Friday, January 25, 2013

Top 5 Musicians That I Can't Not Love: Men's edition

I like music, like a lot, and there are some artists out there that I really dig.  Whether it be their voice (it's usually that), their lyrics, their style in music, or a combination of those three, I just really love anything and everything they do (musically).  So here's a list of some of the fellas who's music I can't get enough of, in no particular order.

1) Bruno Mars. A roommate got me his album, Unorthodox Juke, and it is legit!  I can't stop listening to it.  He has such a great voice and is a gifted songwriter.  It doesn't hurt that he's pretty handsome.  He, on the same night, guest hosted and performed on SNL and did a superbly.  Such a talented young man.

2) Justin Timberlake.  A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing music and brought up falsetto.  We talked about how few people, men, could really pull off falsetto, but Justin Timberlake was one who absolutely could and does.  His voice and his musical stylings always suck me in.  I love everything he does musically and thoroughly enjoy his humor on SNL.  Even though his new single isn't my favorite of his songs, it's still pretty great.

3) John Legend.  He could sing Mary Had A Little Lamb and I would still be smitten.  Seriously, his voice is pure velvet, I want to marry it.  He sings from this place deep inside that just resonates so deeply with me. 

4) Robin Thicke.  Okay, so I'm not that familiar with his music, but I do know that he's great at falsetto.  I just really love his hair and his wife is gorgeous.  So good for him.

5) CeeLo Green.  He's very eccentric, but fantastically talented.  His voice is unique and has a great range.  His music reflects his uniqueness and, although it can be full of extra musical effects, can have grave sustenance to it.  There's a heaviness that it seems he carries within him and I think a lot of that comes from being very misunderstood and also musically brilliant.  If he continues making music, I will continue to support him.

That's it.  Those are the musical men I cannot not like.  They are all very talented and bring something different to the musical world.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Teaching is hard, not because there's so much material to teach or because there's so many children we have to differentiate between.  But being a teacher is much, much harder.  I didn't realize there was a difference until Tuesday on my way home from a really tough day at work.  On my way home, that evening, I was finally able to start processing what had happened at school.  I'm still kinda processing it.

I haven't reached a full conclusion, but I have come to realize that there's this heart teachers have.  It's this teacherly heart; this heart enables us to love each student deeply, even if I can't name them all, all while seeing their faults as a human and believing that they can become so much despite the flaws.  This teacherly heart tells us to keep at it even though the federal government oppresses us into a frenzy. This teacherly heart breaks when a student has the cops called on him.  This teacherly heart rises up when others, who aren't teachers, insults us for not focusing on the right things as teacher.  This heart that I have loves my students, and students who are not my students, in an incomparable way to any other love I have for others.  I don't want to be these kids mothers, I just want to offer them what I can: a safe music environment and the kind of love only a teacher can give.

Although I'm often driven to look for other non-teaching jobs because of my disdain for the bureaucracy added by the government, county/state/federal, I always know that teaching is what I should be doing.  It's what I've wanted to do for most of my life, since I was five, and I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life.  So here are some things that I love about being a teacher.

1) Joyful Children.  When an autistic kid can't hold in his giggling all class (I don't ask him to) because he loves my class, and most things we do in it, and ends up holding his stomach from this fountain of joy coming from with; when a child who speaks next to no English, but can actually accurately answer a question in my class and they can't stop smiling and can't wait to tell their homeroom teacher and parents that he answered a question correctly in English; when we're listening to music with our eyes closed and a wide grin breaks across his face and he starts to wiggle and snap.

2) Inspiring Children.  When a girl asks me for one of my journals so she can write her songs in it; when a boy asks what the name of the group was so he can YouTube them, he wants to do vocal percussion like the guy from the video we watched; when a girl says she's been practicing this song all week and knows all the words by heart.
3) Connecting Children.  When we're listening to Indian dance music and a child says his Indian dad listens to it and translates the song for us; when we sing songs in Spanish and the Spanish speakers are able to help others on pronunciation and meaning of the song; when they're in groups working on a project and they use their strengths to create a great final product they're proud to perform in front of the class.

