A Change Needs to Come

Earlier this week, at a public middle school in Louisville,KY, an 8th grader was arrested for having two loaded guns in his backpack. After his arrest, a friend of his explained that this young man didn’t bring the guns to school to hurt anyone, but that he brought them for self-protection on his walk home from school.

I haven’t been able to get this situation off my mind. It’s a shining example of how broken the system is. My heart breaks for this young man, who must feel like he is risking his life to get to school everyday…so much so that he brings weapons with him. He knows it is breaking the rules (how could he not?), but when you are talking about staying alive then most rules go out the window. And now, he is forced to finish his education at an alternative school where it will be an uphill battle to pull himself out of the stigma associated with it. The cycle of struggle will probably continue. All because he was trying to keep himself from getting hurt or killed while he was doing the right thing by getting an education.

I am in no way saying that it is okay to bring weapons to school. Thank goodness no one was accidentally or intentionally injured. Guns scare me especially when they get in the hands of people who don’t know how to use them or people who aren’t thinking rationally (either from drugs/alcohol or due to mental health/emotional issues). This child needs to face the consequences of his actions. And I am grateful that an alert security guard figured out something was wrong and acted quickly. But why, WHY, WHY did it get this far?! Why couldn’t he talk to a trusted teacher about his situation? Why couldn’t he go to a counselor and ask for help in finding a better solution to the problem? Why didn’t his friends feel like they should step in and alert someone? Why weren’t his parents more involved?

I am not bashing his parents…..I have no idea what their situation is. Maybe they work multiple jobs and physically aren’t around as much? Maybe they are consumed with their own problems? Maybe they are ideal parents and their son didn’t want to burden them with his troubles? Who knows? I am also not trying to be critical of his teachers. I cannot imagine what they have to deal with the in the classroom on a daily basis. All I know is that this young man was failed, collectively, by his parents, teachers, friends, the system, and by our community.

We have to do better. This is our future. This is our present. It would be so easy to say, this isn’t a concern of my family and that my kids aren’t in the public school system for this exact reason. But that doesn’t help our community, our city, or our fellow citizens. We all have to be invested and involved in creating a solution. I wish I could put out there 10 things that we each could do to change what is going on. But I don’t know what those things are. It’s frustrating and upsetting.

Also this week, I have been stewing over the situation with Colin Kaepernick. When I first heard that he sat down while they played the National Anthem before his game with the San Francisco 49ers, I was put off. Thought he was a punk. Then I started reading more. And I heard opinions from black friends. And I changed my mind. Colin Kaepernick is frustrated and upset every time he hears another story about the system failing another person. He, like me, probably didn’t know what to do to help change the situation. He, unlike me, knew that he could pull national attention to the issue by doing something drastic that would cause no one physical harm. Good for him. He isn’t the first professional athlete to use his celebrity status to take a stand. Famed son of the city of Louisville, Muhammad Ali, may be the most famous.

So how are these issues connected? I don’t know the race of the boy who brought the weapons to school, so I am hesitant to make this a race issue. I think these things are related because for anything to change and to improve, people who have power and means need to step up and do something. Colin Kaepernick doesn’t live in poverty. Neither do I. Really, we could both go on with our lives and pretend the issues that are dominating media don’t affect us. But they do affect us as a whole; as a culture; as a community; as a country.

My hope from the beginning is that Kaepernick didn’t stop with this gesture. My hope was that he could pull together other professional athletes who have the same concerns and they could create a plan to make a change. That they pool their financial resources and use their notoriety to create something good. I was happy to hear that Kaepernick has said that he will donate the first million dollars he makes this season to community organizations who are working for a change. I feel like I am trying to do my small part of helping the situation by raising children who are not so privileged that they can’t see the harm in what is going on. But, I know I should be doing more. And I want to do more. I’m just not sure what that more is and I know it isn’t going to fall into my lap. Looks like I’ve just given myself some homework. And I’m okay with that.

