Friday, January 11, 2019

Year in Review - 2018 (Stacy)

Wow, we really haven't blogged much this year. I suppose that, in and of itself, should give an indication of what life is like with teens - full and busy and wonderful and, consequently, not a lot of down time. Also, it seems I am perpetually behind on everything in my life. BUT I love doing these New Years posts because it's such a nice way to look back at the past year and get an idea of my own personal growth and an overview of what we've done and to help give some direction going forward. That's the goal anyway. So here goes . . .

  1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before? Became the parent of an adult. Saw "The Cursed Child" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Dear Evan Hansen" on Broadway. Reconnected with a dear, old friend who moved to Delaware from Vegas. Worked as a poll worker. Started working for our library system giving classes on topics ranging from homeschooling to stress management. Did more volunteering at local community theaters as my kids have been in various plays and musicals, and have met some wonderful people in the process. Was in charge of props for a local community theater's production of "A Christmas Story." Hosted people from 5 different states for a great New Year's celebration. 
  2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I think so! 2017's phrase was "Live Imperfectly." Embracing imperfection and not letting it get in the way of doing things . . . I'm doing better. It's still not 100% (imperfection!) and I have a ways to go and there are areas where it still holds me back sometimes, but I'm making progress. I find myself reminding myself, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." It's not easy and my inclination is still to be a perfectionist, but I'm easing up quite a bit and I have to say I like it. I'm getting to do more and be more present, because it's more about doing it generally than doing it perfectly. Too often in the past, if I couldn't do it perfectly, I'd just freeze and it wouldn't happen at all. That's just crazy because it's normal for there to be evolution, so I'm embracing imperfection more and jumping in more. 

    And y
    es, I'm doing the word of the year again and this year's phrase is a word and it's "some." A friend of mine (Devany) suggested it and it I loved the idea so she and I are both doing it and sharing with each other for some accountability. The idea is that we at least do *something* on our goals, be it exercise, writing, parenting, what have you. It's an extension of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good (don't let "all" be the enemy of "some") and it's baby steps, but that's the right direction and a good pace.  
  4. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, and we just attended Henry's 1st birthday party this past weekend!

  5. Did anyone close to you die? Yes, my uncle Joe. It was shocking and sad. He was my favorite uncle and he and I have always kept in touch. We were going to visit him in Portugal in October and we hadn't told him yet. He died in April. :/ And we were also very shocked to hear of the tragic death of a friend of the kids and we are still reeling from that.

  6. What countries did you visit? Didn't do as much traveling this year other than a couple of trips to NYC and our annual trip to the beach. It's been a busy year of theatre! Kate did go on a writers' retreat to VA. Looking to do more traveling in 2019 as part of Kate's gap year.     

  7. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018? I said this in 2018: "A cleaning service. Totally serious. I joked that that's all I wanted for Christmas. My husband thinks that's a lame Christmas gift, though, so he got me games and wrote me poems, and we're getting a regular cleaning service anyway. :P" We did do this, but it lasted less than a year because the woman doing it switched to be a caterer. We only had her come once a month, but it was a nice break for us with how busy we've been. I think I'd like to find someone else and do it again, but barely feel like I have the time to look. :/

    I'd say - support? More than listening and understanding, some actual support. I get tired of not being heard or seen or believed. I've even noticed that when I ask questions, people don't always answer what I'm asking. They say something unrelated, answering what it is they *think* I'm asking. It's a little thing I used to not even notice, but it's built up and now it drives me crazy, because it's a symptom of a larger issue. I get tired of empty promises. I tend to be the one who reaches out and takes care of others all the time, but dammit, sometimes I have things I'd like to do, too, and I can't even imagine how much emotional exhaustion would be lifted if there were more support. I've grown a lot these past few years and I have better boundaries in place and am doing much, much better at spotting problematic people and staying away, for example, so now (still) I'd like to do more myself and support would be nice. It's like I've cleared out sooooo many cobwebs and now I'm stronger and ready and feeling better about doing some stuff I'd like to do, but support would make all the difference in the world in this area.     

