Thursday, December 31, 2009

favorite albums of 2009

A year-end blog is coming soon, but in the meantime here is my list of favorite albums from 2009.

10. Thrice – Beggars

A late entry, this is not my favorite album from Thrice as they continue to go in a different direction, but Beggars is complete with some great tracks. The Weight is a song any couple considering marriage should check out.

Key track: The Weight

9. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South

It took some warming up to, but the singer/songwriter from Bright Eyes gives some less-angsty tunes with a different band. Conor doesn’t even sing on my favorite track, Difference is Time.

Key tracks: Difference is Time, Slowly (Oh So Slowly)

8. Brand New – Daisy

I’ll get some heat here because this is also not my favorite work from Brand New, but this is Brand New like em or not. They continue to drift more and more into darkness with Daisy and there are definitely some explosions on this album, like its opener, Vices.

Key Tracks: Bought a Bride, At the Bottom

7. fun. – Aim and Ignite

It took me until this year to listen to The Format, which was a mistake, so thankfully I jumped on the bandwagon early with fun. This album is full of catchy tunes that stay true to the band’s name.

Key tracks: At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be), Walking the Dog

6. The Fray – The Fray

I may take even more heat here in saying that I prefer this self-titled work to The Fray’s first album, How to Save a Life. There are incredible singles on this album, but the guys hit us with a complete album from top to bottom. You Found Me is absolutely my favorite song in years.

Key tracks: You Found Me, Syndicate, Never Say Never

5. House of Heroes – The End is Not the End

Okay, this album was released digitally in 2008, but I didn’t buy it until their hard copy release this year. House of Heroes came back with 16 tracks of pop-punk genius. Every track will get caught in your head, but the lyrics are what keep you coming back for more.

Key tracks: By Your Side, Code Name: Raven, Sooner or Later

4. The Takeover UK – Running with the Wasters

No, they’re not British. In fact, they’re from Pittsburgh. This album displays The Takeover UK’s old-style rock-and-roll paired with new-style energy. Their lives shows are a sight to behold, with a dedicated group of fans dancing non-stop.

Key tracks: Running with the Wasters, Ah La La, Don’t Wait Up

3. Taking Back Sunday – New Again

I did not listen to Tell All Your Friends in its entirety in high school or even college. That being said, this is my favorite TBS album. They’re never going to recreate Tell All Your Friends, so be amazed by what they’re giving us. This album didn’t leave my CD player for weeks because the end roped you right into listening to the beginning again. They’ve grown up, singing about becoming fully entrenched in adulthood.

Key tracks: Summer, Man, Everything Must Go, Carpathia

2. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

These guys are my favorite band. I&L&Y doesn’t always provide the up-tempo banjo/acoustic/hi-hat/kick drum combo that fans have become used to, but this is lyrically the best album from some of the best songwriters today. The Avetts continue to blow up from this album, having performed on late night TV three times. Check out their live show, you’ll be hooked.

Key tracks: January Wedding, Laundry Room, The Perfect Space

1. Rx Bandits – Mandala

This album is a masterpiece. Rx Bandits continue to be terribly underrated, probably because they can be associate with ska still. But Mandala brings what …And the Battle Begun promised was coming. From start to finish, Mandala hits you in the face, confuses you, explains itself, then hits you in the face and starts again. It is a designed chaos. The musicianship is second-to-none, complete with drumming parts I couldn’t imagine even starting and guitar solos that flow one piece into another. Combine the vocals making Mandala another album with songs you can’t get out of your head, but also can’t comprehend.

Key tracks: Hope is a Butterfly, No Net Its Captor, Bled to Be Free (The Operation), Breakfast Cat

Honorable Mention: Cartel – Cycles, Say Anything – Say Anything, Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing, Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

don't give up

cancer scares me quite a bit. it probably scares me more than anything and definitely scares me more than it should. any time i think about it i consider the things i can do to live a healthier life and try to google what foods i should eat to prevent cancer in my own life. it's a scary thing to know that there is a disease which kills so many people that does not have a high rate of elimination once it's a part of your body. in this day and age of medicine it sometimes feels like we are invincible because there aren't many diseases that can take us over, but the thought of cancer makes me feel helpless.

jim valvano was a legendary basketball coach for north carolina state. he coached the wolfpack to an upset national championship in 1983 over the houston cougars which featured future nba players and hall of famers. jimmy v was a spectacular motivational speaker and a great man in sports. he also died of cancer in 1983, 2 months after giving a famous speech at the espy awards which can be seen here:

in the midst of this speech valvano motivates us all to live our lives to the fullest. he makes this suggestion: "To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

on this day of the jimmy v classic, which is in celebration of the jimmy v foundation for cancer research, i want to encourage everyone to experience these things. allow life to take you over. laugh daily. think daily. allow your emotions to overcome you daily. if we do these three things daily we will live amazing lives. but more importantly, if we don't do these things daily, then are we even living?

you only have one life to live. one opportunity. take advantage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


without connection, we would die. we hear studies about how babies who aren't held and loved tend to not develop the same as babies who are. this makes a lot of sense. my parents cared so much for me as a baby and as a child. and now my sister and brother are doing the same for their children. and i hope to do the same for mine. this simple act can go a long way in helping someone develop as a human.

i think the same remains true as we get older. i wrote a few months ago about disconnection, so some of those ideas might overflow here, but it's something i've considered more again.

there's nothing like feeling a connection with someone. i literally feel chills when i have a breakthrough in a relationship with someone, like the first time a conversation at work progresses past our dislike for waiting tables, or the first time i hold a girl's hand. it makes me feel like we can see each other as more than just co-workers or more than just friends. i think it makes sense to say that a major goal in our lives is to create these connections between ourselves and others. 95% of all people marry, so right there is the goal of finding a mate with whom we make a unique connection.

justin vernon spent three months secluded in his father's northwestern wisconsin cabin after battling with mono and breaking up with a band and a girl. he wrote the majority of the album "for emma, forever ago" by his band bon iver in that time. ray lamontagne did a similar thing in a cabin in maine. these things fascinate me because it makes me feel like they'd come back to civilization with a newfound respect or understanding of being connected with people. i consider the possibility of doing just this, although i doubt it will happen, not necessarily to write an album but moreso to rewrite my life. going through a fasting of any sort will give you a new vision of how that thing effects your life.

