Category Archives: personal stories

Can You Hear Me Now?

My plan for this blog was a simple one. I wanted to write about the evolution of my feelings about this week’s announced September shows but I cannot do it right now. Don’t worry. I will. Right now, though, I need to focus on how I got on a different path than I had expected. It sort of reminds me of the track, This Is How a Road Gets Made, in which Simon discusses how a new path is formed. While first glance, he might be talking about literally that but he could also be referencing something more metaphorical. I wonder if he knows which it is. Did he then when it came out?

Did the members of Duran Duran know when they ended taking the unexpected path, one that led them in a very different direction than they might have otherwise? Let me give you an example. When John decided to stop attending art school in order to focus on making music, did he know then that this would change his future forever? Of course, not every decision is that dramatic or changes one’s life in an instant but sometimes those little moments build up to make some changes without a real conscious effort to do so. For the band, those could be something like Roger playing drums using pots and pans as a little kid or John and Nick attending their first concert. Did those moments set them down a path?

Why am I wondering this? Why now? I think I’m starting to recognize some of those little moments in my life have actually built up to alter my life in a way that I wouldn’t have thought possible fifteen years ago. Did I know that this little moments would matter so much? My answer is a simple, “Heck no.” Yet, now, I cannot imagine what the alternative would be.

What are those little moments? What have they brought me to? I look around and realize that I have found my voice. I don’t obviously mean that in the literal sense. I can speak and do speak. No, I’m talking about something more, something meaningful. I speak up and out about what matters to me. now When I was younger, I always wanted to be that person, the person who is fearless and strong in her convictions. This strength would not aggression or closed-mindedness but one that gets the necessary sentiment out.

So, how did I get here? The first step is an easy one. I got involved in my first political campaign. I finally decided to do more than just talk but tried to get something done. This was in the winter of 2008, during the primary when I chose to not only vote for President Obama but to work for him. Throughout that campaign, I wasn’t sure if I *should* be doing this. I worried. Would people walk away from me? What if they didn’t feel as I did? Would they judge me or think less of me? Throughout that spring, I grew stronger in my convictions. Then, you know what happened to me that really helped? I went to see Duran Duran play in Chicago in May of 2008. In the encore, John came out on stage wearing an Obama shirt. Somehow, that made me hold my head a little higher and gave me some courage to keep going. Of course, John later went on to do a couple of videos supporting him.

Despite having experienced a victory, I figured that it was a one time only thing. I had teaching to do after all. But then, this started. Yes, this. The blog began. Initially, I took baby steps in what I talked about, avoiding controversial things for the most part and certainly not talking about myself. Who the hell would want to read about my life? Yet, I discovered that I cannot separate different parts of me. I cannot just be fan Amanda and I cannot just be teacher. No, they are both a part of me. Then, as I got braver in my topics and experienced…well…push-back, at times. I realized then that I could take more criticism than I thought I could. I never liked it. I still don’t and would still love to avoid it. That said, it is something that made me stronger.

Then, of course, the Wisconsin teacher protests hit in 2011 raising the bar both in terms of importance but also in intensity. Something happens to your ability to speak your mind when you are out protesting in frigid temperatures for hours on end or spending the night inside the Capitol in order to occupy it with your political allies. In the midst of that protest, I had to fight for my right to take a mini-leave from work in order to go see some shows. Refusing to give in worked, at least on a personal note. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for teachers as a whole here. At that point, though, I had realized that people might attack me no matter what I say and do so I might as well work for what and who I believe in.

More campaigns followed, my participation growing steadily along the way until I ran my own campaign this past spring. I could not and would not sit back and be silent anymore. In that case, I let my work behind the scenes represent my ideas and feelings. This brings me to now. In the past month, I have found myself using my voice in a number of different settings. At times, it is within the work setting, taking charge with a group. At other times, it is about my work. I am a teacher. I have been my entire adult life. It has never been an easy profession on a number of different levels. One of the hardest aspects of my job is that so many people think they know what it is like to be a teacher. After all, most people have been in classrooms. Yet, unless you have actually done it, you don’t really know. One of my first jobs out of college was to work at a Sylvan Learning Center, teaching reading, writing, etc. I thought it gave me teaching experience. As soon as I got my first classroom, I realized how wrong I was. It was so different!

On top of that, leaders within the profession can make the job easier/better or the opposite. This school year has proven to be an extremely difficult one. In fact, it has left a lot of teachers and students really hurting. I could not stay silent. In the past month or so, I have found myself in communication with a number of different reporters who are trying to tell the story about life in my school district. It is a risk to be open, to share, but I learned to use my voice so I did. After all, it could lead to positive changes in the future and how can that be wrong?

