7 Ways Christians Can Serve During the Coronavirus

Christians have been the people who have stepped in to serve with the love of Christ in many disasters in the past, and the coronavirus is no different. But what can we do? Here are seven ideas to help you think of ways you can serve.

1. Pray

We are told in the Bible to “pray without ceasing.” What does this mean? Should it feel like someone is interrupting our time with God whenever they speak to us? I don’t think so. But we can take time to pray and reflect regularly throughout the day. Ask God for worldwide healing in the name of Jesus. When you hear an ambulance, say a quick prayer, either silent or out loud. And when someone shares a need with you – rather than say “I’ll pray about that,” and then forget like I do, ask them if it’s ok to pray for them right then and there.

2. Share

Hoarding is never encouraged in the Bible. We are told often to share. In Luke 3:11 it says, ​”Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” When you see a need – if you have the means to fill it, do so. I remember the panic that set in with some people prior to Y2K. There were people who were buying guns and a one year supply of food for their family. What were they going to do? Shoot people who needed food? I hope not. Just like God fed His people in the wilderness with manna, He could do the same for us today.

3. Care

Maybe it’s not food that people need, but someone to pick up their medicine, or a babysitter, or a place to live. I’m fortunate in that my income as a teacher has not stopped during this difficult time. The families of my students mostly work in the service and construction industries. I feel for them. I don’t know how this is going to affect them. I pray and weep for them, and as I am able I’ll care for them. There are MANY industries and small businesses that will suffer during this time. Care for those people.

4. Improvise

God has called me to be a teacher. With about 12 hours notice, that role changed dramatically, and who knows how long it will be like this. But that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a teacher. I am using this time to write articles, create online courses, and to learn how to be a better teacher. Think creatively about how you can use the extra time you have.

One lady I know is really taking her new role as a home-schooling mom seriously. She has her kids working on their assignments and is taking them on hikes for their PE classes. Maybe she will find out she really enjoys teaching and want to pursue it more!

If you find yourself with extra time, think of how you can use the gifts you have to serve others. Maybe you are great at cooking cheap meals. Post some videos showing others how to do it.

5. Fear Not

Perfect love drives out fear. The reality is that none of us is guaranteed another minute. We don’t know when our life will end. We don’t know when we might lose a job – or a house – or a fortune. We can do our best to prevent these things, but we must continually put our trust in God our Provider.

When my four kids were little, we often took road trips from Colorado to Virginia to visit our families. To save money, we packed sandwiches, water, and snacks (and probably tissue and toilet paper too). Although sometimes a child worried about their special toy making it onto our caravan, not once were my kids worried about whether there would be enough food. They knew and trusted Mom and Dad would take care of that. We have a Daddy who loves His kids even more than I love mine.

6. Be Ready with an Answer

Not an answer to why the coronavirus happened, but an answer to “How do you keep so calm in the face of this pandemic?” The answer is “peace that passes understanding” that comes from faith and trust in Jesus. This is why #5 is so important. When others are hoarding and you are sharing, people may ask what makes you different. Why do you care when others don’t?

Make sure this sharing comes naturally and is not forced. Nobody likes to have faith thrown upon them like a multi-level marketing spiel. Let the Holy Spirit do His work.

7. Don’t demonize

It can be so easy to blame what is happening on sin in the world. Truth be told, we are ALL guilty of sin. If I am ever standing near someone who prays, “God, give me what I deserve,” I am going to RUN! We all deserve judgment for what we have done, but to read judgment into every bad thing that happens is a dangerous line to tread (but one that is “normal” for humans). In Jesus’ day, handicaps and disasters were often looked at as some type of judgment from God. Upon seeing a blind man, Jesus’ disciples asked Him who had sinned – the man or his parents – to cause him to be blind. Jesus answered neither. The man was born blind so God’s healing power could be displayed.

James Divine is a full time music teacher and part-time pastor. He believes we are all called into full time ministry, some within the walls of the church, others in business and government. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 33 years. They have four grown children and 6 grandchildren. He can be found spending time with his wife wiping down the world with wipes, hiking, biking, and SUPing (just kidding about the first one). Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

A Love Letter to my Fellow Title I Teachers

Dear Fellow Title I Teacher:

Don’t compare yourself to other teachers. You are amazing. You work hard. Even if they don’t tell you, your students appreciate and love you! You may be one of the few stable things in their life! When you look at where your students are “on the charts”, often they fall behind their peers from better funded schools with intact families. But when you look at how far they have come, you can be proud because you helped them get there.

Most of my fellow teachers don’t know what it’s like to have a student SUDDENLY not be in your class anymore – with no warning or pre-planning. When you try to call or email – maybe to get an instrument back or just ask how they are –  you find everything has been disconnected. You know what it’s like!

Most of my fellow teachers don’t know what it’s like to have the $20 yearly instrument fee seem impossible for some parents to pay. Many struggle with just paying the rent and buying food. You know what it’s like – and I bet you spend some of your own money just on the supplies you need to teach!

Most of my fellow teachers don’t know what it’s like to have a student share their “good news”. And what is the good news? My uncle’s prison sentence was reduced from 5 years to 3 years. Although you would never ask it yourself, a student inevitably asks “what is your uncle in prison for?” The answer is armed robbery. You know what it’s like.

Most of my fellow teachers have never had a former student murdered in a gang fight on the school’s track over the summer. Most don’t know the heart-wrenching torment of examining oneself and thinking – sometimes out loud sometimes to themselves – “could I have done more for that student when he was in my class four years ago.” Self-reflection is good, but you probably did all you could. You know what it’s like.

Stop comparing yourself to the suburban teacher where the families are all making a decent income and are able to support what their students are doing. You DO make a difference. Love the students under your care. Make sure you take time for yourself. The emotional stress can sap the life out of you. Decide what time you are leaving school each day and follow through with that. Have a hobby. Read a book. Exercise. Eat well. We need you to be around for a long time!

With Love and Respect,
James Divine

* James is in his 22nd year of teaching band and orchestra. He has taught at an exclusive private school, a suburban high school, and now teaches at a Title I school in Colorado Springs. James’ single mom was on welfare and food stamps for part of his growing up years. For about a year the family was also homeless (by today’s definition). Even though they weren’t called that at the time, James attended several Title I schools in the 1970s and early 1980s. James believes that the teachers he had SAVED HIS LIFE. He understands where his current students are coming from. James hosts The Music Ed Podcast, which you can find on iTunes or at www.jamesdivine.net.    

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Guest Post by a Dog who is a friend of mine. He prefers to stay anonymous.

Man’s Best Friend. Faithful. Loyal. These are just some of the ways dogs have been described.

