Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 13

My review of all of the DMB Live Trax series continues with what was, at least at the time, another recent release - this one coming out four months after the show had taken place.

DMB Live Trax Volume 13

1) Two Step
2) Rhyme & Reason
3) Corn Bread
4) Crash into Me »
5) One Sweet World
6) #27
7) So Damn Lucky
8) Crush
9) Don't Drink The Water
10) Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
11) Pay For What You Get
12) Recently »
13) Water Into Wine »
14) Tripping Billies
15) Grey Street
16) You Might Die Trying
17) Ants Marching
18) Everyday
19) Louisiana Bayou
20) Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

A lot happened to DMB during 2008.  First, a little history.

Stand Up, the band's polarizing (that's the kindest way I can put it - read: disliked by almost everyone) album comes out in 2005.  The following year's summer tour is very heavy on those songs and is considered one of the weakest tours.  In 2006, the band starts strong in the first month of the tour but eventually settles back into the Stand Up bleh routine.  Rashawn is on board in 2006 and is seen by some (not by me) as cutting out a lot of Leroi's solos and the interplay between himself and Boyd on stage.  In 2007, it doesn't seem to be getting much better.  The band almost breaks up but decides to keep going (at least, according to rumor).

I'm not sure what all exactly happened during those times.  I thought 2007 was a little better than 2006 with the band trying to take some chances and mix it up a little bit.  But, for many, this period was a major turnoff.

Enter 2008.  Tim Reynolds, longtime friend, occasional guest, and definitely someone with whom the band recorded multiple albums with, returns on electric guitar for the entire summer tour.  Rumors persist that he's in the studio for the band's next record.  Meanwhile, just a few days before the start of the summer tour, Butch Taylor, who has played every show with the band since early in the summer tour of 2001, is announced as leaving the band and pursuing other interests.

I have no idea what happened or why.  I don't like to speculate either.  All that can be said for sure is that DMB 2.0 came to an end and DMB 3.0 emerged from its ashes.

And it was a welcomed emergence.

June 2008 was a fantastic month to be a fan.  The songs were fresh (thanks Tim), the band was re-energized, and there were more and more surprises coming out each and every show.

Then, it's heartbreak as Leroi has an accident on an ATV.  He's out for the rest of the tour.  Enter Jeff Coffin.  Jeff, music stand and all, joins in July 2008 and carries on through the rest of the tour (minus one date in Cincinnati) and, ultimately, carries on with the band as Leroi passes away in August.

It's a full year, with a lot of change - personally and musically.

This particular show was released after the tour was over.  It's Leroi's first show released after he'd passed away.  Live Trax 14 was a special album dedicated to him and his last show with the band, but this one was released probably because of the venue and the performance.  In fact, similar to Live Trax 6, this album was sort of released in stores as demand in the St. Louis area (it was performed at Busch Stadium) was high enough to warrant a local in-store release.

Enough history.  On to the music.

Two Step opens the show and is an immediate breath of fresh air.  It's not quite the same monster it would become in 2009 and 2010 (and on to present day), but it's great here.  Rhyme & Reason and Corn Bread are up next and are a major downer for me here.  Corn Bread especially as it was played on seemingly EVERY show in the tour.  It's not a good song.  Even still, it's good to have Tim with the band playing along.

The show kicks into gear with Crash and One Sweet World.  They're classics which feel different here, not stale as they had become for a little bit.  #27 is up next, relatively new song, and it's my go-to version of the song.  So Damn Lucky, sneaking into the set from Dave's solo album, is a shorter version as the long outro hadn't been developed and experimented with yet.  If you're not a fan of Dave's wailing at the end of this song, this is likely your favorite version.  (I like the wailing myself.)  Either way, this is not a bad version.

The monster of the first half of the set is Crush.  I don't think Crush has ever been better than in the month of June, 2008.  Tim and Leroi trading solos is a lot of fun.  I prefer the version released on Live Trax 2008 slightly more, but this is about as good as this song gets - I don't turn away either one.

Don't Drink The Water is next and is not quite settled yet in the new arrangement.  It feels off a little to me.  A Neil Young cover, Hey Hey, My My, follows and is definitely a song that wouldn't have been around for the band before the electric guitar came into the mix.  An old school trio of Pay For What You Get, Recently/Water Into Wine, and Tripping Billies follows the cover.  This was the first Water Into Wine in forever and is really need.  Recently is the truncated version as a result, but the Water Into Wine surprise is so nice thrown in here that it doesn't hurt it.

The set marches to its conclusion with Grey Street, You Might Die Trying (which REALLY grew into it's own on this tour), and a fantastic Ants Marching.