-A

We Write in the Book

I had plans yesterday. I looked forward to these plans, which were to have a Skype session with my partner-in-crime and fellow blogger. Rhonda and I hoped to check up properly with being able to share the happenings in our lives in a way that is far more detailed than what can be shared via email or text. Unfortunately, this gathering of sorts did not happen as Rhonda wasn’t feeling good. Of course, I understood and hope that she is feeling better today. I look forward to getting it rescheduled as we have work to do!

That last sentence makes me laugh. As you all know, it has been a pretty dang busy year for me. I worked pretty substantially for the 2018 fall election. Then, I took three weeks off before I began running a campaign myself for a friend of mine who ran (and won!) a seat on the local school board. In between all that, I managed to somehow teach my 120 students some United States history and Women’s Studies. The last election ended at the beginning of April. I assumed that I would take some time to catch up on all the things I could not do while working two full time jobs before getting to the other things I love and want to do. How is that plan going for me? I have started to get caught up but I’m not finished yet. On top of that, teaching has kept me more than busy due to some events at my school and in my district. Part of me feels like I’m still on the hamster wheel that I lived on for months.

All of that said, the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen. What does that mean? Simple. The end of the school year is coming! Of course, it is not coming quickly enough. I still have five more weeks but the countdown to the end has begun. Beyond a lot of self-talk about how I can and will make it to the end, I’m also starting to think about my summer. Most summers revolve around a project or three. I think this summer will be similar. I have a few projects for work but I also have a list of things I want to get done in my house. For example, I plan on going through campaign materials to get rid of what I don’t need. Beyond the to-do lists around the house and connected to work, I have one other huge task that I would like to tackle. But, I need Rhonda for it. Don’t worry. She is aware of it.

What is this task? I would like to get back to writing. In my birthday blog, Rhonda acknowledged that I tend to feels things with my whole heart and soul. She is not wrong. I have given all of myself to teaching and to the candidates I have helped and I’m proud of that. I made commitments and stuck to it. That said, I know something else about myself. While I can narrow myself to one thing, one issue, one aspect of myself for awhile, eventually I need more. I’m not one dimensional in that way. Yes, I love to organize and strategize around political stuff but I also like to have fun. I like to think about Duran Duran and fandom. I need to have all in my life to be as happy as possible.

Therefore, this summer is the time to turn attention to fandom and writing. As you all may or may not know, we have a number of ideas when it comes to our writing projects. Some of them are further along than others. So, where to start? Do we go with something completely academic like sexism within fandom? It does combine multiple loves for me but…it might be a ton of work. What about something personal like about what we have learned over the years of being Duranies? That could be fun and something we have started but I’m not sure my head is there yet. Hmm…maybe we should go with something more Duran focused. We have a few ideas related solely to Duran. One of them we sort of started, unofficially. We have read some similar books for another idea to help us get started. A third project has actually been outlined. That one would be the shortest of the three.

Rhonda and I talked about writing a bit when we saw each other in February. I suggested the one we have outlined. The reasons for this are simple. First, it is the shortest idea, which might make it pretty dang doable in a summer. Second, I think it is a kick ass idea. Lastly, I love the idea of being focused on Duran Duran. Being so busy with other things has pushed Duran to a back burner. I’m hoping that this would bring them to the front burner, which I would love.

So, I’m hopeful that when Rhonda and I finally get a chance to really talk that we can start thinking about a plan to get some serious writing done.

-A

Until the Truth is Drawn

Something to remember

The other day, my oldest sent some pictures to me. She was dressed in her cap and gown, and had a photographer friend take some pictures using her university campus as the backdrop. Naturally, I marveled at how it was even remotely possible that she will be graduating in just under two weeks. (actually now it is nine days away, but who’s counting?)

I did what any parent might do. I tweeted a couple, and put them on Instagram too. I’m proud of her. College isn’t easy. Working while attending doesn’t actually make it any less difficult, either. Heather majored in dance, focusing on teaching and choreography. She likes being in charge, and quite frankly – she’s my bossy one – so it makes sense to me that she’s settled into this role for her career beyond college. While many of her peers within the College of the Arts at Cal State Fullerton focused on being on stage as much as possible, Heather likes being the one designing what goes on up there. Her cap that she’ll wear at graduation says “Work hard in silence and let success be the noise”. That’s exactly my Heather, and so I chose that as one of the photos I tweeted.

Picking through the pieces

Not long after I did my proud mama thing, plenty of my friends responded with notes of congratulations, including a fair number that couldn’t quite get over the fact that she’s already graduating from college. I feel the same. After all, I can distinctly remember trading messages in a chat room with JTDuran, Tracye, Mags, Nasty, Tarcia, Robin and many others while trying to keep the peace between Gavin and Heather. Those two children were either sleeping, fighting, or banding together to create chaos. (Sometimes, I actually miss those times. I must be losing my mind!)