4) Growing Children.  When a student, with several delays and deformities who literally lived on the streets of an African nation for the first 4-5 years of her life and never had a word spoken to her until she was brought to the USA goes from yelling and pounding the ground in my class to singing back the exact notes I sing her name in (even though she's deaf in one ear) which is better than her 'typical' kindergarten classmates; when a boy goes from telling me he doesn't dance to leading the class in a dance; when I prepubescent boy goes from showing disinterest in everything about my class to being the first to raise his hand and answer questions.

5) Loving Children.  When a boy doesn't want to take his hat off because he's self-conscious about his hair and his classmates say his hair is super cool because it looks like Robin's (Batman's sidekick) hair; when a child messes up singing something solo and classmates tells others to not tease; when children groan because my time with them is up and they have to go back to their homeroom teacher.

It's hard to put into words, this teacherly heart, but it's so real.  Even though there are many things I don't like about the educational atmosphere of this country, the children make it worth it.  Education isn't about: global/local competition, science/math, reading/writing, or the government.  Education is about growing people who are to be true stewards of the world and each other.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Why I'd be the Worst Pregnant Lady Ever

So, about every other day someone announces that they're pregnant or that they've had a baby.  These women are incredible.  I've haphazardly heard and read about pregnancy horror stories like losing teeth and balding.  I don't want to be a mom, I know people who want nothing more than to be a parent, and their kids are great. The women who are so pregnant and still so graceful deserve an award because it doesn't just change the body, it changes the way they live.  So here's why you'd likely hate being around me if I was ever pregnant or why I'd hate being around myself.

1) Whiny.  I anticipate me whining a lot.  I'm not a complainer, I like to try to fix the object of the whining, but being pregnant isn't something I can 'fix'.

2) Horse Pills.  When it comes to taking medicine, I'm the worst at taking it.  Even little naproxen sodium pills are a challenge for me.  I have to concentrate really hard and talk myself into it with a ton of water.  I've seen the prenatal vitamins women have to take, no way.  They're huge!  Also, I remember my mom having to take iron supplements and them making her sick because they're so strong, that doesn't jive with me.  Also also, a lot of vitamins have gelatin in them and I'm a vegetarian, so that's a no go.

3) Sleeping.  I'm a stomach sleeper.  I'm not a fan of sleeping on my back, it's uncomfortable.  I'm okay with sleeping on my side, but still prefer my stomach.  Well, when a woman's pregnant, she can't sleep whatever way she wants and certainly not on her stomach because there's a human inside.  A lot of women apparently use some kind of pillow, but that doesn't sound too terrible.

4) Peeing.  I'm a teacher, so I can't just go to the bathroom whenever I want.  I hear the zygotes like to play around with their mom's organs, including her bladder.  It'd be terrible to be in the middle of teaching, have the baby kick my bladder and just have to pee.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

5) Hormones.  There's a lot of 'extra' hormones pumping through the body.  I've seen pregnant women go from laugh to sobbing in a manner of seconds.  I don't like having no control over my emotions, that seems exhausting.

6) Doctor Visits.  I'm not a fan of going to doctors offices.  You have to go fairly often.  No thanks.

7) Touching.  I don't know what it is, but people feel like they can just touch the mom's belly when she's pregnant.  It's weird and I won't allow it.  When people touch the belly, they're not only touching the woman, they're touching the baby.  I don't want all these people touching my baby.  Creepers.

