Time – Weekly Photo Challenge

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, cold, but it is February, after all. This morning was gray and cloudy and for February, relatively warm – 37 degrees F or 3 degrees C. Warm for February. But, it’s all relative. I didn’t get to spend much time outside yesterday. I spent the day catching up on grading – grading Civil War tests – timelines and essays. And it’s not likely I’ll get much time today, either.

essays - what is central idea of the Gettysburg Address - they don't grade themselves
essays – what is central idea of the Gettysburg Address – they don’t grade themselves

I had promised time to B, my wife, but grading the tests took longer than I expected. I went to school to grade – the tests needed to be scanned and the only scanner I can use is at school. I was sort of married to school. The school was open Saturday, the local youth athletic league had rented the gym for the basketball season and yesterday was picture day.

I donned my lanyard with my school ID and keys and ambled in. I found the library open – a bonus of sorts. The library is being transformed to a modern library use – space to sit and read, use laptops, and other devices and maintenance workers were in on the weekend finishing work on a charging station and a printing station they had started the day before. The library still has books, but times are changing and our school will be issuing all students a Google Chrome laptop for use next fall and the librarian is trying to get ahead of the curve. We, meaning teachers, are, too. Continue reading Time – Weekly Photo Challenge

Bittersweet Sunday

It Sunday morning. It’s a typical Midwestern January morning – cold and overcast. Yesterday was the same and tomorrow will likely be the same. It’s all right, cold and overcast January days are the rent we pay for the rest of the year.

W looks on and waits for his next match. I snapped this and texted it to him and got the reply 'go get me a sub' followed by 'thank you.'
W looks on and waits for his next match. I snapped this and texted it to him and got the reply ‘go get me a sub’ followed by ‘thank you.’

Jonas bypassed us. We’ve had storms come through and shut us down, but nothing as severe as Jonas. Since, I’ve been blogging we’ve had several snow days, one in January 2011 that brought 21 inches of snow and shut schools for two days. We’ve had bitter cold and severe wind chills and we’ve had torrential rains that closed our schools, too. In all that time, we stayed inside and waited. When it was over, we went outside shoveled snow and cleared our drive and our neighbor’s, too. It’s the rent we pay.

Saturday was a bittersweet day, it was sunny in the morning, then overcast, then the clouds disappeared in the evening to reveal a full moon.

It was bittersweet for more than the weather; it was W’s last wrestling match. W is my son, my favorite son, and he turns 18 Wednesday.

W was born late in the evening Tuesday, January 27, so late it was close to January 28. Like all parents, especially dads, I remember the moment I held him for the first time, I remember the moment well. I can close my eyes and picture myself holding him and feel the tears well in my eyes and roll down my cheeks. They still do, the tears that is. I remember his first of many things, I remember his first day of pre-school – 9/11. I remember his first wrestling match, a loss in less than 15 seconds and I remember his first win – in overtime. He was our first, and only, for almost five years, then O came along and I had another favorite – a favorite daughter. Continue reading Bittersweet Sunday

a frigid Monday morning

It’s cold outside, that’s why I am inside sitting at my desk in the basement. Yesterday, O, my favorite daughter, and I braved the elements and took off for the big city. She wanted to take the train in and I opted for the car. It was a good choice.

chicago_selfie2
a Chicago selfie – it’s colder than it looks, the lake is frozen along the shoreline

Saturday morning, she came downstairs to the basement and plopped down in the chair beside my desk proclaiming she an adventure and trip to the city. She wanted to visit the Shedd Aquarium and after listening to her plea, I decided Saturday wasn’t the day to go – I had too much to do and she didn’t ask until almost noon, too late to drive into the city. So instead, we planned and plotted for a trip Sunday.

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day even if temperatures hovered near zero.

a Revolutionary War hero - Polish born Tadeusz Kościuszko
a Revolutionary War hero – Polish born Tadeusz Kościuszko

This morning it’s -1 F, or -17C; yesterday it was a five degrees warmer when we drove in to the city. It was still cold. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill weather advisory for today because it feels like -21 F, or -30 C, and that is fine with me it’s safer and easier to stay inside and take care of business. I still have a lot to do.

