I usually speed right past this kind of stuff on Facebook, but when my sister-in-law posted this video I clicked on it for 2 reasons:
1. She dedicated her post to my brother, John, along with her friends and family.
2. I knew that if she liked it, I would like it, too. And it wouldn’t be some corny piece of crap.
I can’t imagine ever being this crazy talented, especially as a kid. But these two sisters sing so beautifully, and so well together, that this song is an instant Happy-Place earworm, as Linda Holmes likes to say. The song, “That’s What’s Up,” is originally by a band called Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Where the original reminds me of a tinny ode to School House Rock, the girls’ version has a much more pure, sweet vocal melody and an engaging, natural performance.
Why can’t I get this song out of my head? Just listen; you’ll see what I mean:
Watching these girls, it reminds me of my Goddaughter and her sister – you can tell the girls love each other. It’s clear that Lennon & Maisy have been singing together since they were little (which you can see in their youtube videos). Their joy is evident.
And it scares the hell out of me.
Because they ARE so talented, I dread some skeevy “talent manager” getting a hold of them, and before you know it, we see Lennon and Maisy wearing too much hair & makeup and stylist-induced designer outfits on The Today Show, like some E! network wannabes. And they get all stupid and slutty and spoiled.
PLEASE DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN! Please, parents of Lennon and Maisy, you seem like good people, you seem to be doing a great job raising these kids so far. I have to say, I have never heard of these two before they landed in my Facebook feed. (The duo are regulars on the series “Nashville,” and have made several television appearances.) So far, they are already off to a good start :) keep up the good work.
Don’t sell them out, don’t let them loose in the Hollywood machine. Care for them, raise them, make them do their homework, make them work shitty jobs to pay for their new car, make them respect themselves and their bodies, and don’t let them turn into slutty little brats.
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I can’t believe how fast this year is going. We are already a week away from midterms. The Barrett-Jackson car show, the Phoenix Open, and the Arabian Horse Show have come and gone. It’s getting ready to be spring, and we’ve only just had our first rain of the year. Probably one of the more perfect times in our corner of the desert, and what people fall in love with when they come for a visit. Especially with the kind of winter everyone has been suffering through this year! Polar vortex indeed.
It makes me glad to be here, but at the same time the snowbirds glory in our 80° February, what they don’t realize is that even for us, it’s unseasonably warm – and dry. It harkens to a tough year ahead for fire season, drought, habitat loss, and stress on wildlife. Not to mention a scorching May – September. I’m trying not to think of that now, and just revel in the glory of living someplace snow-and-windchill free.
I feel a blog re-vamp coming on (again), so look for some changes coming up. While I have loved using WordPress.org, and having the customization freedom it offers, I am frustrated by the fact that when I read through some of my posts, half the time the pictures don’t show up (WTF?). And the whole hosting situation is a pain in the rear. So I’m looking to move the whole operation over to another web hosting site, hopefully with lots of improvements.
I’m taking Austin Kleon‘s advice from STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, and stealing ideas for how to make this site better. Austin sends out occasional newsletters with a quick update on his projects, along with links to interesting things he’s found on the internet recently. Alex Yeske from Dreams + Jeans blogs beautiful pictures and product recommendations. I really like how both of these bloggers give a succinct post, paired with images, and suggestions from around the web, and hope to implement their best practices here.
I’d also like to make to make this site better for YOU, my readers. Any comments? Suggestions on improvements? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.
This is how I applied for and won an art-based scholarship.
The Bethel E. Ells Scholarship is awarded to a part- or full-time art or art humanities major. I believe there is more than one recipient, but I’m not sure of the number. Here is the info from the application:
For students majoring in Art, this includes Drawing, Painting, Computer Graphics, Photography, and Sculpture or Art Humanities.
A lot has been going on. I have been taking 17 credit hours this semester, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve worked so hard and been so happy in that work. I’m telling you right now: If you’ve been in a slump, or maybe want to advance in your career but lack of a degree is holding you back; GO TO SCHOOL, even if it’s just one class at a time.
There’s nothing that will revive you more than feeding your brain. It’s the perfect time in the economy, too. Things are starting to bounce back, but it’s slow going and business is still slow enough that if you wanted to, you could squeeze in a morning or evening class. Some of them are scheduled to only meet once a week, if that’s all you can commit. There are loads of scholarships available, and enrollment is down, so they WANT you to go to school.
But assuming you can afford one class per semester – maybe two – what would you take? What has always piqued your interest? Ancient Egypt? Art History 101- Prehistoric to the Gothic, or World History to 1500.