The real weak spot of the show for me is the encore.  Everyday is weak as an E1 (at least I'm consistent in my dislike for it there).  Louisiana Bayou sounds fuller here than it did 2005-2007, but it's not a great song to begin with and not much can save it.  Thank You was a show closer for the Dave & Friends tours and closed a lot of DMB shows this year (and still pops up in sets today).  It's obvious the band is having fun with it and it isn't awful, and if the encore before it was better I probably wouldn't dislike it as much (see Atlantic City).  But here, it's as if I got a piece of broccoli on my pillow instead of a chocolate or a mint.

The mix is VERY compressed.  It's clear, but it's one of the least dynamic releases of the series.  It's one of a few records I have of theirs where I can sometimes feel tired after listening to it, especially if I turn it up much.

Overall, the highs are very much above the lows in the show.  The band was just getting it's legs under itself in this new incarnation and the songs are fresh (albeit raw) early on.  Highlight of the show for me is without a doubt that Crush, but I find myself coming back to the Ants Marching, Recently/Water Into Wine, and #27 not infrequently.

I'm going to give this 4 stars.  The slow start and the slow ending take the show down a star.  Be forewarned though that if you're used to DMB 2013 and you go back to listen to this show, it may sound a bit...empty, maybe?  This show is best appreciated after listening to Live Trax 9.  You'll really be able to hear the big difference in the band.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Overall: 3.3/5, 8 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why Can't We All Just Get Along? (Gender)

Among other fun topics at the "Women's Retreat" recently, a friend and I were discussing gender roles in different areas of society today. We discussed the interesting facts of secular versus "conservative" society and how neither one can really get it right. My husband asked me, half-jokingly, when transitioning from an almost all female workplace, where men were devalued and not allowed to move up when they were clearly the best candidate, to a mostly male workplace, where women are not in positions of leadership. He wondered, "Is there a place where men and women can work together side by side?"

It's an interesting question. The post-feministic society does at times tend to devalue men. At his previous place of employment, a white male would be considered last for the job, despite the fact that the office was 90% female. His boss, and boss's boss, and boss's boss's boss were all female. When he had clearly earned a position of leadership and one was about to become available, they suddenly decided the position wouldn't be created. He left shortly thereafter for a better position with more opportunity for advancement, and it turned out they did need that management position after all, and found a female to take that leadership role.

On the other hand, as a woman in a "conservative" or "religious" based organization, you are almost guaranteed to be denied a leadership position. Very few demoninations or churches are open to female pastors, elders, and staff. A female is more than welcome to an "administrative" role and that's pretty much it. Too bad my skills don't lie in the area of administration.

So why the assumption that "Christian" or "conservative" groups should put women at a lower level? First, this is completely anti-Jesus. If we are truly asking "what would Jesus do" he completely valued and lifted up women. From the Samaritan woman at the well, to the woman who had the audacity to pour perfume on his feet and the woman who gently asked if even the dogs ate the crumbs from under the table. He didn't hold them back or condemn them for speaking up. He also didn't put down men. Although they made mistakes and did the wrong thing, most of those surrounding him the closest were men.

So, how do we peacefully coexist? In a modern society, how do we reconcile strong male and female leadership in the church and outside the church?

  1. Don't make assumptions. It's easy, and often understandable, to assume that women are better suited for nursery or childcare work and that men wanting to be involved in those areas must have something wrong with them. On the other hand, men can be great leaders for children as long as certain safeguards are in place to ensure nothing improper takes place (for the men AND women in leadership or childcare roles).
  2. Don't exclude. When you are making a decision to hire, promote, include, or even ask for volunteers, don't exclude people based on only one factor. This is the very essence of discrimination, but it also means don't include only certain groups. If you consider 95% females for a certain position, you are automatically excluding males, whether you consciously make that decision or not.
  3. Ask everyone for advice. Many times the church will send out a survey about nursery issues to all the women in the church, or send out a notification about lawn care needs to all the men in the church. The same can go for young and older people too. Ask all the people what they need and want out of the church or workplace. It's important to see all sides of an issue, and many times the least likely person will come up with the most creative and useful idea.
  4. Promote based solely on qualifications. My husband left a job that he had been at for over 7 years. He loved all the people there. Yes, the primary reason we gave for leaving was to be closer to family, but a secondary reason was that he could see no opportunity there. He had received several "promotions" in name only (and without appropriate financial advancement) and was passed over time and again for other opportunities, not because of his qualifications but because he "wasn't friends" with the all female management staff. Of course, every establishment has it's own version of "office politics" but they all need to just stop. Put the best person in the best position for them, and don't worry about the politics.
  5. Don't talk bad about your spouse or another person's spouse. This was something I was fortunate enough to learn before getting married. If you join in the husband bashing and behind the back talk that goes on in many female groups, you will start to think negatively about your spouse. When you talk and think badly about your spouse, you will start to disrespect them. This goes both ways, but creates a very negative cycle of disrespect and can influence not just our relationship with our spouse but with all members of the opposite gender.
  6. Respect your spouse. Even if you don't talk badly about them, you may harbor a deep disrespect for the things your spouse does. It's easy to think that you are the one doing all of the work, but it's important to equally respect your spouse's work. Cooking the meals, caring for children, and cleaning the house can be done by male or female, but often the spouse who "typically" does those things will degrade the other spouse when things aren't done "correctly". I certainly have my own way of loading the dishwasher, but if my husband does the dishes, I thank him sincerely and then shut my mouth...
  7. Take someone else's perspective seriously. We've been reading the Burgess stories lately for my Kindergartener's homeschool. In one of the stories, Grandfather Frog was off to see the world, and wouldn't take anyone's advice on how to stay safe. Why? Because when you're used to being the "wise one" and the one other people come to for advice, it becomes so much harder to take the advice of other people. I find this to be very true in my life, as well as in the lives of others. It's important to take the time to listen to the advice other people give, especially when it's something that they know better than we do.
So what do you think? Can we all just get along?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Has Sprung - Or Has It?