Anyway, when I began hearing from those old friends, I started thinking back. Is it really possible that it’s been 16 years since I first began trading messages with them? For more than one of them, I’ve known them online all that time—and yet we’ve never met in person. We watched one another’s babies be born, grow up, go off to college, and now, they’re starting to graduate. I’ve seen my friends get married, divorce, move and/or travel the world – whether in person, or through the magic of the internet. Some of these women are among my most trusted allies, and we’ve never been in the same room.

What do you have at all

So often I hear fellow Duran fans speak of the atrocities done to them by others (fans). I hear about the faux pas, missteps, and even the ridiculous sense of competition. Somehow though, even through that crazy minefield, I was lucky enough to find women that could get past it all. I don’t know if it’s really such a surprise to hear that many of them aren’t quite as attached the fan community as they once were, though. Sometimes, you just get tired of the nonsense. The real friendships though, they last.

My good fortune to stumble upon a message board filled with women who shared good humor along with discussion, and exchanged life experiences right alongside music continues to pay off. My children – once preschoolers, are now college students. One is about to graduate and move into the “after-college” stage. I’m lucky there are friends to share the heartaches and triumphs, graduations, future marriages and babies; and even the gray-hair, hormones, and mid-life challenges. Whether I see them yearly, on occasion, or have never even met them in person – they matter. Call me crazy, but fandom doesn’t seem so terribly cutthroat when I think of my Duran Duran circle of friends. In fact, I’m grateful.

-R

I Heard You Were a Duran Duran Fan…

I do not have a typical place of work. It isn’t like people surround a copy machine or a water cooler to have discussions about the latest episode of a popular TV show or to ponder the latest moves out of Washington DC. Conversations happen in hallways and classrooms and usually focus on the most ridiculous thing said that day by a kid. Occasionally, there might be discussions about having digital copies of a handout or what people are doing the next day in whatever class. Rarely is there discussion about personal lives or what people are doing over the weekend. Those types of conversations only happen if people go out for a drink after work or on those teacher work days. We just don’t have time for anything else, which is why I didn’t know what to do earlier this week when I popped into the staff lounge and had to react to an actual personal question!

As I walked into the staff lounge to heat up my coffee, I spotted a women who is a frequent substitute flipping through a magazine who glanced up when I walked in. We greeted each other with some normal small talk when the conversation takes a turn. “I heard you were a Duran Duran fan,” she said innocently enough. I literally stopped moving. I didn’t know what to say. For some reason, I felt uncomfortable, almost awkward. Why? I responded in the affirmative, hoping that this ended the conversation. Instead, she continued by telling me how much she loved them when she was in high school and how cute John Taylor was. I nodded while I watched the microwave time. She went on to say that she thought the “original” drummer was really cute, too. I could no longer keep quiet. I questioned, “Roger? Yeah, he still looks good.” This caught her attention. “The original drummer?” she wondered. Like I might respond to a student question, I explained how, yes, the original drummer, Roger, was back and had been back for over a decade. Ignoring that statement, she brought up when Simon almost drowned when the yacht capsized and asked if I remembered that. As I tried to keep up with what seemed like random memories, I nodded. As the microwave beeped, I gave a silent, “thank goodness,” as I turned to leave.

Before I could get out, she asked me about Vegas. “Oh yeah, I heard that you went to Vegas to see them. How was the show? Was it good? I know someone else who went to the show.” I couldn’t ignore the comment and told her that I did, indeed, go to Vegas and that, yes, the show was good. She repeated the question, “It was good?” At this point, I swallowed the urge to just let all things Duran in a quest to educate her and restrained myself by saying, “Yeah, they pretty much always put on a good show. I have seen a few shows.” As I left the room, I realized that I was uncomfortable the entire time. Why? What’s that about?

My first thought about why was the stigma that fans experience. Did I feel judged or that she thought less of me because I was a fan? I don’t really think that was the case. There was no judgment. If anything, she demonstrated a level of enthusiasm that I should have appreciated. Was I upset that she knew I was a Duranie? I don’t think so. After all, I have worn Duran shirts and have a Duran Duran lunch bag. I have pictures of the band on the wall by my desk so I am not hiding that fact. Was I weirded out that she was almost too enthusiastic? In many ways, she sounded like so many people who loved the band in the 80s as they find themselves back in the fandom. She definitely knew some stuff from the band’s history in the 80s.

As I try to figure out my weird reaction, I have to acknowledge that it is all on me. She didn’t do anything wrong or weird. This is all on me. So what is the deal? While I’m not sure I think it is a couple of things. First, I resisted the urge to really tell her all about the band even though I desperately wanted to. I longed to tell her about the reunion and all of the albums and tours since then up until the present day but…I didn’t. Why? One reason is the lack of time that exists on a daily basis at my job. I had to get ready for my next class. On top of that, I knew that if I started talking Duran, I wouldn’t be able to stop. After all, I have a lot to say about the band and being a fan of theirs. I know that sometimes my intensity gets to be too much. While I love sharing all I know, others, even fans, might not. I recognize that.

