "Idol" type competition. I mean, Simon Cowell hit the nail on the head with this concept! It provides entertainment as well as suspense and drama. I wish it could have gone my way, but I'm happy for the winner (and happy that he's going to buy the top five contestants lunch when we get back to Auburn!)
For now, I'm just going to enjoy time at home with family and friends. I hope you are doing something you love this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Out There


I finally got fed up with myself and decided to do something about it. I've been saying for a while now, "I want to start playing in coffee shops and bars." But I haven't actually done it. So, I called up my friend Kelly who works at Toomer's coffee. I asked her when I could play and she said they were having an open mic night Saturday. So, I went. I played. It was great. New guitar. Sounds amazing. Here's a picture.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Top 15

Last night was the first round of Auburn Idol. The top 25 contestants battled it out and only 15 were left standing at the end of the night. Was I nervous? Kinda. Fortunately, my experience with AU Singers and other performances have increased my confidence on stage. I had practiced enough and knew my song really well. It was similar to the time I went skydiving. I wasn't nervous until RIGHT before I jumped out of the airplane. Last night, I wasn't nervous until right before I went onstage. However, I knew that there were a ton of people in that crowd that were supporting me. A week of shameless self promotion at school paid off. There were fifty students and probably fifteen teachers there screaming their support. It meant so much to me that all of them gave their Friday night up to come and support me! My time came up, I sang to the best of my ability, and it was over. The crowd was insane. They were screaming so loud that the MC and the judges had to wait for them to calm down before they made any comments.
After everyone had performed, the judges went into another room to deliberate. When they came back, the contestants lined up on the side wall to await the calling of the top fifteen. Fourteen names had been called, and I was still standing on the side wall. The thought crept in my mind that this could be the end. Then he called my name and the room erupted again. I had made it through to the top 15. The next round is in two weeks. See you then.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Top 25

In a move quite out of character for me, I auditioned for "Auburn Idol" yesterday. No, it has no affiliation with American Idol. It's a contest put on by the Auburn Hotel and Dixon Conference Center and Mix 96.7. This was one of those weekends that I kept thinking I had plans on, but it turned out I had nothing going on Saturday. I went to the hotel at 9 a.m. and got my number. Realizing it was going to be quite a while before I auditioned, I went and got some food, went home, hung out with Jenny for a bit, then went back only to find that the judges were going to take a 45 minute lunch break! I waited it out. I made some new friends in the hallway. Then, at about 1:15 I finally auditioned. I sang "Magic" by Andy Davis. I was able to play my guitar, but not to plug it in. The song went well, and before I knew it, it was over. The judges were very kind and complimentary. I left and went about my day. I got a phone call around 6:00 congratulating me on making the top 25 contestants for the competition! The live elimination shows begin this Friday night at 7:00 at the hotel. If you're in Auburn and you call me your friend, come and support me! Oh, did I mention that the winner gets $10,000? Talk about motivation. So wish me luck, or a broken leg, or whatever is applicable and supersticiously appropriate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I love my...

Time for this week's installment of "I love my Mondays." Mondays are dominated by terrible thoughts, mostly about how much we hate Monday. Thus, I venture to detail a handful of highlights on everyone's least favorite day of the week.

1. I love my students. This is the craziest week we've had yet as a choir. Today, we had a dress rehearsal for our big fall concert. This is when it all comes together. We decided last minute today not to use portable risers. Instead, we will sing in the choir loft. We haven't ever sung in the choir loft. They got up there, and that was it. Training wheels were off; they were big boys and girls. Seriously, they looked so grown up in that huge choir loft.

2. I love my choir. Then they sang. I don't mean to get hopes up or anything, but they sounded so good! They were well mic'd and mixed. They sang with confidence and had fun. I can't wait for the concert tomorrow night!

3. I love Monday night football. They had the right thing in mind forty years ago when they came up with this idea. Just like a blog post about Monday's positives, a football game on Monday attempts to make all right with the world. As the day wears on, there is a moment of clarity when you realize, "Yes! There's football on tonight!"

4. I love the Steelers. As I type, I'm watching said Monday Night Football. Tonight's matchup: Steelers at Broncos. Go Steelers.

5. I love being busy. I know it kinda sounds weird, but I love being busy when I know what I have to do and I know how to do it. Two years ago, today was an extremely stressful day. Getting all those kids on busses, getting them to the church, getting them in the right places, running each piece, and making sure everyone gets home safely is quite a task. But this wasn't my first rodeo. It was actually enjoyable today!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

She's Not Sick, She's a Dancer

If you have any interest in education, set aside twenty minutes and watch this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Casting Call

I'm in it from the beginning this time. Last year, I joined the production of Snow White well into rehearsals. This year, I've been a part of every decision from the beginning. Auditions were this week, in my classroom. Difficult, but in a good way. It's a good thing when you have so many talented people that you wrack your brain trying to find a place to put them all. If he goes here, then she can go there. But that would leave this role for him, which means that she couldn't go there. We debated for hours. We had three days of auditions. We heard at least forty kids.
The show is Willy Wonka Jr. It's not going to be easy. Lots of sets, dynamic characters, difficult songs. But we have the vision and the drive to make it work. I admit, it was hard to picture it coming together when there was only a box of librettos and cds in my office. However, after today's auditions, I have a more clear picture in my mind.

"If you want to view paradise, simply open up and view it. Anything you want to do it. Want to change the world? There's nothing to it." - Willy Wonka

Friday, October 23, 2009

Seven Hours

I had a hard time going to school. No, I don't mean this morning. I mean starting school; when I was five. I cried every day. The counselor and I were best friends. It didn't help that I had the meanest woman on God's green earth as a KINDERGARTEN teacher! Every day was an insurmountable obstacle. When I got out of dad's van, I would never return. Every day.
So, as I sit in the waning minutes of this Friday, with a raucous 7th grade team celebration having just concluded, I'm reminded of a piece of advice I received in that first year of my formal education. On a particularly rough day one morning, the assistant principal, Mrs. Fairweather, said this to me, "Honey, the school day is ONLY seven hours long." For whatever weird reason... it worked. How? I have no idea. Seven hours is an ETERNITY to a five year old. But, it was the way she said it "ONLY seven hours long", that got the job done. Once I knew this hidden gem of a scholastic secret, the days flew by. As each hour passed, I subtracted it from my grand total of seven, took a deep breath, and continued. This mantra continues to get me through the days that drag on. Most days don't. Most days, I have fun and the days fly by. However, every now and then I need to simply remind myself that, "the school day is ONLY seven hours long."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Caterfest '09

I took today off. I got up super early and drove to Montgomery to meet my parents. I hopped in the truck with them and, a few hours later, was walking the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. It's time for Caterfest '09. The "09" might lead one to believe this is some sort of annual tradition. That simply isn't true. The Cater patriarchs, my father and his brother, simply decided it was time to unite the Caters under the banner of family, food, festival, fun, and fish. So, here we are. While not complete (we are missing some key members of the Cater Clan), I think we'll survive. Tomorrow, we're getting up early and going deep sea fishing. We will return from our four hour trip just in time to see the Tigers take on the swine of Arkansas. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be.

I hope you have an excellent weekend.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Dog Days

In the last couple weeks, Jenny has become THE source of my stress. Bless her, she can't help it (most of it). Warning: most of what you're about to read involves lots of poop.

I came home from work Monday and Jenny had exploded, from her butt. A butt explosion. She was in her crate, and there was canine catastrophe all over her, the crate, the wall... it was bad. I spent the next two hours cleaning the house and cleaning up Jenny. The next afternoon, I took her to the vet to get things figured out. No worms, but he gave me some special food to give her as well as a prescription medicine. She seemed to be getting better, until the weekend. While at my parents house, I noticed a little bit of surp
rise matter hanging from her nether-regions. A surprise to me, as well as her. Then, in the car on the way home. We pulled into my house in Auburn and I went around back to let Jenny out. Sure enough, there was a little soft-serve left on the rubber mat where she sat. She can't keep the valve closed. And without getting too graphic, I've seen it, it literally doesn't close. (I know, you just shuddered a little. So did I.)

