Category Archives: personal stories

Howl at the Wind Rushing Past My Lonely Head

It happens like clockwork. It seems to happen every year at the same time. No, I am not referring to the fact that we get to move our clocks back an hour this weekend (I’ll take that extra hour of sleep, thank you very much!). I am talking about the feeling that each and every day is rushing past me, that I’m barely hanging out to my to-do list. It is a feeling like I’m attempting to walk a tight rope and one wrong move, one gust of wind and I’m falling, ready to crash and burn. What causes this every year? What is my plan to survive? What does this have to do with Duran Duran?

I know that I had the same feeling of being overwhelmed last year. I think I figured that it was the fact that I was working on a campaign that was reaching its conclusion in a couple of short weeks. Now, though, I can say that the campaign (and any campaign at this time of year) adds to it but it isn’t what causes it. No, it is all about teaching. This time period marks the end of the first quarter of the school year. Practically speaking, this means that I have a lot of grading to do as well as report cards to fill out. Did I mention that I have 120 students? More importantly, it means that I can no longer deny that the school year really is here. I cannot go back to summer. No, I have to push through to get to the next summer. On top of that, I have to admit that these grand ideas I had about how much I would be able to do in addition to teaching related tasks were simply that; grand. They were also false. I’m lucky to get even a part of my work done on any given day. Forget about organizing my closet. That is definitely not going to happen. Nope. It is hard to do those extras when I’m working between 50-60 hours a week as well as everything I need to do to maintain a household.

So, now that I recognize that this is my reality, how the heck am I going to survive it? I don’t have any shows coming up. I don’t know when Duran might drop the next album. The answer is that I have no idea how to deal. You would think that after twenty years of doing this gig that I would get how to do it. In fairness to myself, the job has gotten harder. A lot harder. I keep trying to do various things in order to be more efficient or to create some sort of weird balance without being able to sustain the changes for more than a week or so. For now, I am trying to take it one day at a time while I brainstorm a potential solution for the 256th time.

One idea that almost always comes up when I mention this problem is to either quit my job and/or all of the other tasks that I do (like writing this blog post). First, when it comes to my job, there are definitely aspects that I would give a lot to change but there are others that I love. I have some great kids this year, for instance, and I love seeing my kids grow up, graduate and become amazing humans. On top of that, I kinda need something to pay my bills (not to mention Duran Duran tickets!). Moving on, what about dropping my political activity? As much as I would like to ignore what is happening, I would never be comfortable doing that. So, what about letting go of this? I could stop blogging. I could stop doing research and writing about fandom. I could. But I don’t want to.

Here’s the thing. One thing that I have figured out over the course of my life is that I need all of the above in my life. I would never be happy if I dropped the extras outside of my paying job. I just wouldn’t. Both activism and fandom are in my blood. They make up who I am. On that note, I’m back to where I started, trying to do it all.

-A

Astronaut Anniversary and Turning Points

This past week, Duranland celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of Astronaut. As we all know, this album was the first album after the Fab Five reunited and certainly represents a time in which Duranies flocked back to the fold, excitement was at an all-time high and the future seemed nothing but bright. I, for one, always appreciate acknowledging the big dates for my fandom but this one make me think on a more personal level.

Feel the New Day

Duran’s reunion in the early 2000s came at the perfect time for me, personally. I had spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000s settling into my adult life in a new city. I remember how laser focused I was at that time to get started in my career and to do what needed to be done just stand on my own two feet. I only thought about how to get a full time teaching job and how I would pay the bills. There was little time and money for much else. Then, I found a way in to the district with a teaching job, but outside of my original license. I still had much to learn. In this quest, I found myself back at school. This time I was adding a master’s degree and additional teaching certifications. Finally, after a few intense years of teaching full time and going to grad school, I graduated.

At that moment, I literally felt like my world opened up simply because I would no longer struggle as much, financially, and had more free time. I was ready to turn my focus, my energy into some other aspect of my life even if I didn’t know what that was. Enter Duran Duran. Now, I had been a fan since I was a kid but I was no where near the fan community at the end of 2003. I knew that there was a reunion and shows but that’s it. I avoided looking too carefully, too closely to not lose my focus on grad school and my career. But once I was settled into my career, I was ready. At the same time, someone I knew mentioned that she, too, was a big Duran fan. After a quick search, resulting in me hearing Sunrise for the first time, that’s all it took. I became obsessed.

I sought out everything. Internet searches helped me to fill-in any gaps that I had, including the band’s history, albums, videos, solo and side projects and more. Everyday felt magical and like my birthday because there was so much to find, to watch, to listen, to buy that I couldn’t get enough. This, of course, combines with all of the new news that came out. In 2004, for example, it seemed like there was something new each and every day from hints about the album, to appearances, to video clips from the band and more. In the process, I found my new focus. I had to find others who felt so much for this band, too. Message boards called out to me and I tried out many before I found the right one. This led to much time spent on those boards, chatting with other fans, and making plans to attend a fan convention and begging for a tour.

Looking back, that time was so fun as it felt like all Duran, all the time in my mind, in my free time. Everything felt so positive and I ignored anything that potentially would put a damper on my fandom.

Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?