The other reason that I felt awkward at this conversation is that the term “fan” didn’t feel right. This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my fan status or that I worried about the stigma connected with the term. No, it was the exact opposite. Fan felt inadequate. I’m a fan of Reese peanut butter eggs and wearing jeans. My connection to Duran Duran feels a lot more than that three letter word. Yes, I’m a fan but it is more than that. I bet a lot of you reading this get what I’m trying to say even if I am being totally inarticulate here. Reading and writing blogs about a band and being a fan of that band means that you are more than just a fan but a serious one, a hardcore one. That is really what I wanted to say. I wanted to say, “Heck yes, I’m a fan. I’m a huge Duranie. I have seen them live more than fifty times and hope to get at least one hundred times more. I love them so much that I have a blog about being a fan. In fact, my friend and I who write the blog post pretty much each and every day. We are that dedicated (or insane–depending on how you look at it.) If you love the band as much as I do, then I would love to share what they have been up to for the last decade or so. I think you will fall in love with them all over again.” But I didn’t say any of that. It would have felt too personal. It is like this random person would know too much about me and what I love.

-A

Carry the Fight

The other day my writing partner shared her childhood story on here about how and where Duran Duran fit in to her story and her coolness factor. She described how liking Duran is the closest she ever got to not being a nerd. If you haven’t read the blog post, you can here. I highly recommend it.

One of the best parts of sharing a blog with someone else is that I can get inspired by what my writing partner has written about like this particular blog. While I didn’t have a chance to read each and every response to her blog, when I glanced, it definitely seemed like the post resonated with others. I saw people share about how they had similar experiences or about how hearing Duran Duran changed their lives. It got me thinking. Did hearing Duran Duran change my life? Did becoming a Duranie make me cool or less uncool? Hmm…I’m not sure that I would say that. Then, last night I went to book club. We discussed a book that I didn’t read but had the message of making the best out of a bad situation and how there is honor in that. My fellow book clubbers also expressed admiration for that. I couldn’t do that as I wouldn’t just accept the bad situation. Then, when I thought about that message and my experience with Duran Duran, I finally got how Duran Duran shaped me.

As I am sure that I mentioned here before, my childhood was split in two. The first half of my life was spent in the south suburbs of Chicago while the second half was an hour or so away in a small town. While the distance between the two locations wasn’t all that big, it might as well have been two different planets as the two areas could not have been more different. The suburb featured a world of popular culture as Chicago radio was readily available and MTV premiered there pretty soon after it came out while the small town lacked any sort of popular radio and MTV didn’t come until the early 90s. They were night and day. The suburb was a fairly diverse place while the small town was as white as they come. I loved being close to Chicago and venturing into the city on a regular basis for school field trips and frequent White Sox games and hated the closed-mindedness that too many had in the small town.

The adult in me can now look at my perceptions of the two places and understand why I might feel as I do. Even though, I loved my suburban life, I wouldn’t describe it as a utopia. It certainly wasn’t perfect. At school, I was not well-liked starting right away in my half-day kindergarten where I met my best friend. For some reason that I never understood, I was not allowed on my school’s jungle gym until my best friend told others that I could come. Yes, I remember that at five. First grade wasn’t that much better at school as I became the number one target by a school bully. I don’t remember much about how that kid treated me but it was something about how I played. Too imaginative or something? Yet, I could survive that because I had a best friend. While she was no longer in my class, we still saw each other frequently despite not being in the same neighborhood. We always had such a great time together whether it was creating a fake store in my family’s basement or playing with her dog.

My best friend and I discovered Duran Duran together as we would often have B96 radio on while we played. Then, when MTV began, we found ourselves glued to the TV. I cannot remember who mentioned Duran Duran first or when or even why. I’m pretty certain that the first songs we heard the ones off of Rio but I couldn’t be certain. I have a very distinct memory of hearing New Moon on Monday one night when I spent the night at my friend’s. Did Duran Duran make me more cool? No. It brought my friendship closer as we shared the love for the band and soon began drooling over John Taylor together.

How did my Duranieness work at school? Did it me become more popular at school? Not really. I still wasn’t liked by the school bully. At lunch, though, when I avoided teasing, I sat across from some boys who loved to talk about music. Of course, in this era, Michael Jackson was king. My classmates certainly believed that Michael was the best ever and that Duran Duran was so uncool. Yes, that’s right. My classmates hated Duran. At the time, I had no idea why. Looking back, I’m sure that they felt that Duran got too much attention and that Michael and other African-American artists weren’t getting enough. Now, I get it. How did I respond to this debate? Oh, I would argue each and every day. I wanted to prove that Duran was the best and, yes, I pointed to their popularity as evidence. My classmates weren’t buying it but I never gave up.