Some of you may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't been posting in the last week or so. First, it was the Women's Retreat at Emerald Isle. We had a blast, the weather was beautiful, and I came back refreshed and with some amazing ideas for my blog. While I'm sure that eventually those ideas will come to fruition and wow you, I was confronted with a sad reality when I arrived home...

All that refreshing, relaxing and kid-free time, simply made me a bit more lazy around the house. Rather than spring cleaning fever, I feel like I've just gotten spring break fever. I've been taking the kids to the park multiple times a week, letting them play in the water table outside, and barely keeping up with the basic house chores. It doesn't help that my son started soccer right after we got back (and I'm assistant coach for the team) and my husband has been working late since then because of a big snafu in his work project.

So, let's be honest. It wasn't really much more than me being lazy, and busy, and just wanting to sit outside and absorb the sun.

Fortunately, we are in a great spot to do just that!

The great thing about our community is that it is just that: a community. At the park, I met up with two separate groups of friends at the same time (incidentally, not planned). At the voting place, I chatted with another woman about our neighborhoods and choice of pool membership. At the library, the librarian was upset that one of the girls at story time had taken things a bit too far and smacked her on the bottom (but she knew the girls by name). I thought it would be weird to live in a small-ish town, but now I'm very glad I do.

Now, for the sad news, spring will not last forever. First, we have another possible frost to prepare for (and I've already planted my garden). Second, after spring comes that dreaded beast of summer. I worry about this summer, as it's only March and we've already had an 87 degree day here!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 12


Today I'm talking Live Trax Volume 12.

DMB Live Trax Volume 12

1) Warehouse
2) Recently
3) Dancing Nancies
4) The Song That Jane Likes
5) Proudest Monkey »
6) Satellite
7) What Would You Say
8) Tripping Billies
9) Drive In Drive Out
10) Typical Situation »
11) #36 »
12) Ants Marching
13) #40
14) All Along The Watchtower

I tend to float around when I pick my favorite era of the band.  Sometimes I really connect with the 2008-2011 era.  When Tim came back full time, I felt the band really picked up the energy and brought new life to a lot of old songs.  Sometimes I fall back to the 2000-2003 era, what I consider the height of their popularity and influence (if they had any at all), and that's when I first saw them too (in 2003).  And I tend to fall back into this period - the winter and spring of 1995.

I'm not sure what it is about this particular era that is so fantastic to me.  The songs sound really tight.  The setlists were pretty much all amazing (they still hadn't released two major label albums yet).  The arrangements were starting to get a little more complex as well.  There were still several songs in transition and in development, but this is a band which is really refining it's sound on the major stage and is honing its stage presence.  It's great to have some multi-track recordings (even if we don't have a ton) from this era.

This album, which at the time was the earliest Live Trax release, is also the shortest concert released as a Live Trax.  (Live Trax 33, without the previous night's bonus material, may be shorter - forgive me for not looking it up to confirm).  The release, at barely over an hour and a half, may be short but is still extremely engaging.

The first four songs are money.  Fantastic versions from a fantastic era.  Proudest Monkey is really more of an introduction at this point than a song, as it had been for a little whlie at this point (it was slowly building into the song it would become the following year).  After Satellite, What would You Say and Tripping Billies keep the set moving quickly.

If you've read the blog, you know I don't care for Drive In Drive Out.  Here, although the basic structure was already set, the lyrics aren't set.  It's a unique listen every now and again, but it's not mandatory.

Typical Situation is great (Leroi!), and the main set ends with the fairly standard #36 >> Ants which closed sets for a number of years.

The encore of this set contains likely the biggest draw of the album to fans, a full solo acoustic #40.  Although it's not THE #40 (that would be 5 days later), it is a clean recording of the song that never came to be.  It's a good listen, but it's not what sells me on the set.  The show closes with All Along The Watchtower.  This version is okay.  I prefer the 4.7.95 version from this tour, but since that's an all time Watchtower it's very hard to do an accurate comparison.