What have you always wondered more about? How to really use Excel, so you can go up a paygrade at work? CIS 105 or Excel Level I.
Or, have you always wondered why rocks look like this? Take Geology 101! I liked it so much I took 102 as well.
Why don’t you do something for you? You’ve always wanted to try painting. Remember how much you loved watching Bob Ross? I recommend taking Color Theory first. It’s been a challenge, but a good one!
Think about it.
Besides school, we’ve had a few birthdays
and lost our two best friends :(
Butter (aka Best Dog in the World) was 13, and Pepper (2nd Best Dog in the World) was 12. They passed away within a month of each other.
Our new girl, Juniper, was a birthday surprise, and missed meeting Pepper by two days, but kept Butter company for the last month. She’s adorable, and smart, and keeps us all on our toes.
The horses have gotten hairy. They got a post-Halloween treat.
Keira is still for sale. It’s strange, I think she must be waiting for the perfect home. I’ve had several people interested in her, and a few offers, but they all fell through for various reasons. All she needs is time and attention. She’s super smart and sweet, and responds well to training (see video on her page). I’m so surprised she hasn’t sold yet, because she’s pretty close to perfect. But that’s just my opinion ;)
I gave my first class lecture
and we’ve had some rain.
Coming up, I’ve got a post on a popular author, a round-up of my projects for the semester, an out-of-town writing conference (so exciting!), and after Christmas, I get to go visit my family. Please continue to keep my sister-in-law and our parents in your thoughts. This is our first holiday without John, and he is greatly missed.
Here and now, it’s holiday time in the desert, cool and crisp in the morning, sunny in the afternoon.
I’m thankful for it all – my family, our health & home, the opportunities we have.
And to you, for taking the time to visit.
If you’d like to do more online browsing, please stop by my friends’ sites:
Here’s a picture of me, my first week back to school, after a 22-year-break:
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years, and a few years ago, went back to work part-time to help out with things like grocery money. Weird thing about teenage boys is, they like to eat. I enjoyed my job slinging magazines at the grocery store, and my other part-time job, driving delivery lunches for a couple of really awesome caterers. But the work was hard on my back, and I kept thinking…what’s next? Am I going to be lugging 20-lb bundles of Vanity Fair down to the checkstand when I’m 60?
So I started looking for a “real” job. Something that might earn me more money, maybe some benefits, and something I might be proud of. Not that I wasn’t proud of the way I lined up and categorized the magazine aisle, but I think you know what I mean.
And after perusing all of the jobs listings that seemed of interest to me, I realized: I can’t do any of them. As much as I would love to get into a marketing job (literary agent, maybe?), design, or editing, I have no experience or job training – other than keeping two boys and a husband in relatively clean clothes and lasagne for the past twenty years.
So, what could I do? Work part time for the rest of my life? Go back to retail or waitressing? Real Estate?
Luckily the timing worked out right, and back to school I went.
I’ve had more than a few people tell me that I would make a good teacher.
Growing up with an über-feminist mother in the 1970s, in the days when there were only 3 major professions a woman was expected to aspire to were: secretary, nurse, and teacher, and having my mom always telling me that I could be ANYTHING, and that I should never settle for status quo, the idea of being a teacher never appealed to me. (Well, besides the office supplies, and being able to write on a chalkboard.) But it just seemed so unglamorous. Besides, I was going to be a movie star, remember?
When I began to look at what I really enjoyed it occurred to me that I really do like to teach things to people. And I’ve always loved art, have also always wanted to learn more about art and how to be a better artist. And whenever I did try to imagine myself as a teacher, I thought I would love to be an art teacher.
When my youngest son was in elementary school, I offered to be the classroom volunteer for the Art Masterpiece program. As part of the program, volunteers were invited to attend free classes at the Phoenix Art Museum. Then we got all sorts of ideas for lessons and how to integrate them into the classroom. We could even tour the museum for free, and ask all sorts of questions to the Art Librarian. Over the next couple of years we made Paolo Soleri-inspired windbells, Lichtenstein-style portraits, and charcoal drawings of the desert. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it. And while the idea of volunteering in the classroom (usually for some sort of party) typically made me cringe, I couldn’t wait to get in there with those kids and talk about art.
The most surreal part of starting college again was that the day before my very first day of school, my dad called – that 2:30 AM call that no one wants – to tell me my brother had died. I’d been on the phone with family, crying for 24 hours, and then I’m putting on a backpack and carrying a sack lunch. It was all too weird.