  8. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Aside from the shock of hearing of my uncle's death and of that young friend of ours, there have been lots of good dates, too. Looking over the past year, there have been lots of great things our kids have been doing - writing awards, poetry contests, theatre roles (Kate as Hook and Max as Zazu and Lurvy are particular standouts), getting a game into the hands of a game design company, National Honor Society induction, jobs, college acceptances, student film festival screenings, local author festivals, student awards, camps (which also meant a fun week in Harrisburg for me and Mark), internships, Max building his own computer, you name it. I've also enjoyed reading To Kill A Mockingbird with Max, meeting Paula Poundstone with my family, seeing "The Cursed Child" on Broadway (wow!) for my daughter's 18th birthday, seeing "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Dear Evan Hansen" on Broadway, RAIN SO MUCH RAIN, a fun Tony's party, seeing my daughter vote for the first time, seeing They Might Be Giants perform at a club (with friends), seeing the Mr. Rogers movie, meeting Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, a great family/senior photos photo shoot, registering people to vote (with my family), working the polls as a poll worker, teaching classes for the library, attending a writing conference with Kate, celebrating Kate's graduation, enjoying my online food group I started, Kate getting her wisdom teeth out, meeting John Cusack (!!!!!!!!), a full week at the beach (especially knowing Kate's going off to college next year), reconnecting with old friends (The Billings), Ren Faire with family and friends, Scout dressing up as a UPS driver, seeing Kate off to an adult writers' retreat in another state, seeing "Be More Chill" locally with friends, the college application process (so stressful and exciting), Max getting involved in the Big Brothers program as an awesome big brother, having a really nice article written up about me and the classes I'm teaching, SO MUCH RAIN, helping with props for a production, volunteering more with other parents at local theatres and seeing our theatre family and circle of friends grow, hearing fantastic feedback on how much people love our homeschool group and seeing it thrive, seeing my kids blossom into amazing singers, going to a friend's fun Halloween party, the shock of hearing of the tragic death of a friend of the kids, a beautiful celebration of that friend's life, a great holiday season, a guest for Thanksgiving, a great seafood dinner for our anniversary, seeing Kate get into all 5 colleges to which she applied, seeing Max work hard and level up in his game, a wonderful Christmas, a very full and happy house for New Years. Okay, so lots of dates.
  9. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Ohh, this question kind of stresses me out. I've seen people ask it on social media, too, and I just read it and freeze and feel like, "What have I done?" I've definitely gotten better at boundary setting and I'm pleased about that. Not sure what else. I mean, we've done a lot of amazing things this past year, so I should probably give myself more credit than I do for just how much we've done as a family. I don't tend to think of that stuff as "things I've done," but the reality is that all of these things take time and coordination and research and effort, so I really should give myself some credit. Homeschooling kids and getting them into college - that's something. I mean, they do the work, but the actual process is a lot since we're the "school," too. Oh! The library hiring me to teach classes - that's been really nice and such a boost overall. I really enjoy teaching and interacting with people in a group setting. It's invigorating and I think I'm good at it.   

  10. What was your biggest failure? Like I say every year, I don't like to think in terms of failure. I like the "growth mindset" rather than the "fixed mindset" approach, and I hope this is what we teach our kids, too.   

  11. Did you suffer illness or injury? Other than than the usual mental/emotional stuff, no. I'm grateful for our good health.      

  12. What was the best thing you bought? Hmmm, I can't think of any "things," since we're not big shoppers, so I'll go with experiences and say "Harry Potter and The Cursed Child" tickets      

  13. Whose behavior merited celebration?  My kids. Kate totally handled setting up gap year experiences and all kinds of college application stuff like a pro! She's doing so many cool internships and having some great experiences with both writing and theatre. And she can SING! It's great seeing her do things she loves. And Max has matured by leaps and bounds this past year - just so responsible and thoughtful and more grown up. He's more young man and less little boy and it's amazing to see him grow up more and more into who he is, you know? He's physically grown a lot (man, they outgrow shoes fast) and his voice has deepened (beautiful bass voice) and we've had to keep him stocked with clothes and shoes (and food!), and even beyond that, he's growing so much as a person. He has depth and thoughtfulness and is just GREAT to talk to about everything from politics to philosophy to psychology to religion to pop culture, you name it. I love these kids like crazy and genuinely enjoy spending time with them and talking with them. Oh, a shoutout to a person we know who didn't hold a grudge and let theatre be the vehicle for some good will. That was pretty impressive. 

