What Moves Me?

So in one of my last posts, I put the question to you — what would you like me to write about? What would you like to know?

Well, a new reader asked a pretty amazing question. She challenged me to share something I haven’t shared. Or, she said, ‘tell me what moves you.’

What moves me? Heck, I’m not even sure what that means exactly. So, in order to answer it I suppose I first need to be able to define it.

To me, something ‘moves me’ if there’s an emotional reaction or deep feeling associated with someone or something.

The ‘movement,’ of course, can be for the emotional good or bad. It just, I suppose, depends on the situation.

So, with that loosely described definition, let’s take a look at some of the things (in no particular order) that do, in fact, move me:

Music. I simply can’t imagine a life without music. I’m not a singer — or at least not a public one. I can’t play an instrument, but the impact music has on me is sometimes even hard for me to explain. I associate songs with people, moments and just about anything. Certain songs spark certain emotions. And that will never change. Yes, I love Bon Jovi. But it’s so far beyond that. I love just about any kind of music. I have ‘high school’ songs, ‘college’ songs, people songs, driving songs, thinking songs. I love songs that mean something — for whatever reason. It could be a classical piece, it could be a country song, it could be a commercial jingle. It doesn’t matter. If it impacts me in any way, it becomes a part of the soundtrack of my life.

Words. More specifically, well thought out emotional and honest words. Written or spoken. Either way. Doesn’t matter. Fact is, words are powerful. For some, it’s easier to write than it is to speak. So what. Fact is, emotions are coming across — regardless of how they are delivered. Is it easier to hide behind the keyboard? Maybe. Heck, I’m even guilty of that at times. Is it ideal? No. But, if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. Good writing is such an art. An under appreciated art. You don’t always know good when you see it, but you certainly know bad — and that can move me, too — but for all the wrong reasons.

Friends. Can’t live without the support of my friends. I mean, how else do I say it? I’m not one for a huge group of friends. I’m much more of the get close to a smaller number and, well, let them in as far as they want. Those that want in, well, those are the ones I hold close. Those are the ones who let me in in return and the give and take is just fabulous. Friends that I’ve known since first grade. Friends that I’ve known since college. Friends that I’ve known for only a few years. It’s not how long you’ve been friends. It’s about what you’ve experienced. And with mine, well, I’ve experienced a lot — and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just hope some feel the same about me as I feel about them.

Water. Not the drinking kind. The ocean/river/lake kind — with preference given to the ocean. I’ve been around water my entire life. Growing up by the ocean, going to college on a river, working by a lake. Now working on a river and back by the ocean. So much comfort in the water. A place to go when quiet is needed and thinking needs to be done. I can still see the exact spot I used to go to in college when I needed to be myself. Forget the iPod, didn’t exist then. I’d take the walkman with an Elton John tape(!) and just go sit by the river and think. I got engaged by the ocean for a reason. There’s just something mysterious and comforting about the water. And the best time of year to go to the beach? Now. Haven’t been in a while. Time to go explore.

Family. Be it my kids, my wife, my mom, my siblings, my relatives. Doesn’t matter. Family is important. Don’t forget that. It’s easy to do sometimes. Think of the holidays and what do you remember? Family. The best part of a holiday meal isn’t the turkey or the dessert. No, it’s the rehashing of the same family stories you’ve heard over and over. Stories that have shaped your life. It’s the kids — when after a long day of battles, a simple exchange of please and thank you can do wonders.

So, there are five things that move me — in one way or another. Mostly for the good. This isn’t as easy as it seems. It challenges your own emotions to think of important things that can have an impact on your life — and why. I’m sure more will come up, and, if they do, perhaps I’ll add them here at some point.

In the meantime, thanks to my new reader for asking the question.

And now I ask the same question to all of you.

You now know some of the things that move me. So tell me, what moves you?

I Have an Intense Love/Hate Relationship…

…with funerals.

Let me explain. Or at least try to.

Most likely, I’ve been to more funerals than you. Not that this is a contest. I’m just saying. When I was an altar boy, I often got ‘funeral duty.’ That meant, during school, I was pulled out of class, along with another friend, to go across the street and serve a funeral happening that day. By the time I finished eighth grade, I had probably already been witness to at least 30 to 35 funerals.

Seeing a funeral from the altar gives a certain perspective — that of respect. I could tell early on that with each funeral, my ‘respect’ — not just for the departed soul, but for the process — grew.

With all of my recent angst over all things catholic, strangely enough, one of my favorite elements is tradition. And, I have to say, us catholics know how to send someone off.

There are a lot of reasons for it, but a big part of it is the music. Listen to some of the hymns and, well, it just gets to you. At least it does to me. It’s a part of me that really resonates catholic. Like, OK, maybe this is the faith for me.