15 years have gone by. My love for Duran Duran has not waivered. Looking back, I recognize that in many ways, my love has been weaved into my life. It isn’t this special, must spend 24/7 on it to express it, to reinforce it, to find others with the same feelings. No, it is now way more secure. It isn’t like a flame burning bright while being under threat to burn out. Let’s be real here. A lot of Duranies during the Astronaut era went all in and did not come out the other side. It is like they checked off some boxes on their fandom bucket list. Once that was done, they were out, ready to move on. I chose the other route. I chose to normalize my fandom, to just make a part of my existence in order to keep it going.

Here is where I think the fandom analogy of romance works. In 2004, it felt like I had just started a new romance in which the subject of that romance could do nothing wrong. It was definitely the honeymoon period. Many fans want to live in that honeymoon and are not willing to hang out passed that. They don’t want to deal with the negatives or the less-than-exciting times and others of us accept all of it. Again, in a early romance, you might spend most of your waking hours with the subject of that romance. I did that in 2004 with Duran Duran. Now, I don’t. It is like my parents who have been married for 52 years. They don’t need to constantly talk about each other or be with each other all the time to know that they love each other. The same is true with me and Duran Duran. I can and do have many things in my life that get my focus, including teaching, politics, my family, writing and researching and Duran Duran. For me, I need all of those in my life to be happy. So, at times, I miss the intensity of those Astronaut days but I recognize that where my fandom is now is more securely fastened in my heart and in my life.

-A

And I think It’s About to Break

One of the aspects of Duran Duran’s music that I love is how, periodically, you connect with a song in a different way. This happened to me this week while on the way to work. On my usual drive, I had my music on shuffle, never knowing exactly what would pop up. This past Monday’s drive, I found myself lost in thought when the song, Union of the Snake began. Now, usually, when this song comes on, I have images of elevators in sandy desert areas and bellhops, thinking of the video. Once upon a time I felt like it was describing my fandom, when I felt like I was barely holding on to it. Looking back at those feelings and at that time, it is clear to me that my feelings had very little to do with fandom. I was recovering from working really hard for a losing campaign, one that felt more personal than most since the winner had attacked my profession. I needed my fandom to distract me, to give me joy and the band was on a break after the All You Need Is Now era. It wasn’t theirs or the fan community’s fault that the timing sucked.

For years after that time (end of 2012 and 2013), Union of the Snake brought up my undefined frustrations, which meant that I struggled to listen to as those negative feelings overshadowed images of a passed out John Taylor in a truck. Then, Monday happened when the song began playing in my car, jarring me out of my thoughts. As the first notes played, I reached to switch songs when I started to listen to the lyrics again.

Telegram force and ready
I knew this was a big mistake
There’s a fine line drawing
My senses together
And I think it’s about to break
If I listen close I can hear them singers, ohVoices in your body coming through on the radio
The union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineNightshades on a warning
Give me strength at least give me a light
Give me anything even sympathy
There’s a chance you could be right
If I listen close I can hear them singers, ohVoices in your body coming through on the radio
The union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineIf I listen close I can hear them singers, oh
Voices in your body coming through on the radio
The union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
It’s gonna race, it’s gonna break, it’s gonna move up
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
Moving up it’s gonna race it’s gonna break
Through the borderlineThe union of the snake is on the climb
It’s gonna race, it’s gonna break, it’s gonna move up
To the borderline

There is a fine line drawing my senses together and I think it’s about to break

How many times have I heard that line? Thousands? Tens of thousands? On Monday, it described exactly how I was feeling. The weekend was rough, to say the least. I ended up grading for 8 hours over the weekend, which followed a 60 hour work week. The worst part of all that time is that I didn’t even get caught up. While my to do list had gotten smaller, a whole set of tests and essays awaited my feedback and evaluation. Then, if that was not enough, I am struggling with a particular class, which is usually the one I look forward to the most. As the weekend rolled into Sunday night, I found my agitation with it all growing. How could I sustain this? Why should I have to? How come I cannot figure out how to make this class work for everyone? Then, what about the other things I want to? Will I have time for my political activism? What about our new research project? Will my house always have dirty dishes in the sink and unfolded laundry in the dryer? You can see how my brain was working as all this began to translate to failure. The rest of my Sunday found me in tears followed by restless sleep.

Give me strength at least give me a light
Give me anything even sympathy
There’s a chance you could be right

Monday morning was tough. My emotions were still raw and I felt like I had not slept at all. I feel like I might break, in a way that I haven’t in a long time. That said, I did feel like I needed strength, light, and sympathy in order to make it through the day and beyond. I went into work, looking for help from some colleagues, which I never do. I tend to be the one that helps rather than the one needing assistance. While I cannot say that the day was easy, thinking about the lyrics helped me feel a little less alone. I feel a little more validated, that my emotions weren’t wrong. Interestingly enough, there was a sense that I was a little stronger than I was the night before. By Tuesday, I could confront some of what was causing me grief and frustration. Things aren’t perfect but I don’t feel like I’m going to break anymore and that I can and will do what I want and need to do both at work and beyond.

-A

For a Point of View

Here we are, the final Thursday of August. This time of year is always sort of weird for me. In the past, I’d be neck deep in ordering curriculum for my youngest, or I’d be in the middle of beginning-of-the-school-year prep. There were a couple of wonderful years where I had a “real” job and would be feverishly updating rosters, creating attendance sheets or taking inventory at the learning center. (I miss working there, although you couldn’t pay me to move back to Southern California) In the midst of all of that, I’d be thinking about September 13. This year, I’m getting ready for a visit from my sister, and a trip to Palm Springs and Las Vegas next weekend, while adjusting to having my youngest in public school. (She absolutely LOVES it, by the way!)