for similar reasons i must have time to myself every day. this is usually at the end of the day before i go to bed. this is time for me to do whatever i want, which usually involves listening to music. even when i am by myself, i am making a connection with someone else. i'm connecting with justin vernon, scott avett, or andrew mcmahon, as they sing their words into my ear. i write in my journal words that may be shared with others in the future, or may simply be shared with a future version of myself. i'm writing this blog to connect with you. i play guitar or drums in hopes of connecting with future band members. over the past year and a half i have spent more time by myself than i have in a long time, but even while i'm by myself i am constantly doing things to connect with people. as i've gotten older i think i've just found new ways to make these connections.

most importantly, i am constantly connecting with God. He hears all of my thoughts. He caters to all of my needs. He gives me all the words to write in my journal, in my blog, or in my songs. i like to believe that when God sees us connecting with one another he gets that same chill that i get. furthermore, i hope that when God sees me sharing His love with others that he gets an even bigger chill. i know i do.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


seasons fascinate me. they're one of the main reasons i love pittsburgh. we have the pleasure of encountering the characteristics of every season throughout the year. summer is hot, winter is cold, fall and spring are transitory. it's beautiful to experience them all and they all have different memories associated with them.

fall provides pennsylvania with some of the most incredible scenery. driving across the state in october provided a miraculous display of colors spread across the hills and mountains. i can't help but carry around a camera between september and november in hopes of catching just the right autumn scene. fall gives you it's own beginning, associated with the beginning of the school year. it gives you new hope for a new academic year as well as reconnection with friends who have been gone for some or all of the summer. playing football in the backyard and going to games as a child, then as a teen, then as an adult are vivid memories.

winter may provide some of my favorite memories. six inches of snow can change the appearance of everything. for some it means a hectic drive to work, but for others it simply means a walk home so quiet that you can hear the snow landing on your shoulder. my fondest winter memories, besides the obvious playtime in the backyard as a child, are of riding bikes with andy and mike to centre plaza for weekend hangouts. i still remember the night i met, or became closer friends with, many of my current best friends today; riding up to centre plaza in the cold and watching the killers perform "when you were young" on snl. that winter of 07-08 provided many jaunts to shadyside, often too cold to have actually considered the bike rides we took.

spring is the awakening. nature is done with it's season-long nap and everything is in full bloom. we are given that fresh start we've been hoping for and, for pitt students at least, the schoolwork seems almost over. remembering what it's like to play basketball outdoors is a welcomed struggle. how warm does it have to be to wear shorts outside again? 40? people are abuzz in the streets because it doesn't hurt your face to avoid the scarves anymore.

and then there's summer. childhood was filled with 9 months of pining after the summertime. let's finish school, let's go out and play. to a point, it remains true your whole life. grilling out, playing wiffleball in the backyard, and spending nights with a beer and a friend on your porch are all you need to enjoy the heat.

every season provides a re-awakening, a fresh start. they're distinct in their own ways and keep life from being monotonous for the whole year. different music can be associated with different seasons. right now is the bright eyes season and soon we'll be transitioning to death cab. sure, there are negatives to the heat of the summer or the cold and snow of the winter, but where would i, or we, be without those benchmarks to remember times past?

Monday, October 26, 2009


saturday i was journaling at camp about the idea of image. church camp speakers frequently talk about this idea at retreats, i think. it makes sense. in high school, Jesus isn't cool. doing drugs and drinking and having sex is cool in high school, but going to church and youth group and reading the Bible really isn't. image was a lot different in high school than it is at my age, having graduated from undergrad on to grad school and almost into the "real world".

the other day i bought some cheap jeans from wal-mart. i'm generally opposed to wal-mart's practices, but that usually gets outweighed by the fact that i'm a poor grad school student and can't pass up $8 for new jeans. i'm pretty proud of spending so little on jeans. i bought two pairs for half the price it usually costs for one. no, they're not abercrombie or some other stylish brand, but they do the job and they don't look bad. this is not a decision i would have made as a teenager. teenagers are constantly challenged to improve their image by wearing cool clothes and acting cool all the time to impress others. how would people have felt about me in high school if i wore wal-mart jeans every day? maybe they wouldn't have cared, but i wasn't about to find out.

as we grow up we grow out of these external insecurities. we wear what feels comfortable. it's convenient that hipster crazes have brought sloppy dressing back into style so we can wear hoodies, jeans, or flannel and still feel like we're dressing hip. but the fact is i don't care how i look anymore. that's saying a lot considering several of my fellow students in grad school will come from work wearing nice dresses or shirt-and-ties while i'm sitting in the back with my avett brothers t-shirt and ripped jeans. sure, there's pressure to dress to impress, but as we get older i think we ignore that pressure a little more. or maybe that's just me.

but, as was pointed out by a close friend tonight, our insecurities change from external to internal. several of my friends have been getting married or are currently engaged. most of my friends have full-time jobs and live on their own. some of my friends are now even homeowners. the insecurities we develop as adults is the comparison we draw between ourselves and our friends in our maturity and our life stages. it's hard for me to wait tables while some of my friends are making enough to pay mortgages. it's unsettling to see girls i've dated getting married. and at times i feel immature when i have a 10-page paper due in two days and all i can do is pick up a guitar.

last night at the open door bj told us, in so many words, that comparing ourselves with others is a way to take the joy out of our lives. the truth is that God really does have timing for us and our lives. any time we compare ourselves with others we will feel like failures. we will always see the great things in others and not in ourselves. i see how good my friends are at playing instruments and think that i'll never be as good as they are. i'll see other friends playing sports and realize that i'll never be as good an athlete as others. i see a lot of my friends settling into marriage-situations at my age, or maybe even younger, and i'll feel like i'm falling behind. the fact is that i don't even want to get married right now, so why does that bother me? i'm not bad at guitar and i was even told recently that my voice isn't bad, so why should i worry about being some kind of expert? and i'm above average at a wide range of sports, so what does it matter if i'm not the best at any one in particular?

