Dedicated to you: 6 songs for your long weekend

Remember Casey Kasem and his song dedications that went out over the airwaves every weekend?  Oh, man, I loved all the possibilities that involved. Would my name pop up in the local dedications? Should I phone one in? On top of that, I love the idea that a certain song, carefully selected, could be exactly suited to someone's sentiments and current mood. (I feel the same way about books, too, remember?)

Photo  via

Photo via

In that spirit, here are a few songs that you might like to add to your playlist for this upcoming President's Day weekend. 

For all you cool, alternative, New-Wave-music-loving 80s kids, this reminds me of that vibe:

For road trips, harmonizing, and longing to learn to play the guitar:

For during a soulful solo walk (or for gazing out the window of a train/plane/car)

For if your weekend doesn't go as planned and you need to wallow:

For dancing in the kitchen with your darlin':

For while you make dinner, do the dishes, make the bed:

Do you have songs you love for certain situations? And did you ever call in a song dedication to your local radio?

The angsty-ness & the awesomeness

A few weeks ago, we were all sitting around the kitchen table playing music for each other from our playlists. Somehow G and I started sharing all of our old adolescent 80s music, complete with accompanying interpretive lipsyncing, when we hit on a virtual musical time capsule. Has there ever, in the history of music, been a more teen-angsty song than "Somebody" by Depeche Mode?! It catapulted me back to my little dark basement bedroom in Logan Utah, hugging a pillow and wringing out every overwrought emotion that lead singer Martin Gore evoked. I'm telling you, that guy knew his audience.  And I wasn't even especially angsty in my regular, daylight hours.

After working with teenagers for the last 10-15 years, I've realized that every last one feels different at some point: outside of the perceived crowd, other-than, left out. As Robert Sapolsky noted in his awesomely titled recent article "Dude, Where's my Frontal Cortex?": "One brain-imaging study reveals the neural depths of adolescent pain in not belonging. Put someone in a scanner to play a video game with two other individuals, and manipulate things so that the subject believes they are being ostracized. In adults, this social exclusion activates the amygdala along with other limbic regions associated with pain, disgust, anger, and sadness. But then the frontal cortex kicks in—“Come on, it’s a stupid game”—and the limbic structures quiet down. Do the same with an adolescent and the frontal cortex remains silent and that agonized limbic network of teenage angst wails."

But this hyper-awareness has a positive side, too. Sapolsky goes on to note that "adolescence isn’t always as dark as it’s made out to be. There’s a feature of adolescence that makes up for the stupid risk-taking and hideous fashion decisions. And that’s an adolescent’s frenzied, agitated, incandescent ability to feel someone else’s pain, to feel the pains of the entire world, to want to right all its wrongs. Adolescents are nature’s most wondrous example of empathy, where the forcefulness of feeling as the other can border on nearly being the other.

"This intensity is at the intersection of so many facets of adolescence. With the highs higher and lows lower, the empathic pain scalds and the glow of having done the right thing makes it seem plausible that we are here for a purpose. Another factor is the openness to novelty. An open mind is a prerequisite for an open heart, and the adolescent hunger for the new readily presents opportunities to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes."  

Case in point: when Sapolsky's young daughter performs in a heavy play about Bosnia, he notices the effect the performance has on some teens in the theatre:

"Some high school kids had come to a performance as a group outing for an English class. About halfway through the play, my daughter’s character appears for the first time, cautiously emerging from a ventilation duct in her kitchen where she’d been hiding, unaware that the soldier who had just left the apartment after killing her mother was going to return. Up until that point, she had only been hinted at as a character. The soldier had his ethnic-cleansing to-do list of names of Bosnians in the building to kill, and kept demanding of the mother, “Where’s your daughter? It says you have a daughter.” “I don’t have a daughter,” the mother repeated up until her death. So as the girl begins to emerge from the ventilation duct, the realization sweeps through the audience: there is a daughter. As my daughter began to crawl out, the teenagers in the audience did something you’re not supposed to do in a theater, something no adult with a developed frontal cortex would do. After a moment of hushed silence, two or three voices called out, “No!” Another called, “Go back in, it’s not safe!,” another, “He’s coming back!” After the play, the teenagers clustered around my little girl when she came out of the stage door, hugging her, reassuring themselves that both she and her character were OK. 