That date is special because of two birthdays. The first is my dad’s birthday, and the second is that it is also the birthday for this blog and website!

I have this picture hanging in my room

I am living proof that grief isn’t a process with a beginning, middle and end. My dad died eleven years ago, and I still think about him nearly every day. For me personally, September 13th has gotten easier for me to manage each year. While I can’t help but think about it being my dad’s birthday, at one point I handled it almost ceremoniously. I’d light a candle, make a coconut cake because it was his favorite, think about my dad, look at pictures and nearly wallow in my grief, along with a healthy dose of self-pity. I needed that time to allow the grief to wash over me a little, I suppose.

But I refuse to take you down

I used to set aside September 13 to remind myself of how much I missed my dad. Truth is, I don’t, or at least I didn’t, let myself really spend time thinking about it on most other days. As the years have gone by though, I’ve gotten away from most of that. Typically, the days leading up to it are a bit worse than the day itself. It is like I dread the inevitable until it gets here and I realize (once again), that I’m fine. Sure, I acknowledge his birthday – sometimes I just think about it, and other years I’ll tweet something. Then I let it go. It isn’t the end of the world. Yet honestly, if I’m really going to be transparent about it all (and why not now? I mean, I’ve been at this nine years now), in some ways my world did kind of end with his death, and now – well, this is just the new normal. His face and memory is never far from my thoughts, though.

My son Gavin is the spitting image of him, but with hair – because my dad went bald when he was 18. I never knew him with hair! <big grin here>), and little things remind me of him all the time. At one time, the memories would be sad, and I’d cry at the oddest moments. But now – they’re oddly comforting. I miss him, but I’ve learned to accept that he’s gone. His birthday is still special. He would have been 79 this year, and that boggles my mind. And sometimes, like right now – I can’t even believe our family went through all of that. I have to remind myself that yes, he really did die. Grief is weird.

These words are like sand

Then, there’s the blog. Yes, it is true that one day, nearly nine years ago – I hit “post”, and our very first blog posting went live. This is also something that I need to seriously sit back and contemplate each year. On one hand, I feel like I’ve been blogging for about half my life. On the other, I almost feel like I’ve got to count the years just to be SURE we’ve really been doing this for nine years now. Could that really be?? Just yesterday, Amanda and I were conferencing about a writing project, and she said something about how we’ve been going to shows together for fifteen years now and I had to do a double take. Really? It’s honestly been that long?!?

Even yesterday, I agreed with Amanda when she said that we’ve been blogging for so long now that it wouldn’t feel right if we stopped. The blog is an extension of myself in a number of ways. I’m not really looking for validation in the way I know I was when we started. I’ve learned that much of the time—I won’t get it, and as it turns out—I don’t need it anyway.

I’ve written this before, but it bares repeating. I started blogging because I had the audacity to want to be liked. The blog was essentially a mouthpiece, and I used it. I felt personally empowered just by getting the words out, whether one person read them, or many – although I love hearing from people who felt something from our writing. That feeling has not changed since the day we started. I’m still as socially awkward as ever, and I’m grateful I started blogging.

Just get blown away

What has changed though, is that I realize I don’t need hundreds of people to like me in order to feel validated as a human, or even as a fan. For me personally, organizing a convention, or hosting meet-ups are very difficult things. I much prefer being in the back, behind the scenes, working on the logistics. I don’t enjoy putting myself out there, and pretending to be outgoing, when I know someone is right around the corner laughing and hoping for my utter failure. There seems to be quite a bit of that going around this community at the moment, and I’m not sure why. What I do know is that I don’t need it. If you are with me, we’re still having a meet-up in Vegas. We would love to hang out with people looking to have some fun before the shows – both nights we’ll be in the CliQue Bar at around 5pm, so look for us!

For Amanda and I, writing Daily Duranie is almost a way we pre-write for projects. As those projects take shape, we send out submissions to publishers, and as a result – we’ve had our fair share of rejections. Each publisher has their own format for sending in submissions, but every single one of them wants to know what “big question” your book proposal seeks to address and answer. The first “encyclopedia” sized manuscript we did tried to answer the question, “What is fandom, and why do we participate?” It was a huge question, and the manuscript was laden in research. Our second tried to explain our journey in fandom. We wanted to explain fandom by using our own experience. That manuscript was fun, but in hindsight – very watered down. We wanted our fandom to sound friendly and inclusive. The publisher wanted more of the dirt, and specifically, she wanted to know why Amanda and I are groupies.

*sigh* We’re not groupies. Maybe that’s the problem…but it’s not our thing. Thank you, next!

All the things we’d like to say

Simply put, I think Amanda and I had to do all of that writing in order to whittle away little-by-little and finally get to the good stuff underneath. Some people can do it quickly, and some of us have to write three full manuscripts along with full book proposals to get there. C’est la vie. Someone wise told me that eventually I’d understand why I needed to be rejected, and why I needed to write those full manuscripts. I’m getting there.