I know I usually tie music into my posts and there is only one song that comes to mind : A Change is Gonna Come. It was originally written and recorded by Sam Cooke in 1964 as a response to the civil rights movement. It became the anthem of the movement. The alternate version by Ben Sollee is on my regular listening rotation and it serves a reminder that it doesn’t matter if you are a southern man who was targeted because of your skin color or if you are a boy from Lexington, KY who grew up with privileges, you can still sing this song with meaning and soul while inspiring all people to work for a change. We are all in this together. Ben’s lyrics that really jump out to me are:

I just need some comfort
Some kind of belief
That this war we’re fighting
Can really bring some peace

“…cups of who cares…”

My kids are at wonderful ages (10, 8, 7, 5). They are out of the baby phase, but not yet to that scarey teenager territory. They also GET things. You know….the older two boys are into sports and were totally into the NCAA Basketball Championship this year (woohoo…shout out to our favorite DI team, the Louisville Cards!!). My daughter also was excited to follow the sucess of the Lady Cards. And my youngest little man is still my music lover and he is forever asking if a show is ‘for grown ups only’.

One of the joys of parenting is watching your child’s face light up when they meet someone they admire. And what is even better is when those idols are friendly and approachable. I am forever grateful to all of the current and former Bellarmine basketball players and coaches (especially those connected to the 2011 National Championship team) who have made my oldest two feel like a million bucks when they invite them into the locker room before a game or make a point to call them by name and say hello to them. I like to think of these people as accessible idols.

My youngest has had a major thing for Josh Ritter ever since we saw him play an in-store at ear-X-tacy. He was only 2 and in a sling but kept yelling ‘lalas’ during Josh’s performance because that was one of the few ‘words’ he said at the time. We were able to meet Josh afterwards and he was amazing with the kids. They all got high fives and guitar pics from Josh! And it made a lasting impression on my budding musician.

My little man has a room full of music posters…including one of Josh’s. He is learning to play guitar and has even composed his own song. When asked who his favorite musician is, he always says “Josh Ritter”. Not that I don’t love Josh, but it always comes as a surprise because he has met and hung out with other talented musicians, like Ben Sollee, The Head And The Heart and Patrick Hallahan (drummer of My Morning Jacket). It isn’t like Josh is the only musician he has met….but Josh clearly stand out in his mind.

We surprised our newly turned 5 year old with tickets to Josh’s April 19th show in Louisville for his birthday. He turn five at the beginning of April and (not knowing we already had tickets), he asked us if he could change his birthday to April 19 so that he could see Josh for his birthday gift. So sweet. We will be sitting in the 2nd row and I will probably spend more time watching my little man’s face instead of enjoying Josh’s usual smile, but I am pretty sure they will both be sporting big smiles!

 I hope to have a fabulous post-show update where I can gush about those smiles meeting and talking again, but you will just have to stay tuned. If you haven’t already listened to Josh, you should do so now. He has a great voice and I am really digging his new album, The Beast In Its Tracks. This new song, Joy To You Baby, is one of my all time favorites of his. (You will also “get’ the title to this entry…yes, it is a song lyric. 😉 )

If you can’t make the show or just want some good lunch time music on Friday, you can also tune into 91.9 WFPK, where Josh will be playing on Live Lunch at noon (you can stream it live from their site or app, in case you aren’t in Louisville!).

I was supposed to run for President in 2012.

Tomorrow is election day. A Presidential election, at that. Is it bad that I feel fortunate not to live in an ‘important’ state such as Ohio? I have friends there who had received 12 political phone calls THIS MORNING!!! There was a time when I couldn’t get enough of the political game! In fact, it all started before I was enough old enough to vote. When I was in high school, my best friend and I hatched a plan that in the year 2012, we would run on a ticket since we would be 35 in the year 2012. Ha…how things have changed and somehow time has stood still because there is no way I am really 35!!

One thing that hasn’t changed is how serious I take my right and obligation to vote. I have voted in every election that I was eligible for since I turned 18. Sometimes that included voting by absentee ballot, sometimes that included driving to multiple voting locations after moving into a new precinct, sometimes that meant bring all 4 kids with me. Although the last one was often a pain….contrary to popular belief, becoming a mother does not include gaining a set of eyes in the back of your head. Therefore, trying to concentrate on the ballot in front of you can become quite the challenge when you bring four young children with you to vote.

But, pain or not, bringing the kids with me is something I will always do. In fact, on primary days, I wait until they are off school to ensure they can still go. I clearly remember going with my parents to vote when I was young and I think it had a large impact on my feelings surrounding voting today. I want to help instill that same since of duty in my children that my parents did for me.