So that's an issue, obviously. Today, it was raining in the morning. I wasn't going to put her out in the rain while I went to work, so it was back in the dreaded cage-o-crap. I felt bad for her all day and actually zipped home at the start of my planning period to let her out. The rain had stopped, so I put
her in the kennel in the back yard and went back to work. When I pulled in at 4:00, Jenny came running up, covered in mud, happy as a clam. She had dug out of her kennel. Not a gold star day for the J-bird. Here's the little mud-puppy, realizing the fullness of my disappointment in her.

So I took a trip to Lowe's, bought twenty cinder blocks, filled the hole, and lined the inside of the kennel with them. That oughta hold her (famous last words). Then, after a couple plays of Vikings v. Packers, I made another trip out to Tiger Town. This time, for diapers. Rediculous, I know. But she can't keep her butt closed. "Bottom" line. They say that owning a dog is good training for having kids.

I. Just. Bought. Diapers.

She's making life very difficult for me, her single parent, right now. But, at the end of the day, I love her. No matter how frustrated I am that I have to bathe her AGAIN because she dug out, pooped everywhere, got into mommie's make-up bag, had a little too much fun with the fingerpaints, etc. She's still my girl and I love her, diapers and all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Frontman

There are good bands, and then there are great bands. One of the things that makes a great band, is a great frontman. I'm not necessarily talking about the leather-pant-wearing, crazy-haired frontman. I mean someone who a) has a great voice (a unique voice helps too), b) is energetic, c) gets the crowd going, and d) makes you wish you were them. The last two shows I've been to had those kinds of men at the helm. First, Elbow. Lead singer Guy Garvey MAKES this band. He IS this band. Yes, the music is excellent, but his interpretations of the lyrics, his range, his British accent, and his unique tone quality makes Elbow's music really stand out. The show was incredible.

Then, The Decemberists. I must make a quick aside to tell you that my brother asked me last weekend, "So who are you going to see? Wacky Christmas?" Awesome. Anyways, their lead singer is Colin Meloy. He writes witty, whimsical, narrative, awesome songs. He has an unorthodox voice, with some kind of speech "impediment" like thing as well. It may or may not ACTUALLY be an impediment, I'm not really sure. Regardless, it makes his pronunciation of some words very interesting. I saw the Decemberists last weekend and they were incredible. Again, the other band members are very talented, but his voice takes the music to a new level.

Perhaps that's my beef with popular alternative music. So many lead singers sound like the same old raspy, Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) voice. A unique lead singer goes such a long way toward making a band truly great.

-----------------

As a post script, my grandmother turned 98 today! Happy Birthday Grandmama!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

So Much Water


I'm sick of the rain. I'm reminded of the poetic words of an old song: rain, rain, GO AWAY. Pictured above is the scene in Jordan-Hare Stadium just before the bottom dropped out. I took the picture with my phone, then put it in a ziploc bag just in time for the monsoon. We. Got. Soaked. It was more rain than I've ever stood in (and I've stood in rain everywhere from Tulsa to Timbuktu). I was saturated. I wore a raincoat, but it didn't work after seventy million gallons of water fell on me. I was miserable.

I have learned that I have a tendency to think that my current circumstances, whatever they may be, are permanent. Thus, I thought it would rain all night. I wasn't going to stay there in such crazy rain. There were even times I thought they might not play. I know that's dumb, but I thought it. So, I left. I rode my bike home and got dry. I watched the game from underneath my warm blue snuggie. Of course, as the game turned AWESOME I regretted my decision to leave. Spare me your comments of "How could you!" and "You call yourself an Auburn fan!". For there is nothing you can say that I haven't already thought. Waves of guilt wash over me like sheets of rain. But then I think of how comfortable and dry I was, and I'm like, "Peace suckers! Have fun with the flu." Seriously though, If I had it to do over again, I would've dried off and gone BACK to the game! They were letting people come back in. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20, until you smash into something because you were looking backwards.

War eagle.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I love My...

Good evening, and welcome to another installment of "I love my Mondays". The post where I detail five things that, on a day when we hate everything, I'm loving right now. Despite the worst Monday weather in recent memory, I'll try to scrounge up five things I fancy.

1. I love my Auburn Tigers. And I'm not afraid to say it. I think I swooned when Antonio Coleman made his first career interception and ran it in for six. As previously posted, I'm so pumped about the Aubren War Eagle Tigers of Auburn's plains this year.

2. I love my seventh graders. I have a great group of seventh grade choir members this year. We have so much fun in class. I'm really looking forward to hearing them sing this fall.

3. I love my new show: Defying Gravity. If you know me at all, you know I'm somewhat of a space enthusiast. This is a new drama on NBC that takes place aboard the space vessel Antares. It follows the crew on a six year mission to Venus and back. It rocks.

4. Speaking of Auburn football, I love the new show "Auburn Football: Every Day". This is a documentary-meets-reality show about the day to day activities of Auburn's football coaches and players. There are interviews with players and coaches on a weekly basis. I got a little misty-eyed a couple times during the last episode. It's that good.

5. I love Samuel Adams. Octoberfest brew is here. Drink one.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Chizik Era

After two Auburn Football games, it looks as though the Tigers have an offense. What a sigh of relief this is for the Auburn faithful everywhere. After the offense-less struggles of the last couple years, there's nothing we like to see more than a team that can move the ball down the field. Not only that, it seems we have found multiple ways to strike. This week, Auburn had over 560 yds of total offense. It's a new era in Auburn football, and I'm happy to be here for it. I'm more fired up about Auburn football than I have been in quite a while. Everything seems more meaningful now. When the eagle flies, I get more choked up. When the team runs out, I get more fired up. I'll refrain from making premature, outrageous claims about this team and this year. Suffice it to say that I'm really pumped about Auburn football and the months ahead. War Damn Eagle!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Great Message

Everyone was up in arms about the president's speech to our nation's children that took place today. Parents were concerned that this Democratic president wanted to indoctrinate their children with his liberal agenda. School systems were divided on whether or not to show the speech live to their students. Did you see it? Have you read it? There couldn't be a more positive and uplifting message for our students to hear. There couldn't be a more "important" person from whom to hear it. There was no politics. There was no nazi brainwashing. Everyone chill the hell out. Our nation's leader simply wanted to encourage, inspire, challenge, and motivate our students. I don't know that I could confidently say that those things happen daily in many of today's classrooms. Here's the transcript. I encourage you to take ten minutes to read it. I'm thankful for these words. I only wish every student in America could have heard them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Name In Stone

I left Auburn this afternoon at around four o' clock. Driving north to play with a band whose members I still barely know had become a weekly thing. Last week, I drove to Birmingham through a deluge of rain only to have to ride another thirty minutes to the rehearsal space (someone's house) upon my arrival. This time, the other members of this newly formed ensemble had taken measures to reduce my drive time. Today, I met them in Harpersville.

The sun was out. The drive was really rather peaceful. When I arrived in Harpersville, I had a half hour to burn before meeting everyone at our new practice space. I turned left on highway 25. It was as if I had been there a thousand times. Half a mile down the road, I pulled off and through the brick gates of a hillside cemetery across the street from the Methodist church. I had been here once be
fore. My dad brought me several years back. I remembered a vague location in which to search. Still, it took me several moments. Then, I saw my name on the back of a large weathered stone: CATER. Even though I knew what I was looking for, I was a bit startled. I cautiously approached the tombstone, weaving in between other gray stones. I walked up the hill a bit further and stopped before a row of tombstones with my last name on them. Some of them were so old and weathered, the writing was hardly legible. Below these stones were buried the remains of people in my family, people who bore the same last name.

The melancholy calm that hangs over every cemetery intensified as I stood before these graves. One headstone was labeled for the "Infant child of M.Z. and D.E. Cater". Another bore a death date of 1903, a stone that had stood and displayed my name for one hundred and six years. I looked around the graveyard for a moment. ETRESS, GORMAN, HENDERSON, these names meant nothing to me; just names. Yet here in front of me were stones whose five chiseled letters represented my whole life. I've always been a Cater. I'll always be a Cater. My heart became full. My eyes welled up. What kind of people were they? What did they look like? Did they like pepper? Did they have a keen sense of smell?


Were they proud of me?



I sat down in front of all six stones. I prayed. I than
ked God for my family; for those I've never met, and for those whose love compels me daily. I didn't want to leave. Eventually, I got up, brushed myself off and made my way back to my car. I stopped three or four times to look back at the spot on the hillside. I could almost see it from the street. CATER. A sense of peace; a sense of pride. They had taken their turn on this earth. They had lived their lives. And as I got back in my car and put the keys in the ignition, I went to go live mine.







Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

In this case, the something old and the something blue are the same thing. For years, I've been "the guy with the blue guitar." Last week, that changed. I purchased the guitar of my dreams. I'll keep "old blue", but it's now on the back burner. She was good to me. But I've upgraded. Let me take you back.

Seventh grade. I had just started playing guitar. I was in my first band. I ate, slept, and breathed guitar. In a conversation with one of my bandmates, I learned of Taylor guitars. No biggie right? Until I heard one. I wasn't aware a guitar could sound so good! I knew I had to have one. Twelve years later, after saving up for months and months, I bought a Taylor 816ce. It's perfect. It looks beautiful and sounds even more beautiful. I'm happy with it.

Something borrowed? It happens to be a guitar too. My latest musical challenge is the bass guitar. I'm going to start playing bass in the children's worship band at my church, Cornerstone. This is a worship band for children, not a worship band made OF children. We had practice tonight and it was so much fun. I love only being responsible for one note! I don't have to sing, I just play one note at a time. Now, I'm also in another band with a buddy of mine from college and some friends of his. We're called Donnie and the Dodgeballs. I was asked to be the lead singer. We also lack a bass player. I might just pull a Sting in the police or a Sheryl Crow and play bass and sing at the same time. I'm not sure how that will work, as bass isn't nearly as second nature to me as guitar. We shall see at the next rehearsal. I'm borrowing a friend's bass to practice. Peace.


Monday, August 24, 2009

A Popular Program

Lately it has bothered me to the core when people try to dog the "Cash for Clunkers" program (and thereby attempting a dig at the Obama administration) by talking about how quickly it lost money. Really? The reason it ran out of money so quickly is because it was SO STINKIN' POPULAR! If you give people 4,500 dollars to buy a new car, sooner rather than later, you're going to run out of money! Can we just be glad that our current administration is creative enough to come up with a program that not only helps people buy cars in these tough economic times, but it also helps boost the auto industry. So, can we get our facts straight before we make a stupid attempt at an anti-Obama comment? That is all.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Found a Track!

Running on the road has taken its toll on me. The hard pavement is wreaking havoc on my leg in the form of shin splints. I got gel insoles a few days ago, and they surprisingly help a lot. Today, however, I ventured down the street to Auburn High School to investigate their track situation. Turns out they have one. I've never seen it before! It's hidden behind the new gym. The AHS track has a rubber surface, which us much better than concrete or asphalt. I took Jenny with me and she ran eight laps by my side. After eight laps, she was looking like she needed a break, so I hitched her to a pole and kept going. It's a perfect situation. I can run on a good surface, with my dog, without traffic to freak her out! I can also run without her for a lap or two if need be. It's great!
After my run I tried an ice technique I learned from the other Jenny (the human). She is a former AU Soccer star who has suffered from shin splints as well. She recommended that I take styrofoam cups, fill them halfway with water, freeze them, then peel away the styrofoam almost all the way. That leaves a chunk of ice with a styrofoam grip that I can then massage my aching leg with! It worked great! All in all, it was a great run. The weather wasn't even above 80 degrees! Great weekend. Can't wait to go back to work tomorrow!

(guitar on Wednesday!)

And so it is...

I have a tracking number. The guitar is supposed to arrive on Wednesday. I continue to dream about it. Last night, I dreamed I was playing a dreadnought Taylor guitar made out of some darker wood (perhaps Koa). It sounded (in my dream) like an entire symphony. I would strum a chord and hear the cellos bringing out the mid lows. I would hear the violas as I plucked the B string. I strummed the high E and heard the violins soaring as in Barber's Adagio for Strings. It was an excellent dream as dreams go. I truly can't wait for this guitar to arrive. It's the end of an era, the blue guitar era. But also the beginning of a new era; the era of me having a SERIOUS instrument with which to make music. Me and this guitar are going to be best friends. I'll post pics when it arrives. I'll also probably eulogize my blue guitar in blog form for all to read. We've been through a lot. I love music.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Those Who Wait

I can't help it. I was going to wait until it actually happened, but I can't stand it anymore. I'm getting a new guitar. It's going to be a Taylor 816ce. I've wanted a Taylor ever since I first heard one (probably 12 years ago). When I realized that one wasn't going to just drop in my lap, I began to save. I've been saving for months now and put a down payment on one almost a month ago. It was being altered slightly at Taylor in California, and then would be shipped to Auburn Guitar Shoppe. Again, that was almost a month ago. I'm starting to get antsy. Guitar Shoppe has a good chunk of my money and all I have to show for it is a receipt. For the first week or so, I put it out of my mind. I knew it was at least two weeks away and that there was no point getting all worked up yet. Well, now I'm all worked up. I can't wait for this thing to get here. Supposedly, it shipped from Cali last Friday. I think it's on the back of a llama, because it feels like its taking forever! It's even reached the point where I'm having bad dreams about it. I dreamed two nights ago that it was shipped to my parents house in "almost ready to play" condition. I just had to PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER! I opened the box, reached for a piece of wood, and it splintered. I had broken my guitar before it was even playable. Ugh. I'll certainly let you know when it comes in. I'm going to call Taylor.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I love My...

Here comes another edition of I Love My Mondays! The following are things I love, am thankful for, or appreciative of today.

1. My job. We just started a new year and I'm full of optimism. The kids seem to be in good spirits, I've got three choirs (instead of one and a half), and I just picked out music for the Fall! Let's get this ball rolling.

2. The people at my job. We had a grade level meeting today. One teacher walked in late and another one yelled, "Late!" It was hilarious. The atmosphere is so much fun because of people with good attitudes and great senses of humor!

3. My luck. I have to call it that. Friday night, I won big in a game of poker. I haven't played poker in quite a while. I told myself I would never play again because I was so bad at it. That apparently wasn't the case Friday night.

4. G.I. Joe. Surprisingly, I loved the new movie. Perhaps it's because my expectations were so low, but I really enjoyed it! At any given minute something was exploding, or there was a cool new gadjet or weapon. Go Joe.

5. My field. I feel blessed and am honored to teach music.

That's all for today. I hope you had some things to be thankful for on this Monday!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stop Standing Around...

I have two doors to my classroom. One of them opens into the Fine Arts Lobby. The other opens to the outside. This door is toward the corner of the building, with a long wall on the non-corner side. Yesterday, I let my fourth period go and sat down at the piano to play a little as the kids walked out. One of my sweeter, more innocent kids pushed open the back door to leave the room. As she did so, a human body slammed into the opened door, causing the door to collide loudly with the stopping pole behind it. I was at the other end of the room, so it took me a little while to get to the door. The girl who opened the door was standing back in shock as I walked out of the door. A tall boy was stumbling around with his hand on his mouth and his posse laughing hysterically. He had been running along the wall and must have not been paying attention when the door opened!
"What happened!?" I asked.
"That boy ran into the door! That one, in the white shirt" a student replied.
Ken was still in a daze, but slowly making his way to another teacher whose classroom is across the "courtyard" from mine. She stopped him and said, "move your hand, let me see your mouth." She looked, "HIS TOOTH IS CHIPPED!" she yelled. A piece of his tooth about the size of the arrow you control with your computer's mouse was missing from his left front tooth! More laughter from his friends.
"Stop standing around and help him find his tooth!" the other teacher yelled. A few seconds later, one of the other kids found the small fragment of Ken's tooth.
There was no blood, just confusion and hilarity. We sent him to the office. Luckily, we have a dental clinic at our school. I saw Ken later that day at football practice. He said he was going to get his tooth fixed by the end of the week. I sure hope so. He looks like Lloyd Christmas with that smashed tooth in his mouth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What a Difference