Oh, the feels, as the kids say. I try to remember how powerful and vivid those emotional rapids felt and that they're intensified by brain development and hormones and The teen behaviors might keep screaming Dude, where's my frontal cortex? but we parents have enough to spare and share until our kids find their own.

 The whole Sapolsky article is a good read on teen brain development. (Thanks, Tona!)

Okay, friends. Here's what I need to know: What were your go-to angsty songs as a teenager?

The times they are a-changin

Easter 2001

Easter 2001

Yesterday a post came up in my Facebook feed that somehow linked me back to a woman who taught a literature class I was in when I was a sophomore in college. I remember her because I liked her. Also, I remember her because once, when I showed up at The Palace for an aerobics class, she was there too, with her small daughter. Her daughter was probably three at the time. And in this Facebook post, she says that all of her children are grown. Of course they are – college was a long time ago.

Also this week, a blog I read regularly featured a bunch of Easter egg-hunting pictures. The youngest girl in the pictures is probably eight or nine. I can remember reading about this beautiful little girl’s birth -- her mom blogged with such excited anticipation those last few tiring days of pregnancy. And now this baby has long, lanky limbs and hair down to her waist.

My own baby is coming home in a few days from her freshman year of college. I can still picture her little face in the rearview mirror, telling me all about her day at school, as we drove to piano lessons – those golden curls framing her sweet, dimpled face.

I almost feel like this ability to see down through time is a super power. I can see the tiny baby, and then scrolling through my memory, I see the three-year-old, and the nighttime fevers, the hurt feelings, those lucky moments when their day went just right, the newly-minted driver’s license, their first dance. And I get this sense that if I just look hard enough at this history that I witnessed, I’ll find something – like a secret, or a truism, or this one thing I’ve been looking for that I don’t know the name of yet. I haven’t quite put my finger on this grand prize. But if I do, I’ll let you know.

When I come upon evidence of childhoods lived and left, I feel a bit of longing accompanied by a surprisingly reassuring sense of peace. It’s evidence that those folks made it – that the small annoyances of everyday life didn’t weigh them down permanently, that unfortunate choices could be overcome, that a few bad grades are now long swept away. That love can endure and be passed along.

Did you guys watch the season finale of Parenthood? The last song -- "The Times They are A-Changin" by Richie Havens really hit me in the gut. I do like his version better than the original by Bob Dylan (but don't tell my Dad I said that. He's a real Dylan fan!).


A few good gems

Welcome to Friday, the gateway to the weekend! It's sweltering here in Australia so we've been finding ways to keep cool, which mostly means standing in front of the air conditioner and chain eating cold grapes straight from the fridge.  And scouting out some cool things on the internet, just for you:

London-based photographer Chino Otsuka's "Imagine Finding Me" double self-portrait series (also published in a book) is delightful. She's digitally inserted herself into her own childhood photos; the result is enchanting and poignant. She says "the digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I'm embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history."  (I want to do this!). 

1982 + 2005, France

1982 + 2005, France

1975 + 2009, France

1975 + 2009, France

This article on how to handle the chaos of family life as an introverted mom had some good things to say: "I'd offer the same advice to an introverted mom that I would give to an introvert in a chaotic office environment: Make sure to schedule recharge time every day."

Jauntful is launching a fantastic new idea: a site for shareable, printable guides to the cities you love. I can't wait to try it--for sharing my favorite suggestions and haunts in places I've lived and visited AND (especially!) finding others' best picks. I've just signed up for the preview when they're ready and you can, too (via Swiss Miss).

photo via Jauntful

photo via Jauntful

I  adore the huge monthly calendars and New Year's resolution posters Brittany (The House that Lars Built) created and posted for downloading (they're free!). Brilliant and big enough for all and sundry appointments, etc. I just sent the first couple of months to the printing store here.