Traffic was light on the expressway and the biggest hurdle was finding a parking spot close to the aquarium. We arrived just as another family was leaving and we took their spot.

It was a short walk to the aquarium but the cold and the wind in our faces made it seem longer than it was. The return trip seemed shorter a few hours later.

The Caribbean Reef exhibit
The Caribbean Reef exhibit

We had a good time. We both took pictures and took in the exhibits. O surprised me with her patience as she read about the exhibits as she passed them. We started with the Caribbean Reef and watched the diver feed the fish. The Caribbean Reef is in the center of the aquarium and in the rotunda with rooms shooting off like spokes of a wheel. Several years ago when we were in Florida, O and I visited the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. It was there we learned about the dangers sea turtles face as the human world intersects with the natural world. One of the biggest dangers to turtles are boat strikes. The boat strike isn’t always fatal, but it renders the turtle unable to dive as it creates an air bubble between the shell and turtle’ body. O and I watched as ‘Nickel,’ the Shedd’s green turtle, paddle around the aquarium with her rear pointing to the surface. O remembered our visit.

waiting for the aquatic show - lake Michigan and the Adler Planetarium in the background
waiting for the aquatic show – lake Michigan and the Adler Planetarium in the background

We took in several more exhibits and watched the aquatic show in the main aquarium facing Lake Michigan. Continue reading a frigid Monday morning

Circle – Weekly Photo Challenge

It’s is Sunday morning and life has turned full circle for me. A scant two weeks ago, Christmas Break began and now, two weeks later, it is over.

early Sunday morning, the lake has changed and the ice is moving and Ivy patrols her yard
early Sunday morning, the lake has changed and the ice is moving and Ivy patrols her yard

This year’s break is like all the others before it, I have enjoyed the time with my family and I have rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated for the new semester and I am ready to go back, to return to a routine and a schedule.

We’ve enjoyed the last several days Up North by the lake. Our place by the lake has incredible restorative properties; the kids spent a day skiing and snowboarding and another day resting and relaxing. I spent a couple of days cooking and enjoying the cottage with Ivy. B and I have enjoyed relaxing with friends and ringing the New Year in with a roaring fire and a full cottage. Now, it is time to pack up and return to our lives. For W, it is finals and his last semester in high school, for O it is seventh grade and halfway through middle school. Next year, is seemingly far away, but it is closer than we all realize. Continue reading Circle – Weekly Photo Challenge

Happy New Year – 2016

I started a post writing yesterday, but I didn’t finish. We arrived at the cottage late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, depending on one’s perspective, and thus I woke up late, near 10 AM, which is much later than when I usually awake. I am often the first person in the family out of bed every morning. I usually rise before five in the morning during the week and I allow myself to sleep in to six, or half past six on the weekends. I quickly got busy in other jobs and didn’t write more than the first few lines of a new post.

Thursday morning's view of the lake - New Year's Eve 2015
Thursday morning’s view of the lake

Below is what I began to write,

New Year’s Eve 2015

I backed into the cottage driveway a little before 3 AM. I roused W, he grumbled when I shook his leg and called his name. It was cold and dark and I was tired. I roused Ivy, too. She was excited to climb out of the car and gently pulled at the leash. I opened the cottage door and she rushed inside waking B, my wife, before I clipped her to the tether and let her explore the front yard.

And, that is how far I got, I closed the lid on the laptop and didn’t open it until today – New Year’s Day. Instead of writing, I spent the day getting the cottage ready for our New Year’s celebration and cooking dinner.

Our menu for New Year’s was

New York Strip – grilled
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Steamed and buttered broccoli
Sautéed mushrooms
Green salad
Robust red wine
Chocolate cheesecake for dessert=
All homemade and home cooked, well maybe not the wine….

Our New Year’s Eve traditions took shape several years ago and they revolve around being Up North and at the cottage. We celebrate with two families whom we would otherwise never have met if it weren’t for the lake. We are blessed. I am thankful. Continue reading Happy New Year – 2016

NOW – Weekly Photo Challenge

reading in bed, listening to the rain and sleet ping against the window...
reading in bed, listening to the rain and sleet ping against the window…

It’s Monday and the weather is awful. It began to rain and sleet this morning and it transitioned to snow, then rain. Normally, at this time in my day, I’d be on my way home from school, but it’s the second Monday of Christmas Break, the last Monday, I remind myself.