I'm probably going to get a big "Duh" from a lot of people on this one. Today, I ran with music. I usually have Jenny with me and feel that I need to be able to hear things coming and really be alert so that Jenny doesn't do anything stupid. I also don't run with my ipod because those stupid ipod headphones fall out of my hears at the slightest movement. However tonight, I ran without Jenny and decided to give the ole ipod another shot on my run. This time I used my Shure noise isolating in-ear earphones. These are top of the line earphones I bought on impulse a few years ago. I hardly ever use them and figured I'd give it a shot. These go all up in your ear canal and really block out everything else. I was a new man. It made me feel like I was in a movie. (I've realized that I'll do just about anything if it'll make me feel like I'm in a movie. Give it music or the right kind of lighting or sentiment and I'm GAME! "I punched an old lady today! Yeah, well the song I was listening to really just made me feel like I was in a movie") I digress. For one, the music blocked out the sound of my suffering, I mean, breathing. Two, it let me focus on other things as my mind wandered. It was a much more therapeutic run. Lastly, there were times when the next song on my mix would come at just the right time and give me the added boost I needed. Wow, I may never run without my ipod again. At least until it breaks from being shaken to death.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekend Recap and First Day Back

The Music and Arts Week planning meeting went really well. We decided on a theme that I hope will bless the campers and staff of MAW 2010. Saturday evening Chandler and I drove to Atlanta to hear Elbow. We got there early, parked under the venue, and walked up the street to a restaurant called the Steamhouse Lounge. There, we enjoyed fried pickles, PBR, and Mahi Mahi tacos. It was a perfect meal. Then, we walked down the street and into the Center Stage Theater to hear Elbow. This band is from Manchester, England and has been around for several years. However, Chandler and I didn't really know how amazing they were until just recently. One day, Chandler recorded a show called Live at Abbey Road. We watched Elbow play three songs and when it was over, we both looked at each other and said, "Holy crap that was so good!" We then watched it another three times, and repeatedly over the next couple of weeks, showing it to all of our friends that came over. So, back to the live show. The venue was incredible. It was exactly how a venue should be. There was a large space on the floor for those who wish to stand and be closer to the action. Then, there were about 800 auditorium seats that rose at a steep angle in a half circle. There's not a bad seat in the house. I could have hit Guy Garvey, the lead singer with a football. Maybe not an NFL football, more like a NERF football. Definitely a Vortex football; I mean, hell, John Elway can throw a Vortex out of the stadium. Anyways, the show was incredible. They are such a refreshing sound and a genuine musical force. After the show, in the men's room, I overheard a British man say, "I mean, I like the Stones and the Who and all, but Elbow is just a whole other kettle of fish." Well said urinating British man, well said.

Today was the first day of school. It's weird how the students' first day jitters are almost palpable. I saw my choir classes today. It was so good. The kids are excited, I'm excited. It was hilarious watching third period walk in (the all boys class) and hearing guys go, "woah, an all dudes class!" It was also funny to hear a few of the guys say they joined choir because of the girls! Joke's on you kid! Anywho, it was a great day that I hope will translate into a great year. I just need to pick music, design a T shirt, order music, order T shirts, plan a trip... oh yeah, and teach kids to sing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Doing What I Was Meant to Do

These next few days are really busy for me! It seems like I go from one thing to the next with no time in between to even breathe. Typically, these types of situations stress me out, and put me in a bad mood. However, something is different this time. I realized a few days ago, as the looming weekend of craziness approached, that I was not in a bad mood about all the "stuff" I was about to have to do. Sure, I was stressed, but not disgruntled or ill-tempered. In fact, I was excited about it!
I have just completed the first of my weekend tasks and, on the drive back to my parents house, I realized why it's so different this time. There's one thing that all the events have in common. They are all music-based.
Tonight, I played music for a girl's birthday party who I had never met. There were a ton of family members gathered as my friend and I entertained with guitars and voices.
Tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts (the Fellowship for short). In this meeting, we will be laying the foundation for Music and Arts Week 2010; planning, talking, discussing.
Tomorrow evening, Chandler and I are driving to Atlanta to hear a favorite band of ours called Elbow.
Finally, my mind is near constantly on the upcoming school year. At school, I teach: music.
So, what does this all mean? I think it means that I am right where I need to be. When the things that stress us out end up lifting us up and inspiring us, rather than bogging us down, we are IN IT. You know what I mean? Submersed in that which makes us more fully alive. I have no doubt that God made me a musical person. So, I'm fine with being incredibly busy because I love everything I'm doing!

Chew on that.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adventure on the Tallapoosa

I'm ashamed to say that this is the first summer in quite a while that I haven't been to the beach. I've just been busy with camps and other things and didn't make it down there. I've spent the last few days in the house with two dogs. I'm dogsitting for a couple that kept Jenny for two weeks this summer. I owe them and am happy to keep Connor for a week. However, I was getting a little stir crazy. So, an adventure on the river was just what I needed. Yesterday afternoon, Lee, Dana, Chandler, Claire, Drew, Brian, and I loaded up and headed to the Tallapoosa River. It was about an hour drive, but well worth it. We took Lee's Land Rover and Drew's Toyota Tacoma. The off road trails were a blast. Every ten yards or so there was a huge mud puddle that Lee would send us splashing through. After a little "roverin' around", we drove into the river... literally. They just drove their trucks into the river bank. We got out, and began making our way across the river. Here, it must be noted that I love rivers. Rivers are constantly flowing, constantly changing sources of life. They cleanse and replenish the soul. Ok, enough of that. On the other side was a vertical rock face that climbed 30 or so feet. We climbed to the top and, after some mustering of courage, jumped off. This act was repeated again and again for the better part of an hour and a half. Jump off, swim over, climb up, get scared, get made fun of for being scared even though you've already jumped like six times, then jump again.
After the cliff jumping, we made our way back across the river, loaded up again and did some more off roading. An hour or so later, we made it back to the river bank and built a fire. Here, we roasted hot dogs, ate pita chips and hummus, and generally were merry. So it wasn't the beach, but it was a great getaway with some great friends.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ok Now I'm Pumped

I just came from a dinner meeting with the other two secondary choir teachers in the Auburn City School system. We discussed next year, music, concerts, possibilities, etc. I'm really starting to get excited about the coming school year. In the past two years, I have struggled to really feel like a choir director. I mean sure, I had choirs, but I didn't really feel like a choir director. Not like the choir directors I know and call colleagues. So, what's so different about next year that is making me shift my mood? Two things really: 1) numbers. I'm going up from 86 kids, to over 100. That's great, but numbers aren't everything. 2) I will have boys and girls split in different classes! Three classes of girls and one class of boys! Ask any middle school choir director and he or she will tell you, separate your boys and girls! Not only will the distractions of adolescenthood not be nearly as present, but this situation will allow me to have three different choirs. I will have a boys choir, a girls choir, and a mixed choir. I have to (get to) select music for not one, but three choirs. I also made the decision not to offer a choir I used to call Drake Singers. This was an "auditioned" choir for sixth and seventh graders. In two years, I couldn't get the students to take that choir seriously, so, it is no more. Life is so much more enjoyable when you have things to look forward to!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Potter Perserverance

I'm in need of some serious perserverance at this point in my Harry Potter adventure. I've been reading Order of the Phoenix all day (it seems like) and it is wearing me down! The end of the last book was so huge and pivitol, in terms of good versus evil, that going back to chapters and chapters about the classes Harry is taking is frustratingly mundane. I want to see some fighting, some explosions, SOMETHING. Luckily, the last bit that I read involved a little bit of both of those, so here's to hoping it picks up from here. I can't read anymore for now though. My eyes hurt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I love My...

Welcome to another edition of "I Love My Mondays". The post where I, your host, provide a short list of things that I love in an attempt to make this Monday a little brighter.

1. I love... Harry Potter. That's right, I said it. I decided that one of my goals for the summer was to read the Harry Potter series. I read the first book and was hooked. I'm now well into the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And no, I won't be caught up in time to see the movie that comes out this week.

2. I love... Summer. This past week, I actually lost track of the days. That's how you know you're in the thick of the summer. You wake up thinking it's Wednesday, only to find out hours later that it's actually Thursday.

3. I love... Taylor guitars. Like most things that many other people put on a pedestal, Taylor gets a bad rap for being the guitar that everyone wants. You know why everyone wants one? Because it's a damn good guitar! I've been saving up for one for many months now and am ready to begin the purchasing journey. I've spent some time this past week looking around. In fact, I'm going to another shop this afternoon to see what they've got.

4. I love... Music and Arts Week. It came and went in the blink of an eye. It was tons of fun and I already can't wait for next year.