The sound on this one is fantastic.  It's a multi-track 1995 recording and I'm thrilled with it.

It's another 5 stars, and given that the series had a rough patch in volumes 9 and 10, it's good to get it back on track with 11 and 12.

It was around this time that Tim Reynolds came back into the band as a full-time touring member, so the next few Live Trax focus on 2008 - not only for Tim, but in rememberance of Leroi who had passed away.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase

Overall: 3.3/5, 7 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

How to Save a Life

As part of Upward soccer coach training, we had the opportunity to hear from an excellent speaker regarding child evangelism. He made some great comments about how the biggest things we can do are to not confuse children and try to keep things simple and concise and clear up any misconceptions. It was a fabulous opportunity.

We also had a unique opportunity in our small group to discuss some of these very same concepts with an adult, and I can tell you that it's not nearly as easy as it sounds with an adult compared to a child. Yes, the adult can understand more, but it is so much more difficult to get from that place of understanding to that open and genuine acceptance. That's why Jesus said we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

I remembered or came up with an analogy after last night's discussion. God's grace and the gift of Jesus (fully God as well) and His death on the cross to pay the price for our sins is really this simple:

Through His death and resurrection, He has sent us a lifesaving ring from the edge of the ship. It has landed within arm's reach. Maybe we can't see the ring or the ship because of the wind and the waves. Maybe we can't reach out and grab it because we are so busy trying to keep our head above water. But it is there. The part that is difficult for people who are already saved to accept, is that we can't wrap someone's hands around it. They have to reach that point where they see it AND are willing to stop paddling in the water long enough to latch their arms around the float. Only then will God's Holy Spirit start to draw them closer to safety. They will no longer be drowning, but that's when they will start to grow closer to Him and undergo the transformative process that will take them through the rest of their life here on earth.

There is no magic bullet. There is no special prayer I can tell someone to pray. It has to take that specific decision and action of reaching out and grabbing onto that lifeline with every ounce of strength you have left. Then, you keep hold of that while you are pulled ever closer to eternal safety. Sometimes the hard part for us, is keeping hold of that line, rather than thinking we are close enough we can just start swimming toward the ship.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Few of the Reasons We Homeschool

A part of any good organization is a well-thought out mission statement. Since we aren't "officially" a homeschool yet (in our state, we don't have to register until the oldest child in the school turns 7), we haven't quite sat down to come up with an "official" name or mission statement. However, after a few of the latest blog posts, and helping some other families with advice for their journey to begin homeschool, I've decided it is important to sit down and list a few of the reasons we homeschool.

Having a goal, idea, or even just a homeschooling "personality" is very important. I would suggest narrowing down your reasons for (or against) and ideas about homeschooling before even looking at curriculum options. If you don't, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the choices, or spending a lot of money on a curriculum that doesn't end up fitting with your style.

Obviously, this is just a blog post, but if you want a book to read, I do recommend Cathy Duffy's 100, 101, or 102 "Top Picks for Homeschool" (our library has a few copies available) as the first few chapters are a great way to narrow down your (and your child's) style. She does get a little checklist happy, whereas I am more "go with the flow and when it's right you'll know" - I tried the checklists, and charts, and then gave up after awhile.

So, here is a little about our personal homeschool choices and why we homeschool.