the fact is that God has created me as a masterpiece, as the speaker said this weekend. i've been created in this way for a reason. i'm in graduate school now to better equip me to serve the Lord in the future. i may not be as good as christian at playing guitar or singing, but he's not as good as i am on drums and that's how God has created us. it's hard to sit back and watch my friends progress in their lives as i sit back and do schoolwork again, but i also need to realize that when i'm done i'll have my masters degree and will be ready for what's next for me. it's not about having the confidence to wear inexpensive clothes anymore, it's about having the confidence to live a different lifestyle.

jared anderson's song, "rescue", speaks to me intensely every time. my favorite line is "this world has nothing for me", and that's the absolute truth. i don't serve anyone on this earth. i don't serve my managers or my professors or my classmates or my co-workers or even my friends. i serve the Lord Jesus Christ and no one else. through the Holy Spirit i do good works for the people around me, but this world has nothing to offer me besides the opportunity to share that Spirit with the people in it. that's the image i am called to project.

ephesians 2:10 - For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

introduction to interactivity


thank you all so much for reading my blog. i don't know why you do, but you do and i appreciate it. i've received many compliments and encouragements and it means a lot to me. you start a blog to write down your thoughts and see if anyone's interested in reading them, so when it's reinforced that people are reading and want to read more it makes me happy.

my next series of blogs will be about restaurant etiquette. by series i may mean 5 or 3 or 1, who knows. but i plan on writing about this subject because i think people need to read it. am i qualified as some kind of expert? no. i'm just writing because a year and a half ago i never worked in a restaurant and since working as a server, host, and busser, i've learned a lot that i didn't know before. so i'd like to share these things with you in hopes that we can all become better restaurant customers.

do you like this idea? do you not like this idea? do you have suggestions about what you might want/need to know? please comment and let me know your thoughts.


Thursday, September 17, 2009


graduate school started a few weeks ago for me. classes, schoolwork, reading, it's all back and i'm not particularly excited about it. graduate school is a means to an end for me. i can't find a job, i want a job at a college, so i'm in higher education management. makes sense right? i thought it did, at least. that is until i got to my classes and realized that about 95% of my program is considerably more motivated and career-oriented than i am. this made me wonder; am i not motivated enough? am i missing something? are my priorities out of whack? why am i the only one in the class who seems to have things on their mind besides school?

so let's investigate. american society today has different priorities than it once did. people in the professional realm seem to place quite a bit of importance on money. maybe that's not the difference. but people in my class talked about how people in our line of work may choose to be single longer because they have long hours and lots of moving from job to job. working their way up the professional ladder to bigger and better careers seems like the motivation for people in my classes. who doesn't want bigger and better though? i mean, i could always use more money. but what are they sacrificing by making these professional moves? relationships? friends? time to themselves? i'm pretty sure i have little interest in sacrificing those things.

so now i start thinking about why my mindset is different than my classmates'. my focus in my career is pretty much to make enough money to provide for myself and my family. that's it. i don't have any big career aspirations. i know my dad raised my family on a pretty modest salary, put us all through college, and raised quite a beautiful family, life, and home. and he never became president of anything. were his motivations wrong? is there something missing? my thoughts are no. my priorities are different than my colleagues. do i want to be president of college? sure, it'd be cool. am i willing to put forth those long hours and sacrifices to do so? i doubt it. is that so wrong?

my motivation in my life right now and for the future is pretty simple; be as happy as possible all the time. that's it man. why on earth would i want to do anything else? heck, that's selfish enough. i haven't even mentioned the part about my faith calling me to serve God in all that i do; the other goal in my life. so what kind of motivation does that give me for my career? i want to move up the ladder, find a job i like, make as much money as possible. but the more money i make, the better i can provide for my family, the more my wife can stay home and care for our kids, the more i can donate to my friends in ministry and other worthy causes.

my short term goal isn't anything complicated. right now i want to enjoy life as much as possible while graduating. in two years i want to get to seattle. i want to live there and get started in the higher ed realm. that's it. and that might change between now and the time i graduate. what i do know is that my friend jenn seemed to enjoy being an RD at seattle pacific university and that looks pretty good to me too. at least it'll pay more than olive garden.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

all signs point west

this is the third time i've tried to type this entry. i think it's just hard for me to put into words exactly what i'm thinking and feeling since returning from seattle. anyone who's been there knows why it's amazing. anyone who hasn't been there needs to go. when i left two weeks ago i said there was a 40% chance that i'd end up there after graduation from grad school. as time goes on, that percentage grows. i can't get the city off my mind and i don't know if i will until i return.

it's like an ex-girlfriend who dumps you but gives you definite hope that things might work out with you two. i see things that remind me of her all over the place. styles of clothes, death cab songs, my sounders fc scarf. i can't get away from it. my journal started with seattle and is just full of seattle memories and thoughts. what doesn't help is that i returned to pittsburgh to find some newfound schoolwork and a less lucrative job than when i left. not only is it less lucrative, but i don't know how many more tables i can serve before i just take off my apron and walk out. basically, my vacation life in seattle seems infinitely better than my stress-filled life in pittsburgh.

maybe that's why i want seattle so badly. because it's something new. it's something different. i don't know why. maybe it's the constant view of puget sound. maybe it's the coffeeshops, book stores, and record stores all over. maybe it's the wilderness just outside the city limits. maybe it's the friendliness of the people or the relaxed mood of the west coast. i'm not sure if i can pinpoint anything in particular. all i know is it's intriguing. so intriguing that i'm pretty certain it'll be the destination after graduation. if i can wait that long.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


it's an amazing thing. it can change lives. it can make you realize what you've left behind. it can also show you what you've never seen and what could be. i haven't done a lot of leaving, but i'm about to do some and it intrigues me. it makes me wonder whether the grass is really greener. it makes me wonder what God has in store for me next. it also makes me wonder if i'll come back, or if i'll even want to come back.

tomorrow i'm taking a trip to seattle. this was really a compromise from a road trip i wanted to take around the country when i first thought of the idea. i wanted to do this after reading "through painted deserts" by donald miller. i wanted to check out something new, head west, find myself. so i talked myself down to a flight to seattle to visit my newlywed friends jenn and ron cepek. conveniently my friend scott decided to join late. we'll be there the same time, but on different flights. when scott and i were talking about the trip he said to me that there's something about flying across the country that makes you feel like you're leaving something behind. what makes my situation even more amazing is that i really am leaving a lot behind.