Christmas break has been good. We stayed home this year and it has been a good time albeit a bit awkward, the first Christmas without my in-laws, B’s parents, and a trip home to Ohio. Christmas day was a mix of new and old. It felt right. We’ll spend New Year’s by the lake, but for NOW, I am home. Christmas break has been what our family has needed.

This morning, I made sure w was up and off to wrestling practice. Then, instead of getting busy, I succumbed to the weather crawling back in bed to read a book, then fell asleep, and woke, then read some more. I am reading A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin. It’s an interesting read and the subject is right where I am in my history curriculum – pre-Civil War.

The weather changed throughout the morning. But the weather here is nothing compared to what the south has endured yesterday or on Christmas Day.

Screenshots courtesy of the Weather Channel app for iPhone.

Ivy knew, too. she’s been out twice – all day – content to curl up beside me and live the dogs life.

Ivy enjoys a 'dog's life'....
Ivy enjoys a ‘dog’s life’….

Continue reading NOW – Weekly Photo Challenge

Tuesday’s Tune: River of Dreams

Today’s Tuesday’s Tune post is a guest blogger – Eli Pacheco from Coach Daddy: fatherhood, futbol, and food.  The blogging world is amazing. I ‘met’ Eli several years ago and have been following him ever since. Last year, I realized we were travelling in parallel universes – he in the Carolinas and me in the Midwest. We both have children -he has three and I have two – and the oldest is a senior in high school and both are competitive athletes – making the two of us sideline supporters. We are both very proud of our kids and it shows in our blogging.  I am excited to have Eli here at Making the Days Count – because we are both making our way through life Making the Days Count.

guest post clay lede artphoto credit: I think this is the gear we’re looking for via photopin (license)

When you make the days count – what does it look like?

I envision life brimming with abundance and adventure. Family, wall-to-wall. All-out experiences that shun fear and trepidation. We make the days count in so many ways – so much positive, so much forward-leaning. It’s where joy bumps into bliss and amusement builds to euphoria.

It took a text message from a dear friend today to remind me that Billy Joel’s River of Dreams held a significant spot on my life’s playlist. She’d just heard it, right after leaving Five Guys Burgers. If that isn’t a sign from above, I’m really not sure what goes on in heaven.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To the river so deep

A youth pastor at UNC Charlotte brought this song to our weekly lunch discussion.

Father Gary paid for lunch for anyone who wanted to sit in. The free pizza drew me in; the smart, coherent, spiritual conversation that ensued proved a beloved byproduct. We’d sit around with Pizza Hut and a handful of coeds tossing about theories and theology and life.

This song, more than any other, demonstrated the considerable percentage of the universe that remained hidden from my eyes.

I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

I listened, the me still unmarried (although Gary would officiate my wedding), not a father, trudging along in a major I loved with grades I didn’t. Billy Joel’s lyrics wound like a river themselves, coursing around and through the ideals of faith, religion and innocence.

The album, which bore the same name as the song – depicted Billy Joel as a Christ figure.

It made sense. Over personal pan pizzas, the answers were plain as cheese pizza. The River of Dreams coursed the subject on a spiritual journey, one with no stops along its descent, only the tributary of Christianity waiting at its mouth.

And even though the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find what I’ve been looking for

Did I even hear these words, then? Because now – and for most of my adult life, post-children, post-marriage, neo-real world – I surmised the River of Dreams not as a vehicle from top to bottom, but as a chasm of incredible fear and depth that couldn’t be bridged – only traversed.

That makes for an interesting choice for making the days count, doesn’t it?

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep

To make days count needn’t be about only that sunny abundance I spoke of before. It’s in introspection. It’s in facing fears. It’s in searching for something, so innate in your soul that you recognize its absence much easier than you do its actual form.

And whether you’re a struggling English major or a new dad or a man who finds himself mired in a crossroads at intersections he can’t recognize anymore, you want to make these days count especially.

And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

I’d imagine the missing pieces could change in a man’s life. Or maybe they evolve with him. And although he feels he could, at 44, win a footrace with himself at age 24, the fact is days are shorter. There are fewer days to make count.