  14. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?  Hmm. I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone here (other than the very obvious - 45), but of people I know personally . . . what can I say? I guess I'm no longer surprised by people. Even people you thought were good and could never be cruel . . . is it sad that there's no surprise factor anymore? I'm in such a good place with this. I've gotten stronger (which is obvious as you read through these year-in-review posts over the past many years). I've stopped chasing down affection. I stand up for myself. I don't bother with problematic people. I notice red flags and stay clear. I'm more cautious and protective of myself. *shrug* I don't know. Maybe I'm getting less riled up because of this. If someone doesn't think I'm worth it, that's okay. Their choice. Not everyone is going to like everyone and that's pretty normal actually. I have worth and I like being with those who appreciate it and like me for me. I don't feel like wasting time anymore on people who don't care for me or who are cruel or where the relationship has been mostly one-way. I'm noticing those with whom I'm emotionally safe and those people are good people. When I can open up to someone safely, be truly heard, be believed, be validated, be cared for . . . then I know that's a good person. If I open up to someone and that person doesn't hear me or responds cruelly or perhaps doesn't respond at all, that says so much more about the person than it does about me. But it does tell me something about that person. And it reminds me of the saying, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." So yeah, I don't know. I'm in a place of peace with all of this. I'm good. I'm set. My family is pretty awesome and if someone wants to get to know us, awesome. If they don't, fine. But I will say this, my kids are pretty remarkable, fun, creative, kind, smart people and anyone missing out on them is truly, TRULY missing out. I'm focusing way more on my own life and way less on those who criticize or fight with people or triangulate or who just want to find fault. They're busy doing that anyway. They can have it. I want to do other things!      

  15. Where did most of your money go? Probably our mortgage, student loans, and a few NYC trips. We don't tend to spend a lot if we can help it, as the little things mean a lot to us, so the usual - food, games, movies, etc. And our annual beach trip is fun for us and we went for a full week this past year, which was great. We figure kids are off to college soon, so we wanted a full week there. But again, even that is on the off-season, so that helps us keep costs down. College expenses are on the horizon. This is Kate's gap year and we're doing some traveling. So, we're watching our savings.     

  16. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Seeing "The Cursed Child" on Broadway as well as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Dear Evan Hansen." Also, seeing my kids on stage more and meeting so many amazing theatre families. Seeing my daughter get accepted to all the colleges to which she applied. Seeing my kids make cool films. The beach. Reconnecting with old friends. My homeschool group doing so well. Teaching classes. 

  17. What song will always remind you of 2018? I'm going to go with "Dear Evan Hansen" songs because we listened to it a lot, then saw the show, and then listened even more! The soundtrack is gorgeous.     

  18. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder? Happier. Itching to do more. Frustrated at setbacks, but happier.
    b) thinner or fatter? Mmm, thinner? Mostly about the same, but probably a bit thinner.    
    c) richer or poorer? I like what I said this past year, and I will add that we're about the same, I guess? We're very cognizant of the fact that our kids start college very soon (in fact, they've both already been involved in college classes, so technically, we've already been paying for that). We've saved and we're also aware that we're paying for their college while also continuing to pay off our own student loans (ugh) and very hopeful that we can help them graduate with as little debt as possible, because these loans SUCK.     

  19. What do you wish you’d done more of? Writing articles. Developing courses. Playing games.   

  20. What do you wish you’d done less of? Stupid, constant emails and to do lists. 

  21. How did you spend Christmas? In our usual way - here as a family, eating great food (we gave ourselves the gift of going out for our Christmas Eve dinner - I thought Mark was going to cry tears of joy when I suggested it, as it was a welcome respite), playing games, and enjoying the holiday together - always thoughtful gifts that show how well everyone knows each other. So much excitement over giving and gratitude over receiving. Leading up to it, the kids were really involved in their play ("Charlotte's Web") and some cabarets, so that was fun. The holiday was chill and fun and relaxing and sweet and nice. I loved it. We had house guests come in that week from 4 different states and we had a great NYE together with all of them. We really love our holidays together! 