I felt good about the direction we were taking in the writing, but yesterday really brought clarity to everything we’ve done for the past nine years (and then some). The real questions—the ones we’ve been afraid to say out loud or admit to anyone but each other— are the things we really need to writing about and trying to answer. So we are. These questions are the reasons we started blogging, They are at the root of what we comment about most when the band is interviewed (and no, I don’t mean John and Simon’s clothing choices!), and they are most definitely the things we get the most annoyed by in general. While I can’t say whether or not a publisher will see the worth in our project – I can say that on a personal note, I’ve turned a corner. I know why I’m still here.

-R

I Can’t Breathe Now But I Can’t Let Go

The song, You Kill Me with Silence, came on as I drove home yesterday after another extremely busy day. As I drove towards my home, the lyric that is the title of this blog hit me. These particular song lyrics have never meant much to me, personally, as I have never been in a relationship that might be defined as emotionally challenging, at best, and abusive, at worst. Yet, yesterday, I finally felt that line of lyric acutely.

My summer is not over as I technically do not have to report to work, to school, for another week and a few days. Yet, this week has found me at multiple meetings connected to teaching. As Monday turned to Tuesday and Tuesday to Wednesday, I found myself more and more exhausted and, frankly, more sad. So, if I did not have to report yet and it is not making me happy, how/why have I had the week I have had? Simple. I am my own worst enemy. Sort of.

One aspect of my personality that I’m confident is always present is the desire to make things better. This philosophy or characteristic or whatever you want to call it has been around since I was a kid. I think back to my junior high days when I found out about a man being mistreated for his religious beliefs in my home town. At the time, I found myself relating to his religious minority status and instantly wanted to help. I didn’t ignore the situation but instead ran towards it. I openly expressed support for the guy and even showed up to join protestors pushing for religious tolerance. I did this at the age of 11 or 12.

This aspect of my personality didn’t go away in high school as I found myself going to the school district’s superintendent about the health curriculum at the same time that I tried to defend friends of mine who identified as LGBTQ. I won’t lie. This did not make me popular with my peers or even my teachers but I couldn’t…not do it. Something within me said that I should try to make things better, if I could. College continued the pattern as I helped to form an organization fighting for diversity. While this resulted in being on a first name basis with my college president and dean, it terrified my parents, at times. They worried that my actions, while having the best of intentions, would result in harm to me and my future.

Fast forward to adulthood. This push at the core of my being pushed me into education. If I could make things better, I should, right? Of course! Now, I am about to enter my 23rd year of teaching. (BTW, I think this makes me like a million years old. My theory is that teaching is like dog years. One year of teaching equals three years or something like that.) Things are not always awesome when it comes to teaching. So, what do I do? I don’t run. No. I fight. If I can back it better, I should, right? This leads me to join a number of committees to fix some of the most significant problems at my school. (Hence why I have been at meetings all week.) I became campaign manager for a candidate for school board. I do what I can to make it better.

This attitude of mine can be seen beyond the world of teaching and politics (this is obviously where I get my political activism from). I have even done with when it comes to fandom. When Rhonda and I started down this journey of blogging, researching and writing, not only did I want to understand fandom but I had hoped, in the back of my mind, that our actions might make it better. It might make fandom a more fun place. This is really where our meet-ups came from. I don’t want anyone to be a lonely fan so if we can do something for fans to meet each other, we should! Maybe if we question our actions as fans, it might lessen the worse aspects of our fan community. Yet, I have seen little change and often received backlash. This time, though, I backed off and try to keep fandom where it needs to be for *me* personally. I have to ignore the negatives in order to keep fandom as my fun place. If people don’t like us, I have to blow it off. I don’t have time or energy to fight on this front, too. I have to give what is left of my ability to fight to my job and to my community (local, state, national and global).

Now, much like the lyric said, I am feeling a little like I cannot breathe. It is all feeling like too much right now but I cannot let go. I haven’t been able to walk away from much that I have tried to make positive changes in and for. When it comes to fandom, I have been able to back off enough to keep going, while ignoring the parts of fandom that are difficult but I cannot do that with work (unless someone has a really awesome job out there that would pay me what I’m making as an old teacher with lots of education and experience!). I cannot do it when it comes to the larger society either. This goes beyond politics but to the country and world as a whole.

I’m not sure where this leaves me as I move into one of my final weekends before students walk into my classroom. For now, I’ll appreciate that these Duran lyrics spoke to me in a way that got me thinking and feeling. Processing how things are going can only help me keep in the fight.

-A

Built on Hope and Burnt by the Sun

I had hoped that the summer would bring me more time to be involved and to be thinking about any and everything in Duranland. The last couple of weeks have definitely fulfilled that goal. There has been a lot more thinking, writing, discussing Duran, for sure. Interestingly enough, it has made me question some things rather than just bring me back into the fandom fold. Questioning isn’t a bad thing but different from what I thought would happen.

When I think about my history in this fandom, I go back to 2004 and what I wanted then. When I jumped in online, the reasoning was a simple one. I wanted to make friends and I wanted people to go to shows with. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Did I accomplish that? I have met a ton of people through this fandom. There is no doubt about that. I couldn’t have been more excited and happy. I remember this feeling of utter contentment. Some of those friends did attend shows with me and many of them remain as people I would still list as friends even if we don’t speak much anymore. Of course, Rhonda is the big exception.