5. I love... the teachers that inspired me to do what I do. This past weekend was ACDA Summer Celebration. At one point in the workshop, we paused to give an award. My middle school choir teacher stepped up in front of everyone and introduced the man whose name is on the award: Dr. Thomas R. Smith. Dr. Smith was my choir director in college. Then, the Dr. Thomas R. Smith award for excellence in choral music education for the state of Alabama was given to Diana Mayhall, my high school choir director! My entire choral education in one room. It was a cool feeling. They are all very important people in my life and I love them!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where Have You Been?

Where have you been? Where have I been? It's been a crazy few weeks, but I'll catch you up quicker than you can say "subterranean wonderland". I think my last transmission was between camp weeks one and two. These two weeks could not have been more different. The first week of engineering camp was blissful compared to the sh*tstorm that was the second week. A severely emotionally disturbed camper, an incident involving serious misconduct, my co-counselor having to leave due to a death in the family. These are just a few things that made my second week of engineering camp a total failure. In fact, I received a phone call from my boss's boss yesterday while guitar shopping. He needed further information on the (aforementioned) incident of serious misconduct among a few of my campers. Really? I even took a week off, away from cell service and internet access and this crap is STILL going on? I won't go into details. Just know that I've taught middle school choir for two years and NOTHING like this has ever come up. I can't wait until it actually is over. Regardless, the following week, I was able to head north to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains for some much needed separation from life. This was MAW: Music and Arts Week. It's one of my favorite weeks of the year. This is a week long camp held at Camp Sumatanga that focuses on Music and Worship Arts. In recent years, I have served as a camp counselor as well as the tenor section leader (we rehearse all week and present a choral concert at the end of the week). It was so good to see my MAW family again. They really are like distant cousins that you are really close with and as soon as you see them again it's like you never left. This year was especially enjoyable because I wasn't wheelchair bound like last year. The biggest surprise came at the Fellowship (The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts) meeting on Thursday afternoon where I was elected to be Dean of the Youth division in 2011! I know. I laughed at first too, it's ok. The dean is responsible for, well, just about everything. I was entirely content on being a counselor for the forseeable future. However, the current youth dean, as well as the elected youth dean for next year approached me throughout the week and asked if I would consider being dean-elect! My mind immediately flashed to the scene in "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" where Professor McGonagall asks Harry to become Gryffindor's seeker in his first year! He is the youngest seeker in 100 years! I will be the youngest youth dean of Music and Arts week in quite some time. It is quite a responsibility, but I received a peace from God about it during rehearsal on Wednesday evening. I'm pumped.
So now I'm in Birmingham at my parents house, taking it easy and reading Harry Potter. Oh, I guess that's another big event in my life right now. I decided to begin the Harry Potter book series. It's so stinkin' awesome. I also picked up the harmonica, or blues harp. Practice makes perfect they say. I know it's been forever since a blog post. I've been busy. Get over it. I'm back now.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Busy as a Buzzy Bee

I know it's been forever since a blog post. I've been at camp for the last two weeks and am leaving for another week of camp today. The last two weeks have been Auburn University camps put on for kids ages 7th grade through graduated senior. The two camps I was a lead counselor for were Engineering camps. The last two weeks provided some funny moments, some intense situations, and some straight up terrible times. It's been an up and down and I'm glad that these two weeks are over. Next stop, Camp Sumatanga for Music and Arts Week. If it gives you a glimpse of how much I love this camp, I'm paying them to work there! This time last year, my ankle was broken and I wasn't sure how camp was going to work out. I can't wait to have two working legs at camp this year. Peace.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Out of Place in the Tiny Kingdom

Today, Cater Design and Landscape worked in the Tiny Kingdom, Mountain Brook. It's referred to as the tiny kingdom "due to its reputation as an enclave for the area's elite and the disparity of wealth between it and Birmingham where nearly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, according to Census data" (from wikipedia). Basically, it's a snooty, incredibly rich area of Birmingham. As we worked, tennis moms drove by in their SUVs. The most interesting moment came after work, at lunch. We left the job site and headed into town. I decided to eat at Golden Rule BBQ. Now, to those unfamiliar with Golden Rule, it is perhaps the best bar-b-que in town. I grew up going to the one on hwy 31 with the funky roof. At any given visit to Golden Rule, one would see white collar mixed with blue collar. Business men meet over a plate of ribs, while dirty paint-covered workers scarf down a jumbo chop sandwich and fries. The atmosphere is loud, everyone is friends with everyone, nobody cares how your dressed, and the food is delicious. So, you can see why I wanted to eat there. Pablo, my hispanic coworker, and I were dirty and sweaty and Golden Rule seemed like a place that wouldn't much care. We went in, grabbed a table and ordered some food. I began to look around and I realized, this ain't the Golden Rule I'm used to! It's clean. The servers are wearing T-shirts that say, "Q in the Kingdom" (which disgusts me). Halfway into our meal, a woman wearing PEARLS came in and sat down. I'm sorry, I don't care if they put one in the White House, PEARLS should never be allowed in a Golden Rule! And, in a corner table by the window, sat myself and Pablo, complete with sweat rag still draped around his neck. I loved it. Other than the food, he and I were the most "Golden Rule" thing about that Golden Rule. Looks like the Tiny Kingdom has a thing or two to learn about BBQ joints. Oh, and check your pearls at the door.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I love My...

It's been a long time since an "I love my" Monday. And, since I was working all day yesterday, I didn't get a chance to blog it out. So, here's a new "I love my" Monday... a day later.

1. I love my mom. As I type, she's going under the knife to have her right knee replaced. She's been struggling with extreme knee pain, difficulty walking, etc. for over a year. Hopefully, today is the beginning of the end of that!

2. I love Apple. My Iphone randomly stopped working yesterday. Straight up, wouldn't work. Don't ask me what was wrong with it, because I don't know. Neither does the applecare representative I spoke with on the phone, or the Apple genius in the Apple retail store. However, as they've done for me in the past, the great folks at the apple store replaced my phone, no questions asked. Awesome.

3. I love Dave Matthews Band... again. Around the beginning of high school, I really started listening to DMB. As a guitar player, I couldn't stop learning and playing their music. It was so intense, different, difficult, and it provided me with just enough of a challenge to be able to always push myself. I went to several live shows. I even joined the fan club, called the Warehouse (which is a song title). In 2000, they were due to release a new album, produced by Steve Lillywhite. However, for whatever reason, this album was scrapped and they started all over. The scrapped album was leaked and became known simply as "the Lillywhite sessions" or just Lillywhite for short. The album they ended up releasing was called "Everyday" and, let's be brutally honest, it sucked. Compared to their previous work, Everyday was no good. I fell away from fandom as a result of a sub-par album and just burning myself out on their older work. That all changed last Tuesday. With the release of "Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King," they are back on top! It's a fantastic album that I cannot stop listening to. Dave himself said, "If this is the last album I ever make, I want it to be the one anybody listens to." Following the death of saxophonist Leroi Moore in August of 2008, the band seemed to really come together and refocus. The result is some damn good music. If you're a DMB fan and haven't picked this album up, shame on you. If you're not a fan, this could be a great place to start.

4. I love chili-cheese dogs. I've always loved chili cheese dogs, but lately that love affair has been rekindled. A new restaurant called "Hot Diggity Dogs" opened up in Auburn and they make good ole, honest hot dogs. They aren't gourmet. There's nothing crazy special about them. They are just good!

5. I love summer. One of my favorite summer memories was when I was about nine or ten. My mom had grilled bbq chicken, and we ate dinner outside on the deck. After dinner I caught fireflies in the back yard until dark (which happened much later in the summer, and made the days feel so much longer!) Summer is different now, but still brings with it a sense of "I can do anything I want." This summer, I'm back and forth between Birmingham and Auburn. I'm landscaping in Birmingham, and doing summer academic camps in Auburn. If the start of the summer is any indication, it'll be a great one. Let's just hope I don't break any bones.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Bizarro Landscapers

In the comic world, a bizarro is an evil version of a normally good superhero. So, for instance, Bizarro Superman is an evil version of Superman.