Well, there you have it.  The above just doesn't sound awesome to me.  But there are plenty of women who love being pregnant and who are good at it.  And, yes, the things I mentioned are trivial and I would put up with them if I ever got pregnant (except the touching), but I don't want to ever deal with that stuff.  Pregnant women everywhere are being so graceful and gracious, I would just be moping around... hohum.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I Am Black, But Here's What I Am Not

Tonight I rung up a customer (white/male/46) at the yogurt shop at which I work.  He had a friendly demeanor and seemed nice enough.  After he was finished with his yogurt, he approached me at my till and started asking me questions.  He asked if I was a student, I told him I was a teacher, he said he just knew I was either a student/teacher/news anchor (that's something I've never gotten before).  After the basic 'about me' questions, he started asking if I'd seen all these different movies/shows: Amistad, The Color Purple, and others.  As soon as he asked me the first one (which I can't remember), I knew the conversation was gonna go south.  He asked me if I'd seen The Color Purple, I told him I had and he said he didn't think they made movies like that anymore.  That they were so concerned with being politically correct and not offending blacks.  I mentioned the movie The Help and how it's based on a true story.  He said he did see that and called Viola Davis a liar for saying she faced discrimination as a child, because he's the same age as she and he never noticed any discrimination against blacks.    He talked about how he's watched Roots.  He went on to talk about hate crimes, and how they're never called that if a black person does one against a white person and how that's not fair.  He talked about the propaganda of the liberal media.  He spoke proudly of how he had read Obama's autobiography although he, of course, didn't vote for him.  He spoke fondly of Herman Cain and how the liberal media gave him a bad wrap.  And he ended the 'conversation' with asking me if I got offended when (white) people called black people "black folks".  My response was something of, someone will always be offended, but it's not about the word 'black' or 'folks' it's about what is being said about the folks.  He said, the President is always talking about fairness, and that he knows this because he read his book, and it only seems fair that white folks can say 'black folks' because Obama says 'white folks' in his book (which he kept reminding me he had read), and so do a bunch of people some consider to be 'leaders' in the black community (Al Sharpton, Tavis Smiley, and others).  Then he thanked me for the conversation and said that he wanted to talk to me because he could tell I'm intelligent.  Thanks?

Now, after all that I'm not really that offended about his ignorance, or his belief that he understands black folks because he's watched a few movies/mini-series and read our half-black President's book; he can think whatever he wants, we all can.  I'm more offended at the implications he made about me, about my blackness.

I am NOT qualified to speak on the behalf of my race.  I am one person who has beliefs and thoughts, but they do not reflect every black person.  I don't want my, or any other black person's, thoughts/beliefs/morals/stances/feelings/jokes/values to be just thrown into a bucket labeled "Who Black People Are". I'm not even cool with the people who are 'leaders' in the Black Community, they have a voice, but they don't get to speak for me.  For some, their blackness contributes to a lot of who they are; but that's not the case for me.  I'm not ashamed to be black, I'm not trying to minimize it, I'm black because I was born this way.  For me, blackness doesn't extend past my physical features.  Slavery doesn't 'resonate deeply' with me because some of my ancestors were slaves; slavery upsets me because it's still a problem today, in this country, in my city.  The Civil Rights Movement doesn't resonate with me because 'my people' had to fight for what was right; civil rights move me because social injustice is still thriving today.  I am not walking around with a chip on my shoulder because I'm black and only blacks understand the plight of black folks; no black person should have a chip on their shoulder for any racial reasons.  I'm not bitter about the past, no matter how recent.  I'm not angry at white folks for slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and segregation.  So when a person asks my opinion because I'm black and they want a black perspective, I'm offended because I wish they'd ask my opinion simply because I am a person.  I don't have the authority to speak on the behalf of black people, no one does.

I am NOT a credit to my race.  I'm just awesome because I am.  Why does my race get mentioned for my accomplishments?  Every race has the good, the bad, and the ugly, so to say that someone is great 'for their kind/race/people' is implying they have a lot more 'bad credits' than good.  Not cool.  I believe everyone is born blank, but their circumstances (socio-economic status, location, education, upbringing, etc) fills in the blanks of who they are...and, possibly, who they'll become.  I didn't have anything to 'rise above'; I grew up in the suburbs of Charlotte, with my parents never divorcing and me in the top percentile of my class all throughout school.  My circumstances, past and present, make me who I am, not my race.  My race is simply how I look.  That's it.