This immediately drives up the value and urgency to make those days count. And propagate a sense of fear and finality.

I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for

In some days, those missing parts are as stark as if we’d cut them out with scissors ourselves.

We know what’s missing. We realize what’s lacking.

So the search continues. Not just across the river, but into ourselves. If a man’s lucky enough to solve himself at 43, he’s wise to get a start on the same journey at 44. He’ll change. His surroundings will change. And he might not be easy to recognize, even to himself.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep

Because when life makes less sense at 43 years, 10 months as it did at 42 years, 10 months, you wonder if you’d taken the wrong path at all. That path, though, isn’t available now. The only path is yours. You can look back over your shoulder, but there’s no going back.

I know I’m searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
Through the eyes of the blind

It’s at this point that visions of that missing part, so palpable you could see the edges and searched for something in exactly its shape, fade. Eyes close, mind takes over. That something lost is you. Bit by bit, molecule by molecule, sheared away by life and love and loss and loved lost and found again.

It’s a steady deterioration – or is it chaffing away the old to give new life?

In the middle of the night

What’s blown away is you, yes, but it comes from a source. That’s more truly you, because it’s the you that endures and regenerates. You wake one day, as man in his 45th year, and you see the wear and tear. You wonder where the man who gained such love and accomplished much, back then, went.

It’s then you admit that the elements that made that man are still at your disposal. This is the time to stop fighting the tide, stop fearing the current, and make the days count as you are – imperfect, perhaps a bit sapped for emotion and strength, but, at your core – still you.

It’s not from God or a girl or medication or doctrine. The strength and courage to endure and persevere and face whatever fate awaits you – from paradise to purgatory – that lies within you.

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land

It’s impossible to gauge how well you’ve made past days count. Some burst with activity and progress. Others barely register a blip. They’re all necessary, and represent your trajectory. What you’re prepared for tomorrow, maybe you’re unfit to face today. That timing impacts your course, too.

And you can’t measure it with any quantifiable method, but you know the key lies in the balance between conscious decisions and an adherence to the laws of a universe that give you the tiniest of oars to navigate on your own.

It’s what forces you to trust the current and the wind – and to appreciate the interim when the waters still and the wind dies. That an awareness of it all is the only way to make the days count.

We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams

 In the middle of the night

How will you make them count?

mtdc quote

A New Birth of Freedom

It’s been a busy week. The week before Holiday Break is always stressful. At school, my students were counting the days until Friday and the time off. Secretly, the teachers were, too. At home, my two kids were counting, B, my wife, is shopping and decorating our home in addition to all of the other tasks she does to keep the home running.

During the school year it’s a delicate balance for me keeping up with school work, home jobs, and family. I am constantly procrastinating with tasks I should do at home so I can do something for school – grade, plan, or reflect. In the end, somethings just don’t get done. Like my desk – it’s a mess. I am behind on my Christmas cards, I need to write a note to my mom and step-mom and thank you notes to my students who remembered me this Christmas season.

Regardless, I try to keep the kids engaged. I remind them to make the days count – to go beyond getting it done and to learn. We are covering the period in American history immediately before the Civil War.

a runaway slave surprises my students

Last week my 8th graders took a field trip to the Naper Settlement. The settlement preserves the local town history and offers educational field trips for the local schools. I had gone last year and was impressed; this year I was excited to return and I promoted the field trip with my students.The field trip is more than a visit – it’s a re-enactment of history. The history of 1856. It’s pre-Civil War and the nation is tense. Abolition is the hot topic of the day and the Naper Settlement re-enacts the period with six separate scenes. Students travel from one location to the next encountering differing viewpoints on the slavery \ abolition issue.

  • a Constitutionalist who wants to follow the law
  • a pro-slavery advocate
  • a printer who wants to stay neutral
  • an abolitionist
  • a slave catcher
  • and a runaway slave

The students get a feel for what it might have been like at the time, including the vernacular of the time. We debriefed Wednesday in class and many students reflected that history came alive and went beyond ‘book learning.’