  1. Age. Our oldest has an August birthday. Now, we could have "held him back" a year, so he would start Kindergarten at 6 years old, but then he would be the oldest in the class. My husband and I were both among the oldest in our classes, and it didn't hurt us in the long run, but I at least had some trouble with that when it came to certain things, like driving to school occasionally as a sophomore. I was joking with another mom that we sometimes take these things too seriously, because who knows whether our children would enjoy being the oldest in the class or whether they would enjoy being the youngest in the class. Overall, it's a pretty ridiculous thing to freak out over whether they should still be barely 18 or already 19 when starting college, but it is the first thing that started the discussion. Because, let's all be honest here, barely 5 is way to young to be sitting in a classroom for 6-8 hours a day.
  2. Intellectual ability and curiosity. While my oldest was too young in my opinion to start Kindergarten, he has an insane curiosity and was already reading. He taught himself phonics at age 3, which I ignored for as long as I could, but when he started showing signs for being ready for sight words as well, I did finally teach him to read at age 4. I highly do not recommend forcing kids or pressuring kids to learn to read (and I probably did too much pressuring regarding handwriting too early), however, when all the signs are being met for learning to read, I also feel it's wrong to NOT give your child the opportunity to learn to read (without pressure). So, now I have a very young Kindergartener, reading on a 2nd grade level (or higher).
  3. Personality (child's). My son did preschool for two mornings a week for 1.5 school years (all of 3-year old preschool and half of his 4-year old preschool). On his "pre-evaluation" at the 4-year old preschool, they noted that he already knew all the "academics" but needed to work on his fine-motor skills and he "did not participate in group activities". Well, unfortunately, pretty much all of Kindergarten is writing or drawing and/or group activities. Now, in a small group, or one-on-one, he participates fairly well. Library story time, or larger group activities (such as the baseball team which was 10-20 kids) and he pretty much shuts down. He also hates singing, art, and drama.
  4. Transportation. I tell people the worst thing about preschool was driving back and forth with a younger sibling in the car. Even though it was a short car ride, you are really making that trip 4 times a day (drive there, then back for morning drop, drive there, then back for afternoon pick up). If we had stayed in Louisville, I would have considered our elementary school since it was a neighborhood school (we were technically over the line into Oldham County) and it would have been a 10-15 minute bus ride (the bus came just to our neighborhood, picked up kids and then went back to the elementary school). Now we live in an area where even the neighborhood bus ride would be much longer, not to mention all the other school choices and magnet programs, with everything from "bus depot" drop off and pick up to parent provided transportation. I have enough shuttling kids around town for errands and playdates, I don't need (or want) to chauffeur them to and from school before I have to.
  5. Personality (mom's). I was homeschooled through elementary, so I tend to understand a lot of what homeschooling families typically "get". I also was a teacher in a failing public school, which terrifies me no little bit, because much of what I saw could be going on in "good" schools as well, and is being hidden by the natural abilities and personalities of the "good" families and kids at the school. I've seen that homeschooled kids can easily adapt to private or public school (for the most part). I've seen that their academic abilities and natural curiosity are protected rather than squashed. I am a naturally reserved person, but I can tell you that I never felt "shy" until I went to private school. I talked to strangers, sold Girl Scout Cookies door to door, and was generally friendly and open, but something about that school "system" made me nervous and unsure about myself rather than the confident, self-assured child I had been while homeschooled. I also, on the opposite side, felt a bit overwhelmed to begin homeschooling. My personality is to over-plan and never actually get around to doing what I've planned and was a bit worried I wouldn't "complete" what was needed (this came into my curriculum choice big time).
  6. Personality (dad's). My husband, on the other hand, was not gung-ho about homeschooling at first. He figured he "made it through" public school just fine and was even outgoing despite being an introvert. He was an August birthday as well, but advised that we could just "hold our son back" as he had been. He also asked a good question that I hadn't fully thought through at the time. He asked, "who is accountable if our child isn't learning what he needs to"? Now, the answer to that, is actually the same answer in a public or private school as well, the parents. This may surprise those of you with children in private or public school, but there is no real accountability for failing a particular child. Parents are responsible for whether their kids are learning, but if your kids are gone all day, how can you be sure what they are learning? I can tell you that there were kids falling through the cracks in droves at the school I taught at, and communication with the parents was nearly impossible. One child "passed" his computerized reading test (probably by looking at what the kid next to him was doing, he wasn't dumb by any means) and none of the teachers on the team figured out that he couldn't read until the end of the first semester. Who was held accountable for this horrific oversight? No one. The student and his parents were the only ones that could have fixed that situation any sooner (we all thought it was behavior issues until we discussed it further and I and the other teachers realized he was great on the math/history/science concepts as long as someone explained the topic or activity one on one with him). 
  7. Siblings & family. I think it's awesome that my kids play together and love each other. Sure they can be loud and rough and get on each other's nerves a bit, but overall they have a great relationship. I can't imagine trying to keep my 3 year old busy while big brother was off at school all day. I know how difficult it is even for my 5 year old when his little brother naps. I love that I can send them outside to play in the dirt box, or take them to a park, or play soccer and go for bike rides. This is "family time" that most people have to cram in on the weekends or summer, and it's time that we can't get back with our kids.
  8. A firm foundation. This is where I bring "religion" into it. There is honestly no religious reason to homeschool, despite the fact that many parents (Catholic and Protestant) choose to homeschool for "religious" reasons. This is more a side effect of homeschooling that I'm taking full advantage of. I don't leave things out of science or shelter my child from media. He found a science book the other day and brought it to me to explain "this is how the world started - it was all volcanoes" and I set aside what I was doing and explained/pointed out that this version had the word "probably" and was someone's idea who didn't believe in God. Then I explained the same concepts from a Christian perspective and asked him which made more sense, that we just appeared from dust or that life was breathed into that dust by an Almighty God. Believing in evolution takes more faith (in my opinion) than believing in the amazing design of an All-Powerful Creator, and if it makes sense to a 5 year old, it ought to make sense to an adult. I can trust that these concepts that he's working through at age 5 will set a firm foundation. As pointed out to me last night at a child evangelism seminar, I can't "save" my own son, I can't even "save" myself. However, I can make sure the gospel is presented clearly and simply to him, from a young age, and pray for God to work on his heart, while it is still tender.
All that being said, we chose to go with the Heart of Dakota curriculum. More on that in a future post.