One of our favorite family stories surrounding voting happened during the last Presidential election. I made the big effort to get all 4 children out the door…they were ages 6, 4, 2 and newborn at the time and getting out the door was always a challenge!! Anyway, we got to our voting place and the oldest two boys were given Kids’ Vote ballots to fill out. Not wanting to miss out on something, their 2 yr old sister said she wanted one also. Of course, I had to help them fill it out (I won’t tell who they voted for, but I approved.)  And when it got to be my daughter’s turn, I asked her who she wanted me to check off. She looked at me and shook her head. She didn’t want either one of the options. I was started to get antsy to be done and pushed her to pick one. Again, she shook her head and said “I want Fancy Nancy!” And that is who I wrote it!! To fully appreciate the story, you need to know that Fancy Nancy is a character in a children’s book series who has red, curly hair and likes everything fancy. You also need to know that that description pretty much fits my daughter as well!!

Tomorrow is the big day and I don’t care who you vote for (well, I do, but….), JUST VOTE!!! Let your voice be heard. Here is another plea from a friend and amazing musician to vote. Please watch this video…words can’t describe how moving it is. Ben Sollee made his way to the Lincoln Memorial recently and sang his song, A Few Honest Words, even after being relocated by security. As you can see, the lyrics make this song very fitting this time of the year.

A Few Honest Words

If you’re going to lead my country,
If you’re gonna say it’s free
I’m gonna need
a little honesty

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words
Is all I need

I don’t need no handshake
No firm look in the eye
Don’t tell me what you think I,
I ought to hear

I don’t need no high life
No fancy premiers
Just tell me what you really think
Without fear

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words
Is all I need

Love is a bitter food
You’ve learned to eat
You still don’t know, oh,
Where it grows

And our love of freedom
Holds a veil over our eyes
Rights that are given
Can be taken away

Just a few honest words
It shouldn’t be that hard
Just a few honest words
Is all I need

We don’t choose our leaders
The choose themselves
Tell me again
About democracy

Forecastle ticket giveaway!

The big weekend is almost here….it’s been a long time coming and Louisville is ready! I’ve only been looking forward to this forever and can’t wait to see my favorites, The Head And The Heart, Abigail Washburn, Ben Sollee, Justin Townes Earle, Cheyenne Marie Mize, Lucero, My Morning Jacket, Sleigh Bells, The Features, and Walk The Moon. I am also excited to check out some new (to me) groups like Real Estate, Moon Taxi, Beach House and Andrew Bird.

After a near scheduling disaster (darn my son for being selected to that all-star baseball team!) that nearly made me decide between my son and music, it is all good! And I don’t want to hear “oh, I can’t believe the easy choice wouldn’t be your son.” Of course, I love him more than anything. But, Mama’s gotta have a life too…otherwise Mama might not be so pleasant to be around!

Anyway, I have a general admission Forecastle ticket to give away for Sunday. Go to my facebook page, Last Bit Of Sanity, and like it. Then answer the question posted (who are you most excited about seeing this weekend?). A random winner will be picked on Friday.

My music rut has been broken!

I am more than willing to admit that I can easily get into a music rut. I have the tendency to listen to a song or album over and over and over again if I really like it. I am pretty sure I spent years of my youth with American Pie on repeat….except the repeat technology wasn’t so good then. It took much more effort to rewind the tape at the end of the song. I even got fancy and recorded multiple tracks on a tape, so I could listen 2-3 times before having to rewind. Ah, kids these days don’t know what they are missing (and just to clarify….I was not even born when the song first came out…it was just a gem I discovered one summer in grade school).

At least my music neurosis nearly always revolve around good music (I am proud to say I was never into the New Kids On The Block!). Well, for the past few months not only have there been just a small handful of bands that have come out of my speakers (minus my morning dedication to WFPK), but I have been spoiled by those same bands because I have had the pleasure of seeing them live…some of them more than once and some more even more than twice!! I’m talking to you Walk The Moon, Ha Ha Tonka, The Features, Langhorne Slim, Ben Sollee, and The Head And The Heart!! In fact, this blog has been quiet because I can feel you all rolling your eyes when I bring up any of the aforementioned bands….I know I have made it known how much I love them.

And some pretty amazing things have happened with those bands since the beginning of the year – Walk The Moon has just exploded, especially with the ‘young people’…makes me still feel young. haha Langehorne Slim launched a PledgeMusic crowd-sourcing campaign that was fully funded within days and he just released a new album that has broken the Billboard top 200!