My defiant attitude followed me to my new small town home in 1985. My new surroundings didn’t love Duran Duran either. Many of the kids in this town didn’t even know who Duran Duran was due to the lack of radio, MTV, etc. Later, as MTV showed up and more options for music came around, the kids in my little small town did not embrace Duran Duran or anything like that. No, most turned to more heavy metal and hard rock options. Duran Duran was completely unacceptable. After all, they seemed “too gay” for many of them. (See what I mean about closed-mindedness.) No, they only liked bands with “real men” that seemed to treat women like sexual objects. I could never buy into that as I held onto my love for Duran despite being so unpopular.

I’m sure that my Duranieness did not win me many favors or any friends. How did this small town treat me? Rhonda mentioned that she was never quite the person who ended up in trash cans. Well, I didn’t either but I did have rocks thrown at me as I walked home from the bus on a frequent basis. Why was I target? Does anyone really know? I am sure that I was different from having a more “Chicago” attitude and perspective when I arrived. Then, I was a religious minority that I didn’t hide. Looking back, my love for Duran was just another feature of who I was that made me weird. I don’t think it made me a target but it didn’t help me fit in either. Maybe I should have tried to change or fit in but I didn’t.

The book club discussion the other night made it seem like the only admirable way to approach a crappy situation is to make the best of it. I don’t buy that. I don’t believe that and never did. Some people decide to go with a bad situation and try to make the most to it. That is not a wrong or bad way to go. It just wasn’t and isn’t for me. I’m more of a fighter, someone who refuses to change to meet others’ expectations. I don’t like to accept bad situations and don’t try to adapt. Instead, I fight to end the situation. Now, I can see that my Duran fandom has always been a part of this defiance. I never changed and never walked away from Duran even if it would have made my life easier.

-A

My Finest Hour

Tuesday was Election Day in Wisconsin. While I have worked on campaigns before, this spring campaign marked the first one I have been the campaign manager for. This means that I designed the plan on how to reach as many voters as possible and convince them that my candidate was the one to vote for. The plan was an ambitious one that required a heck of a lot of time and work but I felt strongly that we needed to approach it that way since our opponent had so much going for him. He had name recognition, lots of media attention and support and big donors. We knew that it would be an uphill battle as we braved one of the harshest winters on record to knock on over 4000 doors and spoke to over 2000 people. Tuesday night, we gathered together to see if this plan worked. We managed to get over 35,000 votes to secure ourselves a win!! To say that we are thrilled would be an understatement! The lyrics to Duran’s song, Finest Hour, reminded me that “you’ve got to fight for what you believe.” Indeed, we did and came out winners!

Now, as I settle back into life with only one job, I find myself looking forward to getting more sleep, watching more TV, being a Duranie and more once I catch up on life. I also fully expect myself to have the time to pay attention to Duran Duran and all the happenings of our fan community. That said, I wonder if I will need more than just to slowly integrate myself back into Duranland. You know what I would really like? I wouldn’t mind a little mini-tour to plan for, to look forward to. Yes, yes, I know that we just had one one in February. That is totally true, but I wasn’t feeling the best and too tired to enjoy it as much as I could. Plus, why wouldn’t I want more shows like the ones we saw in February as they were absolutely fabulous?! Okay. So I cannot have that. What would be the next best things? I have two ideas.

Anyone up for a party?

While I would love, love, love to set up a Duranie party, I’m not certain that I could do that super quickly. After all, it takes time to plan for something like that well. So, if I cannot have a tour or a big Duranie party, what could I do? You know what I could do?! I could host an online one, couldn’t it? Rhonda and I have done a few of those over the years. Why not now? Usually, we do these online parties for some anniversary or holiday or something. I like to think of this one being for multiple things. First, it is to celebrate my campaign success and I cannot think of a better way than with Duran Duran. Second, it is to celebrate my return to Duranland. Third, my Duranie anniversary is this month. The last reason is just to do something fun! Who is with me?

Of course, I’m hoping that Rhonda would do this with me but she has no idea that I’m even proposing it. (Sorry—Rhonda! It just hit me and I went with it.) Hopefully, we can come up with a good date and what exactly we want to do with it. Social media? YouTube playlist? Something else fun? A contest? A game? What would all of you like for our online party? Stay tuned and watch this space!

Got something to say

My other idea is a simple one. While in Vegas, Rhonda and I mentioned that we both wanted to start writing again. I suggested a little project that we had already outlined. I think this would be a fun one to focus on because it is all about the fabulousness of Duran Duran and would definitely bring me back into the fold. I would love to see us write this and get it out this summer, too. Personally, I think we can do it. It would mean some focus during the summer along with probably a conference call or ten but I think we could do it. Heck, maybe, we should plan a get together to get it done. I like that the possibilities seem endless right now. It is all good.

So, people, as I bask in the glow of victory, I am giving you a little warning that Amanda, the Duranie, is feeling good and ready to have some fun around here once she gets some sleep.