  22. Did you fall in love in2018? Of course. And with my dog, too. I'm so in love with her. 

  23. What was your favorite TV program? Probably "This Is Us." And we're currently binge watching "Frasier."

  24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Same answer as this past year with only a slight adjustment. Nope. I read a great article a while back about how friendships vary - some are for a reason, some are for a season, and some are for a lifetime. I'm appreciating all relationships for what they are and not forcing any of them to be something they're not. Caution, yes. Hatred? No. (And I still hate 45.)    

  25. What was the best book you read? My reading has gone down the tubes. I guess I'll say "Tell the Wolves I'm Home" was a good one, but in general, I've barely got time to read these days. It's pretty go go go with teens. When they were little, I was physically tired. Now? I'm on mental overload for sure. I love it and am not complaining. I'm simply saying that I'm busier than I've ever been. Believe it or not, we're a family that tries NOT to overprogram and we DO say no to things. Even then, it's just all very full. It's a tricky thing to balance because you also want your kids to have cool experiences and meet great people and hang out with friends, so.    

  26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Um, "Dear Evan Hansen?" Oh! And figuring out that I can tell Alexa to play the "Ed Sheeran Station" and she'll play stuff by him and similar stuff but by others and it's pretty nice.   

  27. What did you want and get? More progress on my own personal mental well being.  

  28. What did you want and not get? Greater support and initiation.     

  29. What was your favorite film of this year? "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Absolutely beautiful film. I sobbed and it was really hard to contain it. I bawled all the way out of the theater, too, and that's not my M.O. And "The Mask You Live In" was an excellent, excellent documentary and I'm recommending it to everyone I can. We even hosted a discussion group about it at our home with a bunch of parents and teenagers. 

  30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 44 and we spent it taking the kids to auditions in one town and then to improv class in another town and then we got to see them do improv and THAT was awesome. My kids are hilarious!     

  31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Support

  32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018? The same. Nothing profoundly different. In general, I care about looking presentable, but also comfortable. Sometimes make-up, sometimes not. It varies. I've been wearing more jewelry (nothing too fancy). I'm forever a fan of cardigans. And I like my new haircut a lot - an angled cut. 

  33. What kept you sane? My kids, including the furry one. Supportive female friends 

  34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. RBG.  

  35. What political issue stirred you the most? What didn't? That stupid wall idea is, well, stupid. Detaining families at the border and separating kids from parents is despicable, especially for those seeking asylum. I mean, it's just despicable and a human rights violation and a horrendous assault on the psyche of people. It's abuse and trauma. I feel passionately about universal healthcare and am about ready to move out of the country to go someplace else for that and many other reasons

  36. Who did you miss? My dad.

  37. Who was the best new person you met? I'm loving all the theatre families we're getting to know. Courtney has been a really fun person to friend. I love our late-night texting conversations. And I'm absolutely loving reconnecting with my old friend Benjamin Billings and his wife. We've been able to get together with them multiple times since they moved to Delaware and we really, really enjoy it.    

  38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018. That I am good at this red flag thing and that I can set boundaries and that it feels good to do so. And that, hey, I'm often right about stuff, regardless of whether or not people listen to me.   

  39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

    "Anybody Have a Map?" from the Dear Evan Hansen Soundtrack

    Does anybody have a map?
    Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
    I don't know if you can tell
    But this is me just pretending to know
    So where's the map?
    I need a clue
    'Cause the scary truth is
    I'm flying blind
    And I'm making this up as I go

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Anything But Books Tag

Kate wrote a blog post a while ago with this title, and at the end, like she is wont to do, she challenged people to come up with their own lists. Since it's been a while since I've posted anything (Wow, life is busy!) I decided to do it on our blog instead of just in her blog comments. I actually wrote this post right after Kate did hers, but only now got around to posting it.

Here goes!

What is a cartoon you love?