Not many dogs have undertaken the task of writing about life. It’s important for you – the human – to understand what it is we see in life as dogs. Dogs were designed by God to be special, to be a companion, to love without condition. He also created some of our weirder quirks, like eating our own poop and drinking out of the toilet bowl. Each gift we have also has a drawback, but these things are all meant to teach you, the observant human, how to become better and how to find your place in heaven.

All dogs go to heaven.

Well almost all. There are a few that have either become pure evil or had it bred into them by evil humans. These are the dogs that attack children, that strain against their thick chains to try and kill, and that kill for no reason except for their desire to do so. This constitutes less than 1% of all dogs. Don’t hold this against the other 99%.

The rest of us go to heaven, but it’s not the same as it is for humans. You see, not all humans go to heaven. Oh, there are a lot of them that are “good” but they are judged on a different level than we dogs.

Humans can go to redemptive heaven. If they choose not to go, well they go to another place that I don’t want to even think of. This is the same place a large percentage of cats go to. Cats can’t help it. They were born with a very selfish personality (but not all cats go there).

I wish this wasn’t so. I wish everyone was a dog and could go to dog heaven, but that would mean you would be born without a soul. Having a soul and a choice whether to go to heaven is best in the long run.

You’ll notice dogs don’t hold it against each other if we are different breeds. Some of us are black, some white. Some are big, some are small. Some are handsome while some are downright ugly (but these seem to be the most popular at times). Some stink more than others, and some are stuffy and dignified. It doesn’t matter to us. When we meet, we greet each other with our own “handshake,” (you’ve seen this…we approach each other cautiously and get a good whiff of the other’s butt. It may not always seem like it, but hygiene is very important to us). We can tell a lot about a dog or a person within the first two minutes of meeting them, and we won’t fake it if we don’t like you!

John Wayne had some dog in him. I was watching a John Wayne movie when the following interchange took place.

Cowboy: We’ve been corralling cattle together for ten years, and during that time you’ve hardly spoken to me. 

John Wayne: Yup.

Cowboy: Why is that? Did I do something wrong to you?

John Wayne: Nope. I just don’t like you.

He had nothing to hide. That’s the way we dogs are. We can usually tell the people who are liars and cheats and we just don’t like them.

Having been born without the benefit of an opposable thumb, typing is very difficult for me. I’d like to thank James for transcribing my thoughts and ideas onto the written page.

MORNINGS FOR DOGS

You humans have it easy. All day long you get to make choices about how you use your time, yet I see so many humans waste time. You all get the same 168 hours in a week (dogs have 168×7 hours in a week, but each hour is shorter…it does make it a little easier to manage our time). Choose wisely how you will spend that time.

My owner thinks I have a lot of energy in the morning. He seems to need coffee to get going. What is really happening is that I woke up two hours before him needing to pee and I have been patiently waiting for him to let me out to do my thing. Meanwhile, he is moving at a sloth’s pace getting his coffee ready when I just NEED TO PEE. This happens every morning! Here’s our typical exchange.

Me: Woof! Woof!

Owner: Hey boy. You sure have a lot of energy for it being so early in the morning.

Me: Woof!

Owner: I wish I had that energy. I gotta let this coffee take effect before I can get anything done.

Me: Woof woof woof!

Owner: Yeah boy, I’m excited for the day also.

Me: WOOF WOOF WOOF!!!!!!

Owner; Oh you need to go outside. Sorry about that.

Me: Woof

There are little nuances in those woofs. If you could tell what we were saying, you would realize that this is the actual conversation.

Me: Good morning. Gotta pee!

Owner: Hey boy. You sure have a lot of energy for it being so early in the morning.

Me: Just open the door!

Owner: I wish I had that energy. I gotta let this coffee take effect before I can get anything done.

Me: Forget the coffee, open the door, I’ve gotta pee.

Owner: Yeah boy, I’m excited for the day also.

Me: OPEN THE DOOR!!!!!

Owner; Oh you need to go outside. Sorry about that.

Me: Thank you.

This is why we are known as man’s best friend. Your actual friend would kill you if you did this to him. We take our pee break and then come in and show you gratitude. Those of you with a doggie door, God bless you.

11 THINGS A DOG NEVER COMPLAINS ABOUT

  • Stinky people
  • Stale food and water (we’re grateful to have it)
  • Bad breath
  • Race, gender, nationality, religion (we love everyone as long as they are truthful and kind to us)
  • Long car rides (anytime we get outside is a joy)
  • People petting us
  • Exercise
  • The length of time our owners are gone
  • Messy rooms (filth is another matter)
  • Other pets (as long as they give us space)
  • Table scraps

8 THINGS A DOG CAN’T TOLERATE

  • Cats
  • Abuse
  • Dishonest people
  • Soap and water when mixed together (we love water and for some reason we love to eat things like soap). I know men feel the same way. When you’re hanging out with your significant other at Bath and Body Works, and you take a whiff of the “Mango, tropical, peach drenched sunrise dew” body gel, you KNOW you want to take a sip and drink it down, especially after smelling it)
  • Dog carriers
  • Postmen (they’re messing with our property which we have been called to protect)
  • People not petting us
  • Grooming (there are a few exceptions)

THE BEST INVENTION HUMANS EVER MADE BEFORE SLICED BREAD

Do you know what I think the coolest invention is in the house? The flush toilet. With one simple push of a button, the yellow, stinky urine and brown, disgusting fecal matter are instantly swept away and a nice bowl of cool, fresh water arrives in its place to fulfill the parched sensation on my dry lips. Someone needs to invent one for dogs.

We would be happy to use the same one as you, but if you haven’t noticed, our bodies are shaped differently. It is almost physically impossible for me to sit properly on a human toilet, at least not without needing chiropractic treatment.

Many owners take us on long walks where we can find a spot that hasn’t been pooped on to do our thing. The most conscientious owners pick up the poop afterwards and dispose of it (but not usually in the cool flushing mechanism). These walks are enjoyable and allow us to spend quality time with our owner.

Some owners put up fences in their backyards and let us out to poop in those. This is very convenient. However, we are always trying to find a clear spot. When an owner doesn’t clean up the mess, we find ourselves spreading little snapshots all over the yard to try and avoid going in the same place twice. If it has been several weeks, this becomes increasingly difficult. Please be kind…pick up what we leave behind.

And be more like a Dog.

Prayer Has Never Been Removed from Schools

I hear Christians lamenting all the time about two Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s that “removed prayer from schools”. This is a distortion of the facts. I decided it was time to set the record straight.

Those decisions did not remove prayer from schools, but removed state-sponsored prayer from public schools, and frankly I’m glad they did!