But let’s move to the fun amazing things that are connected to me. 😀 In January, I started working with Ben Sollee as his social media and Team Sollee coordinator. It has been a fabulous ride that allows me to use my brain for something other than mommy stuff!! I actually get to use my good ole’ Bellarmine University Communications degree for something other than trying to interpret baby babble. Woohoo! Plus, it gives me a chance to help an independent musician whom I fully support and respect. Then Ha Ha Tonka was playing at Uncle Slaytons around my birthday (I had gotten to know them when I interviewed them), so my hubby helped organize a group of friends to come to the show and to my shock and dismay, Ha Ha Tonka called me up on stage, mentioned the blog and lead everyone in singing happy birthday to me. These guys are great and always so kind and friendly whenever I see them (I promise I am not a groupie, but I have seen them 3 times in 5 months and even went 8 hours away to see them….don’t worry, it coincided with an already planned trip!!). Lastly, The Head And The Heart. I started following them very early in their career…just as they were self-releasing their album (before they got picked up by subpop). And I still have trouble believing how all of the pieces just magically fell into place and it is hard to write about them because it just really doesn’t seem real. All I know is that I was able to have dinner with the band before their Louisville show at Headliners, gave Charity a ride to the show from dinner and shared bourbon on the tour bus with Josiah after the show. An entertaining twitter convo was also thrown in there. All of the above groups are just so real and genuine. I am afraid the bar has been set pretty high for any and all future groups that I fall in love with!!

So, you can see why I was pretty content with my musical rut (and see how I am totally trying to justify my craziness!!). Except, I was starting to feel like a fraud for not posting about the newest and greatest music out there! And something new just jumped out at me. The Lumineers. I had heard of them and even heard some of their stuff on WFPK, but for whatever reason I hadn’t paid that much attention to them. Until I was watching tv with my 6 year old daughter and a commercial came on and she said “i know that song”. It was familiar to me, too, but I had to shazam it. And what do you know, it was Ho Hey by The Lumineers. I checked them out on spotify and immediately order their cd. And now, because of my neurosis that we have already established, my kids and I know just about all the words to the whole cd. We’ve had it for 3 days. I love them, I love them, I love them. My only problem is that they aren’t scheduled to come to town. I guess that gives me some time to figure out how I can make friends with them, too. Enjoy this earworm….

what’s up with local music?

Louisville has always had a strong local music scene.  We are (generally) supportive of musicians and have some great music events (like Forecastle – “where the world gathers to experience the best in Music, Art, and Activism” and Abbey Road on the River-“biggest Beatles Music Fest in the world!)  And we can’t ignore the HUGE influence of 91.91 WFPK, most listened to AAA station in the country that hosts of so many fabulous shows (Live Lunch, Waterfront Wednesdays, etc) and home of the top Music Director in the country, Kyle Meredith (who also produces/hosts The Weekly Feed, an hour long syndicate in 16 markets). So, we have it good. And local musicians benefit from the strong radio presence….they get airtime!!

But, we all know there is now a large hole in the local music community since the closing of ear X-tacy.  ear X-tacy was a place were local musicans could sell their cds on consignment. It was a place they could have their cd release and in-store performance. It was a place where they could have their cd featured on a listening station for all to sample. I have had numerous people ask me where to buy local music now. I don’t even know what to tell them. I know there are other music stores, but I just called a couple to see if they had Inclusions by Ben Sollee (I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from friends on where to buy his stuff) and no one did. They were all nice and said they could order it, but it isn’t the same.

I feel the loss and I am only a listener. I am curious to hear what local musicians think and what they think the future looks like for music in Louisville. And apparently, I am not the only one! The Louisville Free Public Library has put together an interesting event, “Local Music: An Insider’s Story”.  It is the first in a series called THINK LOCALLY. Local musicians, Joan Shelley and Joe Manning, of King’s Daughters & Sons,  will give their perspectives and insights on the past and future of music in Louisville.  Join me on Wednesday night at 7pm at the LFPL Highlands Branch.

A Christmas Gem….

I stumbled upon a Christmas gem….a collaboration between Billy Bragg and Ben Sollee. It is Billy’s first Christmas song (and I believe Ben’s as well) and it was published a year ago on Dec.20, 2010 (Dec.20 just also happens to be Billy’s birthday!).  The title is “We’re Following The Wrong Star” and its a different kind of Christmas song, but I dig it. Makes you think about what the holiday season should be about.

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