Smile, It’s No Coincidence

coin stackEarlier this morning, I was out taking care of some banking. I was the only customer in the bank at the time and two tellers greeted me. One said, “I’m liking your smiles this morning. Have you had a good morning?” I replied that actually, I’d had a rough morning. The teller who was handling my transaction asked, “Really? Why has it been rough?” I explained that just an hour earlier, we had to call paramedics to take my grandfather to the hospital. While the caregiver was helping him wash up, he became unresponsive and for a short while, stopped breathing. The first teller responded that he was sorry to hear about my grandfather, but glad to see that I was still smiling through the situation.

The second teller and I wound up talking for a few minutes. She offered her prayers, advice, and support. When I told her I was looking for full-time work, she mentioned that she knew of local business managers who were hiring. We exchanged business cards and she said she would keep me in mind next time she saw them. When my transaction was finished, the teller wished me a good day and told me she believed my grandfather would be alright.

I left the bank smiling – not because I was trying to put on a brave face, but because I felt so blessed by the teller’s encouragement and knew that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. Had I gone to the bank minutes earlier or later, it may have been too crowded for the tellers and I to converse. After all, more cars began pulling into the lot as I left. How interesting that as I’m in the midst of a job search, I walked up to the bank teller who has potential employment resources. I don’t view these situations as mere coincidences or strokes of luck, but reminders that God is in control of our lives. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, He’s in control of mine. He really has meant for us to be in certain places at certain times.

I was also reminded of the ways God can use complete strangers to bless and encourage us. Today, my encouragement came in the form of two kind bank tellers. I just wish I knew their names so I could thank them again.

Image by Luis Llerena @ Stocksnap

future of forestry

Tuesday Tunes – “Speak To Me Gently” by Future of Forestry

Today’s song may be my favorite in Future of Forestry’s entire catalogue, and with several albums and EPs full of excellent material to choose from, that’s not an easy selection. Future of Forestry is the project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Owyoung. “Speak To Me Gently” appears on the band’s 2007 Twilight album. It’s a beautiful song about hope and healing that has helped me through some rough times. I don’t want to clutter this post with too many of my own thoughts because this is a song that speaks for itself. Sometimes it’s better to stop talking and simply listen.

Love waits for you. Never forget that.

For more on Future of Forestry: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


gary go - 2012 promo

Tuesday Tunes – “So So” by Gary Go

Sometimes you feel “so so.” Sometimes you hear yourself described back to you in a song. Sometimes those things happen at the same time.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been revisiting albums that I haven’t fully listened to in awhile. One of them is Gary Go’s 2009 self-titled debut album, also known as Of Youth / Of Beauty. I purchased the album as a senior in high school when his music made its way across the pond with the catchy, uplifting single, “Wonderful.” The album gradually fell out of rotation in my library over the next few years, but after coming back to it, I can say that Of Youth / Of Beauty is a strong, timeless pop album that I expect to hold up for many more years.

“So So” is a song that I appreciate more with age and experience. As a teenager,  feeling “so so” meant feeling bummed about having too much homework or having to write several scholarship essays to help with college expenses. A couple of years ago, I had a difficult “so so” period that was much closer to this song’s lyrics. I have a greater appreciation for Gary Go’s songwriting in “So So” because sadly – or perhaps fortunately – I’ve experienced some of these same feelings.

“When it’s too late to be late, I don’t show up at all. The gaps in my diary speak volumes about me.”

Man, oh man, can I relate to this.

“I’ve done something wrong. At least I’ve done something.”

This, too.

Even today, I’d describe myself as feeling a bit “so so,” although a brighter, more optimistic “so so” that’s pretty far from the “so so” I felt a couple of years ago. It mainly results from my current job search, which brings an assortment of feelings throughout the process. While I’m generally not fond of conjuring up feelings from that time, sometimes I appreciate those reminders because they remind me of how far I’ve come, how much stronger I am now, and how drastically my perspective has changed.

“I’ve found I’m bound only to me.”

This was a key realization for me in overcoming the “so so” period. Part of the problem was that I needed to get out of my own way. Once I did, things improved.

I may owe Gary Go solid gold for this song.

For more on Gary Go: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | SoundCloud

“So So” has been added to the Tuesday Tunes Spotify playlist.

pearl jam 09 - danny clinch

Infallible: Top Ten Pearl Jam Songs Ranked by Fans

In October, a Pearl Jam fan named Andrew, known as @theboytemps on Twitter, asked his Twitter followers to rank their favorite Pearl Jam albums. Due to strong interest, he set up another poll to ask the “#PJFam” to rank their ten favorite songs by the band. “I did this one because people asked me to and took time out to submit lists of their favourite Pearl Jam songs,” Andrew said. “‘Black’ and ‘Release’ were undoubtedly going to be favourites but it was interesting to see such diversity in people’s other choices, which proved that Pearl Jam’s music reaches people on so many different levels.”

Tallying votes was easier for Andrew this time around with the implementation of Twitter’s new polling feature. Previously, votes had to be counted by hand as each individual reply came in. Here are the results in order from least favorite to most favorite:

*Full disclosure: I participated in the voting.

Continue reading

dcfc - promo

Tuesday Tunes – “Black Sun” by Death Cab for Cutie

Today’s tune is one of my favorites from Death Cab for Cutie’s 2015 album, Kintsugi. The Japanese term “kintsugi” translates to “golden joinery” or “golden repair,” which is the art of repairing a broken piece of pottery with a gold, silver, or platinum lacquer. (Source) According to this philosophy, the repaired piece does not lose value for having been broken. The filled cracks are considered part of the object’s history and add to its beauty.