Christians have always been for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for those whose rights have been taken away, for those who are being abused. After all, it’s what Christ commanded us to do. And with our constitutional right to freedom of religion, this also includes the freedom to reject any religion. God has never forced anyone to follow Him. 

So why would we want to force people to pray? And what would happen if the majority of people were not Christian? Would they then have the right to force us to pray to their god? We should NOT have state-sponsored prayer in our schools, but neither should prayer be prohibited, and according to our constitution it’s not.

The dictionary defines prayer as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. Prayers can be out loud, or silent and in our minds. They can be made with eyes open or closed. While standing, sitting, or kneeling. The Supreme court decision in the 1960s did not ban prayer in schools. The constitution demands freedom of religion, which means you can pray whenever you want. 

Here’s why I think Christians have become dismayed over this subject…

Someone “in charge” at a school – a principal, board member, or teacher – has made a decision to “ban prayer.” Maybe the decision is made out of fear (many parents are ready to take every decision they disagree with immediately to the superintendent these days). Maybe the decision is due to lack of knowledge (many people misunderstand our freedoms – read the constitution please). Sometimes Christians have allowed themselves to be bullied in these situations. To be fair, the bully doesn’t always know he’s being one.

I pray daily at school – at my desk before I eat – in the hallway before students file in – while proctoring state testing – every Friday when I walk through the campus specifically praying for the school – and every week I pray for the leaders in my school district. 

Nobody stops me.

If a group of football players wants to get together before the game to pray – THEY ARE ALLOWED TO – and if some players don’t want to join in – they are allowed to refrain. If a group of students wants to meet early or stay late to study the bible – THEY ARE ALLOWED TO, unless the school prohibits all groups from meeting.

There are some things I’m not allowed to do…

  • I’m not allowed to use my music class time to proclaim the gospel
  • I’m not allowed to be disrespectful of other people’s beliefs that differ from mine

But what I’m allowed to do far exceeds that…

  • I’m allowed to pray whenever I want, silently during class or out loud when I’m alone
  • I’m allowed to talk to students about my faith when they ask me about it
  • I’m allowed to say Merry Christmas to students and staff 

You CAN pray in schools, for schools, for teachers, for administrators, and for parents and students. You CAN run for your local school board. When was the last time you prayed for our schools? Will you take a moment to do so now?

*** James Divine is in his 22nd year of teaching, which he believes is his calling. Today’s Christian teachers are on a difficult mission field, but they have the potential for tons of impact. Find out more about James at www.jamesdivine.net

How To Book More Gigs

Excerpted from “The Saxophone Diaries.” 

You aren’t going to get any gigs if you don’t develop some process and spend some time on it. That is going to vary by what you want to accomplish and what your goals are (see goal-setting/goal-getting chapter). I know many musicians who are MORE GIFTED than me who hardly ever gig, although they will tell you they want to. Do you know that although talent and skill are much needed, there is one trait even more important than these? Persistence! When you get 19 no responses for a yes, you need persistence. When people tell you what they think of your music (negatively) – which is personal to you – you need a tough shell and persistence. When you’re driving 300 miles to a gig, you need persistence.

You also need to treat this as a business. One of my early mistakes was not doing that very thing, but more on that in another chapter.

Here’s a booking process that worked for me for many years and continues to work although it has been updated somewhat.

  • Compile a list of venues I wanted to perform at that fit my target audience and size. Send an introductory letter to the person responsible for scheduling music. The letter is just a short introduction of who you are and states that you will follow-up in a week or so with a phone call.
  • This is important! Call when you said you would. This is a low-pressure call simply asking if they would like a packet with more information. If they say yes, get it in the mail to them that day (a packet with CD, promo materials, etc.).
  • This is important! Include another letter in the packet saying you will call in a couple of weeks to see if they have any questions. Then call in a couple of weeks. Try to get the decision maker on the phone. Be persistent but not annoying. If he is out, call back once or twice a week until you reach him. Be kind to the secretary/receptionist. Ask if he/she received your materials and if there are any questions and if they’d like to go ahead and schedule a date.
  • At this point, you will receive a lot of nos. That’s ok. If you are an excellent musician and have created some decent materials and have properly focused your marketing niche, you WILL get some positive response, but you need PERSISTENCE.

These were my stats using this process…

  • Send 20 introductory letters to decision makers
  • Follow up with a phone call
  • Ten wanted a complete packet with CD, etc.; mail those out
  • Follow-up with a phone call
  • Out of those ten, one would schedule me right away, 3-4 would say not right now, and the rest would say “no.”
  • With the 3-4 “not right nows”, I would continue to call monthly until I either scheduled a date or received a no. Usually one of those would eventually schedule a date, sometimes a year or two after I sent the packet!

You can see that out of 20 contacts I would get one gig, sometimes two after much persistence. Believe it or not, that’s a decent rate of return, and it was at a time when the quality of my music product was not as high as it is now with 20 extra years of practice.

I made a decision that every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I would make ten new contacts. After about a year of doing this, I had to take a little break from it because I had 125+ gigs lined up. That sounds like a lot, but because of poor marketing, pricing and business strategies, I didn’t make much, even though I was working my butt off. For example, sometimes I drove 500 miles for a gig that I might earn $300 for. That might be ok if I had 5-10 gigs in that area, then came home, but it was usually the only gig I had and was followed by another long drive to another area. Learn from my mistakes and it will mean fewer mistakes for you.

By the way, don’t expect a booking agent early on. They usually will not look at you until you are so busy you can’t handle it on your own.

The booking process has been updated for me. I rarely send out letters anymore. Most of this process is accomplished via email. Warning about email; you will not find much success if you just send out email blasts to a large group of anonymous people. Target and tailor the email to the decision makers. Have a good website with all of your materials. Have documents created that you can link to your website and attach to emails.

PERSISTENCE IS KEY!

I Thought I Was Going To Jail

The summers of 2010-2012 I was driving every week to Weatherford, Oklahoma to work on a master’s degree in music education. The trip took me through the Texas panhandle.

The panhandle gets its name because when you view Texas on a map, there’s a thin stretch of land in the northwest corner that – when combined with the rest of Texas looks like the handle to a big ol’ fryin’ pan, you know the kind I’m talking about. They weigh about 57 pounds and are made out of cast iron. When not used for cooking, they have alternate uses as doorstops and behavior modification for wayward husbands.

The panhandle is also flat. It’s so flat that you can see anthills in the distance rising out of the landscape. The road is so straight that I once set the cruise control, lashed the steering wheel into place and climbed into the backseat for a nap.