Speaking of, we quickly discovered that we could tour together easily and have so much fun. I never laugh so much than when I am with her. So fandom in 2004 and 2005 was just joy. Of course, this perfectly coincided with the conclusion of graduate school, which meant more time and money. Life felt pretty good. I was filled with hope that this could continue indefinitely. Naive is probably the best word to describe how I was then. Soon enough, as 2005 turned to 2006, cracks in the pavement (pun intended) started to appear. I began to notice that not all fans got along with each other and definitely felt the wrath of those who believed that I did not express my fandom appropriately, at all times. On top of that, the reunion excitement fizzled as Andy left and the Red Carpet Massacre era brought division.

Hope remained high still for me. Those intensely positive memories from the Astronaut era offered protection against the negatives even when I began to worry that I was all alone or would be all alone soon enough. I remember making the decision to go see the band during their Broadway run in New York City in 2007 as the band promoted RCM. I went with a college friend who knew next to nothing about Duran but was excited to see me and wanted to support my interests. I had a good time (as I would at any Duran show) but it wasn’t the same.

By the fall of 2008, my hope began to return as Rhonda and I began studying fandom. If I understand this social phenomenon, I thought then I could do what needs to be done to keep it all positive. Then, the All You Need Is Now era began and, for the most part, my life in Duranland was great. It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty good. I went to the most shows ever and had a chance to see the band in the UK. We began to do meet ups and even planned a convention, hoping these events might bring friendships and joy to other Duranies like we had and that the fan community might be a more positive place.

Paper Gods brought a lot more shows and new friends. However, as the fandom wheel continued to go around, I found myself relying on shows and touring as my main means of escape and joy. Fandom provided the balance to the ever increasing stressfulness of my job and the real world. But I began to realize that the balance that fandom brought was delicate. Real life began to feel like I was walking on a very thin railing and hoping that I wouldn’t fall off. If I could make it to the shows or to a tour, it would feel like I made it across the railing to get to firmer ground. Yet, that firmer ground was getting shorter and less fun. It felt like I needed fandom differently than I had in the beginning. In 2004, I needed it for fun. By 2017, I needed it to keep me from falling into a deep, dark hole of sadness and loneliness.

Realizing this, I began to look around. Was fandom still providing me the same things that it once did? Was it bringing me new friends? Yes, I know people but I’m not sure how many of them I feel particularly close to or feel like I can rely on. So, I did what I had to do and focused some of my attention and energy on friendships outside of Duranland. What about going to shows? I still have people to go to shows with but those shows are getting harder and harder. Lately, it has always meant a long day of travel and the stress of missing work and flying. I have to wonder how much is it worth it. Yet, I fear that once I stop traveling to shows, those goals from 2004 will go up in smoke. It was the mark the end. Now, I am still a fan and will always be one. I just have to wonder if the days, my days in this fandom are numbered. In 2007, a lot of the friends I had made in 2004 and 2005 were walking away and now I feel that same sense. I pushed through then and kept hope alive but I’m not sure that I can now. I’m tired. I’m tired of being the consistently there and consistently strong one. I have to do that in real life so I don’t know that I can do it in fandom, too.

Now, I have been around long enough to know that how I feel right now may not be how I will feel next month or next year. Maybe I will have the most amazing time in Vegas in September that I cannot imagine myself not traveling to see shows. If the timeline about new music coming out next year is at all accurate, that might keep me around for another cycle. After all, I still think it would be cool to see the band play in the UK for their 40th, if that were to happen. This I do know. I cannot force any of it. I cannot control what the band does, what my friends do or how I feel. So, for now, I will try to keep that initial hope alive.

-A

Hold Onto Your Time

Do you ever wonder what it is like to be Duran Duran after a long album cycle? What to they think and feel after having written and recorded an album, completed promotion in multiple places and followed all that up with a long world tour? Do they feel exhausted after years worth of work? Could they feel proud of what they accomplished? Do they look back to see how many shows they did or how many interviewed they completed? I know that their typical attitude is to not look back, to live in the moment. While I appreciate that, I also wonder if they don’t take stock in the work they just finished.

Why am I thinking about this now? It isn’t like the band just finished a tour or album or something. What brought this on is that I feel like I just got done with an album cycle. This past Wednesday, I turned in my grades, packed up my classroom and officially checked out. On Thursday, I did have a meeting about some summer work I will be doing but I did have some time to decompress. Last night marked the final act of the 2018-2019 school year as I watched the class of 2019 get their diplomas.

Unlike Duran Duran, probably, I want to take time to reflect, to look back, to take some stock in this year. Then, like the band (probably), I want to take time to do nothing. So, first things first, what should I acknowledge about the year? As I mentioned with the band, I would imagine them having a general feeling after a long album cycle. Is that emotion a positive one? Negative? Mixed feelings? Maybe it depended on the album. I, too, have a general feeling. For now, I would have to say that it is one of complete exhaustion but that does not tell the whole story. Why the exhaustion? To put it simply, I left it all out on the table. I gave everything I did 100% of my effort. I didn’t hold anything back. For instance, on top of teaching five classes of high school students, I also campaigned for the majority of the year. This means that I worked 60-80 hours a week for about 30 out of the 38 weeks. Those campaigns were successful. The first one resulted in state wide wins on top of getting 90% of eligible voters in the suburb I organized out to vote and 3% more voters for my candidates. The second one was just as sweet as my candidate had so much going against her as her opponent had more name recognition, more money and more media support. Yet, in both, I proved that organizing on the ground really works.