today i am a resident of economy borough and an employee of olive garden in cranberry. when i get back from seattle next week i'll be a resident of pittsburgh, an employee of olive garden in green tree, and a graduate student at pitt. this trip is the transition between one life and another. life will be different and it's a difference i've been looking for for a long time. i've grown fond of my co-workers in cranberry, but this isn't where i belong. and that's a lot of what i'll be considering on this trip.

my favorite part about the traveling portion of this trip is the fact that scott and i are flying by ourselves. this will allow for hours and hours of personal reflection. i'll be reading "on the road" by jack kerouac, listening to seattle bands on my ipod, and writing in my journal for hours. maybe during my layovers i'll have a beer and make a few friends on the way. the possibilities are endless. and the trip is all mine. i've had so much time to take time to simply think over the past few months. i've spent more time by myself over the past year than i have since i was in high school. this has resulted in growing as an intellectual by simply thinking more. i spend plenty of time at work and in the car simply considering life and what it means and why, just why. much of the result of this thinking has been documented in this blog. it's really been an amazing opportunity to re-connect with myself.

so what do i hope to gain from this trip? well, if nothing else i'll get to spend some time with some good friends. i want to see seattle and evaluate whether it's somewhere i'd like to consider as a future temporary home. i want to see the pacific ocean. i want to experience beauty that i haven't experienced before. i want to take time to be on my own. i want to see a fish tossed across the room, then have it for lunch. i want to taste a beer made in the pacific northwest. i want to meet someone i may never see again. i want to see and express my thoughts on the other end of the country. i want to see the people living in houseboats and think about what my life would be like if i joined them. most importantly i want to leave. i want to leave everything here and try something else. i want to get as far away from here as possible, knowing that i have the comfort of returning on the other end of the trip. i want to try it out and see what i think. then i want to come home and consider leaving again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


i've been forced to consider my thoughts on life recently. i've made some decisions that may have upset some people and for that i'm sorry. when it comes down to it i have really become a war of head versus heart, as the death cab-inspired title of my blog reads. i find myself in a constant battle of what should i do versus what do i want to do. what decision is best for the long-run versus what decision is best for me now. will my reasoning justify my decisions, or am i simply looking for some roundabout way for my priorities to see right despite their wrongness?

rory cochrane ("lucas") once said one of my favorite lines in empire records, which may have been taken from somewhere else. "i do not regret the things i've done, but those i did not do". the way i apply that statement to my life is that i know why i make the decisions i make and do the things i've done. in hindsight i'd certainly like to have made some different choices in my life, but i know that if i went back and did it again i'd probably do the same thing because there was a reason for it. whatever i did at the time felt like the right thing to do. i feel like that's the reason most people make decisions.

life is a series of actions and reactions, so things happen and then we figure out how to deal with them. i am who i am, and where i am, as a result of what's happened to me. some things were controllable, some weren't. but what's the point of contemplating what could have been? the Bible wonders what the point of worrying is because it will have no bearing on solving the problems or making today any easier. sometimes we make decisions that alienate people or cause harm, but we learn from those decisions and they ultimately make us better people. if i spent time worrying about people disagreeing with decisions i've made then i probably wouldn't have enough time left over to make anything positive happen. our time here is short and there doesn't seem to be much need for regret in my eyes.

i haven't been close to the ideal model Christian in a long time. i could make plenty of excuses for it, too. maybe it's because i got burned out by ministry. maybe it's because i've been isolated in cranberry and haven't attended any Bible study. maybe it's because i've lost hope for getting into a full-time job and have given in to the frustrations of my current job. whatever the reason, it may make sense, but the bottom line is that i know what it means to be a Christian and i still have chosen to not share that love as much as i have in the past and for that i'm sorry. i'll learn from the past year and move forward. the basis of Christianity allows for second chances and hopefully that can be granted.

Monday, July 20, 2009


i use facebook. i am consistently on gmail. sometimes i log into aim still. and my cell phone is always with me, although i have a limited number of text messages and i'm not the most reliable at answering or returning calls. i am very connected to the world and it's people. if someone wanted to reach me this second, they could talk to me on facebook chat. they couldn't reach me by phone; it's on silent like it is all night long. i decided a long time ago that there is not a single phone call that is more important than sleep. that thought was reinforced when my missed calls would be from the olive garden at 9am.

all of this is to illustrate a little background before i write about my desire to create a disconnect with the world. my brothers and sister didn't have this extensive amount of communication resources when they were in college in the early 90s. a couple of them went to pitt, so imagining their situation at the same school i went to would blow my mind. they had some email, but no aim or facebook. no cell phones. their main communication resource was the room telephone. which those of us still living in the 1900s know is pretty inconvenient if you're not in your room or house to answer the phone. so yes, maybe we are better off now with the technology we have to use to contact people we want to hang out with and stay in touch with old friends.

on the other hand, we are all bothered by the notorious text messager who sends messages while we're trying to talk to them. or who sends you messages saying "hey" or "what's up". i don't respond to those messages. being connected isn't a bad thing, i just find it hard to figure out what the point of twitter is.

a few friends recently have been using their blackberries a lot and have started to pressure me to get one. well, one friend is really pressuring because she caved once she saw her husband and our other friend using them constantly. but i told her i have absolutely no need to spend money on something like that. which makes me think about how i'd like to disconnect myself from the world. over the years i've had a few close friends who have been impossible to get ahold of. they'd rarely answer their phone or return calls. this would frustrate those of us who do answer and return calls. but after surrounding myself with some more close friends who tend to keep themselves independent and noncommital in the way they live their lives, i have discovered the sense of independence that comes from avoiding communication devices. there is something freeing about leaving your cell phone at home. and there is certainly a sense of accomplishment when you log in to facebook for the first time in days.

i suppose what i'm saying is that american society has pressured us, especially teens-to-20s, into constantly being reachable. a while ago i wrote about a co-worker who does not have the internet or a cell phone. i think i'm past the point where i could go without either, but he lives a simpler life that i would like to strive for. i don't like people to think they can find me if they need to. i don't want to be found. i don't want to be tied down by technology or, while we're at it, time.

i don't really know what the conclusion i'm coming to is. i probably won't ween myself off of emails because i am looking for a job. for the same reason i won't take away my cell phone. and i already don't respond to text messages if i don't feel like it. i guess what i'm saying is that there is something to be said for being on your own and deciding if and when people can reach you.