The thing about the panhandle is it seems that nobody lives there. Oh, you see the occasional cow, the occasional road kill, and vultures. Vultures everywhere, sometimes tearing into road kill that seems like it hasn’t even cooled down yet. You hope and pray that you don’t get a flat tire because you’ll be changing the tire with one hand while fending off vultures with the other.

Did I mention that it is also hot! With air conditioning on, it sometimes felt like the interior of the car only cooled to 85 degrees or so.

I was driving along the panhandle on my way to Oklahoma when I passed a state trooper on the side of the road. Now, it was sometimes tempting to speed along this stretch, especially since I was making this drive every week, but as I mentioned you could see for miles in any direction and I knew I wasn’t speeding at that moment.

The state trooper pulled in behind me. If he wasn’t a state trooper, he could have easily been accused of tailgating. There was no traffic in either direction! We were the only two cars on this four lane divided highway and he was tailgating me. I carefully checked to make sure I was on target for speed. I even racked my brain to try and remember if I had been speeding.

The trooper continued on my tail for 3-4 minutes.

Finally, much to my relief, he pulled out from behind me, scurried over to the left lane, and passed me very quickly. Relief! He was really beginning to make me nervous.

My relief was short-lived. He immediately pulled in front of me and slowed down rather abruptly, causing me to tailgate him. Now, I hate being too close to a car. Why did he pull in front of me like that? I was still worried about my speed and checked to make sure that it remained steady. I did not have cruise control in this vehicle. It was easy to end up with a lead foot, especially when I was tired.

After another minute passed, I was tired of tailgating the trooper, so I pulled over into the left lane, still being cautious about my speed. The trooper remained in the right lane, about two car lengths ahead of me. We continued on like this for 3-4 minutes. I was nervous the entire time. It just seemed odd to me that this trooper would remain so close when we were on this big expanse of highway.

Finally, the trooper slowed way down, but wait! He pulled in behind me in the left lane and turned on his blue flashing lights.

Great, not only am I being pulled over by a state trooper, but now I’m going to have to rescue him from the vultures too!

The state trooper sat in his car for a looong time behind me, a very long time, a very very very long time. My nervousness was reaching a peak and my air conditioning was working overtime trying to keep my car cool. Was the sweat dripping down my face from nervousness or heat, or a combination of both.

The trooper exited his vehicle and approached mine with both hands on his hips, with more swagger than a policeman in a Clint Eastwood movie. There were no witnesses out here in the panhandle. Was I going to be beaten? Were drugs going to be planted in my car? I thought for sure I was going to jail.

It seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. Maybe it was just the heat waves shimmering on the blacktop. The officer approached my car. The swagger had left his hips and risen to his voice.

“Ya know what I pulled you over for partner,” he drawled.

“No sir, I have no idea,” I answered.

“Ya was drivin’ in my blind spot back there. If I hadda needed to pull over to the lef’ lane, I mighta hit ya.”

“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t realize that,” I answered.

Here’s what I really wanted to say…

“You idiot. You were tailgating me, then you pulled in front of me causing me to tailgate you. I moved to the left so I wouldn’t be tailgating anymore. Why were you doing that when we have all this highway open?”

Fortunately I held my tongue and didn’t say anything. Remember, this was the panhandle and there were no witnesses. It was not my day to become vulture food. I can see the newspaper report now…

Colorado man found eaten by vultures on the side of the road in the Texas panhandle. The foreigner had no idea when he stopped to pee that he should have had a shotgun in one hand while taking care of business here in the panhandle. Outsiders beware! We don’t tolerate disrespect for the law in these parts.

The officer returned my paperwork and instructed me to have a good day.

Have a good day?

Have a good day?

For the rest of the summer, I drove about 5 miles under the limit through that entire section of my commute to college.

Maybe I’m being too rough on this trooper. With the exception of the occasional road kill and once every decade when a truck filled with cocaine was discovered, there wasn’t much happening in his part of the world. I drove this section of road twice a week for three summers, for a total of about 24 times. He drove it EVERY DAY!

He could have just stopped me, told me he was lonely and then we could have driven to the next small town and chatted over bad coffee and tasty tacos at the local diner. He could have shared about his dream to become a Texas Ranger and how he ended up in the Texas panhandle. I would have listened. I love Texas Rangers, especially Walker, Texas Ranger.

I Wasn’t Always This Way

James Divine

People look at me – 52, getting better looking each year, married to my high school sweetheart, parent of four, grandparent of 6, successful band & orchestra teacher, author, speaker, musician – and they think “Wow, James is so confident and sure of himself. Life has been good to him. I wish my life was like that.”

I wasn’t always this way!

I struggled, really struggled with self-esteem for many years. I know it was related to having an abusive father, being molested and all the damage that did to my psyche. I ALWAYS felt like I had to be dating someone, and my self-esteem plummeted when a girl would break up with me. I would beg her to come back, to give me another chance, to tell me where I failed. By the way, this is the worst thing to do. I should have said, “OK…I was thinking the same thing.”

My friend Amy – after hearing about the umpteenth time of a girl breaking up with me and how sad and lonely I was – she was one of those people who got to the point quickly – confronted me about why I felt like I needed to be dating someone all the time. I don’t think she even realized the impact of her words. It caused me to think. It caused me to change my behavior. I decided to stop being worried about finding the right person. Maybe I needed to focus on me, on becoming a better person! Becoming more Christ-like.

The interesting thing is that when I did that, that’s when I found my soul mate, my life-long lover, my best friend. I started dating Susan soon after that talk with Amy. I knew in about a week that Susan was probably the one. (By the way guys, after a week is not the time to mention this, even if you know deep in your soul).

Even after I started my adult life, got married, joined the Army band and was a successful husband, dad and musician, my self-esteem was still rock bottom.

I wasn’t always this way!

You see, I am a recovering people pleaser. At first glance, a people pleaser seems to be a really nice person. Everyone can count on them. Need cookies baked, call a people pleaser. Need someone on a committee, call a people pleaser. People pleasers can’t say no. Ultimately for me, this desire to please grew out of a fear of rejection, which had its roots in not being close to my father due to his abuse of my mom. I felt that those close to me might reject me if I didn’t do everything they wanted.

Although I started killing off the roots of what caused me to be a people pleaser, I didn’t totally sever the roots until I went to LifePlan in 2015. LifePlan is basically two intense days of physical, emotional and spiritual counseling. In the course of the two days, you uncover your roots – patterns and behaviors that have contributed to how you act or react to things – and sever a lot of those roots (the bad roots). I learned to leave those people pleasing tendencies behind.

I wasn’t always this way!