From my all-time favorite funeral song (yes, I have a list), You Are Near:

Yahweh, I know you are near. Standing always at my side. You guard me from the foe, and you lead me in ways everlasting.

How about from Be Not Afraid:

Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come, follow me. And I will give you rest.

And, while it’s not my all-time favorite, it’s the one that has the most impact on me, On Eagle’s Wings:

And he will raise you up, on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn. Make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.

Yup, that’s the one. It was played at my dad’s funeral, as well as my brother’s.

And, it was played at the one I went to today.

A family that is amazingly close to me lost a loved one after a long battle. This was a woman who had four children, 16 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren. An immigrant who chased the American dream. A simple, yet prosperous life in so many ways.

And I was proud to be there to support my friends. It was a beautiful service. Simple, just like her.

And then On Eagle’s Wings came on.

And I lost it.

Absolutely lost it.

See, while I love funerals for all of the above, the tradition, the music etc.

I also hate funerals. I’m sorry, was that not strong enough? I HATE funerals.

Because, now, every time I go to one I revisit so much from my past. And I’m not talking about being an altar server. I’m talking about being a son and a brother.

I watch someone make it through a eulogy without breaking down and think, “I wish I could do that.”

I tried to sing the song today. I opened my mouth and no words came out. None. It was like I lost my voice. The music started and I got chills. And then I was sobbing.

Good timing, too, because it was right as the family was coming down the aisle. So here we are, at a funeral for their grandmother and they are supporting me. Yup, that’s how it was supposed to be.

But, I can’t  help it. For me, that’s how it will always be.

So afterwards, once we made it out of the church, I went to see my friend, I hugged him and said, “You know I’m not good at these things.”

He said, “I know, but you’re here. And we can’t thank you enough.”

And then after his mom and sister both gave me tissues, I sat in my car and cried some more — waiting for all of the cars to depart.

And then, after a while, I started my trip back home and a funny thing  happened, in the quiet of my own car, and in the midst of my own wandering thoughts, I opened my mouth to try and sing that song, and with the memory of my dad, my brother and my friends’ grandmother, the words came out.

Did He Write This About Me?

I knew there was a reason I’d love the new Bon Jovi album, The Circle. It’s because Jon wrote a song about me — or at least for me. Well, OK, maybe not, but he might as well have.

I read these lyrics — while listening to the song — and went, holy crap, this might as well be my new theme song.

Happy Now
Bon Jovi

What would you say to me?
If I told you I had a dream
If I told you everything
Would you tell me to go back to sleep

Take a look in these tired eyes
They’re coming back to life
I know I can change
Got hope in my veins

I’m telling you
I ain’t going back to the pain
Can I be happy now?
Can I let my breath out?

Let me believe I’m building a dream
Don’t try to drag me down
I just want to scream out loud
Can I be happy now?

Been down on my knees
I learned how to bleed
I’m turnin’ my world around
Can I be happy now?

Can I break free somehow?
I just want to live again
Love again
Pick my pride up off of the ground

I’m ready to pick a fight
Crawl out of the dark to shine a light
I ain’t throwing stones
Got sins of my own

Ain’t everybody just trying to find a way home?
Can I be happy now?
Can I let my breath out?

Let me believe I’m building a dream
Don’t try to drag me down
I just want to scream out loud
Can I be happy now?

Been down on my knees
I learned how to bleed
I’m turning my world around
You’re born then you die
It’s all gone in a minute

I ain’t looking back
Cause I don’t want to miss it
You better live now
Cause no one’s going to get out alive, alive

Can I be happy now?
Can I let my breath out?
Let me believe I’m building a dream
Don’t try to drag me down

I just want to scream out loud
Can I be happy now?
Been down on my knees
I learned how to bleed
I’m turning my world around

Can I be happy now?
Ohhhh I’m turning my world around
Can I be happy now?

Tommy O

I did it.

I pulled a fast one on my brother. And, I gotta tell you, the plan and implementation was flawless!

Here’s the (long) story.

Many moons ago, Tom was in a band. He had dreams of being a rock star. His band, Asylum, had some really good local success. But, no matter how hard they tried, they could never get over the hump. That’s OK though. They worked hard. They tried hard. They have no regets.

While in the band, Tom also taught guitar at the local guitar shop. He has taught countless of kids how to play guitar. And, like any teacher, Tom remembers one of his best students — Evan.

So much so that he followed Evan’s rise in a great band based in DC called Honor By August. Check them out here. You won’t be disappointed.

Tom keeps bugging me and bugging me to give this band a listen. Finally, I did. And now I can’t get enough. They are that good. And they are on their way. No question in my mind.

Then we find out the band is playing in Connecticut. So, we trek 90 minutes to go see them on a cold February night. They were awesome. I was hooked even more.

Fast forward to the point where I learn that Evan grew up right across the river from where I work. And, that his Dad has been active in my place of employment for more than 20 years. A small world keeps getting smaller.