I watched a lot of cartoons as a kid--anything LooneyToons, The Woody Woodpecker Show, Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, etc., etc.--but my favorite has always been Scooby-Doo, even the Scrappy Doo years. What wasn't to love? Crazy characters. Johnathan Winters. The Globe trotters. Meddling Kids. Epic chase scenes. Watching the "Supernatural" episode recently with Kate and Stacy was super fun.

What is your favorite song right now?

Ugh, favorites. The most recent song I pulled up to listen to is "Hamilton Polka" by Weird Al.

What is something you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

First of all, I'd be surprised to find out I had any followers, but supposing I actually had followers, they might be surprised that I get nauseous when I think about broken bones or orthopedic injuries. I always love to do sports medicine, and orthopedics is super interesting to me, but when I think about a blown knee or bad fracture, I get queasy.

What is your unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

I can go down pretty serious rabbit holes when I learn about a musical artist for the first time. I end up chasing down their complete catalog, listening to iconic songs, looking for other musical influences, and sometimes listening to those related artists. It's taking me a while, but I've been trying to listen to the entire Nina Simone catalog. Sometime last year I heard an NPR story about her (I think it related to a movie about her) and I become semi-obsessed. I've taken a break lately, but maybe I should get back to it . . .

What is something unusual you know how to do?

Recall seemingly useless trivia at odd times. I don't try to do it. It just happens. If only I could remember more essential things more consistently . . .

Name something you’ve made in the last year.

A creative Christmas gift for Stacy.

What is your most recent personal project?

I got the grill to work again today. It ended up being a far less involved project than I had anticipated.

Tell us something you think about often.

My wife, kids, and dog. I don't mention it as often as I think about them, but it's a lot.

Give us something that’s your favorite, but make it oddly specific.

My favorite Gatorade/Powerade "flavor" is blue. I drank it a fair amount last summer when I was trying to hydrate while fighting C. diff. Otherwise, it's been a LONG time since I drank it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Grammys Are Coming - All the Parts

In past years, I've done a four-part series on the big awards at the Grammys, but this year, I didn't have it in me to do separate posts. I did actually listen to all the nominees for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist, and I'm going to put all of my thoughts in this one, monster post. Skim if you'd like. Read in depth. Whatever. I just decided that since I took the time to listen to it all, I wanted to spew forth some random musings.

First of all, this is a weird year for the Grammys. You'll notice that the nominations are skewed heavily to the hip-hop side of things. I'm not sure if that is a concerted effort by the Recording Academy to represent genre and artists that have been ignored in the past, or if it truly represents the best of 2017. Honestly, I'm having a tough year coming up with my tops for the year, so I'm inclined to say these are the most impressive works of last year. Many of them are outside of my normal listening habits, but I found that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

So, here are my thoughts . . .

Oh, and I've included Content Warnings (CW) since so many of these songs have the potential to offend. I'm not for censorship, but I do think people have the right not to be shocked if it can be avoided.


I'd heard of 4 of the 5. I'd heard music by a few of the 5. I enjoyed mostly none of the 5, for reasons I'll expound on. This is the toughest category for me every year since the criteria are a bit vague. "An artist will be considered for Best New Artist if their eligibility year release/s achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape." Yeah, not hard to judge at all.

Alessia Cara

She is everywhere. She is everywhere. She has a great voice, and from what I've heard, she is doing a TON of great collaborations. I gave her solo album (Know-It All) a listen and enjoyed it pretty well. Here's a sample from that debut album.

Cara sang the version that played over the end credits of the movie "Moana."


I kind of like his retro sound, but it definitely comes off as young, or at least inexperience. It's quite possible he's going for that feel. He's another artist who is doing a lot of collaborations, and I'm thinking that may be super important for this category, since it's so broad and non-specific.

CW: You may fall asleep listening to his sedated style.

Lil Uzi Vert

Seriously, what in the actual hell?! I will set aside the fact that this guy plays into every sexist stereotype that exists in the hip-hop and rap world. Let's just talk talent. He is over-autotuned, super choppy in his rapping style, and not clever in the least. There is nothing on his recordings that I find original, groundbreaking, or ingenious. No way he should win this.

(If you really are that curious, you can look up a sample. I refuse to inflict this on anyone.)