We finished the week watching Glory – the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and their unsuccessful assault on Fort Wagner. The 54th Massachusetts was one of several units comprised of African Americans. In our text, it is a paragraph. But the 54th Massachusetts is more than a paragraph the unit led to President Lincoln

History, it is our story: there is always an event that happened on this day sometime, somewhere that is meaningful.

Today is the 155th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the United States. Mississippi would follow on January 8, 1861. Nine more states would secede and the United States would be embroiled in a great Civil War, which would test the limits and resolve of our nation.

Friday was the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. The 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States. The anniversaries present irony. The wording of the amendment is simple and plain:

Amendment XIII
Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

49 words. So much meaning.

The politics behind the passage of the amendment is the subject of the movie Lincoln for which Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

Slavery is now viewed as wrong, at the time it was the political third rail. The Civil War was fought over the issue, though Lincoln contended that the southern states could not legally secede. It was his ‘line in the sand.’

Though most people in the North were opposed to slavery, many weren’t willing to step out and openly support the abolition of slavery.

Article V in the Constitution lays out the procedures to amend the Constitution. Two thirds of the House of Representatives needs to approve any proposed amendment and three fourths of the state legislatures needed to ratify it for it to become law.

President Lincoln pushed the limits of politics and Congress approved the amendment on January 31, 1865 by a vote of 175-56, a narrow margin of two votes more than was needed to send the amendment to the states for ratification.

The United States had 36 states in 1865. The 36 included the 11 Confederate States that seceded, beginning with South Carolina on December 20, 1860 – one hundred fifty-five years ago tomorrow.

Illinois was the first state to ratify the amendment on February 1. Georgia was the twenty-seventh state, ratifying the amendment on December 6. The amendment was formally adopted into the Constitution on December 18.

Two more amendments were passed first, the 14th amendment extending citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and last the 15th amendment extending the right to vote to all citizens regardless of ‘….race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’  Source: University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law

History has a way of repeating itself, today we struggle with an assortment of issues that are clearly unjust for which we are unwilling to budge. A few push the issues and others push back.

Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of a military cemetery in southeastern Pennsylvania in November 1863. His remarks were short and to the point.

Executive Mansion,

Washington, November 19, 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow, this ground– The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, to stand here, we here be dedica-ted to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

246 words, 246 powerful words. Today we remember Lincoln’s words, his deeds, and we honor his legacy.

The Gettysburg Address. Initially, the speech was panned. Too short the critics claimed, but it has stood the test of time and is perhaps one of the greatest speeches in American History calling for us to re-dedicate ourselves to a new birth of freedom.

A new birth of freedom is lost on some of our students and some of or citizens, it’s not lost on me. One vote meant the difference to the passage of the 13th amendment. One vote, one person, one moment.

Over break, I have few books on my plate – all related to the Civil War and I’ll be re-watching Lincoln and Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. Looking for some angle to use with my students. Follow my books on Good Reads in the sidebar.

Today is going to be a great day, in some ways it already is. It’s Christmas time and the Christmas season. I have a few things on my plate and we have our visit to the zoo and picture with a reindeers on our agenda. In between, I have cleaning, sorting, shopping, and yes my desk and so much more. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one remembrance, one nod to history, learning all the time

What’s on your reading list this season?

Tuesday’s Tune: “The Boar’s Head Carol”

Today’s post is a guest post from Margaret,  a blogger friend of mine from England. She blogs at  From Pyrenees to Pennines. I first began reading Margaret’s blog several years ago when she and her husband lived in southwestern France. They moved home to England and I love reading of her exploits. I don’t recall how I found her, but I did, and I am ever grateful for the sunshine and joy that reading provides. There is nothing like an English Christmas, nothing. Thank you Margaret, keep Making the Days Count.

“He who sings scares away his woes.” ― Miguel de Cervantes 

There’s a  programme on British radio called ‘Desert Island Discs’, which has been running regularly since 1942.  Just about everyone fancies being on it, and if you’ve made a name for yourself as an actor, a politician, an academic, a musician, a journalist, a physician, a TV personality, a sportsperson …. whatever, really, you may just get your chance.  For 40 minutes, the ‘castaway’ for the week has to imagine themselves washed up on a desert island, with only 8 gramophone records (how quaint that sounds) of their choice, one luxury with no practical use, and one book, together with the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare.  On air, they have the chance to talk about themselves, and more importantly, and just as revealingly, the opportunity to choose the 8 pieces of music that may have to last them for the rest of their lives.