So when you see me – successful, self-assured, confident, willing to disagree, making sure I have my priorities straight – I want you to realize it wasn’t always like this. It is a journey, a process, sometimes hard work that takes you from one point to another. I had the same doubts you have. I had the same struggles you have. I had the same lack of self-esteem as you have.

I overcame and

Now I am this way (but I wasn’t always this way)

And I like that I’m this way…the only one I truly have to please is God

And He’s pleased with me because He is making me into His image

By taking care of me first, it has given me more time

By focusing on my mission and calling, it has made me a better person

And believe it or not, I love others more than I ever have

 

So don’t look at me and say, “I wish”

But look at me and say, “If he could do it, with God’s help I can too.”

 

I love you.

I’m proud of you.

You make my life rich.

 

* James is first and foremost a son of the King. He loves that he gets to teach band and orchestra. He is also a musician, speaker and author of “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested.” Find out more about LifePlan at www.chrislocurto.com

The Beatles Had It Right

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“All you need is Love. Love is all you need”

So true, and advice so needed as a teacher.

When they don’t meet your expectations…love them anyway.

When they disrespect you…love them anyway.

When they don’t work hard…love them anyway.

It’s not hard to love the students who are excited about your class, who work diligently and exceed your expectations. It’s the others that are hard.

Love goes a long way. It won’t solve every problem, but you don’t know what the long term effect will be.

…Love Them Anyway

You could never disappoint me!

After I discussed our first playing test of all 12 scales in one of my high school classes, a student of mine came to speak to me a few days later…

“Mr. Divine…I’ve been working hard on the 12 scales and wanted to let you know that it’s possible I might not pass them on this first try.” (I allow multiple retakes). “I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me.”

I felt like my heart was about to break. Here’s an outstanding student doing her best and her worry was that she would disappoint me.

I said, “Honey, you not passing your scales would NEVER disappoint me. I only have grades and give playing tests because I want everyone to improve and I know you are going to improve.”

She left class with a smile, came back the next week and aced her 12 scales.

As teachers – our words have tremendous impact! I know we can get caught up in the 5-10% of students who give us a hard time, but most are hard working and want to please.

What message are your words sending to your students?

For an example of how words from my teachers affected me, click HERE.

College Students – You’ve Been Lied To

College Students – You’ve Been Lied To

We are constantly hearing all the “woe is me” about our colleges and the cost to attend! Some of those problems are our own doing, but college is still affordable!

My Story

I wanted to go to college for as far back as I can remember. My mom didn’t have any money saved up for me for college, but she did tell me I could live at home for free as long as I wanted while going to college.

I made the same mistakes many young people make…

  • I bought a NEW car (it was a Ford Escort, mind you, but it was still more than I needed)
  • Insurance was expensive on my NEW car
  • I felt like I was working just to pay for things needed for my NEW car (do you see a theme here)

I was taking one or two college classes and working full time at a construction job. It was ok, but I hated the work. I arrived home each night tired and worn out, ready to eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed and do it again the next day. It looked to me like it would take forever to finish school at that rate, so I talked to a recruiter and joined the Army.

You can join the military and in exchange for three years of your life, you’ll receive about 72k in education benefits, plus you should be able to complete 2 years of college in a 4 year enlistment.

I started attending college while on active duty. I had to pay about 10% of the cost, the rest was covered by the military. I only had a few choices of colleges, it took me ten years, but I completed my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration!

You might be surprised at how many different types of jobs there are in the military. It’s not all about shooting weapons and war. I was in the band. You can be a cook, an admin assistant, work with finance, work in the chapel, shoot people, + a myriad of other options.

The Reality

I’m going to break down some real costs for my area (Colorado Springs)

Example #1: 18 year old student living at home with parents

Tuition at Pikes Peak Community College 3736

Books and Other Fees (you can probably bring this down buying used) 1800

TOTAL 5536

If this student works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, he will earn approximately $15,000, more than enough to pay for college and have plenty to get around, plus some extra for fun.

Example #2: 18 year old student living on his own 

Tuition at Pikes Peak Community College 3736

Books and Other Fees (you can probably bring this down by going used) 1800

Renting a room in someone’s basement 6000

Food (does not include Starbucks or going out to eat; lots of ramen and mac and cheese)

3600

TOTAL 15136

If this student works 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, he will earn approximately $15,000. He will need to live somewhere close to the college and won’t have any extra money. However, if he took another part time job the weeks he didn’t have school – working just ten more hours per week – he could make 7.25/hour x 10 hours per week x 16 weeks = $1160. This could help pay for a couple of extra items.

But, But, But

  • This doesn’t sound like fun.
    • It’s not, it’s work, but it’s a sacrifice you make over a short period of time.
  • How can he work 40 hours AND do all his assignments.
    • The average college student spends upwards of 30 hours per week on media, social and otherwise.
    • Most wage earners actually stay at minimum wage only a short time. I earned minimum wage from the age of 14-17 – since then not. Once you prove to your employer that you are worth what she is paying you, you will earn substantially more than minimum wage.

Let’s take a look at a state college

In the state of Colorado, state colleges are required to take your transfer credits from community colleges when you transfer into their school.

Tuition at UNC Greeley 10,000

Room and Board 10,000

TOTAL 20,000

Now you have several options regarding work…

  • Continue working 40 hours/week and earning 15k/year; you accrue about 5k a year in debt, times two years. Not much debt at all. Work 60 hours a week during the summer to reduce that amount even more.
  • Don’t work at all during school, but work 60 hours per week during school breaks. Let’s also assume that since you now have your associate’s degree, you can now earn $10/hour. Your earnings would be $9,600/year. Let’s round that to $10k, so over two years you would need to borrow just 20K for your education. Once again very affordable.

The problem I see is that many students do not want to make the sacrifice needed to go to college. Because the loans are so easy to get and insured by the government, many students don’t work, yet continue to finance their lattes and vacations with borrowed money. Some choose to go to more expensive colleges. Some choose to major in Polka Music History and then wonder why they can’t get a job.

I wanted to get a master’s degree for a long time. I researched and looked into many possibilities. The 50k cost of most of many of them simply was not worth it to me. However, I finally found a small college in southwestern Oklahoma that gave me in-state tuition if I played in the summer band. I attended in the summers of 2010, 2011 and 2012. My total cost for a master’s degree was $9,000, which included room and board for the half of each week I stayed in Oklahoma. That’s $9k total, not per year! Was it a sacrifice to have to drive each week? Yes. I could have stayed but I wanted to be home with my family. If you add the cost of driving, it would add about $3k to the total price. $12k – not bad for a master’s degree, and it immediately boosted my income about 5k per year as a teacher. There were options available in which I could have finished a master’s degree in 1-1 ½ years. Some cost 80-90k. If I had borrowed money to go to one of those schools, I would still owe the debt.