maybe it's just the non-conformist in me. or maybe it's the side of me that wants to maintain the Biblical idea of being in the world but not of the world. i feel like i am being "of the world" when i rely on things like facebook. and maybe the more i disconnect myself from everyone, the more time and energy i can have to reconnect with God.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

standing on the edge of summer

i always loved the title of thursday's song. "betting on our own lives, making up for all the time we lost." driving home from dc today, i felt exactly that way. and i felt like i was standing on the edge of the most important summer of my life. every summer seems that way, but i really feel it this time. i've felt like the weight of the world has been on me the past week and this weekend showed me that it's not. i try not to write too many blogs that are specifically about my life, like a journal entry, but this is what's on my mind tonight. there are a series of events approaching that are going to make-or-break the coming months, or maybe even years.

there are two particularly influential things i'm looking forward to this summer. the first of these is suncrest, i'll come back to that. the second of these will be a trip to seattle to visit my friends, jenn and ron. this is where my spiritual journey will lead me. i wanted to take a trip somewhere by myself this summer and this is where i've been led. i just had a pretty plan/stress free trip to dc and i look forward to an even less structured trip to the pacific northwest. seattle is a city i want to scout out for a potential move, but also a place so far away from what i'm used to that it will allow me to clear my mind and refresh before grad school starts a week later. i look forward to just walking around the city by myself, as if i lived there, with no agenda and nothing to do but enjoy my surroundings. i also look forward to spending time with a couple of good friends only a month after they marry and reunite as they've been living apart (jenn in seattle, ron in pittsburgh) since august. seeing them starting a new life together in a new city (for ron at least) will be exciting for someone like me to see. someone who doesn't live there, but has considered it. but mostly i look forward to being in an uncomfortable place with nothing to do but enjoy my surroundings.

and then there's suncrest. a funny thing happened on my way to being a youth minister... i got sick of church. not only that, i stopped reading the Bible in any consistent fashion. i got burned out, didn't want to lead anything anymore, and just needed time away from the previously intense practice of faith that i was exhibiting. so it's been a while since anything regarding church has made me interested, let alone excited. i'm not counseling, nor should i be. i'm in no state to lead. my faith is still there, and i still practice what i preach, but i just don't have the energy to sit in a cabin with kids and tell them about Jesus. on the other hand, i'm playing drums and i cannot wait. playing music at suncrest has been a dream of mine since i started playing drums a few summers ago. on top of that, ron is leading worship for his last summer at camp and i am beyond thrilled to be a part of it. ron played guitar and was a counselor when i was in high school, so it's an honor to share the stage with him every evening this year.

but most importantly, suncrest is about the services. God works in amazing ways at that camp, at meals, on the basketball court, in the cabins, but especially in the tabernacle. the Word of God is shared and we sing songs joyously in praise of a loving and forgiving God. there have been times in the past week or so that i will think about a particular song we'll be playing and i literally get chills and my heart starts racing because i'm so excited to be playing for camp. knowing that i will hear the voices of kids who have come to the right place to find what they're looking for, knowing that i will see them in front of me with their arms stretched to the sky and their hearts searching for Christ, that's what i need. that's what brought me to my faith and that's what's going to bring me back.

so here i am, standing on the edge of summer. an unbelievable weekend in dc behind me (meeting the avetts, pens winning the cup, spending time with some of my best friends), and my life ahead of me. i see big changes coming soon. i see a job and i see a move back to the city. i see myself finding something i've been looking for when i go to seattle, but most importantly i see what could be my last suncrest event being the most important i've ever had. i know God has been doing things in my life and i feel a culmination coming soon. but most importantly i know that there are many days beyond this summer. i suppose today is just the first day of the rest of my life.

Friday, May 29, 2009

music (part 1)

i am pretty lonely. i try not to show it too often but it's true. and it's not any of your faults, so don't feel bad. it's the natural progression of the post-college lifestyle where people have different priorities and are coming and going. a few of my closest friends recently left pittsburgh for the summer, probably longer, and i'm not taking it well. i have friends around and i'm thankful for them, but the best friend i've had lately has been music.

i expect that this will be the first of many blogs about music because it's such an important part of my life, but tonight i'm just feeling how i fill the voids in my life with music. i know that as a christian i should be filling those voids with God, and i am working on doing that, but in the meantime i like to think that God's provided music for me to enjoy for now.

the last few days i've felt especially lonely and empty, mostly because my job is no longer very enjoyable, and tonight i came home and played drums. i was getting antsy where i was this evening because i really just wanted to come home and wail on my kit. and i did. i am really thankful for parents who let me play as loud as i can at 11:30. but i had the song "beating heart baby" by head automatica stuck in my head all night (thanks monica) and i just had to come home and play it. the song just made me feel alive. and when i made the key hits at the right time, it almost brought me to tears because i felt so overwhelmed by music.

sometimes there are just songs that fit the mood. or brighten the mood. when i'm feeling depressed on my way to work i like to put on "at the beach" by the avett brothers. there's no song that makes me feel better like that one. it's upbeat, it's meaningful, it's simple, it'll get stuck in my head all day. there's nothing like getting a good song stuck in your head all day. but when i sit down and play that tune on guitar it just feels amazing. to hear your favorite song recreated by your own hands is an unbelieveable feeling.

a friend of mine got his hands on audio bootlegs of 30 live avett brothers shows. when i stayed at his place that week we just sat in his living room, drank some beer, and listened. i'd relive that evening over and over if i could. there's nothing i do more than listen to music, except breathe. we listened to a show that we both attended at the kent stage in kent, oh. i always say that listening to songs helps me relive the drama of seeing the song played live, but it's a completely different level when you actually hear the performance again. the chills are there. the excitement is there. the anticipation of "what song is next?" is there. that's the feeling i'm looking for in my everyday life and music is what provides it.

i know that resolving an issue in my life with a real conversation with a real person can't be replaced, but sometimes i really feel like i can keep on going with just a tune in my speakers. when i'm feeling like the world is against me, no one cures my land-locked blues like bright eyes. when i want to share my simple joy with people, no band can match the avett brothers' insight. when i'm feeling energized, squad five-o knows how to let it loose. and sometimes having a conversation about something doesn't get the feelings out like sitting on the throne of my old $250 used ludwig set.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