-A

Hold Onto This LIfe of Chains

If someone asked me the soundtrack of my life, I absolutely would say, “Duran Duran,” for more than the obvious.  It isn’t just because I write a blog about being a Duranie or because I have been a fan for so long.  No, I would say that because it seems like so many songs have just hit home whenever I am going through whatever life has thrown at me.

For example, the song, Before the Rain, completely expressed what I was feelings during the winter of 2010/2011.  “On the bomb ticks that is my heartbeat, In every life-flash, In every car crash, I hear the silence waiting to fall,” really spoke to me as I waited for my grandma to pass away.  The life flash lines reminded me of someone’s last breath.  The silence following a death is real.  Do I know what the song means or what Simon was writing about when he wrote it?  Absolutely not.  That is how I interpreted those lines when I was visiting my grandma and talking to hospice about how the end would be.  

I appreciate that Duran lyrics are open enough to be interpreted and that I can and have connected with them emotionally.  This week, I found myself connecting or reconnecting to another song.  In this case, the song was “Chains.”  In case you all have forgotten the lyrics, I posted them below:

An hour since the sundown
The ghosts are creepin’ in
Are gathering around me
Like starlings in the wind

Dark shapes gather round

Voices like my brother’s
Are whispering to me
But I don’t know these others
Who want to set me free

Come home you’re out of time

But the life cannot let go
It’s a chain cuts across my soul
Anchoring in this world

I put my hand into the flame
Burning but I feel no pain
Don’t speak, don’t speak my name
Hold on to this life of chains

The door is standing open
But I’m too tired to be afraid
My whole life’s in this moment
I’ve been fighting all the way

Just need a little more time’

cause the life just can’t let go
It’s a chain cuts across my soul
Anchoring in this world

This song spoke to me this week on multiple levels.  First, I thought it fit well for my dad.  Early Tuesday morning, my dad woke up in horrendous pain.  It was so bad that by 3:30, my parents called 911.  By 7:30, my dad was taken in for surgery.  Thankfully, surgery was successful but it was pretty scary for awhile.  After a few days in the hospital, not only is he better but he is already back home.  (Yes, he is amazing and he did not hesitate to tell people that he is not a “normal 80 year old” so his recovery would be way faster than expected.)  That said, these song lyrics still fit.  Those first couple of verses could definitely describe death, “dark shapes gather round.”  Being set free could be about no longer experiencing pain or the suffering that life brings.  Yet, my dad fought.  Life could not let go.  He definitely held onto to his life.  Now that we are settling into recovery time, we know that had he not had the surgery, he would have died within a week.  Thankfully, he got the right kind of help and quickly and that he was “anchored in this world.”  

On another level, the song lyrics felt fitting to my own life.  While this week has been my “Spring Break,” it has been anything but.  On top of responding to everything going on with my dad, I had other responsibilities that I had to tend to.  The campaign that I have been managing will be determined on Tuesday.  We had last minute tasks to complete along with the final forums and canvasses to reach as many voters as possible.  If all this stress was not enough, I have had a ton of grading to do due to not doing a lot of work related to school during evenings and weekends over the past month and a half.  As I sat in the Intensive Care Unit waiting for my dad to come up from surgery, while answering messages about the campaign while grading, I truly felt like I had hit my breaking point.  I can handle a lot of stress and working non-stop for months on end but even I have a moment when it all becomes too much.  Then, as I drove home later, this song came on.  I do put my hand in the flame a lot.  I make my life tougher for reasons that I believe in with every fiber of my being.   Sometimes, like now, when I’m really struggling, I question myself and my choices but I know that my choices, my work has not only led me to where I am but I believe has made an impact beyond myself (or so I like to believe!) As I realized this, I know that “I’ve been fighting all the way,” and will keep fighting.  As much as I want to throw it all away when it becomes too much, I know that I’ll “hold on to this life of chains.”  It is who I am.  

As I listen to this song in the car, not only did my heart swell a little as I teared up some, but I also found myself taking a deep breath and sitting up straighter.  I felt stronger just by acknowledging who I am and what I’m about.  For this, I thank Duran Duran for keeping me going and making me stronger in one of the hardest weeks of my life. 

-A

To Make My Stand

In 16 days, the voters of Madison and Wisconsin go to the polls to vote for races like Wisconsin Supreme Court, mayor, alder, school board and more. On April 2nd, my campaign work is done and I will find out if we were successful. With a little over two weeks to go, I struggle to explain how I’m feeling. Then, it hit me. A campaign is like creating an album. You are probably thinking that my sleep deprivation and cold is wrecking havoc on my brain. While you might be right, I think I can explain this.