As you probably know, school is out. I'm no longer a music teacher for the next couple of months. So, in the meantime, I'm a landscaper and camp counselor. Today was my first day back on the job with Cater Design and Landscape. When we think of a landscaper, we typically think of one who is a friend to all plants. And, normally, he is. Today, however, I witnessed the dark side of landscaping. I learned today that landscaping is not simply allowing all plants to grow in peace and harmony. Nay, landscaping is man exerting his dominance over all earthly grown things. Our task today was to weed eat a large overgrown natural area, then spray it with commercial grade herbicide, and cover it with straw. Dad dropped me and Pablo off at the job site, got things going, and then prepared to leave to get some more supplies. Before he left, he pulled me aside and said, "Okay, put the backpack sprayer on and spray behind Pablo's weed-eater. Spray everything that's green." You know that scene in many action movies where the main antagonist instructs his minions, "kill everything that moves. Leave none alive." That's what this was, except for plants. I suited up, and set off to murder helpless plants with a spray of deadly poison. Oh, hi little sapling... POISON. Oh, a tall flowery looking thingPOISON! It was a veritable scorched earth policy. I killed it all. (insert evil laugh here). That was only phase one.

After the earth was scorched and covered, we had to deal with the half pallet of sod we had bought and didn't really know where to put. Boss man said put it in front of the house in between the house and the natural area (scorched earth). We called him a few times to try and get him to clarify, but we still weren't very clear. The grass in said location was splotchy and dying in spots, but half a pallet's worth? Oh well, boss man's orders. Dad begin tilling up the ground to rip up the old turf. We replaced the sod, but still had twenty or thirty pieces of sod sitting on the trailer that would go to waste if we didn't use it. So, Dad found another spot and begin to till. When he cut the motor off, he looked up at me and said, "Well, that was the senseless killing of good grass." Bizarro.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Did You See That!?

LeBron James is a freak. Did you see that game-winning, last second three-pointer last night? It was incredible. I still get chills when I watch it. Cleveland fans thought it was over. They were down by two with one second left. What can happen in one second? Well, if you've got LeBron on your team, a lot can happen in one second. That's the beauty of a three-pointer in the sport of basketball. You can dunk all you want, you can alley-oop, you can 360 windmill, behind the back, under the legs, eyes closed, tongue outstretched slam... but it's only worth two points. The three point shot pays homage to what the sport is all about: the ability to put a ball in a hoop from varying distances with skill and efficiency. Watch and be amazed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Letter to Yourself

On the first day of school this year, I had my seventh grade choir students write a letter to themselves in the future. I had them list three goals they hoped to achieve, their friends, their interests, etc. I took these letters and put them in my desk, not to be touched until today. Today was the last day of 7th grade choir class. It was a great year with them. I thanked them for their hard work this year. I thanked them for buying into this whole "choir" idea. I thanked them for making my first real choir a great one (I don't really count last year).
So I gave them their letters back today. It was great to watch their reactions as they read their words from nine months ago. Some were surprised. Some were unmoved. I just wonder if they realize how much they have changed. I see it. Do they see it? They have grown so much, literally and musically.
Tomorrow is the last day of school. In honor of the "letter to yourself", I went back and read my blog post from the last day of school last year. I sincerely hope I continue to change in a positive way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

Board games have become increasingly loud, colorful, and crazy in an attempt to catch the buyer's eye. However, last night I played a tried and true board game that requires little fanfare: Trivial Pursuit. It's true, in recent years Trivial has tried to stay up to speed with mainstream board games. With editions like "Pop Culture" and "90s" it's tarnishing an already golden game. The good ole Genus version(s) is the best around. It's simple: answer trivia questions correctly, fill your gamepiece with pie pieces before the other team and win. I grew up on this game. I love it. It gives me an outlet for all of the random facts swimming around in my head. For instance, last night I was able to successfully answer this question: "What Pakistani president was the first head of state to give birth while in office." I dug deep. It starts with a B... Benazir Bhutto! Where in the world did that come from!? We ended up losing the game last night, but it's moments like those that I thrive on. Digging into the deep recesses of the mind to pull to the forefront random facts that surprise and amaze your friends. It truly is a pursuit of happiness.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Home

"That's Auburn's new head football coach," I whispered to Brandy. We were on our way into church yesterday. I had heard that Gene Chizik went to Cornerstone, but had never seen him there. As we sat down I thought to myself, "I've got to text my brother and tell him that Coach Chizik goes to my church." Suddenly, a much greater realization hit me: I just referred to Cornerstone as "my church." Woah. If you've followed this blog or know me with any sincerity, you know that I've had church issues in the last year or so. I pretty much left the church. Still believed in Christ and the beauty of his death for me, but didn't so much believe in the church's ability to adequately communicate that to the world. Two or three months ago, God eased that burden for a few days. Why? I don't know, He's God. During that window of vulnerability, I went to Cornerstone Church one Sunday morning. It was great. Perfect? No. No human is perfect and no church is perfect. There was, however, a sense of calmness as if God was saying: just check this joint out, give it a good go. I left with a desire to go back. However, my schedule was such that I was out of town for a few weekends and didn't get to go back. Recently (the last four or five weeks) I've been able to go weekly. Every time I go, I am challenged, convicted, uplifted, and I leave knowing I've spent time in communion with other believers and with the one in whom we believe.
Gene Chizik goes to my church. Gene Chizik is not what's important in that sentence. My church is what's important. God has given me a new place to feel at home. I'm still new there, but I can't wait to go back each week. I can't wait to get more involved. Please don't think I'm putting Cornerstone on a pedestal. It is simply a church that can handle the ecclesiastical baggage I've accrued in recent years. I thank God for that.

But seriously, if Auburn is having a bad season next year, email me your prayers and I'll pray them for you. Ya know, because Gene Chizik goes to my church.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where Blues Lives

For today's post, I'm proud to welcome my father as a guest blogger. Here, he recounts his experience at Gip's place, a small blues shack in Bessemer, AL.

It is difficult to describe the location and the ambience at Gip’s place. Somewhere deep in the heart of a rundown Bessemer, Alabama neighborhood lies a “juke joint” that is 110% blues music. I was invited by my friend Phillip Davis to join him and two other male friends, Joe and Andy, to visit Gip’s. last Saturday night. Gip is an 87 year old blues guitar player and singer of the Mississippi John Hurt genre who stayed true to form throughout the evening. His “place” is a shack in someone’s back yard between Bessemer and Midfield. There is no cover charge, but a cowboy hat was passed around frequently to help with the performer’s expenses. The roof is tin, as are the walls. There are tables (but not many) and chairs and ashtrays. The Christmas lights are still up as are the decorations. There remained a bobble head Jesus/John Lennon doll on the Peavey amp on stage during all the performances. Neon signs adorn the walls and there is one commode outside (no sink). But the main thing at Gip’s is the music—blues music and lots of it. One fellow got up and played his slide guitar and then his cigar box guitar with 4 strings and a fretless neck. Yes, a guitar made of a cigar box! Then the evening got serious. The MC stated that weapons, including guns and knives, were forbidden as was cursing and fighting. The Spoons took the stage and rocked, covering ZZ Top and KW Shephard. Then a 65 yr old African American woman named Shar-baby covered Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes among others, followed by J.T. Brickman from the N. Mississippi All-Stars. By this time all heads were swimming in genuine juke joint blues. There is a smaller shack halfway up the driveway where ribs, burgers and smoked sausage were for sale as well as $1 water, .75 Pepsi and $2 beer. It rained at 9 o’clock but no one noticed. People bring their own beverages (Nascar style) and sit on their coolers. The racial split was about 60-40 black to white and everyone got along very well. Love of blues music was the common denominator and the place was loud and peaceful. We left at midnight, but the place was still totally rocking. Who knows when they shut the place down.

Anyways, it was a great experience I will not soon forget. And the thing is, they do this every Saturday night.

Was it a dream? Was it surreal? No, it was Gip’s Place and it ROCKED solid!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To Boldly Go...

*Warning: This blog post contains nerd content. Drew, if you can't handle the nerd, get off the starship.

I saw Star Trek last night. It was really good. I don't want to sit here and tell you it was the most incredible movie I've ever seen and you be disappointed when you see it, but it was really good. When I was growing up, my mom (Happy Mother's Day Mom. I love you!) watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was too young to really get into it, but I liked what little bits and pieces I saw. I knew characters (Captain Picard, Riker, Worf, Data, and Lavar Burton from Reading Rainbow with the crazy headband on his eyes.) I'm also a bit of a sci-fi geek, so this movie was right up my alley. It was directed by J.J. Abrams, the director of my favorite TV show LOST. In case there's anyone reading this that has seen Star Trek and watches LOST, I have a question for you. Is J.J. Abrams the unequivocal king of time travel in our day or what? He pulls it off every time without getting TOO weird. I mean yeah, it's weird. But he does it in a way that seems to say, "This is how it COULD work, if we were able to do it." It's more believable than getting into a mad scientist's machine, dialing in a year, and pressing a glowing red button. In LOST it's a result of a source of highly volatile energy. In Star Trek it's a result of singularity, or black holes. Now, we don't know much about black holes, but we know that they bend space and time. I think that if we are ever going to travel time, it is more likely to be a la Star Trek than LOST. Regardless, the only way we will ever get there is to... "Boldly go where no one has gone before."