The first few weeks of school, my brain and my heart fought between being excited and happy, or heartbroken and crying. More than once, I had to excuse myself from class because it was just too much. But I felt him, every step of the way. My brother had gone back to school in his 30’s and received his degree in music education. He is part of the reason I decided to give it a try.
I learned so much my first semester: How I’m in LOVE with art history; how I get all science-nerd-fangirl over geology stuff; how, even though I’m a rockstar computer whiz when it comes to blogging, I don’t know sh*t about Excel (my only B!), how I get way in over my head for simple design assignments, and while I’m decent at drawing, I still have a long way to go.
Even my summer school classes, English 102 and Public Speaking – which I thought would be a breeze – challenged me in ways I never expected.
Look for more about my school adventures in the future. It’s certainly an overwhelming change of pace, going from full time mom to full time student, especially as an older -excuse me – non-traditional student, but it feels good. I have always loved to learn, and maybe I’m at the right time in my life where I’m able to appreciate the lessons. Wish me luck.
Look for Images from my first semester in the next post: Back to School: Projects
This has been the most difficult post to write. Which is probably why it has taken me so long to attempt it. I guess maybe I thought if I didn’t acknowledge it, it wouldn’t be true.
My brother died.
This post is for him.
These are things that my brother loved:
really good music
going to his weekend property
the album Asia by Asia
“The Heat of the Moment” has a distinct drum rhythm, and when John was learning (rather, teaching himself) how to play drums, he would start that LP over and over at the very beginning, put on his headphones, and drum out the beat on the one practice snare drum that he had gotten for Christmas two years before, when my parents were still married, and probably hoped that all those years of paying for a rental trombone wouldn’t be washed away by a shiny new drum. It replaced the beat-up square of leftover carpet that he’d been using up until then. Actually I think the drum was a gift from my Grandpa. Which makes sense because it was just the type of gift my grandpa would give – something to impress everyone else. Something that was a little expensive, and something that was close to the kid’s heart but his parents were on the fence about, so you bought it for him and instantly became the hero.
I’m assuming the trombone was either rented, or a loaner from the school; we wouldn’t have been able to afford a new one. I imagine he was probably allowed to buy a used horn a after a few years of sticking with it, and starting the drums would have to be a side project. He would go on to play trombone in the school band all the way to graduation (and later in college, majoring in trombone), filling in on the drums here and there for practicing in the bandroom, and starting a garage band on the weekend with his buddies. (What’s up, Northern Lites?) As a senior, he actually got to march with the drums.
Anyway, the snare drum had to have a towel stuffed in it to mute the sound of the drumming, because if there’s any noise that gets annoying after a while, it’s a sixteen year old boy teaching himself to play the drums by playing the first two minutes of an 80’s schlock-rock band over and over and over and over.
BOOM – boomboom – TAH! BOOM – boomboom – TAH!
Drummers, you know what I’m talking about.
Asia was was right after my parents got divorced, and me, my brother and my mom had all moved into the apartment above my soon-to-be stepdad’s photography studio. I guess I was the only one who just thought it was incredibly convenient and not involving any other sort of coincidence that there just happened to be an attic apartment for rent in the 3-story Victorian home on Main Street that housed a studio, office darkroom, and private residence of the man who would marry my mother less than a year later. But things tend to go over my head.
I don’t think anything EVER went over John’s head, which meant he had put 2+2 together, and realized why we lived in the same house with this man, and just what was going on when work ran into the evening hours. Which explains why he was so pissed off all the time, and pounding on that drum as if it had just committed some sort of offense.
Which is why music saved my brother.
I honestly have no idea what kind of person John would have become had it not been for the saving grace of Music.
It was his confidant, his confessor, his therapist, his “safe place.”
He hadn’t had the easiest life. When we were very young, he had some tough experiences, which for the sake of good manners will remain private for now. But nevertheless, at the time these things were happening to John, publicly he had to put on a good face, be the happy kid; the good son. And when he had time to himself, the only thing that kept him from acting out his rage destructively, was music.
Before Asia – before the divorce and during everything that led up to it – Our parents’ records – The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins soundtracks (our mom used to sing us to sleep with “Stay Awake,” and evey chore was accompanied by “A Spoonful of Sugar”), John Denver An Evening With John Denver and Neil Diamond Hot August Night; there was the Big Band Era – Glen Miller, Buddy Rich and Benny Goodman; 70’s rock – The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix; 80’s everything – Journey, Michael Jackson, Rush (of course), and Billy Joel. We borrowed the Billy Joel LP, Glass Houses from the library so many times we had to buy it.