Teaching wasn’t really easy either. This year, I had big classes. In fact, one class was so big that I had to add desks into my already crowded classroom. On top of that, the group of kids assigned to me struggled, not because of me or my colleagues but because many of them had needs that went beyond the classroom. My school also had a hard year as there was a sexual assault that occurred at school, causing trauma for staff and students alike. As a result, I got involved with some planning to help deal with the immediate affects as well as how to prevent future ones. On top of that, I have found myself on a couple of other committees. One was to fix some systems to help kids be more successful and the other is to fight for better treatment for teachers and school staff. Like the campaigns, I am proud of all of the hard work and believe that the school will be a better place for kids and staff alike next year and beyond.

If all of that work wasn’t enough, I also had scares with my parents. My mom went first when she hit her head due to a fall on the ice. Thankfully, she was fine. Then, more significantly, my dad had to have emergency, life-saving surgery in March. He bounced back better and faster than anyone expected, thankfully. As my parents age, my worry and role in their day-to-day existence increases. Like my work, I cannot complain. As my parents would say, it beats the alternative. I would much rather have them need me than not be around at all.

All in all, this year was an extremely challenging and relentless one. I stayed in the fight the whole way and pushed through it all, successfully. Now, I’m looking forward to having some time to recover. In fact, I have this post scheduled as I have promised myself a do-nothing day. I wrote this blog ahead of time in order to do this. You may have also noticed that I didn’t post a question of the day either. I figured that one day wouldn’t hurt. I’ll slowly start to work on developing a summer schedule next week. For now, though, I’ll take my day and relax with a sense of accomplishment and a smile on my face.

-A

Passion, Obsession, Bliss, and Success

“Don’t ever let anyone take your bliss away.”

This is one of the most thought-provoking sayings I’ve ever had directed in my general direction. Uttered by a well-meaning friend, I continue to let that grouping of words wash over me from time to time. It is both a good reminder of how I need to handle my own life, as well as how I should respect the choices of others.

At this moment, I find myself in this now-familiar territory. One of my children is at a serious life crossroad. To explain the entire story would give far more away than I think is prudent. However, these same words have flooded back to me at regular intervals during the past six months.

The storm’s about to blow

One of the things I learned far too late was that the only person who should have a hand in deciding what my passions should be in life, is me. When I was young (and even when I wasn’t), I allowed other people to literally change my entire direction in life. Fresh out of college, I wanted to go back for my masters – my plan being to teach. I had found a school where I could go back for the extra year (for teaching in California you need a bachelors +1 extra year for the credential), and then continue classes for my masters. I wanted to either go into administration or teach at college level – I wasn’t positive which direction I’d go in, but I knew I wanted to have a masters degree. I was sold on the program, ready to sign on the dotted line and get started.

I had two hurdles left. One was to tell my parents. My dad wasn’t as sold on the idea as I was. He wanted me to get a job and start bringing in money to help, which was hard to hear. I didn’t have the money for school on my own unless my dad was agreeable to let me continue living at home rent free and covering my car payment. He wasn’t. His feeling was that masters degrees were unnecessary. I needed to work. Then I had to tell my then-boyfriend. He told me that I needed “a taste of business” before deciding to teach.

Knowing that my both my boyfriend and father were against the idea, I quickly shelved my plan. I scoured want ads, sent out my resume to hundreds of companies – basically floundering from the moment I graduated from college in June until mid-August. My dad came into my room one morning as I was looking at the newspaper and announced I had to come up with the money for my September car payment. “By the way, you are starting at my friend’s office in downtown LA as their temporary receptionist on Monday.”

The gaping hole

The phone? I hated covering phones. I went to school…got a degree…to be a receptionist?? He kept telling me that I had to pay my dues and work my way up. It was like being sentenced right back to hell because I had been working as a receptionist most of the way through school to begin with. All I could think about (and still occasionally think about when I’m down in the dumps) is that I went to school and worked my backside off to get a degree that didn’t help me one single bit.

Over the next couple of years I bounced from job to job. I was never satisfied, and I always felt like the work was “just a job”. I don’t know what it is like to have a career, much less one I’m passionate about doing. Instead, l’m passionate when it comes to writing about Duran Duran. I am obsessed with their career, their music, this fandom.

Caught in the crossfire

Parenting is tough. When you first start out, you think having this newborn is going to be the hardest time. You’re tired, sick, frustrated, exhausted…how much worse can it really get than that? Well, I’ve done all that three times now. I have to say that at least for me, cuddling a crying newborn has nothing on parenting a young adult. NOTHING.

I’ve made serious mistakes with my kids, and sadly for my youngest – I continue to make them. My heart is always in the right place, but sometimes I just blow it. In parenting, you don’t necessarily realize the severity to which you’ve failed until years later. For me, now is that time. My comeuppance.

Too often, I turned a blind eye when I should not have done so. I ignored obsessions and interests when I should have fully encouraged them. The things I thought were just hobbies or wastes of time, were in fact road signs that I forced us to pass by, in favor of sticking to the “tried and true” way to get through life. Only now do I realize that essentially, I tried to push my kid into a mold s/he wasn’t destined to fit. I think s/he always knew, and it’s a funny thing – even a kid on the spectrum wants their parents and family to be proud of him, even if at the time they’re not fully aware of those feelings.