Julia Michaels

I didn't realize who she was until I saw the first track of her album was "Issues." I'd actually heard this song before. I wasn't sure what to expect from her since her overt style wasn't really distinct. It turns out that she has a decent indie-pop sound, but nothing earth-shattering as far as I'm concerned.

CW: You may become confused and unable to distinguish Michaels from many other white, female indie artists.


Even though she is another artist who is collaborating a ton, I listened to her most recent album, "Ctrl." I definitely love her musical style. It takes me way back to the R&B I grew up on. I'm not a huge fan of her vocal style on that album, but I've heard her on other tracks that I enjoy. My favorite recording from her is "All These Stars" with Kendrick Lamar from the soundtrack for the upcoming Black Panther movie. Go figure.

CW: a couple of F-bombs. You may also develop the sudden urge to engage in vigilante-style justice.

My Pick: Alessia Cara
My Prediction: SZA


This award goes to the songwriter, or team of songwriters. It doesn't necessarily include the entire production of the recording, but I'm sure that plays in. Ultimately, we are looking at which of these songs is the most well-written, regardless of how it ends up being presented.

Ramón Ayala, Justin Bieber, Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd, Erika Ender, Luis Fonsi & Marty James Garton, songwriters; Recorded by Luis Fonsi &; Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber

It's trash. The beat is catchy. The Puerto Rican rap sounds cool and exotic, but when you translate the lyrics, you realize it's another misogynistic song about a sex-crazed guy luring a woman in. There is no message. No irony. No subtlety. The lyrics aren't clever or deep, so it misses in a songwriting category. It really upsets me that this track is here over any number of Sheeran tracks from his album.

CW: Ridiculous Latinx stereotypes. And Justin Bieber.

Shawn Carter & Dion Wilson, songwriters; recorded by JAY-Z

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but this is such a good track. The lyrics are spot on and completely nails the message he is going for. The story goes that he woke up at 4:44 am and had to write this song, so he did. And he named the entire album after this track. As an aside, I love Kim Burrell on the recording. I'm not sure if that really matters in the songwriting category, but still, it had to be said.

I wish I could find just the recorded track, but the official video is all that's out there. I did start the video well into it so you can hear a better representation of the song.
CW: profanity, brief video clips of violent acts

Benny Blanco, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Julia Michaels & Justin Drew Tranter, songwriters; recorded by Julia Michaels)

All in all it's not a bad song. I'm not wowed by it or anything. I think the way it goes at troubled relationships and toxicity in love is good, so there's that. I don't know that I any stronger feelings that that, though. Like I said, it's a decent song. Another song that pales compares to many of the Sheeran tracks.

(The video is up under the info about Julia Michaels,)

Alessia Caracciolo, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, Arjun Ivatury & Khalid Robinson, songwriters; recorded by Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid

This is one of those songs with a really catchy hook, and it definitely has a great message, and I'm glad people are trying to bring awareness to suicide and suicide prevention. It's a nice collaboration, but it's a little bit repetitive, so if I'm being honest about the songwriting, I don't think it measures up. But that is not to say it isn't a great and important song.

Disclaimer: I haven't seen the video, but the song is good.

"That's What I Like"
Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus & Jonathan Yip, songwriters; recorded by Bruno Mars

I'm just not that impressed with the song. It's catchy. I'll give it that. I suppose that's a trademark of Bruno Mars. He writes songs that get stuck in your head, and that's not a bad thing. The lyrics are decen, but it doesn't feel new and innovative, like some of his early songs have been. More on this later, but I'm sort of disappointed in general with his most recent album.

CW: feeling of immense inferiority when considering your own dancing skills.

My Pick: "4:44"
My Prediction: "Despacito" (Lord help us all!)


This award goes to all the people who worked on the album from artist to recording engineers to songwriters and featured artists. You have to consider the album as a whole. When I first saw the nominations, I was disappointed. Have I mentioned how I wish we had some Ed Sheeran up in here? I will say, though, that I found some surprisingly good listens here. I wasn't blown away by all of the recordings, but I didn't hate listening to most of this.