So, while seeing the band for the first time, I mention to Evan that I want to bring them to where I work for an outdoor summer concert. He’s completely jazzed about the idea. And, turns out the band spends time near here every summer anyway to write songs. Things are just working out here for all the right reasons.

Then I take it upon myself to make it all happen. I get the concert idea supported and the band booked. Now we wait. And wait. And wait.

Meanwhile, I’m striking up a relationship with Evan as we discuss the show. Then, they come back to the same place I saw them the first time — now a month away from the show at my place.

Tom and I (along with his wife) go to the show and have a great time. The band rocks. And, they are excited about playing our show.

As we’re leaving for the night, I hang back for a bit and say to Evan, “Think you can teach the band an Asylum song?”

He smiles and says, “I hear you. Let’s get it done!”

See, each show Tom is at, the band dedicates a song to him and mentions that he taught Evan how to play.

That’s all well and good, but Evan knew I wanted to do more than that. He knew I wanted to have Tom on stage playing one of his old songs.

The plan was in place and things were coming together. I managed to get an mp3 file of an old song from Tom and get to Evan. The next challenge was getting Tom’s guitar there so he could play his own. Evan even referred to it as the “great white beauty” because he had fond memories of it as Tom would use that one to teach.

On the day of the show, Tom arrives early to hang with me and the band as they set up — chatting with Evan and catching up even more as only teacher and student good do.

Meanwhile, Tom’s wife was bringing his guitar to my work and leaving it in my car — but inside another case that I had borrowed from a co-worker who was in on it. This way, the guitar could get to the venue without Tom being suspicious because he wouldn’t see his own case. With the help of my wife and two super fans of the band, that was easily done.

Evan and the guys were psyched to pull this off. And I mean they were genuinely excited to be a part of it. And that’s what made this even better. I had said to Evan that Tom feels like he had a little something to do with Evan’s success.

Evan stopped me and said, “A little something to do with it? That’d be like saying the iceberg had a little something to do with the Titanic.”

So as the band starts the show, the ‘great white beauty’ was resting on the side of the stage — waiting for Tom to come up and play.

And then it happened, the singer, Michael, announced that there was a special guest here to play with them tonight. Tom had no idea until Michael said, “Tommy O (that’s what Evan always calls him), come on up, we’ve got a surprise for you.”

This was perfect! As he got on stage, Evan opened the case and Tom saw his guitar. He had no clue that we got the guitar there! So, he straps it on, plugged in to Evan’s rig and away he went.

What a moment to see teacher and student playing together.

More importantly, for me, what a moment to give my brother. We don’t talk a lot about stuff. We just don’t. We know how each other feels, and that’s enough.

Except on this night.

Tommy O deserved to be on that stage. He deserved the chance to play again for an audience. And he didn’t disappoint. The place loved the whole surprise element, and he played most of the song with a smile on his face — especially at the end of the song when the band bowed down in playful — yet meaningful — respect. And many of the people at the show gave him a standing O. It was a great moment.

I met him backstage and he was psyched and very thankful to me for pulling it off. Over the next couple of hours, he learned the entire back story (as you just have) and we shared a lot of great memories about it with the band.

He was all concerned about how it sounded (fabulous, by the way). And it didn’t even matter.

The fact is, Tom got to play. And he loved it.

Evan got to play with his mentor. And he loved it.

And I got to do something incredible for my brother.

Because I love him.


Here’s the proof!

Tommy O takes the stage!

Tommy O takes the stage!

Just like riding a bike...

Just like riding a bike...

Teacher and student together.

Teacher and student together.


Paying homage to Tommy O!

The smile that made it all worth while.

The smile that made it all worth while.

Pictures 1-4 courtesy of Anna. Picture 5 courtesy of Meg.


Love music.

Love my iPod. Love the radio. Love CDs. 

And, especially love it live.

So what do I listen to? Well, just about everything. And, dare I say it, I’ll even listen to a little bit of country now and then. A little bit.

But, no country in this list. These are just a few (four to be exact) of the bands that are finding some major play on the iPod.

I don’t usually jump on a band too quickly. But, an exception to that is The White Tie Affair. I can’t get enough of these guys, er, kids. I mean, they are like 10. Well, not really, but they sure look it. Saw them recently open for the group below. And they rocked. It’s a different sound. But a great sound.

The band (well, it’s really a solo act) that I’ve played the most in the past few months is Secondhand Serenade. Love the writing. Love the music. Love all of it. All the time. Have seen him (them?) live twice. Can’t. Get. Enough.

Carolina Liar. Not even sure how I found this group — but I’m glad that I did. Check out the two songs I’m Not Over and Show Me What I’m Looking For. I think you’ll like them, too.

