Giving Thanks in 2010

What a difference a year makes. Last year, I found it very hard to be thankful but I forced myself to take a couple moments to write a post about being thankful anyways. The end of 2009 was not a very good time. I was working a lot of overtime in a job where layoffs were imminent and there would likely be no reward for all of the extra hours. When I wasn’t working, I was trying to care for two 2 year olds, who were running me into the ground. I was tired all of the time. We were leaking money due to house and car issues and it seemed during the entire autumn at least somebody was sick in the house all the time. I felt like I was always asking off of work to look after a sick child, which only increased my worries about being laid off. My anxiety about life in general was almost overwhelming.

This year has been much better thus far. I don’t know if I’d call my job situation “great”, but it’s a least a little brighter outlook than last year. The girls are now 3, which so far, is not nearly as exhausting as 2. I’m thankful for my girls. They are healthy and getting so smart. They are becoming conversational and intelligent and fun to hang out with. I’m thankful things like dinner time and the bathroom are no longer daily wars. I’m thankful for family. We’ll be getting in the car and driving to Savannah where we will enjoy a nice warm extended Thanksgiving weekend with Adriene’s parents. How many people can say they look forward to spending a weekend with their in-laws? I’m thankful I still have time to discover and listen to great music. I’m thankful for a wife that lets me still get out to concerts and football games every now and then. I’m also thankful that she still likes to spend time with me.

Life hasn’t been the easiest these last couple of years. I’ve worked very hard just trying to keep my head above the water, but I’m hopeful all of this work is bringing about better times in the future. I’m hopeful we are laying the foundation for a happy and healthy family and I’m thankful that thus far, I’ve had the opportunities to lay those foundational blocks.

Birthday Week. Epic.

Added video because the show was SO MUCH FUN. This wasn’t recorded by me, but it’s nice quality and a fun taste of the show.

“Do you wanna dance?” asked Sufjan Stevens to his crowd over a thumping beat in the middle of his sprawling over 20 minute epic song “Impossible Soul.” It’s a strange thing to hear in the middle of such a massive work but indeed it’s a strange question from Stevens at all. After all, this is the same artist that composed a 40 minute orchestral work to a freeway. This is the same artist that composed odes to the states of Illinois and Michigan with sing-song choirs and trumpets and strings. Last night at the The Tabernacle, however, he was an artist in the midst of a re-direction of style and sound. Sure, Sufjan Stevens has dabbled in electronica before, most notably on his early work Enjoy Your Rabbit, but never before has it been central focus of his work and never before has his work been well, so dancable.

I had a lot of skepticism when I first listened to Stevens’ newest album, The Age of Adz, but what doesn’t work in recorded form soars when experienced live. Decked in silver with glow-in-the-dark paint streaked across their face, the twelve-member band brought out the best in the album, playing almost exclusively songs from the album after opening with “Seven Swans.” Stevens mentioned that theme of the night was “love, loss, and the apocalypse” and indeed the theme came through in the music. The title track achieved the massive apocalyptic feel with crashing horns and a powerful chorus. The sultry track “I Walked” (maybe my favorite on the new album) grooved and swooned betraying the sad lyrics. Then there was the massive “Impossible Soul” which seems too long on the album, but was stretched out even further in concert yet never dragged as Sufjan entertained the crowd (“I am your entertainment for the evening”) with choreographed dancing, yes dancing and autotuned singing. So overwhelming was the piece that when he returned for the encore to finally play familiar songs like “Chicago” and “Casimir Pulaski Day” it was actually anti-climatic, almost feeling like he was covering someone else’s songs so convincing was the change in style of the show.

And the crowd. What did a crowd of hipsters, perhaps many smug that they couldn’t recognize a Lady Gaga song on the radio if they heard one, think of this new sound? Well, they danced. As only awkward white kids could. The response was rapturous. Can music by Sufjan Stevens be danceable? Maybe “it’s not so impossible.”

Ok, so now that we’ve covered last night, let’s start from the start of what has been a pretty epic birthday week. I don’t ever really make plans for my birthday, I always feel a little presumptuous making my own plans for my birthday, but nonetheless awesome things always seem to happen around my birthday. We started off the week with dinner at La Parillia with my girls on my actual birthday and the part was that no one told the wait staff it was my birthday, so no embarrassing clapping in the resturaunt. Thank you, awesome family.

Thursday was a pretty amazing concert as well. Adriene and I left the girls with our incredible babysitter and went downtown to see Anberlin at the Masquerade. Adriene was also excited about the openers, Civil Twilght and Crash Kings who were both enjoyable. I’m glad I saw the setlist on the soundboard because I wasn’t as enthused about the opening songs, but I knew the good stuff was coming later in the show and when the started cranking out “The Haunting”,”Resistance”,”The Unwinding Cable Car”,”Impossible”,and “Feel Good Drag” the show really started rollicking. We stood behind the soundboard, but quickly got annoyed by the crowd back there (the ones that were our age I should note) and made our way down to the front with the teenagers where the real fun was happening.

Saturday before I went to see the Sufjan Stevens show, my family showed up to celebrate my birthday. We decided to do it real low key by ordering food in and just enjoying the afternoon at our house. We watched football and played with my baby niece while the girls played around our feet for a nice relaxing birthday before I left for the concert. Like I said, I don’t plan these awesome weeks around my birthday, but they always seem to happen year after year.