Awaken, My Love!
Childish Gambino

Donald Glover is everywhere these days, so why not the Grammys? I was not sure what to expect since other things he's done have left me really disappointed. This was the first album I listened to in the group, and I was shocked. I loved the overall approach. He channeled a lot of older R&B, soul, and rock artists (I even heard some vocals that had to be inspired by Prince), so of course I loved that. His vocals a little all over the place, but that's probably intentional in his overal presentation.


This is essentially an apology album (or at least has several tracks in this vein). It's a response to Beyonce's Lemonade, and it's a good one. From top to bottom, this album hits it all. It feels like he's had an epiphany and had to translate that into a very solid hip-hop album. I'm not normally a fan of JAY-Z's style since it's very herky-jerky and not as smooth as I'd like. I'm going to say that I really enjoyed this one. And the irony is not lost on me that he could win several Grammys this year while his wife did not win many that she really should have last year. I'm waiting for the backlash if he does well.

Kendrick Lamar

I'm a big fan of Kendrick Lamar. I'm a bigger fan of his To Pimp a Butterfly album than of this album, but this one is still good. He's definitely a genius of the concept album. All the tracks tell a story and flow. And his lyrical style is like fine-crafted poetry. It feels like an extension of poetry coming out of Harlem in the early 20th century. Damn. is more harsh and militant, but in the end Lamar seems completely possessed by purpose.


For fans of Lorde, it's a great album. Songs all sound familiar and typical of her style. There is great songwriting and lyrical styling, and if you love good alternative rock of the 80s and 90s, she definitely has you covered there. My only criticism is that it doesn't strike me as horribly different from her previous work. I really enjoyed it, but I didn't "this is the Album of the Year" enjoy it.

Since the other nominees have videos elsewhere on this post, but Lorde doesn't, I'll leave one here for you.

24K Magic
Bruno Mars

This was easily my biggest disappointment of the category First, the good: as is so typically awesome of Bruno Mars, he shows off all the R&B styles you could ever want, proving he is a brilliant student of the genre. I heard the styles of Bobby Brown, New Edition, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, El Debarge, James Brown, and more. Musically, it was phenomenal, especially for fans of old school R&B, which shows again why if I were to ever be a touring musician (which I would never), his back-up band is the place to be. Now, the bad: this album played like one giant brag about being rich. He reminds us what it's like to have more money than you need, and why men with money have historically gotten to be so stereotypically sleezy. I mean, the title is 24K. And his music videos don't even try to throw us off the track.

My Pick: 4:44
My Prediction: 4:44


This award goes to the team of artists, producers, and engineers involved in the best single recording of the year. Songwriting is not a part of it, but I'm not sure it can be completely taken out of the mix. 

Childish Gambino

Top to bottom this is a great track, and is one of my favorites from his album. From the start you get the distinct impression that this will be very unique. This track also has a very heavy Prince vibe to it, which isn't a bad thing.

CW: potential for nightmares after seeing this image for the entirety of the song.

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber

See my Song of the Year thoughts. I don't know how much more I can say about this song. I will say that it is way more appropriate for this category, but the fact that the lyrics are so subpar, there's no way I can get on board with this song for Record of the Year.

The video is up there somewhere in the post. I just can't do that again.

"The Story Of O.J. "

I heard the first bit of this song and realized I was in for something special. This is a fantastic record. It hits at big issues in the Black community, and these are things that can only be said by someone born and raised in this community. The ultimate message is whatever "kind" of black person you are, you are still black in this country. And what are you going to do about it? OJ tried to distance himself from the Black community and in an ironic twist, probably needed that association to be acquitted of a major crime. The track is phenomenal. And any recording that samples Nina Simone is going to be something special.

CW: abundant use of one version of a racial slur, exposure to an artistic representation of minstrel show stereotypes, an F-bomb or two.

I will say that this video is brilliant, as far as I'm concerned.

Kendrick Lamar

This is a super deep track, which is not unlike nearly all of Lamar's work. It's filled with irony as he talks honestly about his accomplishments and the dangers of not remaining humble. It also points out how a rise from nothing will invariably include people tagging along. And those people aren't always the best to have around. I hoped for more from him, but I can see why the track is nominated.