College is affordable. Don’t let the lies sink in.
*** James is a middle school teacher at a Title 1 school in Colorado Springs. He grew up in Title 1 schools before they were called that. Part of his growing up years was spent homeless – at least by today’s definition (we bumped around from family to family sleeping where we could; when mom was able to get her own apartment, we did not have electricity) – and on welfare. He is a strong believer in life-long learning. Sometimes that learning comes from a formal education, but mostly it comes from reading. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

I Was Interviewed by The Cannoli Coach

Listen to “The Cannoli Coach: I Cannoli Imagine—My Italian Life! w/James Divine | Episode 040” on Spreaker.

Listen as I speak with James Divine, an author, musician, teacher, speaker, and PROUD Italian. Talk about a guest meant to be on The Cannoli Coach podcast! The title for this episode is the title of his forthcoming book!

James uses his humor to share stories of forgiveness, encouragement, and inspiration. He talks about the impact of music in his life and how it was a catalyst to build his self-esteem. And, he candidly shares about an “event” in his early years that God used to shape him into the Father and Grandfather he is today.

We discuss forgiveness and we reminisce about growing up Italian and talk about the Italian meatball competition in heaven—he even shares the secret to the best meatballs!

11 Ways To Lose A Band Student

Nobody wants to lose a band student. Sometimes it’s inevitable – you get a student who doesn’t want to work at all for example. Other times it may be our own fault.

Here are 11 ways to lose a band student for sure (and 11 ways to keep them).

1. Have Roving Eyes

Instead of focusing on the here and now and what students you do have, always look for the next Miles Davis. Never be content with who you have.

Make the best of who and what you have. Develop them to their fullest ability. Miles Davis could be weird at times anyway.

2. Don’t Answer Calls and Emails

Answering these takes time, time away from preparing the music. Just delete/erase these before they clutter up your inbox.

If a student takes the time to call or email you, it is generally because he wants to do well and improve. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, you are showing lack of concern for them. Many times students have told me I’m the only teacher who responds to their emails.

3. Don’t listen to feedback

Some of my directors growing up were “My way or the highway” types who really were not interested in becoming better people. Ignoring the feedback from your students means you won’t have as great of an opportunity to improve.

Listen to student feedback, even if you disagree. Maybe there is a compromise in there somewhere. Listen carefully if it’s coming from your leaders.

4. Don’t Get To Know Your Students

After all, music is the most important thing, so why would we ever ask them about their families, future plans or other activities. (Caveat…I DO make sure my students understand that our short rehearsal together is going to be focused on music).

Before, after and during breaks in rehearsal, get to know about your students’ families, jobs, dreams, interests and hobbies.

5. Focus only on your wants and needs

Who cares what songs the students want to play. It’s all about winning the competition and making me look good.

Isn’t it ok to play a Disney song once in awhile? Let the students pick some of the repertoire. I usually ask them to send me a www.jwpepper.com link so I can review it. If it’s not suited to our group, I tell them why.

6. Argue over little things

After all, what type of tread is on the bottom of the marching shoe has won and lost championships, right?

After 16 years of teaching, I quit being so strict about footwear at concerts. Do I want the kids to look nice? You bet. Does a percussionist wearing black sneakers instead of black dress shoes affect anyone’s enjoyment of the music? Not really.

7. Ignore The Little Things

I know Sally doesn’t have music yet, but there’s just no time for such trivial things. I’ll update the grades at the end of the semester. I know Brian took a retest weeks ago, but I don’t think he will mind having a D as long as I change it before the end of the semester.

The little things add up to big things. I am not perfect in this, so I write EVERYTHING down. I don’t want to forget the small details. 

8. Don’t show appreciation

The students have the privilege of being in my class.

The students have the option not to be in your class. It’s your privilege to get to teach the best and brightest in the school.

9. Don’t Apologize

Rule #1: The director is always right.

Rule #2: When the director is wrong, refer to rule #1.

Saying “sorry” when called for is one of the best things you can do. I’ve lost my temper at a kid. I’ve said something that humiliated them or done something I shouldn’t have. I ALWAYS apologize. It makes an impact on the students.

10. Poor care of facilities

Hey, the music is the most important thing, so why do the room and instruments need to be taken care of.

Put away piles of stuff. Organize. Throw away. Make the facility look the best you can with what you have.

11. Don’t care

Look at the players as people who fill a need for an instrument rather than as people.

Show concern. Call when a student is away for extended illness. When they return, tell them how much you missed them. A student doesn’t care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE.

James Divine has taught band and orchestra for over 21 years. He currently teaches at a Title I middle school. He is the host of The Music Ed Podcast. Listen to weekly episodes on iTunes.

Teachers: Powerful Forces for Good or Bad

Some of my teachers played a big role in my life. A great ancient Hebrew named James had this to say about teaching…

“Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.”

Here are some good and not so good teachers in my life.

  • My Kindergarten teachers were outstanding, kind, compassionate and made me feel welcome. I remember crying on my first day of school, but after that I couldn’t wait to get there. I wish I could remember their names.
  • My second grade teacher was Mrs. Everitt. She took me on as a project and cared for me and my family. She taught me and loved me.
  • I did not like my first fifth grade teacher. She seemed to hate children. That was probably not the case, but it sure felt like it to me. Fortunately I moved away after two months of fifth grade and ended up with the most wonderful fifth grade teacher.
  • In seventh grade, I had another of those teachers who seemed to hate kids. We would often mis-pronounce her name on purpose and made it sound like it Miss Screwed Up.
  • My first band teacher was awesome, Mr. Derrio. He and my elementary music teacher helped to develop the love of music that has given me a successful three decade career.
  • My wife and sister had a teacher in high school who seemed to enjoy giving students failing grades. I never could understand that. When I have a student fail, I feel like I have failed somehow and I adapt my teaching.
  • My wife had a fourth grade teacher who told her she would amount to nothing.
  • Mr. Trammel taught me about integrity. Even though he had a large number of sick days, he took a day off without pay rather than fake sickness.
  • My best teacher was Steve Ambrose. Students will typically have a greater connection with the teacher who teaches the subject they are passionate about. Steve was passionate about music, still is, and passed that passion and excitement on to me. He really made you think!

Teachers, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility. You can make or break your students’ day.

The Sheep, The Sheepdogs and the Wolves

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There are three types of people in the world: The Sheep, The Sheepdogs and The Wolves.