Friday, May 8, 2009

Survived

I survived. This past week has been looming large for a month or so now. I have known how busy it would be, how much it would demand of my time and attention. I am now on the other side and, for the most part, and very pleased with the results. Snow White was a great success. We did one evening show for the community and two daytime shows for the school. The kids did so great and I think they really had a blast doing it. It was well received by parents, students, and faculty. One faculty member came to my classroom and raved about the show. He claimed it was the best Drake drama club performance he's ever seen! It was a great experience and one I can't wait to be a part of next year!
The very next night, we had our Spring Choir concert with the Junior High school. Because the musical was so late in the year, I really didn't have the time to mentally prepare for this concert. Thus, the result seemed rushed and unorganized. I forgot to even remind my after school choir (mostly sixth graders) that we even had the concert! As a result, only about ten of them showed up. Yikes. They were so embarrassed and hardly sang during the first show. Two of my officers ("historians") made a slide show of pictures from the year. It kinda took the choir by surprise when, after we finished our three song set, I asked them to sit and turn around and face the screen. They laughed, pointed, cheered, and jeered as the pictures rolled by. It was a great way to recap the year and say thanks for a great year!
The second show went much better. I would even go so far as to say that the seventh grade choir sang their three pieces the best they've EVER sung them. I was very proud. My only regret is that I wasn't more prepared for this concert. I would've liked to have added another piece or two to make it more special for them, but I was simply zapped from this crazy week.

I hope yours went well.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Let the Tale Unfold

The day has come. It's been months in the making, hours of sweat, some tears, lots of laughs, and a lot of fun. Tomorrow night we premier our Middle School production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: the Musical. I'm not going to lie, I've had mixed emotions up to this point. However, tonight we had our first full dress rehearsal with EVERYTHING: lights, costumes, makeup, the works. Save a few microphone mixups, it went very well. It finally "clicked" for me tonight. The dwarfs finally looked and acted like dwarfs, the crone finally looked like an old cranky woman, and Snow White finally beamed with princessorial innocence and joy. One of the other Drama club teachers reminded the cast and crew of something that helped me out a great deal as well tonight. She reminded them that this is a live show; things will go wrong. And it probably will not be the same thing two times in a row, but you move on. The show must go on! So, I hope to see you at Drake Middle School for our production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It's a gem of a fairytale!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine and Dandy

This weekend is the date for the 2009 Young Voices Festival. This is a state-wide choral festival for kids in grades four through nine. Kids audition earlier in the year, and if they make it they go to Auburn University for the festival. There are four choirs made up of kids from all over the state. They rehearse music they've been working on for months and a final concert is performed on Saturday afternoon. Many kids and choir directors look forward to this event. It got cancelled this year due to fears of swine flu outbreak. Are you kidding me? I just don't get it. Perhaps I'm ill informed, but I don't see what the big deal is! To me, it seems like the media has caused a global frenzy over this virus that is causing people to panic. Now, on one hand, I can see why an event like Young Voices would be a dangerous situation for an airborne virus (tons of kids sitting next to each other for hours breathing all over each other.) I'm just not convinced that this H1N1 "swine flu" is all that big of a deal. How is it any different or more dangerous than the regular flu? People have been getting the flu all over the world for years. I really feel sorry for the kids. There are hundreds of kids all across the state of Alabama that spent hours practicing music and looking forward to a trip that they aren't getting to take. It's a shame. I was only going to take four kids. But some schools take forty, fifty kids. Oh well. Better luck next year, I suppose. Never in a million years did I think that something like this would be cancelled by something called "swine flu". Stupid pigs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gone but not forgotten

You move on from things, and it becomes easier and easier to forget about them. When you start to forget about them, you start to forget how valuable your time there was. Tonight I went to the AU Singers Spring Show. Spring Show is the big one. It's the culmination of year's work and it usually lasts around two hours. I've been out of Singers for two years and many of those memories are already starting to fade. How could I forget them? How could I forget how many hours I spent in rehearsal? How could I forget the thousands of hilarious things we did and said in Singers? How could I forget the incredible musical moments? Tonight made them all come flooding back. It's a tradition in AU Singers that Alums are invited back onstage to sing one of the final pieces "What Would I Do Without My Music." It's a ballad that encompasses all that Singers stands for. It talks about the simple value of music in a person's life. I went back onstage and sang the piece as the former director and founder of the group, Dr. Tom Smith, conducted. Emotional? Yes. But not emotions of sadness or longing. Rather, these were emotions of pure joy. Being on the teaching end of music these days, I rarely get to sing anymore. Singing in a choir is one of the things I miss most. Sitting amongst friends, bright lights in my face, Dr. Smith conducting; it was joy. It made me really stinkin' happy. It's true, I had many mixed emotions about singers during my four years. But tonight reminded me and re-proved to me that AU Singers was such a huge part of my life for four years. I made so many great memories with so many great people. It's a time of my life I never want to forget. Thanks Singers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Trills and Thrills

First, let me breathe.... (huge sigh of relief).... ok.

This weekend, the band director and I took our band and choir to Atlanta for our big spring trip. I have to admit, I was nervous. But, after the first few hours, I knew that this was going to be a great trip. Allow me to recap:

We met at the school at 7:30 a.m. After a meeting with all students and chaperones, we loaded the buses and were on our way. Two hours later, we stopped at a mall to eat lunch. Our choices were: Chick-fil-a, or three Asian restaurants. Needless to say, the line for Chick-fil-a was a mile long. After we ate, we loaded the buses and left for the World of Coke. If you haven't been, it's worth a visit. They sure do a great job of making you want to drink a coke. They show a short animated film, then a self-guided tour through the museum begins. The tour ends with the tasting room, where you can drink all the coke you want and try the other 63 flavors of coke products from around the world. After we pumped the kids full of caffeine, we went to check into the hotel. This was the part I was perhaps the most nervous about. It takes a while to check 227 kids into a hotel! The hotel gave us a stack of room keys and a list of names and room numbers. We had to sort throught them, and figure out which room key packets went with which pre-determined room of kids. As it turned out, I was missing close to fifteen room key packets. Eventually, we got it all figured out and kids got checked into rooms. From there, we went to ESPN Zone. Here, kids got to play a million arcade games and eat an all you can eat buffett. After that it was back to the hotel and lights out, tomorrow is an early morning. Wake up call was at 5:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. CST) We got all the kids fed and loaded onto the buses.
The whole reason we went on this trip was to perform in a music festival. Sure, we did a ton of other really fun things, but the performance (in my opinion) was the most important experience for the kids. We were performing at the Trills and Thrills music festival being held at Marietta Middle School. The band got "Superior" ratings, which is incredible. The choir peformed at 8:50 a.m. Luckily, we had plenty of time to warm up and were ready to go at our performance time. We sang our first piece well, with only one major mistake (which I take full responsibility for.) After a brief pause, we sang our second piece and, in my opinion, really sang it well. I was so proud of these kids. It all came together at that performance and I really felt like we were a team. We got "excellent" ratings, which I'm perfectly happy with and I think we deserved.
We spent the rest of the day in Six Flags riding roller coasters, eating junk food, screaming our brains out, sweating, and generally loving life. By the time we got home last night, I think the kids were sufficiently worn out and ready to be home. It was such a great weekend and I'm so proud of my kids not only for their performance, but for their overall behavior this weekend. I love my job.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where There's Smoke...