6714 miles

the number of miles i want to travel in the search for something. i don't know what i'm looking for yet, but i haven't found it to this point. i do know that i want to see as much as possible. and i do know that i've been looking around here, and it's nowhere to be found. i don't know if someone's going to show it to me, or if i'm going to have to get there and find it myself, but i figure i should probably start looking somewhere else.

when will the trip happen? who knows. maybe right after grad school. maybe during grad school. hell, maybe tomorrow. i do know that i'm sick of waiting. i've been talking seriously about the pacific northwest for about a year. the first thought of it came when i looked at programs at gonzaga, wsu, and uw for teaching when i was a senior in college two years ago. i've wanted to go back to the grand canyon since i first set foot in it. and i've wanted to camp at the bottom since donald miller explained his own expedition. and who hasn't cosidered california? there's just something about the ocean.

there's also something about leaving home and everything you're comfortable with. i sorta did that two summers ago when i went to ocean city for the cco's beach project. but let's face it, a summer on the east coast with expenses covered by generous supporters living in a house of Christian leaders is not exactly unsafe. things have just become so routine and unadventurous here at home that the monotony is making me search for a change. i'm going to grad school at pitt in the fall, so i'm here for two years. and i'm excited about finishing my education at the school i love. but afterward, something's got to give.

i talk to friends who are in new places. some love their new locations, some are still getting their feet wet, and some don't seem to be interested in getting too comfortable. but at least they're trying. i've taken the easy way out a lot. going to school in pittsburgh, living at home the past year, applying to pitt for grad school. i love pittsburgh and i look forward to the opportunity to be there again. but before i decide that this is where i'm settling i've got to try something new. that's where the roadtrip comes in.

i think donald miller has been responsible for a lot of road trips. "through painted deserts" paints a picture of he and his friend driving in a VW van from houston to seattle. they have no agenda and haven't planned much about what happens when they get to where they're going. that's a life that i haven't lived. like taking back sunday speaks to me, "you are everything i want because you're everything i'm not." i want the freedom of having no agenda, nothing to see and nowhere to go with no timetable. get there when i get there. see whatever i feel like seeing.

so google tells me its 6714 miles for a trip that starts in pittsburgh, goes through st louis, hits the grand canyon, passes through san diego, los angeles, and san francisco, rocks up through portland (hippienation) and seattle (hipsternation) before ending in vancouver, hitting minneapolis and chicago on the way home. that'd almost cover it all for me. i came close to committing some time to seattle, so i want to know if i really should. and portland is where my favorite aforementioned author has written the stuff that's changed my life. and la is where my job as an advisor at usc by day, surfer by night, would come to fruition.

maybe i settle in pittsburgh ultimately. in fact, i'd be surprised if i didn't. but i'm 24 and i've got nothing to do but play guitar, so why would i want to keep doing that here when there's so many other places? and who knows, maybe i'll find what i'm looking for on the way.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


working in a restaurant has shown me a lot of things. i hate to admit it because i don't like my job and i have been trying to find something better since i left my job at the church, but it's hard to deny that there's a reason that i'm there. today the reason happens to be to teach me something about how we interact with one another.

there are a lot of interesting and diverse people at the olive garden. yesterday i made an observation about one guy i work with. he isn't very educated (ged, no college), but with the way he can speak and banter with a quick, sharp wit you'd be hard-pressed to believe that. i know it's stereotyping, but it's pretty common that the more educated someone is, the better they are at interpersonal communication. that being said, this guy is an exception to the rule. he is satisfied with his life and therefore has no problem with his schedule and life as a bartender at the olive garden, which i can respect.

when we were talking about golfing the other day i wanted to get his number so we could coordinate some plans. he gave me his home number and told me he doesn't have a cell phone. he doesn't have a computer, either. then i realized that his impecable ability to communicate well person-to-person comes from the fact that he simply does all of his communicating face-to-face. he doesn't get sidetracked by how he talks with people on the phone or via text messaging or emails. his only way of communication, and therefore mastered way of communication, is through real life interaction.

this got me thinking about how we've become so sidetracked by technology. as i talked with co-workers about the fact that this guy doesn't have a cell phone, all i can say is that i wish i could do the same. it'd be nice to live your life on your own without a way of other people contacting you 24/7. sometimes there are more important things than receiving a phone call, like sleeping is for me (i shut my phone off at night).

but for all that we christians want to love one another, we stil get sidetracked. we focus on our computers and cell phones, sending texts to people who aren't with us, while disregarding the people who are with us here and now. i wish i could go without my phone and computer, but i simply can't, not in this day and age. i have developed too much of a reliance on them. but i applaud people like my co-worker who have learned the value of spending real time with people and really valuing that interaction. sometimes the last person you expect to learn from can teach you some of the most valuable lessons.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


lately all i've been thinking about is the transitional period i'm experiencing in my life. i've immersed myself into a position where i have graduated from college and am awaiting the start of grad school. i'm living at home and trying to pay my bills. my career hasn't started, but i don't feel completely comfortable with where i'm at because almost all of my friends are either in school or into a full time job. i've learned to live my life day-to-day and just enjoy things as they come, but that is about to become more difficult as another transition happens with many of my close friends graduating and/or leaving pittsburgh.

for being a pretty friendly person i think i have a fairly unique approach and thought process when it comes to my relationships with others. since about junior high i tend to guard myself from relying on others. when i was younger i felt let down and sometimes betrayed by people who i thought i'd become close friends with, so from that young age i decided that the only person i could rely on was myself. and that has stood true in my life through today, in a way.

i value friendships. no matter what you read in this post just know that i do value my close friends. i simply have found that i don't maintain "best" friends like other people might. i try not to get too attached to anyone in particular because i know that they're going to make decisions for themselves and that i might not be able to rely on them 100% of the time. that might sound like i don't have faith in people, but the truth is that i don't want to feel let down or sad when someone doesn't do what i hope they'd do all the time. i feel like this disconnection allows me to be more independent in my decisions as well.