Work with a team on a common goal

In order for band’s like Duran Duran to make an album, they need a team behind them. They not only need themselves but producers, engineers, other musicians (if necessary) and so much more. They also need people to create the art and packaging along with the promotion team to get the word out. Campaigns are not much different. There is usually a core group of people working on it. I’m super lucky in that the team I’m working with are great. Of course, we bring in others as necessary with various elements, including media and promotion. I know that over time I have grown close to the members of the team. After all, we are spending a lot of time together and experience all of the joys and frustrations that can happen. I’m willing to bet that making albums are similar. I’m sure that there are days when the music just falls into place or the best lyrics are created. Of course, there are probably other days that nothing is working or that someone criticizes what has been done. It isn’t always smooth sailing as people on the team might disagree with a decision or direction. That happens on campaigns, too. By the end of the experience, it is not uncommon to view the people on the team as family.

Both album making and campaigning have goals. In the case of a campaign, the object is to win, to get more votes than one’s opponent. An album needs to sell a lot of copies like votes. It needs to be thought of as better than the rest to win awards and more.

Both have deadlines

Typically, once an album gets close to being completed there is a date assigned as the release date. On that date, the artist gets to find out if their hard work pays off. A campaign has a definite date, too. Then, we get to wait and watch for results. Election nights can be great or they can be devastating. Many times they can be agonizing as the votes slowly roll in, creating much nervousness. Yet, once the polls close and once the album is released, that’s it. There is nothing you can do to but trust that you did the best you could and that your choices will lead you to success.

It is not always a healthy way to live

I’m willing to bet that Duran Duran is not always the healthiest during their album making process especially during their early days. They probably didn’t get a decent amount of sleep or eat well. There might have been too many substances consumed. Campaigns aren’t that different. I haven’t gotten no where near the right amount of sleep for months now. There are many days, especially lately, in which my eating habits are beyond bad. Sometimes, I don’t eat dinner as I’m too busy running from one event to the other. Other times, I eat a lot of junk food. My “drug” of choice is caffeine. I have had a lot of coffee. I do get out and walk some to knock on voters’ doors but this year that has been tough as the winter was beyond grueling. At one point, my mom fell and hit her head which caused an ER visit. (Thankfully, she is fine!) Another team member cut her finger on ice. I generally don’t get sick (teachers have immune systems of steel) but I’m on my second cold. Needless to say, there has been blood, sweat and tears on this campaign.

At the end, you have mixed emotions

As I count down the days, I find myself having many mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m so excited to not have work so much. I look forward to a lot more sleep and a lot less stress. I have no doubt that the band might feel the same way at the end of making an album. It is the little things that I might be excited for like eating properly or not having to answer hundreds of various messages a day. Yet, at the same time, I’m going to miss the people I have worked so closely with. We have created inside jokes and have shared something powerful in terms of working together towards a common goal. It reminds me of the end of Sing Blue Silver when at the end of the tour the band is so emotional. As they hug and wonder what they will do next year, I’m sure there is a big part of them that is happy to be done, happy to not have the insane schedule anymore while knowing that they will miss it at the same time.

You learn a lot

Despite or maybe because of the process, you learn a lot. Not only do you learn a bunch about how to create the best campaign or album, you find out more about yourself and what you are capable of. You get to know new people and get to know others better. It also makes you feel good knowing that you gave it your all, no matter the level of success.

I can tell you this much. Now that I have realized how similar campaigns are to making an album, I’m going to look at finished albums in new light. While I still might have opinions about the quality of the music, I think I’ll be far kinder and far more understanding and appreciative of the work that went into it.

-A

And I Cut So Far Before I Had to Say

I am so stupid. Well, I don’t really mean that but I do sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking. Then, I question why I feel the way I do and remind myself of what is logical. I’m sure all of that was clear as mud. Let me explain.

These February Duran Duran shows were announced in the fall. It was the heart of the campaign season as I remember getting the tweet notification on my phone while I was working at the temporary campaign office. As soon as I saw that Duran was playing in Vegas, I texted Rhonda and returned to reporting numbers and keeping track of volunteers. While I was all for going and was excited that she, too, was all for it, I couldn’t think much about it. I was drowning in campaign materials. At the time, I assumed that the election would be long over so going wouldn’t be a problem.

Fast forward to now. February. Months later. While THAT election is over, another one is looming. As I have shared on here before, I’m working on a campaign for a local candidate. On Tuesday, there will be a primary. My candidate will make it through as there is only one other candidate still in the running. (The third candidate dropped out.) The results next week will give us the best idea of where the race stands as polling is not an option for a campaign of our size. This makes me nervous. Has my campaign plan been effective? How much more do we need to do after that to either stay up or catch up? This weekend is full of activities to reach as many voters as possible. Likewise, there are campaign events on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. While I’m already feeling pressure to get everything done and to be effective, this adds some significant stress.

Beyond the worry about Tuesday’s result, I find myself also concerned about work. My students are about to start a big project that needs a little of time on my part to get it organized and to get them started. I am concerned that I’m so distracted that I am going to forget some key pieces. On top of that, my students have been…well…not super angelic. I worry that my room won’t be in one place when I return or that there will be massive bloodshed spilled. (I am exaggerating…slightly.) Of course, things are also piling up at my house. Bills have been sitting on my coffee table for far too long. The dishwasher is over flowing and my cat wonders if I sometimes don’t like him because I forget to see if he needs food.