What would I choose?  The list I occasionally idly compose in my head varies wildly, according to my mood.  But what I observe is that it’s always dominated by the human voice.  My list always includes some of the great sacred masses by the likes of Bach, Haydn and Mozart.  There’ll be some traditional music, maybe from Africa or India, and some ‘blasts from the past’ of my teenage years in the 1960s.  The voices range from the pure clear notes of children, through elegant, warm and melodious female voices, to resonant deeper male tones.  It’s hard to think of a single musical instrument with such range or versatility.

And washed upon my desert island, aside from listening to my recordings, what else would I be doing?  Well, singing for sure.  I don’t have the sort of voice that anyone would want to have in a top-flight choir…..  or any choir, really.  I read music only very insecurely.  Yet you won’t find me missing from our weekly choir practice unless I really, really can’t get there.

We’re engaged from the first moment we arrive.  We pat our faces and our bodies awake, stamping our feet rhythmically, or giving each other impromptu massages. We practice rounds and play musical games with notes from the highest to the lowest to get our voices mobilised.  And we sing.  We sing in canon, we sing in parts.  We learn that sometimes the hardest thing to do is to sing well in unison: there’s nowhere to hide.

Nicky’s in charge of us, and I can’t think what kind of title to give her.  She enthuses us; she won’t accept less than our best; she generates an atmosphere in which we all trust one another – our false notes will be forgiven and we’ll even be persuaded to be the sole singer of a line or two of song.  She’s the one who finds pieces none of us knows, from Africa to Finland, to lesser-known Gospel songs.  She’s the one who hunts out unfamiliar pieces from the English repertoire.  And this is the one I’ll share with you today.  It’s  Christmas song, but a secular one, sung at table at Queen’s College, Oxford.  Here’s ‘The Boar’s Head Carol’

During that hour or so on Thursday evening, we forget our woes and day-to-day worries.  We open our throats, and joyfully, we sing. American philosopher William James summed it up perfectly: 

‘I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing’.

Here we are at our summer barbecue, singing for friends and family
Here we are at our summer barbecue, singing for friends and family

Tuesday’s Tune: A Charlie Brown Christmas

It’s Christmas time. The season is upon us. Christmas will be here in sixteen days. I’ve survived Black Friday – I didn’t shop, or even leave the house.

I was four years old the first time the Charlie Brown Christmas first aired. It was 1965. We were living in Houston. We be there one more Christmas and then, we’d move to Sugar Land where I would grow up. My mom still lives in the house I call home, even though I haven’t lived there for close to thirty years.

Charlie_brown_1209_2015-2016
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The network produced a special 50th anniversary special and then replayed the cartoon. I watched it, again.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is an animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. (Wikipedia)

Rewind, I can imagine us, my brothers and I, sitting on the couch watching the Christmas special in our jammies. For us, it was in black and white; we wouldn’t get our first color television until 1971. I don’t have a specific memory of watching it, I just know we watched it. Sitting on the couch.

My kids have watched it, too.

A lot has changed since then. I can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I want – regardless of the season. And, much has stayed the same, A Charlie Brown Christmas was, in a way, a protest show about the commercialization of Christmas.

It bothers me that the Christmas season seemingly begins earlier every year. But, I don’t let it get me down.

A few years ago, I purchased the music from the show and loaded it on my iPhone. I play it as often as I can. I plug in my speakers in my classroom and play it before school starts and sometimes in class when my students are working, no one tires of the tunes. The music is calming and peaceful and it reminds me of the importance of the season.

I remember driving home to Ohio once – I don’t recall when. But, the backseat was in an uproar. My two backseat passengers couldn’t seem to get along, the dog was whining and barking, there was heavy traffic on the road and I popped in the CD. Presto, chango. We listened, whistled softly hummed, and thought of the gift of Christmas.

We won’t be driving to Ohio this Christmas. I am not sure what our plans are, but it will be Christmas. But, wherever we go we will remember the meaning of Christmas.

B has been working on the lights and we got the backyard done this past weekend. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: A Charlie Brown Christmas