And my darkhorse? Honor By August. This is a group that is (currently) unsigned. Can’t imagine that lasting much longer, however. How’d I find out about them? Well, my brother taught the band’s guitarist how to play. Honest! Guess my brother does know a few things about playing guitar. Give them a listen.

So, take a listen. Let me know what you think of some of my current favorites.

And, heck, while you’re at it, tell me what you’re listening to now, too.

The Interview — Part III

Ok, so when I said this interview thing was addicting, I wasn’t kidding.

Today’s questions come from Molly. It’s only fair, really, that she interview me. Afterall, I interviewed her (for real) twice. I knew she’d have some good questions.

How good? See for yourself.

1. When did you know Renee was the woman you were going to marry?

Well, I don’t know if this is the real answer or not. But, Renee and I knew each other for five years before we started dating. During that time, I had thought about asking her out, but never got up the nerve. Then, a friend of mine asked her out. They dated regularly — more than a year if I remember correctly. Once they started going out, I remember thinking, “Geez, why did I let that happen?” Thankfully for me, the relationship didn’t last.

2. What is the strangest dream you can remember?

Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I could remember a dream.

3. If you had to give up chocolate or beer for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good beer. But, sorry, brewski, you don’t stand a chance against chocolate!

4. If you could be a character in any television show, who would you be and why?

Hmmm. Norm from Cheers? Josh from The West Wing? Phil the host from Amazing Race? Marshall in Alias? Jack from Three’s Company? How do I pick? MacGyver?

I think I might go with MacGyver. I mean, I can’t fix/build anything and he could build anything with three toothpicks, a spool of thread and a plastic cup.

Then again, so could the Professor from Gilligan’s Island…and he was stuck on a remote island with Ginger and Mary Anne.

Yeah, I’m picking the Professor!

5. Bon Jovi invites you on the stage to sing one song with him. Which song do you choose?

Well, first of all, how did I get front row seats? Am I like Courteney Cox being pulled on stage by the Boss? And, my goodness, how do you expect me to sing? Heck, I’m not even sure I could stand — let alone talk, let alone sing! I mean, he picked me?!

The song I would pick? Dead or Alive. Why? Well, I would never, ever, ever steal his thunder. I mean, especially if he asked me on stage. Wouldn’t it be rude for me to take the spotlight? Or to even sing a song as his, dare I say it, equal?

Dead or Alive is perfect…I’ll take the Sambora parts — small, but so important.

I mean, come on, you know what I’m talking about. When Jon sings “Wanted….” and Richie responds with “Wanted….”. Does it get any better than that? Um, no. That’s the part I want. Integral to the song — but not taking away from the man.

God, how pathetic am I?

Well, what can I say, she hit a soft spot. 🙂

Any more questions out there for me? Want any questions from me? Let me know.

iPod Shuffle Meme

So Hallie and Carrie have recently done this one.

We know bad things happen in threes, but I’m here to prove good things can happen in threes, too.

Here goes:

1. Put your iPod/iTunes on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button for your answer
3. You must write that song name down, no matter how silly it sounds.
4. Tag three people to complete this.

If someone says, “Is this OK?”, you say:
Only the Lonely, The Motels

What would best describe your personality?
Freewill, Rush

What do you like in a girl/guy?
Take a Chance on Me, Abba

What is your life’s purpose?
Thank God I’m a Country Boy, John Denver

What is your motto?
You Rock My World, Michael Jackson

What do your friends think of you?
Better Be Good to Me, Tina Turner

What do you think about very often?
Under Pressure, Boyz II Men

What is 2+2?
Crush, Gavin DeGraw

What do you think of your best friend?
Angel, Sarah McLachlan

What do you think of the person you like?
Roll to Me, Del Amitri

What is your life story?
God Must Hate Me, Simple Plan

What do you want to be when you group up?
Sexy, Black Eyed Peas

What do you think when you see the person you like?
Big Time, Peter Gabriel

What do your parents think of you?
Dizzy, Goo Goo Dolls

What will they play at your funeral?
Losing My Religion, REM

What is your biggest secret?
One Wild Night, Bon Jovi

What do you think of your friends?
The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, Disney

What’s the worst thing that could  happen?
High School Never Ends, Bowling for Soup

How will you die?
I’ll Never Let You Go, Steelheart

What is one thing you regret?
Into the Great Wide Open, Tom Petty & Heartbreakers

What makes you laugh?
I Got That Boom Boom, Britney Spears

What makes you cry?
The Killer Inside, Better than Ezra

Does anyone like you?
All-American Girl, Train

If you could go back in time what would you change?
It’s Gonna Be Me, N’Sync

What hurts right now?
Patience, Guns ‘n Roses

Wow, some pretty interesting stuff when totally random.

I’m supposed to tag three people. Why limit it to three?! Anyone who wants to do this, feel free. Just let me know so I can check out your version of this, too!