Take a look before you run off and hide

I spent most of Heather’s teen and college years reminding her to look for her passion, and live it fully. My husband would look at me in utter horror with a little bit of irritation mixed with good measure as I’d recite these words to her, but I meant them with every fiber of my being.

“If you love dancing so much that you’d live in your car – then damn it, that’s your passion and it is what you were put here to do. Go do it!”

The trouble is, I didn’t extend those words to anyone else in my little family. I didn’t consider other obsessions that were perhaps just as lofty as a performance art. It never occurred to me that by not saying them directly to each child – I was basically saying that their own interests weren’t worth living in a car to do. Their passions were maybe just hobbies. Stop playing video games, go to college, and get a degree, in other words.

Don’t look away

What on earth does this have to do with Duran Duran, you say? Can you imagine what would have become of them, of ALL of us, had their parents not encouraged them? What in the hell would I be listening to, writing about, or traveling to see had they just gone into trade like their parents before them?

Unconventional choices aren’t always bad. Sure, there’s risk involved, either way. Success is reached when you finding the thing you’re so passionate or obsessed with that you’ll stop at nothing to keep doing it.

I don’t really believe that Duran Duran keeps making music because they want to achieve some tangible goal or dollar amount. Chart success or critical acclaim isn’t the one thing that keeps them going. While perhaps they are underdogs to some extent, I really don’t believe they’re continuing to chase a carrot. They’ve already been the biggest band in the world. They know what it means to sell out arenas and have millions of fans. Music is a part of their soul. At one point, I think they would have lived in their car(s) to keep doing it. If nothing else, they lived in a Cheapside squat in order to be a band.

If you’re willing to live in a car to keep doing your thing – then go do it. “Don’t ever let anyone take your bliss away.”

-R

Here and Now it’s a Different Storyline

Music really is my lifeblood. I don’t think that should be a surprise to anyone reading. After all, this is a fan blog dedicated to a music group! My love of music comes from not only listening, but also practicing and performing.

I started learning to play the clarinet when I was eight. The earliest memory I have of this period would be my clarinet case sitting on my lap as I fumbled to keep my music books from falling on the floor in the front seat of my dad’s old Ford truck on the way to lessons. I had only been playing for a short while at the time of this memory, and honestly – I wasn’t very good. I was beginning to get very frustrated, and practicing definitely wasn’t fun. My dad came up with the idea to put me in lessons, and for my parents—paying for those lessons was a luxury I didn’t take lightly.

We took the drive to Gard’s Music from our house, and I told my dad that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep playing. The deal we’d made was that I had to play for six months before I could decide to quit. My parents has rented my clarinet from Mr. Gard, and my dad was very firm: if he was going to pay for the rental, I had to agree to stick it out for at least the six months. He wasn’t giving in, to my dismay. At the time, saying six months to me was not really any different than suggesting six years.

That day in my dad’s truck though, he also shared something with me that I never forgot. I got into the truck after my lesson, still discouraged and thinking more and more about giving up the clarinet to play with in the girls’ city softball league that spring.

My dad put the key into the ignition, the Ford roaring to life as I rolled down the window to get some air. He then turned to me. “Mike told me something I think you should know.” I waited to hear the inevitable news that I was never going to master the major C scale, much less anything else.

“He said that you have great potential.” I can remember asking him what “potential” meant, assuming it must have something to do with my lack of talent. My dad smiled and explained that it meant if I really practiced hard, I could one day be a great player.

I don’t really know what Mike heard or saw in me. I thought I was terrible. Learning the notes was tough, reading music was even tougher, and putting it all together felt unsurmountable. I got into the truck after my lesson, still discouraged and thinking more and more about giving up the clarinet to stick with the girls’ city softball league that spring.

Those words were just the encouragement I needed to keep going. I played the clarinet for the next ten years, thinking I’d even major in music in college. For a lot of reasons that make very little sense now that I’m 48, I changed my major that first year at Cal State Fullerton. While I could have easily played professionally, I scared myself into believing I wasn’t good enough. I quit. A decision I think about to this day. I don’t regret it, exactly – I have three children and a husband I adore – but I dearly miss playing.

When I turned 40, my husband bought me a new clarinet. It is a gorgeous, wooden and silver, professional-series, Buffet Crampon R-13. Every now and then I get it out and play, finding it ever-so-slightly harder to hit the upper register notes than I did whenever I played last. The one thing I always longed to do, was play with a group again, like a community band. Either there wasn’t one where we lived, they only accepted professional musicians with proper credentials, or I had children to raise with very little time. It was the kind of a dream I had to just put away, and be satisfied with the few stolen moments I’d have to play some of the sheet music I have at home.

We moved to Atascadero in December, and it never occurred to me that maybe now would be a good time to find a community band. So, when I stumbled upon an article in our local town magazine about our community band, I lit up like a Christmas tree. Not only is there a band, but they’re LOOKING for woodwind players.