I posted the "clean" version. It just seemed more appropriate than a paragraph of CWs.

"24K Magic"
Bruno Mars
I swear Bruno Mars is a direct musical descendant of the Jackson 5. This track takes me back to the early 80s and all the styling that was coming out of Motown at that time. The production quality on this song is off the charts and just feels right. I'm not a huge fan of the song and it's message otherwise but can't deny that it is well-produced.

CW: exposure to Las Vegas and it's extravagance, scantily clad women, some profanity, the irrepressible desire to getcha groove on.

My Pick: "The Story of O.J."
My Prediction: "The Story of O.J."


Ed Sheeran  was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance ("Shape of You"), and Best Pop Vocal Album (Divide). Definitely check it out. OK, since you begged, I'll post a video of my favorite track from his album.

CW: the desire to visit Galway, Ireland and do step dancing with Saoirse Ronan.

Taylor Swift isn't to be found in the big awards, but she did receive a nomination for Best Country Song "Better Man" written for Lady Antebellum, and the Best Song Written for Visual Media "I d/on't Wanna Live Forever" ("Fifty Shades Darker"). She's a talented songwriter to be sure.

Alabama Shakes was nominated for the Best American Roots Performance ("Killer Diller Blues"). Anything they do demands some attention.

Iron & Wine is nominated for Best Americana Album (Beast Epic). I recently learned about him because of a rabbit hole I dove down after a friend talked to me about Dawes and work they have been doing. Iron & Wine was an artist suggested to me during my searches. He has a great folksy Americana sound without getting too close to the country/bluegrass side of things.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is never far from the Grammy stage. "Moana: The Songs" was nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, and "How Far I'll Go" was nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media. He's still looking for his Oscar to complete the PEGOT, but another Grammy can't be disappointing.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Living the Dream

A week ago, our family attended a celebration of diversity and poetry for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. One of the slam poets that night said, "Raise your hand if you have a dream."

I hesitated and gave it thought. I didn't raise my hand. It felt like the kind of thing you *should* respond to with a raised hand, but I didn't.

The thing is, I didn't feel wrong or uninspired or depressed. I mean, I've always got dreams and goals of varying degrees. It's just that when I think about some overarching dream, nothing big calls to me. However, that is not to say that I'm not content.

I was sitting there contemplating my reasoning for not raising my hand and thinking to myself, "But I already AM leaving my dream."

Honestly, my grandest dream as a little girl growing up was to someday be married to my best friend and have a family together. There is a lot of talk in society today about what is and isn't feminist and, sometimes in that process, career becomes synonymous with feminist and marriage/home become synonymous with anti-feminism. I don't agree with that at all. As I've stated before, feminism is about choice, whatever that choice may be, for every woman out there.

I don't think it's anti-feminist to speak about falling in love and relationships and all of that. I grew up hearing those things from people I looked up to and they inspired me and gave something to look forward to.

I knew I wanted togetherness, peace, closeness, happiness, fun. I wanted something that I couldn't name as a child, but that I can name now: emotional safety. And I have that. I'm married to my best friend and I have emotional safety with him. I love being married and being part of a partnership. I love relationships.

I also absolutely LOVE being a mom. It's so much fun and I get to love these two amazing people and do my best to guide them and help out with life. How lucky am I?!?

Nothing in the world makes me happier than hanging out with my family and that is the honest-to-goodness truth. I love adventuring with them and I absolutely LOVE simply hanging out as a family playing games and eating take-out or watching TV/movies together.

So yeah, when someone asks me to raise my hand if I have a dream, I sometimes feel conflicted, because what if you're already enjoying that dream? That doesn't mean you don't have a dream. It means you're a lucky one who gets to LIVE it.

It's hard to talk about this sometimes, because you worry it comes off as braggy or because it just seems like a weird thing to admit (we can't win as humans, right? If you are happy, you're bragging; and if you're not, you're complaining). You feel like you're supposed to quietly go about your life and maybe you are, but this blog is sort of a journal for me and this is something that I've been feeling and that has been on my mind, so I figured I'd post.

So, raise your hand if you have a dream?

*Raises hand.*