Despite the need to deal with any and all of the above, what do I want to do?! I want to write up the agenda for the tour or see what needs to be done when it comes to transportation to the hotel. I want to watch Duran video’s from the show in Miami. Questions like will there be merchandise are wanting my full and undivided attention. Alas, I push through all that to get back to my to do list as I wonder if I should even be going on tour right now. The campaign only goes until April. My students could definitely use a more focused, less exhausted me. On top of that, I am concerned that the guilt over having gone will result in less fun and me not being able to really be in the moment. I don’t want that.

Part of me says that I should just cancel. I’m too all over the place to get myself in a state where I feel like I could leave everything behind for a few days. I even wonder if that is the mature, professional thing to do. Then, I stop this line of thinking. The candidate I am working towards knows that I won’t be around. She supports me going. My household chores will wait and I have a great sub coming in for me at work. They might even do better with her than with me. I need to stop this sense of guilt from even forming. After all, don’t I deserve a break? Am I not worthy to have fun sometimes? I think it is fair to say that I work hard (and a lot). Even during my snow days, I worked. I have worked each and every day since November except on Christmas. I need this break. I will be better off for having it. I will be a better teacher and a better campaign manager.

So, why do I have to battle this line of thinking? Is it that women are taught by society that we have to take care of everything and that when we do something for ourselves we are being selfish? I definitely think that is part of it. I feel bad because being on tour is about me, my good times, my enjoyment. Could it also be that a part of me has bought into the notion that fandom isn’t important or that there would be something wrong with me if I’m too into it? That could be, too. I’m only human. I could have internalized all that. I also think part of it is simply that when I get involved with something, I care about the outcome a lot. It is what makes me a good teacher and a good organizer for political actions/movements.

All that said, I’m going to be done worrying. Yes, I have a massive list of what needs to get done before I leave Wisconsin on Thursday morning. It will be an intense week, but I am pretty sure that the reward at the end will be worth it.

-A

The Lights Turn On

Today is the final day of my “vacation.” I put vacation in quotes because it has not really been a vacation in the traditional sense. No, I did not go to work, at least at the main paying job. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t work. In fact, I took one day off. One. Christmas was the only day that I did not do work for school, for my teaching career. I had a lot of grading to do. It was important to get as much of this grading done as possible for a couple of big reasons. First, the end of the semester is quickly approaching. This means that not only will I have to enter quarter grades but I will soon be giving finals. I will have to grade those, too. Second, I have an extremely busy schedule coming up as I am also working for a campaign for the spring election. This means that I have lots of tasks to do and many meetings and events to attend. Next week, for example, the only days I don’t have campaign related activities are Monday, Thursday and Friday. I’m already tired. Am I sad that this break is coming to an end? Extremely. I could have used a day more or five just to chill.

On top of grading on top of grading, I did get my house really clean, which felt so good as it had been months since that has happened. I also got some other household chores done like cleaning the coffee pot. More importantly to this blog, I finally purchased a plane ticket to Vegas. Of course, I practically have to sell a kidney in order to afford it but I assure myself that it will be worth it. And it will.

This weekend in February literally happens right after the primary here in Wisconsin, which marks the half way point of this campaign I’m working on. What a perfect time to get away! I am hoping that it act as a reward for the hard work so far and give me the break necessary to regroup, recharge to finish out the job. Why do I need a break with shows? Why couldn’t I just take a day or two to relax? Well, did I mention that I spent my entire winter “break” working? That should answer that question. If I am at home or anywhere near home, I will work. It is in my nature to do so. Therefore, I need a serious intervention to get me to stop. The only thing that will do that is a tour or in this case, a mini-tour.

I am not sure exactly why tours or mini-tours provide the complete escape for me but they do. Is it a change of scenery? I don’t think that is it. I have gone to visit friends or family out of state and I still take grading or other work with me. Is it being surrounded by friends? Again, I don’t think that does it. If I was really worried about getting tasks done, I would work on them even around friends. I have done it before. If I had to make a guess at what does it, I would say it is the whole thing. I am away from home, sure. I am also with friends but in a setting in which the band is playing. I have heard many interviews in which John Taylor has said something along the line that when they are on tour it is all about the show. This is a sentiment that I can relate to. When I’m on tour, it is all about that. It is like something all encompassing. My senses are filled with sights and sounds related to having fun, seeing my favorite band, and more. My thoughts become fixed on to fandom related activities and ideas.

Therefore, I’m looking forward to the real break in my working action. If that was not enough, I’m anxious to reconnect with my friends and work on meeting and getting to know others. Speaking of that, it appears that we will be in town on that Thursday night. I’m sure that we will be partying it up somewhere. Watch this space along with our social media to see where and when, if you would like to join us!

-A