I love writing. I adore Duran Duran. While sure, I blog, I’m not a great writer. Yes, I’m a fan and love to study it. Even so, I can’t throw myself into fandom with abandon and travel around the world. This band has been with me nearly single step of the way throughout my life, even if they don’t know it. They fed the part of my soul that continued longing for music even after I stopped playing. Yet, I’ve always felt like something I couldn’t quite put my finger on was missing. My career has consisted of raising my children, and I’m thankful I was able to stay at home and put my full self into their care. But there’s an emptiness I’ve never quite been able to completely fill. I’m still unsatisfied on a deeply personal level.

I have a hard time talking myself into the idea that I could play with a band again.I’m fine with the idea of playing with a group – but those first few seconds of walking in and meeting new people, clarinet in hand, FREAK ME OUT. Performing or rehearsing with real bands haven’t played a part in my life for more years than I care to count. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m any good. (probably not right now!) I have a real fear of failure. This time though, I’m forcing myself to see it through. I’m not a young pup now, and life is short. I need to do this for myself.

I unpacked my clarinet yesterday. It was still in perfect condition, waiting for me. There is something so uniquely comforting to me when I feel the coolness of the chromed keys, the smell of the cork grease, or even the way the wood of the reed feels in my fingers as I’m adjusting it on the mouthpiece. Weirdly, I feel whole in the same way I do when I’m standing in front of Duran Duran at a show. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

-R

Here By Intervention

I want your attention

This morning, I woke up to a text from my daughter’s boyfriend. I watched the short little iPhone video clip, immediately recognizing music from the song “1985”. Turns out, the video was of my daughter Heather, bravely belting the karaoke song, in a very crowded bar. It appears to be a post-graduation celebration with many other gr long after yours truly went back to her hotel room with kids, husband, dogs and a wayward grandma in tow. (is it weird that even as I sit here writing, I’m slightly jealous – I could have used some celebrating and light-hearted fun that night myself!!)

Now, while I do still have this video, and will keep it for future use when she least expects it – I can’t share it here, unfortunately. I actually enjoy living, as it turns out. I will say though, that the shout-out to mom was VERY obvious as she sang the line “thought she’d get a hand on a member of Duran Duran”.

Best. Thing. Ever.

The thing is, as much as I know singing this song was indeed a way of poking good natured fun at me, the-mom-who-writes-a-blog-about-Duran-Duran (and who wouldn’t chuckle about that anyway?!?), I love it. I know the song “1985” wasn’t an ode written for me. However, Bowling for Soup may as well have been living at my house, or even down my street when they wrote it. I own it all, too. Proudly. I mean, what else can I really do? Guilty as charged!!

Hits you with a groove

As I was chuckling to myself over the video this morning, it made me think back to my dad. When he passed away, the one main request he had for his funeral was that we would see him off by playing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.

That’s a strange song to play at a memorial. Truth be told, I don’t think my dad ever actually listened to the words at all. He just loved the tune. Back in 1985 (I wish I were kidding about the year – but I can’t make this up!), my mom and dad bought a motor home. That summer, and each one following for the next several years, we took a two-week camping trip as a family. It was required attendance for my sister and I, so we took turns choosing music to play on the stereo as my dad drove. Much of my musical choice was—Duran Duran of course—but after a while they were outlawed in the motor home. Apparently my dad got sick (*gasp*) of them. So, I put on Tears for Fears. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” came on, and next thing I knew, my dad was bopping his head going down the highway to this song.

From that day on, that song was his most frequent request. It played each and every time we went camping, whether the two-week summer trip, or a quick weekend getaway. I began to equate the song with my dad, and now—I can’t think about the song without a memory of being in the motor home, sitting at the table watching my dad bob his head in time to the music as we ambled down the highway. It is both a comforting, as well as bittersweet, image forever burned in my head.

We covered all the angles

Aside from that, and a wayward Beach Boys song that may or may not have my name in it, I don’t really have musical memories that align directly with my parents. Both of them did like Elvis Presley, and I suppose that when I do hear him, I do think of my mom and dad. (Which is rare, I must say – for being The King, I rarely hear Elvis’ music today. Isn’t that interesting?) I have definitely left a lasting legacy for my kids. My “mark” has been deeply engraved into 80s pop culture, and I’m not sorry.

All three of my children liberally tease me about playing “Hungry Like the Wolf” at my funeral. We are kind of dark that way, I guess, talking about my inevitable end as though it is a joke – but it’s how me and my kids roll. In any case, I laugh at them in response, all the while promising to haunt them for all eternity should they happen to pick that song.

Let’s face it – they are totally going to blare that one, for all the planet to hear when my time has come. Well played, Duran Duran. Well played.

Hate to bite the hand that feeds me

Every time Heather is out and about and happens to hear Duran Duran, I get texted, as though I’m personally responsible. Even Gavin—my quieter, less bombastic child, chuckles when he recognizes a song, TV show reference, or something else entirely. It is my legacy, or as they prefer to call it—my curse.

My youngest is still at the stage where she will sing along to Paper Gods. She still loves “Last Night in the City” and “Pressure Off”. She’s not as familiar with their other albums because I’ve had THAT one in my car for so long now – literally half of her life at this point. Even so, every so often she’ll be humming as she’s doing math problems, and more often than not it is some super obscure Duran Duran song I didn’t even know she knew. For example, last week she was singing “American Science”.

I don’t know how that happens, but I love that it does. I may not have taught my kids very much – but they do know Duran Duran. It is my lasting legacy. Or my curse. You’re welcome, kids.

-R