We had morning rehearsal this morning. Eighty kids in one room make it hot, no matter the temperature outside. So, I turned on the air conditioner. The room quickly cooled and all was well. Fast forward to first period. The kids said they were cold, so I turned the AC off. Fast forward to third period. The sun was out (beautiful day) and it was beginning to get warm again in my classroom. Again, I turned on the AC. This time, however, nothing happened. The room did not get cooler. I thought little of it and went about my day thinking it might "kick in" any minute. Fast forward to fourth period. I'm in the middle of talking to my students about this weekend when I smell the unmistakable smell of an electrical fire. Immediately I think of the AC unit. I ran to the back of the room, threw stacks of chairs aside to get to the closet that housed the AC unit. I expected billowing flames and smoke. I opened the door. No flames, just smoke. A light smoke started to seep into the room through the air vents in the ceiling. A haze clouded the room and kids started coughing. I immediately told them to go sit outside. I called my principal on the new phones that have been installed in our rooms. She answered very happily, "Hi!"
"Umm.... Mrs. Beebe, there's smoke coming into my room from the ceiling."
"I'm on my way!" she said.
When she arrived she ordered everyone out of my building, called the office to get them to call the fire department, and got someone else to pull the fire alarm and evacuate the WHOLE SCHOOL! I didn't see it, but later a student told me that four fire trucks pulled up and about thirty fully dressed firemen went running into the building. There were people from Central Office. We sat outside for about twenty minutes, when students started going back into the building. By this time, the next class had begun so I sent my students on. I went back to my room and nobody was in there. I had to talk to an assistant principal to find out what happened. Turns out the AC motor had blown or burned up and the fan was just blowing that smell into the room. No biggie. Good adventure. I won't have A/C in my room for quite a while, according to my principal. I started to feel guilty and embarrassed, but I really had nothing to do with it. Nothing like a little adventure to keep you on your toes!

Tomorrow, I take sixty-seven seventh graders to Atlanta with 160 members of the Drake Band. It's going to be a blast. Coke museum, ESPN Zone, Performance at a festival, all day in Six flags. If you're the praying type, pray for us. I'll tell you how it goes!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Poison of Mass Appeal

I'm one of those people that likes to dislike what everyone likes. Let me rephrase. Every now and then there are certain things that most people like. I tend to dislike them mostly because... everyone likes it. I know it's kind of backwards, but I'm not alone. It's really a common thing with people my age. This is especially so with music. Enter Ben Harper. When he became popular with his beachy, hippie style, I immediately began the disliking process. Some of his most popular songs include "Burn one down," and "Steal my kisses." The latter was so repetetive and had such mainstream success that I really began to loathe it. All of that changed yesterday. I went home to my parent's house this weekend for Easter. I spent some time across the street with their neighbor Joe. Joe is a music lover and musician who loves to try out new instruments. His most recent purchase was an acoustic lap slide guitar. I had never even seen one until yesterday. He said his inspiration for the purchase was the music of Ben Harper. He showed me a video of Ben playing a similar instrument and my opinion of him immediately changed. His mainstream success with repetitive songs about pot and women overshadowed his real talent. Joe gave me a Ben Harper album called "Both Sides of the Gun." I listened to the whole thing on my drive back to Auburn last night and really enjoyed it! Perhaps I shouldn't write people off so fast when they become popular with mediocre music. Sometimes, there's a true talent behind the mainstream junk.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter... Yo!

At the urging of my brother "It's time for a new blog post, brocephus", and my father, "just post a link... that's what Joe Cribbs does," I've decided to do both. I will now post a link as my newest blog post. Happy Easter everyone.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Is That Your Final Answer?

One of the things that has always caused me to become uneasy is the altar call, or invitation to the altar. This is a common practice in many churches and at many worship services. Most of the time, it is done with the best of intentions: bringing people into a relationship with Christ. That, in itself, is a great thing. It's the best thing; the most important event that could happen to a person. But is it our (human's) job to make this happen? I don't think it is. We, as humans, are completely incapable of saving anyone's soul from sin, death, and eternal separation from Christ. So why then, do pastors and religious leader insist on trying to make this thing happen? Won't God take care of it when He and his child are ready? I'm in no position to doubt the inegrity of anyone's decision at an altar call or otherwise. It simply seems to me like these people are coerced into accepting Christ when it's convenient for the pastor. Back off reverend, let the only one who CAN save, save!
Secondly, if you've ever experienced an "altar call"
, you get the sense that it's some one time commitment, and afterward everything will be fine. "Okay, I just need your signature here.... that's it.... congratulations you're the proud new owner of a 2009 Relationship with Christ with airbags and anti-lock brakes." That's great for the new believer. But those of us that have already made that decision just sit there like "Oh, I'm fine... thanks though." Like we've just eaten a huge meal and are being offered more mashed potatoes. Romans tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If this was true 2000 years ago, and it's still true today, this must mean that we CONTINUALLY sin and fall short of the glory of God. Thus, we CONTINUALLY need salvation! Rather than it being a one time, sign on the line and everything's fine event, what if it were a weekly, daily, moment by moment event? I know that I need to invite Christ into my heart and hand him the reigns of my life multiple times a day, if not near constantly.
Sure, the moment that a non-believer comes into the fold for the first time is a momentous occasion. But the enemy is constantly fighting for our attention, affections, loyalties, time, commitments, relationships, etc. We should constantly be fighting for those back, in order that we might hand them right back over to Christ.
I'm reminded of a skit that our FCA leadership team did Friday morning at FCA. Taylor sat on a stool. The stool represented her life, her heart, all the things I mentioned above (essentially the steering wheel of her life). Christ approached her and she invited him to sit on the stool, to take over for h
er, to be in the driver's seat. Then, one of her friends would approach her and ask if she wanted to go to this party, or get some older guy to buy them beer, or (insert another distraction from the Lord here). Taylor would think about it, then say "Sure!" as she knocked Christ off the stool and sat back down. This happened multiple times. The object of the story being that we try to take over our own lives, to be in charge, multiple times A DAY. The remedy for this, in my opinion, is not only a one time acceptance of and invitation to Christ. Rather, it's a constant, recurring plea for Christ to come back in; to sit on that stool and drive. So maybe we do need the altar call. Constantly.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Last to Go

Well, that's it. All four of my pregnant friends from work have now hatched their offspring. Katie was the last to go, yesterday. I'm happy for her, and for all of the new moms. However, if I may, I'd like to explore a selfish vein for a moment. These formerly expectant mothers were all people I regularly talked with and enjoyed the company of at work. Who will I talk to now? Gee thanks, procreation.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Adventurer and the Nostalgic

There's something to be said for the adventurer. There's a level of respect and admiration for someone so willing to venture out into unknown places. This isn't about the adventurer. What about the nostalgic? The one who is content in reliving prior events. If the feelings are the same as the first time, isn't it a little like being there? I want to be an adventurer. I want to boldly go where no man has gone before. But, I'm just not that way; at least not 100%. Not even 70%. Most times I'm completely happy with doing things the way they've been done. I could sit around with my friends from high school, retell old stories, laugh my ass off, and be fine. Maybe it's because whenever I do try to be adventurous, I screw up. I break an ankle.
The Postal Service got me thinking about all this. The band, not the government run parcel service. I refer back to my lack of musical adventurism. When we are so concerned with finding what's new, what's cutting edge, what's original; we sometimes lose the ability to really fall in love with an old song or an old album. Have you ever known someone who was like that with people? They are so concerned with "networking" and "making connections" that they never really cultivate any solid friendships. I feel like I "should be" a musical adventurer. I should be a guy that people can go to for the new stuff. I'm not. I'm more likely to be found listening to an old Caedmon's album or, like I said above, a Postal Service EP. Am I resisting change? I don't know. Most of the time I'd simply rather listen to an old favorite for the 29th time and discover a new ride cymbal part I've somehow never heard before. What's the old saying? "All things in moderation". Perhaps I'd be best served by a healthy dose of both adventurism and nostalgic... ism.

Love whatever you're listening to.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Live

This weekend was great. Live music every day. On Friday we went to a really great bar in Opelika called 8th & Rail. We went to hear a band called Act of Congress. It was refreshing to hear good live music in the Auburn Opelika area. So many bars are full of no talent musicians and nobody seems to care because they just want to drink and have something going on in the background for them to drink to. Act of Congress was a mixture of folk, jazz, and bluegrass. It was excellent. The next night, we went back to the same bar. This time to hear a collection of artists that are touring together. David Berkeley, Micah Dalton, Ryan Horn, and Jon Black. This was even better than the night beore. The whole evening was great: great music, great drinks, great people, great atmosphere. Great, great, great. Ok then. See ya.

great.