Frontman Ben Gibbard has said that “Black Sun” is about “squaring the past with the present.” The song also presents opposing situations that contrast beauty and brokenness, for example, “death upon the vine,” “an answer in a question,” and “hope within despair.” The music video expands on this theme, showing the opposing realities of a stuntman and an actress.

I think this video serves as a metaphor for a broken relationship. The stuntman shoots a difficult scene in the sun over and over, further hurting himself each time, and has to eat his meal and tend to his injuries alone. Meanwhile, the actress is given a styling team, a comfortable chair, and even has someone holding an umbrella to shade her from the sun. It’s a visual representation of someone giving all of himself to a relationship while the other person contributes far less. Eventually, the stuntman reaches a breaking point of sorts when his body breaks the car windshield he’s thrown himself onto. It’s only after the windshield breaks that the stuntman’s work is finished and the actress gets in the car. Similar to the concept of kintsugi, he will leave the set hurt and broken, but stronger and more beautiful for what he’s endured.

superheaven - promo photo

Tuesday Tunes – “I’ve Been Bored” by Superheaven

You’re missing the point again – aliens do exist! Well, at least they do in the music video for “I’ve Been Bored,” a single from Superheaven’s 2015 album, Ours is Chrome.

Despite its video, the song is more about humans than aliens. Lead singer Taylor Madison says that the lyrics reference being tired of bands following trends and copying other bands’ work rather than creating something original. (“I’ve been so sick of flowers on everything.”) In this case, Superheaven forgoes flowers and puts an alien sticker on their van instead.

For more on Superheaven: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

Left Handed Kisses - single art

Tuesday Tunes – “Left Handed Kisses” by Andrew Bird & Fiona Apple

“I can’t write simple love songs. People are complex,” Andrew Bird said in a press release accompanying this single from his forthcoming album,  Are You Serious. “Left Handed Kisses” isn’t a love song. It’s a song about trying to write a love song. Bird collaborated with Fiona Apple for this duet. Her vocals carry the song into “call and response” territory, adding a sharp edge to Bird’s softer tone. “Left Handed Kisses” never allows the listener to get too comfortable, as both singers’ voices exhibit varying degrees of sweetness and bitterness throughout the song. It’s a perfect mirror of the human complexities that prevent Bird from writing simple love songs to begin with.

“Left Handed Kisses” has been added to the Tuesday Tunes Spotify playlist.

anchor & braille

Tuesday Tunes – “Knew Then Know Now” by Anchor & Braille

I’m currently in an uncertain season of life, specifically, the job-hunting period after college. As someone who finds comfort in, well, knowing things, not knowing where I will be just weeks from now is a little unsettling. This morning, I revisited Anchor & Braille’s second album, The Quiet Life, and “Knew Then Know Now” reminded me that I’m probably worrying too much about the unknown. One day when I’m older, I may look back on this season and wonder why I worried so much in the first place.

“This is a freefall, not a human race. We’re not a human race.”

In this context, these lyrics serve as a reminder that life is not a competition. These days, it’s easy to forget that. We’re endlessly fed pictures and updates of other people’s engagements, marriages, new jobs, world travels, and accomplishments on social media. It’s easy to feel unsuccessful if we don’t reach certain milestones as quickly as some of our friends do. (I’ll write more on this topic later!) What matters is getting there. Just get there, but savor the journey and the process along the way. Enjoy the freefall. Eventually, you will land right on target.

For more on Anchor & Braille: Facebook | Twitter

“Knew Then Know Now” has been added to the Tuesday Tunes Spotify playlist.

john wozniak - live

Tuesday Tunes – “From the Marcy Playground” by Zog BogBean (John Wozniak)

Do you remember a band called Marcy Playground? They gained recognition in 1997-1998 for their hit single, Sex and Candy. Before there was Marcy Playground, there was Zog BogBean, the name lead singer John Wozniak used for his first album.

Released in 1990, Wozniak self-produced his album From the Marcy Playground with his then-girlfriend Sherry Fraser (who later became the subject of a Marcy Playground song) and his brother, Scott. The title track evokes feelings of nostalgia as the speaker reflects on how quickly time has passed. He remembers being a child on the playground, gazing at the sky for hours. Listening to this song makes me think about the simplicity of childhood; how the world seemed so big and wonderful. That’s not to say the world isn’t big or wonderful, but I think that as we grow older, we tend to lose that sense of childhood wonder. At its heart, I think this song is really about appreciating and rediscovering that sense of wonder. After all, was it so long ago?

Side note: Please dig into more of Marcy Playground’s catalog! They’ve been labeled a one-hit wonder and it’s a shame more of their songs didn’t become popular.

“From the Marcy Playground” has been added to my Tuesday Tunes Spotify playlist.

Photo credit: Lost in Concert

fleet foxes - pres photo

Tuesday Tunes – “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes

“I was raised up believing I was somehow unique / Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see. / And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be / A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.”

As a member of Gen Y, I can remember even as early as kindergarten, our teachers reinforced the idea that we were all special. “You’re unique!” “You can be anything you want to be!” “Work hard and you’ll reach your dreams!” Those ideals are not without merit, but reality is perhaps the greatest disappointment to millennials. As we grow older, we realize that our dream of becoming a famous actor isn’t as easy as we were raised to believe.

Perhaps the greatest triumph for millennials is shedding the desires of “self” and shifting our focus to the greater world around us and building communities. Everything changes when we focus on others instead of our own – sometimes selfish – desires. We’re taught in kindergarten about the importance of working together, but often, it isn’t until adulthood that we truly see the value of teamwork. As lead singer Robin Pecknold states in this song, he’d rather be a part of something bigger than himself rather than a “special snowflake.” He doesn’t know what his purpose in the big machine is yet, but he’s ready to work and find out.

And so am I.