that all being said, i feel like i don't end up with any "best" friend(s) but rather a large group of people who i'd consider my closest friends. and here i am writing because i have allowed myself to get close enough to a group of people that i will be pretty sad when they are no longer in my life as frequently as they have been the last couple of years.

we grow up, our lives change, our priorities change, and we have to adjust. this isn't the end of friendships, but rather the turning of a page and the start of a new chapter. new friendships will come from new endeavors. other friendships will become closer as a result of proximity. some friendships may dwindle for the same reason. but the closest ones will maintain. i'm interested to see who will be my closest friends this time next year and how my life will have changed.

thankfully one thing that can't be taken away is the memories. no matter what, i'll always be able to remember riding bikes from south oakland to centre plaza with mike and andy in freezing temperatures just to hang out for a few hours. i'll remember the walks to the south side to catch monday movies last summer. i'll remember the first and second hamloaf breakfasts. and that's only the start.

i didn't mean for this to be written to a specific group of people, but i do want to thank those of you who are leaving pittsburgh soon because you've changed my life. i've opened myself up to close friendships again and i consider you all my best friends. but we won't be saying "goodbye" as much as "see you soon".

Sunday, March 29, 2009

the church

today is sunday and i did not go to church. nor will i. i work tonight, but this morning i was free and clear, i simply chose not to go. as i was trying to decide whether to set my alarm last night, i thought it'd be a good idea for me to stay home and explore some of the questions i've had about church lately.

since leaving my job at christian community church in october, i haven't really felt any particular need to invest myself in a church community. i had become pretty sick and bored with participating in ministry after doing little aside from leading Bible studies, playing on worship teams, and making plans for ministry in pittsburgh and mars. the whole meaning of everything had become stale and distant. i knew all the answers (Jesus) and could easily teach other people what the Bible wants us to do and how we should live our lives, but these answers were nothing other than simple answers anymore. i'd reached a point where my faith had become nothing exciting or interesting anymore. a stalemate.

so this morning i wanted to take time to examine what the point is, why i should go to church, what am i missing out on, where does this void come from? i woke up and started to have my own personal service, complete with a time of prayer and a time of worship. then it was time to explore the Bible for the first time on weeks, maybe months. i googled for answers to "what is the purpose of the church?". i was trying to figure out why i should go to church on sundays instead of worshiping on my own right there in my bed. what was i missing?

the answers were what i expected. the greek word that translates to "church" essentially means the people. not in that many words, but that's what the real meaning of church is. the church isn't the service we go to on sundays or the building they're held in, but rather the body of believers who gather. the church is about the people who come together to build one another up, to instruct one another, and to break bread. while it is important to have individual time of worship and prayer, it is the church body that is the important aspect of what we do on sunday mornings.

i have said recently that i tend to feel like i am getting my church fulfillment from my interactions with close friends only a daily or weekly basis. all of my closest friends are Christians, so our conversations and interactions inherently are based on Christianity in some way. whether we actually talk about the Bible or the church, or whether we simply show love for one another and people outside of our friends, we can't avoid the fact that we're Christians and live our lives accordingly. but the fact is that it is important for believers to come together and intentionally share their faith. it is important that our meeting contains instruction, worship, prayer, and the breaking of bread. sharing meals was regarded as a sacred act in Jesus' time and place, so the breaking of bread among believers has become of the utmost importance to our faith.

this is just a brief look at what i've considered this morning, but i think the conclusion that i've come to (or will eventually come to) is necessary. that conclusion is that the church is important to Christianity. "the church" as a whole may have come off the path once intended, but when we evaluate the simple importance of being a body of believers, that's where we find our answers. i cannot experience the love and faith in Christianity without experiencing the faith of other believers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


sometimes i like to think of my life as a movie. a slow-progressing, often boring, usually only comedic to a certain demographic, movie. today seemed like just another day in the developing story of my life. i thought about this as i walked in to the olive garden from my car after a short break between serving and hosting. i chewed my gum, tightened up my previously loose tie, ran my hand through my disheveled hair, thought about how this day could possibly be significant in my life. and then i realized that this day happened in a way that exactly pertained to the story of my life.

in a few weeks i won't be able to remember any details about this day. i worked, made an insignificant amount of tips, had no particularly interesting interactions (except a gray-haired lady telling me that she's had everything on the f-ing menu), came home and watched tv. it wasn't a memorable day. but as my life continues i can see that my timing is slightly different than God's timing. i frequently think about how i am ready for something big to happen in my life. i suppose the "something big" is landing a job that will allow me to move back to the city or start a new relationship of some sort or finally write that song that i can deem worthy of taking to an open mic. but the fact is that i may not be ready for those things and God knows it.

the clearest example of God setting me up with exactly what i needed rather than exactly what i wanted came in this past year and has resulted in where i am today. this time last year i was interviewing for youth ministry jobs because that's where i felt i was being called. i had interviews with three different churches; one full-time position in trafford, one full-time position in robinson, and one part-time position in mars. as i evaluated the situations (location, potential salaries, church beliefs, overall situation) i had decided that the church in trafford would be awesome because i'd be offered to live in the house next door to the church (short commute), i'd live far enough away from home to be independent but close enough to still see my family. the same situation would happen in robinson except i'd be in a more affluent area but without the housing option. and finally the part-time job in mars was closest to my home so i could save money by living with my parents.

to make a long story short, the churches in trafford and robinson went in different directions and i convinced myself that the church in mars was the right fit, which it seemed to be at the time. shortening the story again, i quickly learned that i did not have a heart for working in a church as the youth minister. since the job was part-time, i already picked up another job at the olive garden. as i left the church i was left in an advantageous situation; living at home and already having another job to fall back on (two things that would not have been available at the other churches).

so here i am, still working at the olive garden, wondering when i'll get to "move on" to something better. well, i think i've finally realized that God will give me the opportunities i'm ready for when i'm ready for them. i haven't dated anyone in two years because i haven't been in a strong enough mindset to take on someone else in my life. i haven't been handed a job in pittsburgh because i'm not supposed to have moved out yet. and once those sort of "big things" start happening in my life, it'll make sense. it'll be the right time and place and a lot of things will make sense. for right now i'll have to be satisfied knowing that i have no idea what's going to happen or when, just that when it does happen it'll be right. it'll be divine.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

the economy and other things

i don't really know what to think about life. living at home has given me more alone time over the past 9 months than i had in the previous few years. that's not really a good thing in my mind. it's always been easy for me to make time for myself, but it's much harder to find people when you're alone than to find alone time when you're surrounded by people. long-story-short, i have been thinking a lot. this isn't necessarily a good thing.