What are your reasons for (or against) homeschooling?

Monday, March 07, 2016

My White Privilege

Most of us have heard the term by now, "white privilege". It means different things to different people, and is actually a bit different in many cases. So, what is "my" white privilege, and why does it matter?

First, white privilege doesn't mean you are a racist person. It actually means that you don't have to think about race. For example, whenever I read a book written in this country, I typically assume it is written about/by/for white people, until and unless I read otherwise. Unfortunately, movies are much the same way. To some extent, this is because we apply our own world view to what we read, but to a greater extent, it's because those are the pocketbooks most likely to spend money on those products, so that's who the "main characters" are based upon.

Some other examples? It means if I were to be pregnant in a bad situation, the majority of people would not ask, are you getting an abortion? It means if I were to be unemployed, I would have a much easier time finding employment. It means if I go to the park or library, I am much more likely to see people of my own race. A friend of mine who is white, but has adopted a black child, noted that when she goes to the park during the day, it is typically very easy to spot her child in the park, Occasionally she attends some black homeschool groups, and says she's always amused by the fact that she forgot to remember what her son was wearing that day, and finds it difficult to spot him from a great distance away (and no she wasn't saying all black people look the same, and apparently she did need new glasses).

Now, let's talk a bit about racism. Many people are offended by the term white privilege, because it's not something they did and they feel that they can't change that aspect of themselves. Well, that is true, I can't be any less white. So what can I do, once I've recognized my white privilege?

  1. Be understanding of the hatred coming from Black America. I have a few activist friends on Facebook, and the vitriol against White America is real. There is hatred that has built up, because things "should" be better by now. Instead the hatred on both sides is only beginning to increase due to media coverage and political machinations. Our generation is unique, in that our parents have seen some activism, but for the most part we have been sheltered from it. Understand that there are real reasons behind the hatred, and use that understanding to react with kindness and love.
  2. Stand up against racism and white privilege. If someone makes a comment that even could be considered racist, stand up and say something (kindly). For instance, a few friends at the playground asked if the downtown (small town) parks were "safe" for their very young kids. I asked some leading questions to confirm that they were talking about physical safety (that their toddlers wouldn't be able to run into the parking lot, street or woods) rather than the color of the skin of other people at the park. I find this difficult to do myself, because, while I'm always shocked and upset when someone makes a racist comment, I don't always say something right away. My personality is to intensely judge it as wrong, but then I wonder whether they just meant "poor" not black or I excuse their behavior because they are "from another generation" and no one taught them against hatred. There is no excuse, but answer in love. Ask leading questions, challenge their beliefs, and then address the true problem of underlying hurt and selfish desires.
  3. Don't answer hate with hate. This goes to conversations with white or black friends, acquaintances, and family, as well as those of another race. It's easy to jump on a stranger who has done something wrong to you. It's easy to make excuses for those who have been hurt by racism (whether they are white or black, racism hurts us all). It's much harder to answer a friend in love. When we've been hurt or seen someone we love hurt someone else, we can either brush it under the rug, or react strongly. Whatever your natural inclination, take a breath first. Find out their reason and address it gently. I'm sorry that someone in high school called you so white you were "near death" or ignored you in front of your boyfriend because he was black and you weren't, or forced you to walk around them in the hallway because this was "their space", but that doesn't give you a right to react with hate. Instead, by reacting with love, you will break down their walls and barriers and start making a journey to a more diverse world for all of us, where hatred on any side is unacceptable.
  4. Start the Journey towards friendship. New friends aren't easy to come by. However, the first step is to talk to someone. Most of us, especially those of us who are white, have very few friends of another color. Now, we can make excuses all we want, but that doesn't actually excuse us from reaching out. So what's the first step? Find someone already in your circle as an acquaintance, co-work, or friend of a friend, and find out more about them. Do you have similar interests? Invite them to join you. Are your kids about the same age as theirs? See if they want to join you at a park or playground. Do they have questions about a topic you understand well? Answer their questions. Do they have knowledge you could use in your field? Ask them to teach you. For instance, I've met two friends of another color at the library, one I am no longer involved with very much, because she lives in North Raleigh, the other is a newer friend, and I haven't seen her lately at the story time we typically go to. So, that means I'm done, right? Because I've tried a couple times and it hasn't worked out? Not at all, people are people no matter the color, so the next time I spot someone to talk to, I will talk to them. Not because of the color of their skin, but because they are people. This is not a 1-and-done, but rather a journey towards diversifying our communities one person at a time.
  5. Keep racism out of the next generation. If you are in an area where you are involved with kids, whether it's soccer practice, baseball team, school or an after-school program, you have a huge influence on the next generation. Don't treat behavior or "good" or "bad" as an example of black and white (race related or otherwise). My oldest was asking how I knew one of the characters in a TV show he was watching was going to be bad, and I told him it was the black outfit. His response, "Why?" Of course, that's his response to everything, but I honestly told him I wasn't sure why. I hope that I'm keeping racism out of our family with my children, but it does get harder as they get older and start to understand more of the subtext of what other friends and family (and the media) may be saying. For now, I will continue being amused that he tells people of another color, "Did you know you have more melanin? I want to be like that one day." We should all be a little more child-like in our responses (without being flippant or rude).
  6.  Take a walk in their shoes. If you feel like you really can't stand the other race, because they are taking "jobs" away (I realize this primarily applies to racism against Hispanics, but thought it was applicable given the insanity of the political climate today) you ought to take one of their jobs from them. Give it a shot! If you can't find someone willing to hire a white person standing outside the Home Depot, then go volunteer. Here are some good volunteer opportunities I'm sure you can find - planting or harvesting in a community garden (please be sure you are working at least 8-10 hours to make it more realistic), home repairs (check with Habitat for Humanity and volunteer for digging holes or roofing), or take a bus ride across town to volunteer in a soup kitchen. A lot of racism is simply mistaken beliefs and ideas. I can guarantee that if you work alongside someone of another race, or experience what they experience on a daily basis, you would have a lot more sympathy for their anger at your "white privilege".
  7. Keep our schools diverse. Now, this is not an argument for or against neighborhood schools. This is a personal argument. We all feel that we want our kids education to be a primary concern, but let's be honest about how many of us click through the website to check demographics or go on a "school visit" just to ensure that our child is going to end up at a school where they "fit in". Rather than looking at private schools or magnet schools or (gasp) homeschooling, we need to look at what education is best for our child regardless of race. Yes, I am currently homeschooling my children (for various reasons, which I may re-post about later), but I also believe that a culturally diverse public school is better than an academically "better" private school. Primarily because the main reason the private school is academically "better" is by weeding out those of a lower class or lower income.
Well, if you think that's too much work for you, and you don't want to change your attitudes and beliefs, then you can't complain about the state our country is in right now. If you don't make an effort to reach out, rather than looking down, then you can't complain about the label of "white privilege" when it is applied to you. If you can't make an effort to understand the hatred, then you can't get angry at the peaceful protests taking place in your city. Voting someone into or out of office isn't going to fix the race problem in our country. It will take a sweeping movement of people who care. Millions of us, working together to create more racially, culturally, and economically diverse communities.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 11