Most people are sheep. They live a somewhat normal life…they go to work, do what they’re told, pay their taxes, raise their families, watch tv, hang out on weekends. Basically doing life but not creating any waves. Most of them think life is great until…

– dun dun dun – the wolves attack.

images_1The wolves are all around us. Some of them are obvious, like the criminals we see in the news each day. Some of them are not as obvious; they often occupy leadership positions in business, government, education and religion.
The wolves are out to steal, kill and destroy. The wolves are on the prowl for the weak sheep, those who have fallen away from the herd, those who are scared, those suffering from an injury. The wolves are out to fulfill their own needs and care nothing for the sheep.

images_2The sheepdogs have a mission…protect the sheep from the wolves (and sometimes from the sheep themselves)!
The sheepdogs round up the sheep, promoting unity. This makes it much harder for the wolves to attack (the wolves like wounded and solitary sheep because at heart, the wolves are cowards).

The sheepdogs often bark in warning to keep the sheep together. The sheepdogs sometimes have to inflict pain through a nip on the legs of the sheep. When compared to being eaten by wolves, this pain is minimal but necessary. The sheepdogs often seem to be all alone.
Like the wolves, you can find many sheepdogs in leadership positions in business, government, education and religion. However, some of these people should be sheepdogs, but are actually sheep being controlled by the wolves. These can be more dangerous than the wolves.

But…something strange happens in this scenario…Even though the lives of the sheep are dependent upon the sheepdogs, the sheep often hate the sheepdogs. Some sheepdogs look like wolves; they have sharp teeth and claws and are always barking, but it’s to protect the sheep! The sheepdogs often get into terrible fights with the wolves to protect the sheep.

images_3Over them all is the Good Shepherd, Jesus. He gave His life for the sheep. Many of them hate Him too. Many of them reject Him. He made the sheepdogs. He gave the sheepdogs their mission because He cares for the sheep even more than the sheepdogs do.

How about you? Are you a sheep, a sheepdog or a wolf? Maybe you’re a sheep controlled by a wolf? Have you met the Shepherd? The Good Shepherd warned us that the wolves often come to us in sheep’s clothing.

Why I Love Colorado

Susan and I moved here – reluctantly – in 1992 with the Army, thinking that as soon as I got out of the Army, we would be moving to Virginia. We never left! Two of our kids were born here. We love Colorado and hope to never move away, but if God ever has something for us somewhere else, we will move. There are so many obvious reasons why Colorado is great – the mountains, the climate, the outdoors – but I’m going to talk about some of the reasons that aren’t as obvious.

  1. There are no alligators!

I have a niece who lives in Naples, Florida. We went to see her last year and had a wonderful time getting to know her family. She took us on a hike through a nature preserve. Fortunately it was elevated because there were alligators! It was nice to see them in their habitat knowing we were safe, but she told us about how they sometimes show up in people’s yards! Come to think of it – we didn’t see many children there and half the adults only have one leg. Susan asked her if they ever move around in drainage ditches – for example at the side of the road or near major shopping malls. Jane answered that you occasionally will see that…we saw one in the very next drainage ditch we looked at!

There actually is an alligator farm in Colorado near The Great Sand Dunes, but that doesn’t count – they are behind fences and if they ever got out, the cold in winter would probably kill them.

2. There’s very little humidity

What you see above is an actual picture of humidity. It’s like a black hole in space. It sucks all the coolness right off your body and makes you hot. Sure, we have to apply moisturizer to our hands, and our feet, and our arms, and our legs 24x a day, but at least when we put a shirt on, it doesn’t get stuck to our bodies.

3. We have mountains

Every place else has hills – we have mountains. You get to experience the grandeur of God’s creation. It makes for some interesting situations, like looking DOWN on a flying plane. And when we have a wet winter, it’s cool to see the mountains topped with snow for over half the year. Occasionally it will even turn white in the summer, but it quickly melts away. I’ve ridden my bike all over our beautiful city. There has not been any neighborhood that didn’t have a good view somewhere in its midst.

Turn your device sideways to make this comparison work…

Our mountains

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What other people call mountains

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4. Our water is delicious (see #3 above)

I think it has something to do with much of our water supply being snow runoff, but it tastes delicious to me, right from the tap. In America we pretty much can’t complain about our water – we are fortunate – but if you want your water to also taste good, come here. I love the bubbly springs that pour from the ground in Manitou Springs, but some people – including my wife – think that water is nasty.

5. The weather is always a surprise

I have been biking in the winter and have needed winter clothes in the summer. The joke here is that if you don’t like the weather, just wait half an hour. It can change so quickly!

Just this past school year, I had a snow delay the third week of May. Several districts were closed. But I have also worn shorts and a t-shirt in January.

This makes life more interesting. You can’t say “We’re going hiking this weekend,” it’s more like “We’re going hiking OR we may be staying home and watching a movie.”

Although the constantly changing weather can be fun, sometimes it’s nice to get some consistency. We get that in September, which is probably our most stable weather month and my favorite. It’s hot in the middle of the day – but not too hot, and it’s chilly enough at night to need a jacket (great sleeping weather).

I hope you come for a visit to our beautiful state, but don’t stay – housing prices in my town are already 3x higher than what they were when we moved here in 1992!

***James is a speaker, musician, author and middle school teacher. You can often find him hiking trails with his beautiful wife, mountain biking all over the place for some solitude, or in the summer on a stand up paddleboard. He and his wife have four kids and six grandkids. www.jamesdivine.net

Keeping Up With The Times

By Guest Writer Brooke Pierson

Keeping up with the times – a no win scenario?

Over the years I am constantly hearing about how we need to “reach more kids”…

Teach rock band!
Teach computer music!
Teach hip-hop!
Teach what the kids are interested in.

To be fair, this post isn’t about those things entirely – those are great things to teach and can be a great addition in an elective nature of our schools – I wish we could offer all  those things. I also recognize that each situation is different and just as there are only 3 or 4 major types of sciences that students study in school, we are also limited in what we can offer effectively. 

What I do find interesting, however, is that in an effort to “be with the times” we never really do hit that mark – because the times and what kids are interested in changes so drastically and fast. Ten years ago there was a huge push to incorporate rock bands in schools – and it made sense – rock bands were everywhere and had been for a while. But then all of a sudden there was a shift and now it’s all about loops, electronic music, and sound engineering/production. Rock band is “old”, guitar sales are down, etc. And you bet there will be something else soon.

Meanwhile, millions of students have been learning music embedded into our country as one of our unique traditions: concert band. We often look to other countries and think about their cultures with such awe and positivism and then we sometimes overly critique what we do for the purpose of what? Meeting the whims of generations? The taste they have that changes each generation? There is nothing wrong with tradition and culture so long as we’re meeting the needs of our students but we also have to be the curators and stewards of that need.

