I’m Thankful…

Yesterday, Rhonda wrote a heartfelt blog about what she is grateful for during this Thanksgiving holiday so I figured that today might be my turn. Like Rhonda, I’m very thankful for my family. I’m lucky in that I have amazing parents. That fortune is increased by the fact that they live near me so I am able to not only enjoy them as people but benefit from all the little things they do to help me out. As they get older and need more and more of my assistance, I want to always remember that they deserve my love and care even when my patience is thin and I have more on my plate that it seems like I can handle. This year, my nearby family grew when my oldest niece arrived in Wisconsin to attend college here. To say that I am overjoyed by having her close by is an understatement. Like with my parents, sometimes, this has means that she needs me for some purpose, but I would gladly sacrifice my time in order to have her close. After all, she and her sister have spent their formative years in North Carolina far away from me. I missed many of the big moments and countless small ones over the years. Now, though, I get to be a part of seeing her finally come into her own and reach adulthood. She has become an amazing person who is getting smarter, more confident and stronger with each passing day. This Thanksgiving, in fact, I got to spend it with her and a couple of her fiends, which was fun.

On top of my personal family, I have to acknowledge my work family. It isn’t easy being in education these days. Heck, it wasn’t easy being a teacher 15 years ago but the last 7 or so have been especially difficult for reasons that I won’t go into on this blog. Let’s just say that we are being asked to do a lot more with less and have very little holding us up in terms of outside supports. The job requires more of my time, energy, and emotions and the kids are getting tougher too (through no fault on their own). Throughout it all, my colleagues have been there for me. When things were getting really bleak, I had colleagues checking in, giving me stuffed animals to represent strength, offering to help and more. Truly, when I think about what keeps me going in teaching, a lot of it has to do with them. Of course, the other factor is the kids. While I struggle to reach them all, there are a number of students I have gotten to know pretty well over the years. Being a part of their struggles and their successes also keep me moving forward. I’m truly the lucky one to be their teacher.

Yes, work does take up a lot of my life. Just last week, I calculated that I worked 58.5 hours, which didn’t even seem so bad to me until I realized that it was more than 18 hours OVER what it should have been. It was like I worked an extra 2 days. No wonder I’m super tired all the time! While I wish my job wasn’t so time-consuming and stressful, there is a part of me that is proud of the work that I do. I believe that I’m a decent teacher. My kids, generally, learn from me and, more importantly, become more passionate citizens of the world. That is all I can ask for. If that wasn’t enough, I’m still involved and working, politically. I have to keep fighting to make the world a better place, both in and out of my classroom. I’m grateful to those people who work along side with me, telling me that I’m not alone and to keep going.

Beyond all the fabulous people at my jobs, what really helps to keep me going is my fandom. First, this blog helps on a daily basis. I love that it forces me to stop and think about something other than work or politics. Every morning I do the question of the day. It makes me sit down and take 10-15 minutes in the morning to clear my head, which probably saves my sanity and my students first hour. Then, on the weekends, when it is my turn to blog, I can take longer to think about all things Duran. During many weekends, it is my break, my time away from grading or household chores. While it is something on my “to-do” list, it isn’t really a chore. I look forward to it and I often find myself thinking about what I’m going to write about or how I’m going to write about this topic or that. There is always a corner of my brain thinking about Duran, fandom and this blog. This also means that I allow myself to check in with Duranland during the week so that I can comment in future blogs. I might not always have time to respond or make comments but know that I’m always watching (as much as I can) and thinking about what I see, read and hear related to this fandom. Again, this probably keeps me sane. (No comments, Rhonda!)

Beyond the time spent during the week on my Duran fandom and blogging, there are the times I go on tour. I truly cannot think of anything that makes me more happy. Touring is the one time that I can (and do!) push everything else to the side. When I’m on tour, I’m not thinking about anything on my to-do list. I’m not worrying about my parents or about kids at school. No, I can take a break and just HAVE FUN. People will always ask me, “Why are you going to another show? Don’t they just play the same songs?” The answer to that is yes. They typically play the same songs. While the setlist matters somewhat, it isn’t the big reason. No, it is about that fun that I have. Of course, I wouldn’t have fun without the people with me. In 2005, I discovered the best touring partner around. Sometimes, when I think about it, I cannot believe that Rhonda and I really tour so well together. We trust each other when it comes to money, buying tickets, reserving rooms, etc. We approach traveling in similar ways and have the same general philosophy when it comes to partying, staying up late, etc. More importantly than all of that, is that we enjoy spending time together. We know that when we are together we will laugh and laugh and laugh. Truly, I get more laughter in during a touring weekend than I do all month long. I swear! I will always be grateful to have her in my life—not just for fun touring but also because we share this blog, planning meet-ups and conventions and writing. I couldn’t ask for a better fandom partner. Rhonda and I have also been extremely lucky with the friends we have made. In a little over a month, we will descend onto the city of Las Vegas with our friends, Suzie and Lori. Much like touring with Rhonda, they are easy people to tour with who are also a lot of fun. Let’s just say that we all appreciate our vodka! I couldn’t be more thrilled to have another opportunity to hang out with them this year. So lucky to have found them.

Of course, none of this would be possible with the band that started it all. From the first time I heard their music until now, Duran Duran gives me such joy. When I hear their music, I’m reminded of good times, great experiences, and the most fun I have ever had from the little moments of my youth to the silly times of today. I recall the joy of getting a new album, putting up a new poster or tuning into MTV to catch a new video with my childhood best friend. Now, when I think of my fandom, I think of the lovable teasing about fashion choices or giving cheers in a hotel bar. I am reminded of leaving notes encouraging the playing of Planet Earth while watching closely the stage location for every JoSi or DoJo moment. Overall, I am grateful that this band entered my world and refuses to leave even after three plus decades.

-A

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