It's husband again.  It's hard to believe I've reviewed 10 of these already.  No time like the present to write about number 11.

DMB Live Trax Volume 11

1) The Stone
2) Rhyme & Reason
3) Don't Drink The Water
4) #41 »
5) Grace Is Gone
6) JTR
7) What Would You Say
8) The Maker »
9) All Along The Watchtower
10) Crash Into Me
11) Minarets
12) Lie In Our Graves
13) Bartender
14) So Much to Say » Anyone Seen the Bridge » Too Much [fake]  »
15) Ants Marching
16) Digging a Ditch
17) Pantala Naga Pampa » Rapunzel

The series takes a hiatus from "current" shows (at the time) and swings back to a favorite time period for most fans, summer 2000.  This particular show is the show immediately after Live Trax Volume 3 (two nights earlier).  At first glance, the set is fairly similar.  However, there were a few surprises thrown in this show to make it special in its own right.  Butch Taylor also guests on this show as he did through most of the summer.

The show starts strong with The Stone which, despite a small flub in the lyrics, still shines.  For me personally, the combination of Rhyme & Reason and Don't Drink The Water fall short here.  Don't Drink The Water is much slower and moodier (as it was on the album) but without the additions of Tim Reynolds & Bela Fleck.  I like a little more intensity.  It's not bad, but it's not something I seek out when I think of Don't Drink The Water.

The next three songs pick the show up - a great #41, my favorite Grace Is Gone (love these 2000 versions!), and a great JTR.  What Would You Say is up next and has another lyric flub, this one very noticeable.  In the middle of the set are two covers, The Maker and All Along The Watchtower, both of which are great versions.

A fairly standard Crash serves as a prelude to a Minarets which had already been released at this point on the fan club disc Warehouse 5, Volume 3.  It's a unique version as it wasn't played that often already and Dave plays a 12-string guitar on it.  It's fantastic.

Lie In Our Graves and Bartender are next, and this is exactly to me how Butch Taylor fit best with the band.  His solo on Lie In Our Graves is perfectly placed and Bartender doesn't drag.  The set ends with a So Much >> Ants Marching combination which, although not spectacular, is very solid.

The encore includes Digging a Ditch, which at this show was an unreleased song, and Rapunzel which was really finding it's way into just about everywhere in the set.  Rapunzel might just be the most versitle song in the catalog from that standpoint.  It can be the opener, it can play mid set, it can close a set, and it can close an encore.  There aren't many songs which can do that effectively.