The truth is, being black isn't anything special (to me).  I like how I look and I like me.  But no one can say they understand what it means or how it feels to be black because they've done research, watched documentaries, interviewed black people, no more than I can say I know what it's like to be a neo-nazi skinhead because I've watched American History X and have met some pretty racist people in my day.  I don't understand their thoughts, I don't know what it's like to hate a people so deeply based on something so surface.  But it doesn't matter, because I know what it's like to be human.

I'm not offended by this man.  I don't care that he felt he had/has the right to simply approach a black woman half his age and discuss race and politics.  I'm not offended that he said I was intelligent in a patronizing tone.  I'm not offended that he insulted President Obama.  I'm not offended that he didn't believe there was racism in Rhode Island (where he thinks Viola Davis is from) in the 60-80's and essentially called her a liar.  This man doesn't offend me because those are his (misinformed) opinions; we're entitled to them and we all have them.  What does offend me is when people see nothing but my blackness and draw a thousand conclusions (prejudices) about me based on my physical features.  We (people) are all so much more than how we look.  Give us some credit.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Resolutions

For all of my life, up until last year, I sucked at New Year's Resolutions.  I would say "Okay!  I'm gonna do XYZ"  and within a day, maybe a week, the resolution would die and I wouldn't even bother to try to revive it.  I know that's a common thing, for people to make resolutions and then not follow through, but I think I've figured out why people's resolutions don't make it.  Reflection!  I think we don't reflect as much as we should.  Resolutions should be based on reflections of ourselves.  We should look at who we are, what's important to us, and produce a resolution from there.  Reflect on who you were last year, what you stood for, what you did to improve the world, what mattered/mattered little to you...then make an action plan.

Well, I'm pretty pleased with my 2012 resolution, "Be more social outside my house."  I really like spending time with my roommates so I had gotten into somewhat of a rut just staying home all the time because I didn't need to leave home to be social.  So in 2012 I made it a point to go out more with friends and make more friends.  I went to bars (still not a fan), house shows (big fan), we hosted parties at our house, and went to conversation groups (a group of people that get together to speak in a certain language, in this case Spanish).  So I'm feeling pretty optimistic about this year's resolutions.

1) Gym.  I know, I know, it's soo cliche, but hear me out.  I do like going to the gym; well, I like being at the gym.  Getting to the gym is a challenge for me, I easily talk myself out of going.  To say "Go to the gym more" or "Lose weight" is a time and tested way to get me to do nothing.  But, when you make a specific goal, it's more attainable.  My goal?  Go to the gym no less than 4 times a week.  Sometimes I do a really great job of that, sometimes laziness wins.  But, by setting this goal, and being intentional, the side-effects of the frequent gym visits will come into fruition.

2) Music.  I really miss making music.  There's never been a time when I made music for music's sake.  I was always preparing for a concert or recital, I was never just playing to play.  But I really want to; I want to be that musician who just plays because they love it.  I want to learn to love playing for my sake and not for the ensemble I'm in.  My resolution is to play a wind instrument (I have bass clarinets, a clarinet, and recorders) at least once a week, and a non-wind instrument (guitar, ukulele, and piano) at least once a week.  Initially, I won't be able to play very long, especially for the wind instruments, I have to rebuild my chops (mouth muscles) back up to be able to play for more than a few minutes at a time.  Ugh, I did that to myself.  And same for my fingers, getting them reconditioned and re-accustomed to the strings and piano keys.  I've also found a couple phone apps that are for aural skills.  I've always struggled aurally, but I really want to get better.  It makes for a better musician.  I want to practice just a little each night right before bed; just for like five minutes.  I want to be better and learn to play for music's I'm taking steps to make that happen.

Those are my primary New Year's Resolutions.  I do have I couple other things that I'd like to do, like read more (recent) fiction and speak up more when my feelings are hurt (instead of retreating to my room, hurt) and trying more recipes.  But these are on the back-burner and I'm not really putting a lot of energy into those.  What are yours?  What are you doing to make them actually happen?  Let me know how it goes and here we go!