We have a *unique* and wonderful musical culture in the US – it has a ton of variety from jazz to classical to popular, rock, country – endless! But one thing we also have is a tradition that include band/choir/orchestra at the core in our educational system. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, it is a beautiful thing. This cultural element (and I’m going to keep saying that because it IS our unique cultural element) is integral in the way we shape students and it is a pathway to more specialized musical forms. Rather than trying to put efforts on educating students in whatever fad there is (and changing curriculum to do it) we rather should be continuing our efforts to enrich, strengthen, and grow this unique tradition – whether it be advancing literature, empowering students of all backgrounds, gender, ethnicity, etc, growing our scope.

This doesn’t mean getting rid of those other things. Do them, teach them, enrich our students lives. But don’t overlook the power that our musical culture can have on students and rest assured that cultures thrive on tradition – and concert band is one tradition that is deeply embedded in our society.

Brooke is a teacher and composer. Find out more about him and order his music at https://www.brookepierson.com

You Matter!

As we approach the end of the year, we are all feeling tired and drained – which I think we all know and expect – at least physically.

But remember, we are also drained emotionally. It can cause our emotions to trick us. We may think…

“Does what I do matter?”

“Would a career besides teaching be better?”

“Why do I even bother?”

This is a trick! We know our bodies are tired, but we don’t always recognize our emotions are tired. Throw this lie into the dumpster because YOU MATTER.

I have a friend who is an engineer. He once could not understand why teachers were so tired in May. As we talked about it, in his job he has 25-30 projects going at any given moment…BUT…only 1 has a deadline coming up soon. The others are in progress with deadlines months and even years away. I told him teaching is like having 150 projects with a due date coming up, but they are ALL due May 24. He voted for the bond issue in the following election!

We have a few weeks to go, and then we can rest physically AND emotionally.

Go and make a difference because YOU MATTER!

James Divine’s Year In Review

EVERY year holds the excitement of new beginnings, unchartered waters and high expectations, and every year ends with beautiful memories we carry with us as well as experiences that may have hurt us (but that ultimately make us better). I am a BLESSED man. Enjoy this year in review.

I often start the year with some sort of physical activity, and 2018 was no exception. THE INCLINE! This depends upon the weather of course. It may not happen for 2019 as snow is swirling as I write. I sometimes forget to be thankful that God has blessed me with a healthy body. I’ll take on any young punk anytime, physically or mentally, but I don’t know if it would be fair mentally as I see you have come half-armed.

No matter what we do for a living, we can sometimes wonder “Does what I do matter?” YES! YES! If you are doing what God has called you to do, it matters. Teaching is a profession like that. It’s always great to visit with former students and see how God is using them. B.D. is one of the nicest, sweetest people I know. Great parenting? Probably. Someone who serves the Lord with all her heart? Definitely.

I was honored to be selected to present at Tri-M day at The Colorado Music Educator’s Association Conference in January. I brought my band. The topic was “The Student Led Rehearsal.” The clinic was well received by 500+ teen attendees.

Whenever the weather cooperated, my sweetie and I took the opportunity to enjoy God’s creation in this beautiful state we get to call home.

I got to share a hilarious story “growing Up Italian” at a local speaking event. Some told me I may have a future in stand-up comedy. I’ll remain seated while waiting to see if that will happen (but it was funny).

I performed more in 2018 than in the previous six years combined. It has been a blessing to get quite a bit of my free time back to be able to do this. I hope the performing will continue. Sadly I am not able to continue with Swing Factory due to other commitments.

Susan and I enjoyed discovering many hot springs across the state during a stressful time this past spring.

I was able to take a road trip and see the American Jazz Museum in KC for the first time. Definitely worth it and something I hope to do again.

Susan and I got to visit our grandkids over spring break. At the time of this picture we had three grandkids, but that number has doubled since then!

Michelle Mras interviewed me for her show, Conversations with Michelle.

I visited my favorite Aunt in Fairfax. Hoping to make many more trips out there in 2019.

I got to meet a niece of mine who I had never met. Susan and I spent a weekend in Naples, Florida visiting with her family.

And biking…

And having a few SMALL laughs along the way

Susan and I picked up a new hobby…SUP – Stand Up Paddle-boarding

I recorded a song for which Austin did the artwork. I don’t think it will sell much, but I needed to do this one for me (Kenny Rogers, it’s available if you’d like to record it).

For the second time in six months, we were able to return to Germany, this time mainly to see our newest grandchild, but we were still able to do some touring too.

Then on to the ASBDA conference in Va. Beach (and a tour of my old haunting grounds, the Army “School of Music”, or as we sometimes called it, The Pool of Mucus, and an opportunity to visit our parents there. By the way, they own a cruise business and would love to show you a great vacation at www.shiptrip.com.

Devil’s Tower Monument

A visit from our German family!

A new school – teaching orchestra, 10% more pay, 30% reduced hours (the hours teaching marching band were killing me)

Another visit with the grandkids!

Headlining at a historic theater.

More hiking!

A train ride we have been dreaming about for 20 years!


Camping with my favorite youngest son

And Christmas surrounded by family. They are the BEST gift, besides the greatest gift of Jesus Christ.

I am one blessed man. There were some trials in 2018, but I choose to focus on the many things that made 2018 beautiful Keep your eyes on…

Advice From Your Italian Grandfather

Becoming a grandfather is hard work. It took me over 45 years to achieve that. In this clip, I give you advice from your Italian Grandfather. What if everyone followed this advice about life? Find out why pasta has no calories, what type of pill one should take daily, and even SEX.

Are you burned out? Take this test to find out.

In 1998, I started my first teaching job with passion, dedication, love and joy. I gave my all to my students, but I neglected myself and – I’m ashamed to say – at times my family. I became extremely burned out. When I left that school for another in 2005, I promised myself I would never let that happen again! I set boundaries, I took better care of my health, I left for home at the end of the school day.

As my own kids grew, I found myself starting a marching band and devoting more and more time to my work. I didn’t mind. My responsibilities at home had changed, I had more time, and I saw what a difference marching band was making in my students’ lives. I had overcome the possibility of burnout!

WRONG!!!

I succumbed again. It wasn’t quite as bad as the first time, but this time I didn’t recognize the signs until I heard a presentation by Dr. Frank Tracz of Kansas State. He shared the burnout link with us that you will find below.

I left my position for a new one teaching middle school with no marching band. Sometimes – not always – one must leave a position to regain balance. That’s a whole blog post of it’s own.

Are you burned out? Take this Burnout Self Test from the good people at Mind Tools to find out. If the results come out positive, make the changes necessary to prevent burnout. You’ll be glad you did.