In addition to playing First Chair Trombone, John added a cymbal and base drum to his set and moved it to the basement, and wasn’t allowed to play too late into the night. But during the day, if you were within a quarter mile of our house, you would say, there goes that Giovannoni kid again on those drums.
I remember one time, being in the attic bedroom, singing along to Pat Benatar, and hearing John practicing down in the basement, there was some type of military fly-over, and I heard my first actual Sonic Boom. I thought John had just hit the drums really hard.
So as the family split apart, more pieces got added to the drum set as he saved his money: a cymbal high-hat, a tom-tom drum, some type of smaller drum that I don’t even remember the name of, and so on. Then we moved away. From our familiar small town to a bigger, busier, medium-sized city. The high school population was triple that of our home town, and in an area not far from the projects. He lasted one day at that school, then decided living in my dad’s 2 bedroom, one bath rental apartment in the country and going to high school with his friends was a much better idea. So he moved back with our dad, and I stayed with my mom and stepdad. I considered the whole moving thing kind of an adventure, and besides, if I was going to be a Movie Star, I had to get out of that small town.
The next summer, the three of us, my mom, stepdad and me, moved to Arizona. I would go home to the Midwest at Christmas and on summer vacation to see my dad and John, and my “wicked stepmother”—which is what we jokingly call my awesome, amazing stepmother, who pretty much everyone agrees was a gift from God. At Christmas, we would go to all of my Italian family’s houses for dinner. There would be lots of eating, lots of loud talking and laughing and drinking and smoking and laughing. And kids running around being noisy, and music playing. And probably some yelling in there, too.
I would show off my latest stupid 80s haircut, and—as my cousin Brad never fails to remind me—wore a pair of white Van’s on which I had painted the proclamation FEED THE WORLD. I also sported some wicked eye makeup. More than any 15 year old has a right to wear. But hey, I was breaking out. I was finding myself.
John wore his signature Levi’s, white Oxford button down, leather loafers, a sport coat, and an Alex P. Keaton-inspired necktie. He was gorgeous, but didn’t think so. He’d be at the ancient upright piano in my grandmother’s basement, and since it was the only musical instrument around, he sat there, on the bench, tinkering with the keys, playing around, finding the notes he was looking for—and that’s how he started to teach himself to play the piano. Sometimes my cousin Nathan would sit with him, and talk while my brother played, since they were of the same away-from-the-noisy-crowd disposition. His defense was to either separate himself, or be the most obnoxious one in the room. Having a guitar meant he could be part of the action, but still have something to hide behind.
But I really didn’t see much of John on my visits home. We had different friends, and the older sibling seldom welcomes the younger sibling into their group of friends. Especially guy/girl variances. When your best buddies want to date your sister, you tend to want to keep your sister as far away from them as possible. So we didn’t do a lot of stuff together. Besides, I was too busy hanging out with my own friends in between family outings. My friend Tracy and I were pretty much joined at the hip. I’m still looking for the scar that shows we were somehow surgically separated.
And the places John would be? Practicing songs with his band, Northern Lites; or hanging out in the choir room at school. Our choir teacher, Mrs. Keene, band director, Mr. Cerveny, and John’s piano teacher, Mrs, Schiller, were the human counterparts to his music therapy. They each took equal parts in saving my brother from himself. The choir room, that ancient basement sanctuary, where John would be joking around with his friends or flirting with his girlfriend as she sat at the piano. The girl that he broke up with a year later when she went to Minnesota for school, and kept in touch with over all the years and after they each had a string of relationships, and each a failed marriage. The girl, who after all of that, 25 years later, would become his wife, Chris. Yeah, that girl. The one who always knew him, who understood him, and who had his heart.
And in that 25 year span, he went to college, dropped out of college, tried a move to Arizona—which was cool, because we got to hang out together—but ultimately decided AZ was not the place for him, packed up his drums in the ’69 Caddy and drove all the way back home to Illinois. And I went to college, dropped out of college, moved to Chicago, failed miserably, moved back to AZ, went back to college, met my husband, dropped out of college again, and got married and started raising a family of smelly boys who idolized their smelly uncle.
In that time, John and his then-girlfriend, Carol, began an adventure that neither of them would believe would become what is is today, 18 years later: the award-winning landmark of downtown Palatine, The Music Room.