Photo by Trisha Zemp via The House That Lars Built 

Photo by Trisha Zemp via The House That Lars Built 

Send a traditional, classic telegram! I love this idea for when you can't make it to the wedding or graduation or family reunion. Also cool for a memorable Valentine message. (They also have invitation telegrams for mass mailings for weddings and parties. Love it.) I just wish the cute little hatted delivery guy brought them still.

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I posted this on our Facebook page [insert unabashed invitation to come join our Facebook page here] yesterday but I'll repeat it here: I really liked what Glennon had to say about asking the right questions to improve our relationships. I think it's wise advice for any relationship but ESPECIALLY with big kids and teens. 

In my ears:  How Come You Don't Want Me (Tegan & Sara), Let Go (RAC & MNDR), Riptide (Vance Joy), and the Fare Thee Well cover from Inside Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, Marcus Mumford).

On my nightstand: The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt), This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett).

Have a great weekend, all! See you back here on Monday.

A few good gems

Happy Friday! I'm pretty darn happy to not wake up at 5 AM come Saturday morning -- my eyes feel so scratchy and tired! Plus, I'm super excited to see my BYU Cougars play University of Houston -- live and in person at Reliant Stadium. I've got my game day shirt all ready to go, and I've been practicing the BYU Fight Song for days now. Rise and Shout!

But before I go, a few links for your weekend perusal. . . 

A monthly food swap? Sign me up. This one is beautiful. 

Here's a fascinating book review on Claudia Hammond's Time Warped. She actually proposes that we can control how we experience time: "We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling." I'm totally into this because when I'm waiting in line or in traffic, I'm practically crawling out of my skin. Also, I might want to lengthen out those moments I'm on a deadline, or reading a book in bed, or eating donuts. And . . . who isn't interested in mind control? Seems like a good middle age (parent of teenagers) hobby.

This is a must-read NYTimes article on how to deal with (and avoid) teen drinking. There are so many differing opinions on when and how and if to introduce drinking to teens. The article is careful to mention a number of teen drinking philosophies. Interestingly, there is statistical evidence that encourages postponing the first drink as long as possible -- that later start dates actually encourage more moderate drinking practices in later life. So there. No drinking kiddies!

I just happened upon this site, so I haven't had time to give it a proper shakedown. But it looks like it could be a good resource for YA fiction. 

While I can't recommend the ABC series, Nashville (what the heck are they doing to Tammy Taylor?), I am a fan of teen singers Lennon & Maisy. This is my latest find. I'm campaigning to have Becca learn to sing it. It's soooo good.

Like Annie, I'm thinking about Christmas over here and browsing through Etsy for interesting and beautiful gifts: 

  • Love this print. And these mid-century beauties.
  • This gnome pattern (But I'd have to make it myself, which ISN'T happening.) 
  • These Christmas cards. Since my people are all over the place, this could replace the family photo. She only allows three people on the card, but I could try begging. 
  • Becca gifted Maddie one of these when she left for college. More for Christmas! 

But while I'm waiting for Christmas, I really need these donuts. Someone. Please. 

Road tripping

Last summer, as part of our move from Boston to Australia, we drove across the midsection of the US of A with the whole fam-damily.   Crazy. Fun. Lengthy! That's a whole lot of together time. We researched routes and sights, routed ourselves through friends' and family members' hometowns as much as we could, and generally tried to spruce up our necessary, long trek into an adventure. It was a lonnnng ride with some bumps and squabbles along the way but we already catch ourselves reminiscing about it with fondness.  Here are a few survival tips we gleaned for taking a road trip (long or short) with big kids and teens:


 Include everyone in the planning. We started with a long wishlist of places to see, which included things like the Wizard of Oz museum, Laura Ingalls's house, the St. Louis arch, Graceland, Mt. Rushmore. Obviously we couldn't do it all but we started with everything on the table. Sam found a couple of good planning websites to try different route options and check to see if we were missing anything cool. We used Roadtrippers, which was good. (And here's a good Lifehacker post about apps and tools for making the most of roadtrips.)  Then we mapped out a reasonable drive time (between 6 and 11 hours each day) and planned stops and made reservations but kept it pretty flexible.