let me explain a bit about my personality. i like having a lot of friends. i like having a lot of variety in the people i can spend time with. since high school i have enjoyed having friends in various groups. in high school i spent significant time with people i'd met in band, my advanced classes, sports teams, work, and other activities. it was nice to not be tied down to one specific group of friends to spend all of my time with. as i've grown older, and gone through similar development in college, i find myself in a position where a lot of my close friends are moving on. many of them are graduating and moving way from pittsburgh, many who remain in pittsburgh are involved in serious relationships which have or will or might lead to marriage, and that's left me with a select few friends who have no other priorities but their friendships. not to say that i'm no longer friends with those people, it's just that the dynamic of those friendships has changed.

i find it disheartening to think that we won't be able to relive a lot of the good times that have happened over the years. most significantly i think about the many relaxing nights spent at 356 atwood last school year and summer. playing friscup with ed in the backyard, jammin with everyone on the roof, sitting around armstrongs room drinking beers and listening to the composure, sleeping in robs room after a night of lovenotes performing at off 5th, casino/dress-up night in west virginia and of course the sweatfest of goldeneye in 90+ degree heat with ben. there isn't much that can beat the freedom of being able to pack up and head to philly to dj a wedding for the weekend without hesitation.

today i sit here worrying. worrying about this economy, about our government, about my current job, my future jobs, spending time with people, my health, everything. when i sit around by myself without talking to people, i start thinking, and i start worrying. and that's not the way it's supposed to be. i get depressed and upset when i hear my dad on the phone talking about obama and how untrustworthy he is and how bad of shape the economy is in. it makes me worry. but why? why am i worried about anything?

at some point i realize that money isn't much. we need it to provide necessities for ourselves, sure. but in the grand scheme of things, can't we do without it? the greatest lesson i learned during my internship last year was how to do without money. i was pretty broke all year and sometimes it felt overwhelming. but after a while i learned how to live a life of frugality. i cut corners, didn't eat out much, when i did it'd be subway or fast food in moderation. i'd exercise to balance out the less-than-stellar diet. instead of constantly driving and using gas i'd take the bus as much as possible. i basically avoided frivolous expenditures.

the fact that i learned these things makes what i see every day harder to accept. i work with a lot of people who are wasteful. they drive SUVs, spend their money on eating out, doing drugs, buying clothes, getting their nails done. i don't really understand how someone can act like they don't have much money when they do decide to treat themselves to these novelties. maybe i'm being hypocritical (i still spend a good bit of money on CDs and concert tickets), but sometimes i feel like these life lessons i've learned from being a poor college student and a poor intern have set me up to survive during this economic downturn. maybe that's why i shouldn't worry about the economy. or maybe it's really not important enough to worry about. regardless, i always know that there is a greater power looking over me. and His sacrifice has allowed me to remember, at the bottom of everything, that this world has nothing for me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

so it goes.

a young guy died at work today. i don't really know how else to say it, but that's what happened. his name was matt. i didn't know him. i don't know why he died. the most detailed report was that he had a tooth abscess that was infected and the infection got to his brain. my manager's wife suggested it may have been a blood clot to his lung. regardless of how it happened, it happened. i walked into work 30 minutes before the store opened and he was standing there panicking, unable to breathe properly. the ambulance was on its way. shortly after i began putting wine glasses on the bar, he passed out. he was a large guy, so you heard him thump against the wood cabinets he was standing near. another manager began administering mouth-to-mouth. i had taken CPR classes 5 years ago, but didn't remember enough to want to step in. frank seemed to know what he was doing. the paramedics came and took him out. matt's lips were blue. later that day frank said over the kitchen PA system that matt didn't make it. he was 27. he had two kids.

my emotions have been fluctuating all day. i haven't spoken much since frank said that over the loudspeaker. he requested a moment of silence. afterward, frank asked for God to have rest on his soul. you could tell that frank was overcome with emotion. when frank loses his cool, we all lose our cool. i couldn't imagine being frank at that moment, having to share with the restaurant that one of our own had passed so unexpectedly.

i don't know what to think. i've been thinking through it since frank's voice interrupted my bowl of soup today. that soup quickly became obscolete. a lot of things become obscolete when someone dies. especially someone three years my senior. i didn't shed any tears today. not yet at least. i didn't know him at all. he had two kids. what broke my heart most was thinking that his daughter may have seen him going to work for another normal day today without knowing that she'd never see him alive again.

life ended for matt today. i was told that he wasn't a christian. based on my beliefs, i'd say that he is in hell today. i hate to say it, but that's the belief that comes with christianity. his future plans are over. he won't travel anymore. he won't be able to provide for his children. he won't read another book or hear another song. that's what scares me the most.

it's been about 13 hours since matt hit the floor only 30 feet from me this morning. its been 10 since i learned i'd never see him again. in those 10 hours i've been trying to figure out why this event was a part of my life today. it seems like just another example of why i need to take every day and run with it. i want to read the books i haven't read, hear the songs i haven't heard, write the songs that haven't been written, see the parts of the world i haven't seen. i know i need to share my faith. i need to do whatever i can to save the souls like matt who don't know the Lord Jesus Christ. maybe i've been selfish in my recent hiatus from ministry. i know that i need to rededicate my life to living in a Christ-like way, sharing the Gospel in everything i do.

my view of death has been skewed lately, especially after having finished kurt vonnegut's "slaughterhouse-five" recently. in the book, billy pilgrim travels in time through his life. he seemingly exists eternally, reliving parts of his life out-of-order over and over again. when he experiences his death he simply time travels to a different part of his life. but i know that that's not how life is. when our life is over here, where do we go? i have a lot of goals to accomplish in this life. i want to get married and have kids. i want to provide for that family. i want to see a lot of things i haven't seen, read a lot of books i haven't read, and listen to songs i haven't heard. but when my life ends, it ends. my mortal goals will cease. i don't know when that will happen, but what i do know is that i'd be much more worried about my own death if i wasn't sure if where i'd be going next. so it goes.