He had gone back to school, attending nights first at Harper College, then went on to Elmhurst College. During that time, he traveled to Europe with the jazz band. Switzerland, Ireland, Malta, Italy and probably a few more spots. He received his degree in Music Education at age 35 (and is hugely responsible for inspiring me to go back to school to pursue my own degree now – in Art Education – at age 43.)
Though their romantic relationship ended, John and Carol’s friendship and business partnership only continued to grow. They built The Music Room into not only a space for retail and rental instruments, but a gathering place for musicians to both teach and learn. They have also given back to the community with their Gear Shift donation program for used instruments.
But The Music Room was so much more than John’s business or job; it was his life. (Second only to his love for my sister-in-law Chris, and the time they spent together at their weekend place, going to local spots for dinner, or just having quiet time at home or with family.) And it shows in the hundreds of comments we have received from former students, their parents, and patrons of John’s, as well as members and friends of the band he formed, The Big Cluster Big Band, and former band mates of Simply Vintage.
Who could guess that one day you’d get a call, something about a brain tumor, and fourteen months later you are saying goodbye.*
And here I am suddenly an only child, in a spinning haze of life going on regardless of the fact that my brother is gone. Going to class, filling up with gas, shopping for groceries, watching TV, taking a shower, having dinner, feeding my horses, checking one kid’s homework, and the other kid’s college plans, making lunch for my husband, all the day-in day-out stuff that I always did.
Only now it’s this weird reality. I have more sympathy cards on my kitchen cabinets than I had Christmas cards this year. People I haven’t heard from in years, reaching out to me with folded-paper hugs. It’s so bizarre. So wonderful and sad at once.
And maybe it’s taken me so long to write this because in all the business of everyday life, even with the cards and phone calls, even with the times that the realization has knocked me sideways, it really hasn’t hit me until now.
We didn’t have the perfect relationship (who does?). We didn’t talk everyday, or even every month. But the thing about me and my brother was that we didn’t need to. We just got each other. In a way that not even my parents, my husband, my kids, even my best friends – John understood me, and I him. That’s the biggest thing I will miss. The one person who knew me better than anyone else, is not here anymore.
Not here, perhaps, but not gone. He was sitting on my shoulder the whole first week of classes, cheering me on. He’s with my sister-in-law, watching over her and trying to help her feel like she’s not alone. He and my grandpa are puffing away on cigars, keeping an eye on our parents. He’s with his buddies, calling them all a bunch of no-good shitheads. He’s with his nieces and nephews hopefully making sure they don’t get into too much trouble, but probably snickering when they do. And he’s definitely at the store, his baby for the past umpteen years.
It’s just…selfish, I know, but I just wish he was still here.
Things I’ve learned over the past year:
Laughter is the best medicine.
True love won’t let time or space get in its way.
Never underestimate the power of being nice to people.
Forgiveness is hard.
Oncology doctors and ICU nurses are in a class by themselves.
Frampton Comes Alive is an album that should be listened to all the way through, over good food, with people you love.
A year goes by way too fast.
This was played for John at his Celebration of Life. I couldn’t think of a better song:
So…thank you to my readers. It’s been almost two months since my last post, and I can see by my stats that I still have readers, so, really – Thank You.
I have been working on my latest post for a while – it’s a tough one, and not quite ready. But I felt I should at least check in with you and give you something. I don’t know why…like your lives are so empty and meaningless with out my mindless blathering…
The past month has been filled with life-altering change. One I’ll address later but the other (and both changes happened within a 24-hour period of each other) is that I am now a full-time college student. I’ll be talking a lot about that, but in the meantime, until the new post is ready I thought I’d give you a few things to read.
For my bookish readers, I must recommend two sites by my very dear friends and critique partners. (If you don’t know what a critique partner is: they are the very special people who you somehow trust enough to read your precious, precious manuscript-in-progress and love it when they point out to you the crappy parts that need fixing.)
My friend Dawn is a picture book NUT, and will soon have her own manuscript gracing many an elementary students’ shelves. Her writing is so full of energy, character, and heart that kids will love it as much as Mo Willems or even Dr. Seuss. This is her ode to her chosen medium.
You first met my friend Rhonda in my interview here. She is really getting some steam underway with the release of her YA mystery, Wildflowers. If you haven’t stopped by her site yet, now’s a good time, because she’s having a giveaway! Check it out.
And if you’re new to my site, I thought I’d pull a few favorites from the archives:
Focus, in which I discuss the useless information that may one day come in handy if you’re ever on Jeopardy.