The sound on this one is...well, most reviews I've read of this consider it pretty flat and lifeless.  It's definitely not as "pounding" as the mix on Live Trax 3, but I like it.  The Minarets on Warehouse 5, Volume 3 is an entirely different mix so it is a good comparison to see how this one turned out.  To me, this mix captures the mood of the show just fine.

This is summer 2000 - just about all of these shows were fantastic.

This one is a solid 4 stars.  It's a definite purchase despite the mistakes.  It's a great representation of the band during this time and there are a few standouts (Grace is Gone, Minarets, Lie In Our Graves) that are versions to seek out if you're looking for a single song or two to listen.

For those interested, I've also decided to keep the recap going.  The math geek in me liked the numbers and I'm sticking with them.  I'm also going to round to one decimal place on the overall numbers.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase

Overall: 3.1/5, 6 purchase, 5 skip

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Birthday Celebrations

My husband said he missed being younger and carefree in his 20s. Maybe it's because I don't remember a lot of my 20s, but I can't think of much to miss (except the baby stage of my kids, since they are now officially both in the "preschool" age range).

I feel like I wouldn't want to go back there, because I've learned and grown so much since then (although I obviously still have a long way to grow). So, while celebrating the birthday catapulting our youngest from babyhood to preschool, I reminisced a bit about what we were really celebrating.

  1. We're celebrating another year of growth in his life. I feel like 3 months ago, he was still wearing 18 months, and now he's outgrowing some of his 2T clothes. I can't wait to see how much he's grown at his official check-up tomorrow. He's enjoying puzzles and mazes, knows his colors and many numbers and letters/letter sounds. He is stubborn, sweet, cuddly, and defiant all at the same time. He's learning something new everyday.
  2. We're celebrating another year of health in his life. When he was born, he was unexpectedly large. He made it out okay, but since he was "overdue" there was a lot of meconium, much of which made it into his lungs. He was intubated quickly, but because of his size, they had to try several times (eventually using the largest tube they had available). While in the NICU being treated for meconium, they noticed he was staring to "stiffen" his muscles, and immediately began monitoring and treating him for seizures due to hypoxia. No one knows exactly what caused his hypoxia (maybe some combination of his large size, meconium, or my own stress of having the stomach bug while in labor). What they do know, is that the new-at-the-time treatment of a cooling blanket completely resolve the suppression on his EEG. Despite a few normal childhood sicknesses, he's been remarkably healthy since his birth, and we're grateful for that every day.
  3. We're celebrating another year of friends in his life. He's not the most outgoing kid, but he has tons of people in his life who love him. We had a "small" birthday celebration last night, that somehow turned into 25 or 30 kids and adults talking, laughing, and running crazily through our house. I hope a good time was had by all! It truly takes a village to raise a family! I remember when our oldest was celebrating his 1st birthday, and we had a hard time getting RSVPs, and then people just didn't show up and we were left wondering where our friends were and what they were doing. We certainly haven't had that problem in Garner! The few people who couldn't make it, made sure to let us know. It's great to know that we truly have a village supporting us as we raise our kids.
  4. We're celebrating another year of family in his life. When we lived in Louisville, the closest grandparent for our kids was over 7 hours away. Now, we are planning an additional birthday celebration, just so ALL the grandparents and uncles can spend time with them in person. Our kids can visit with my in-laws several times a week now that they are only a few miles away. My parents can come up several times in the summer and a few times throughout the year, now that they are only 3.5 hours away. There are uncles within an hour's drive and great-aunts, great-uncles, and second, third, and probably fourth cousins all over Johnston County. I'm grateful for all the family we still have, and grateful that we now live so much closer.
  5. We're celebrating another year of memory making. We're making memories everyday. Memories for us, memories for our kids, memories for our friends and family. Maybe there will be some bad memories along with the good. I'm just glad that I'll be able to remember some of them. 7 or 8 years ago, I was suffering what I thought was depression, but when I realized my memory was affected, I finally scheduled a doctor appointment. 7 vials of blood later, my doctor called in amazement that I wasn't suffering permanent nerve damage because my B-12 levels were so low. I'm incredibly grateful for the ability to make memories and learn new things.

There have been hard times with our youngest child. From his late arrival into the world, to the stomach bug that kickstarted my labor, to the week-long NICU stay and watching those little fingers and toes turn blue while God and the doctors miraculously worked to improve his health.

There are still hard times to come, dealing with his sleep issues, potty-training a chronically constipated kid, the typical "terrific" three behaviors. Hopefully, he will have a full and satisfied life to come, with many more years of growth, health, friends, family, and memories.

The thing about birthdays is, we are celebrating the good along with the bad, and enjoying the now without worrying about the future. Happy birthday!