Make a mega playlist. I decided to crowdsource it and asked friends on Facebook and my personal blog to make suggestions. They came through brilliantly with a bounty of 167 favorite traveling songs from 72 people, representing the best of many decades and musical genres. I can honestly say we all (ages 13-45 at the time) enjoyed them. Feel free to use our playlist on Spotify or make one of your own tailored to your own greatest hits. I also wrote down who made each song suggestion, which led to some really great storytelling sessions as an added bonus. 



Pack a distraction box. Our kids were 18, 16, and 13 but that didn't mean they were too old for distractions along the way. Ours included a couple of balls and a frisbee to throw around at rest stops, some sudoku and logic puzzles, some audiobooks, books to read out loud, snacks, games. Bring an atlas, too, to trace the trip. Honestly, though, we ended up talking and listening to music and audiobooks for most of the trip.

Sam is not looking so flexipositive... 

Sam is not looking so flexipositive... 

Flexipositivity is our family's travel motto, a mashup of flexible + positive. It's a made-up word that draws eye rolls (and I'm sure it will be lampooned by our kids forever more) but it conveys what we hope will be the overall feel whenever we  travel. Things will happen and the only thing we have control over is our response. No sense ruining the day over it.  For instance, I lit my hair on fire in Kansas. Flexipositivity! Greg, who had been in Australia for a few months working in advance of our move, pulled onto the wrong side of the road. Flexipositivity time. Speeding ticket? Rained out? Have to take a turn sleeping on the floor? Flexipositivity, activate. (See? Now you're rolling your eyes, too.)

Embrace the wacky and the wonderful. World's Biggest Easel in Goodland, Kansas right next to the freeway? Yes, please. Ditto roadside dinosaur, stuffed penguins at Little America, and other oddities. Breaking up the trip with a little wackiness upped the adventure factor for us all. Build in a little time to be able to swerve off course and take a spontaneous stop now and then.

Sam and the World's Largest Easel, Goodland, Kansas

Sam and the World's Largest Easel, Goodland, Kansas

Take two cars. Ha! Just kidding, kind of. Last summer we needed to get two cars across the country and it was a fabulous--though admittedly spendy and un-green--way to go. I kid you not: For a lot of the journey, we had a kids' car and a parents' car. They could answer their own darn are-we-there-yet questions, right?  It was practically a second honeymoon.  As a more realistic alternative, shake things up by rotating seating throughout the trip.

Kids' car: better than the glass barrier in taxis and limos! 

Kids' car: better than the glass barrier in taxis and limos! 

- Along the Way looks like a cool road trip app, though I haven't tried it. Have you? 
 - I ordered this Journey Journal from Cracked Designs to jot some of our road trip memories. I also LOVE this one if you'd rather make your own trip scrapbook on the road.

Happy trails and safe journeys!  What are your favorite trip tips?

The checkmarks

That last post (specifically the part about sitting through years and years of school concerts, which--I should add--I really do mostly love) stirred my memory of a funny Sarah Vowell piece about lessons she learned through band and music in junior high.  I went and looked it up and, sure enough, I think her fourth lesson especially applies here:

Tuba player from Butte Montana,  via

Tuba player from Butte Montana, via

"Lesson number four, when doves cry. From the time I was 12 until I finished high school at 18, my poor parents' calendar was blackened by an ambitious roster of concerts and recitals averaging at least one per month. They were always so gushy in their support it never dawned on me that they might have preferred to avoid junior high school gymnasium performances of the theme from Rocky. They acted as though their world revolved around my sister and me, and that's what we believed.

"But I remember one night after an eighth grade band concert, I caught a glimpse of pencil marks on my father's rolled up program. He told me that he checked each movement of each piece off as they ended.


"Obviously because he was counting the seconds until he could go home. And at the time, I took it badly. I was offended that he had so little regard for the seriousness of our interpretation of "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?" But now I see those pathetic little check marks as heart-shaped symbols of his love. Everyone says that love requires the utmost honesty, but that's not entirely true. Once I knew that my father was suffering for my sake, really suffering, I learned that love, especially the parental kind, requires the heartwarming sacrifice that can only accompany fake enthusiasm.

- from This American Life, episode 104. Listen here. Transcript here.