Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ukelele Lady

Amanda Palmer really inspired me and when I ran into Mr. Music a couple of weeks ago, I saw this candy apple red Makala dolphin bridge soprano and had to have it. 

A few sea horse stickers to make it mine and it wasn't long before I could hack out "Ukelele Anthem," "Changes in Latitudes" and "Adventure Time."   She was right when she said it only takes about an hour to learn how to play. 

While bar chords still vex me (really only some do, others are fine), I'm having a great time tooling around on it.  

I'll probably never front a punk band singing song about how all college students look the same with a cockney accent.  I'll probably never be mistaken for an underground icon.  But I can sit and play and make myself smile and remember that there's something magical about that little bit of wood and plastic.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Being a Boston sports fan (or how I explained DNA to a 5 yr old)

The Bruins were on the ice in Toronto taking practice after their 2nd game shellacking by the Leafs when a kid in a Kindergarten room and I had a conversation about the upcoming game.  He predicted a shut-out.  I predicted a 6-1 Bruins win because Toronto is that hungry to get past the first round.

The final score of game 3 was 5-2 Bruins.

Yesterday he looked at me and said, "Ms. H, you had the right answer but the wrong number sentence."

This is how he viewed it: 6+1=7, 5+2=7; therefore, I had the right answer (7) BUT the wrong number sentence.  He then asked me a serious question.  He asked if it was possible he was a hockey fan before he was born because he felt like he had always been a Bruins fan.

I told him my theory that being a Boston sports fan is genetic.  It's written into our DNA which is something you get from your parents that helps make you you.  He thought for a minute and said, "That makes sense."

He asked my prediction for tonight's game.  I thought for a moment and said, "The Bruins win by a goal in OT."

He predicted the Bruins would win 100-1.

Yep, he's a Bruins fan.

I often refer back to a quote I saw on the wall of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  It read, "It was as if something took me by the hand and whispered, 'I am baseball, come with me.'"  I think than an angel whispered that in my ear before I was born.  Maybe that's why I stood in the playpen chanting my favorite player's name over and over when he was at the plate (even if it came out "Eddie Soo!  Eddie Soo!" instead of Eddie Bressoud.)

In all seriousness, I do believe being a sports fan is somewhat genetic.  Why is it two people from the same family are so radically different in their perspectives?  The way one can be a total nerd that locks themselves inside to read comic books, play video games and is into sci-fi and anime while their sibling is the kid outside playing every sport (well) and can instantly calculate batting averages, ERAs or other complex statistical analysis of players?  It is something that psychologists study all the time, but I have to believe that there is something written in invisible ink on our DNA code that allows us to be interested in certain things.

For example, why is it I follow the Sox and Bruins but not the Celtics or Pats?  Why is it one of my siblings has the full-blown Boston sports fan genes and another has barely a polite but passing interest in sports at all while the rest fall in all shades in between?

So the next time you look at a sibling or relative and wonder where the hell they're coming from, ask yourself this, did perhaps they get some genetic trait - dominant or recessive - from someone way back when in the family tree... or maybe they are just an apple that didn't roll too far from one side.

Perhaps, like me and my kindergarten friend, some angel whispered in our ears and took us by the hand to lead us to the sports we love.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Last night, Amanda Palmer spoke to me (or why I wear red sparkly shoes)

It's true, last night Amanda Palmer spoke to me.  Of course she also spoke to the rest of the ballroom full of people at the Grub Street Boston event, but in many ways it felt like she spoke to me directly.

I'm not talking about my Q&A question about how can we teachers and writers can keep sparking creativity in the children for whom we are responsible.  I'm talking about her whole premise about how creative people are the ones that, at some point, notice the dots and start to connect them.  We are the ones who then get excited and want to share our observations and then are often the ones told to be quiet because now is not the time.  She used a metaphor of creative types alone in the garrett starving and struggling while the bustling marketplace is going on downstairs just outside the front door of our building.  She spoke of how "new" media is like yelling out the window to the market place to invite up friends and have them bring friends and sharing your work that way.

I jotted down her words: "Once you share your art, it's not about you any more."

There were points during her talk when I wanted to yell, "Get out of my head bitch!" but I didn't.  I listened instead because she was speaking to me.

But, more importantly, she was speaking to my sons, who sat next to me in the ballroom.  One is a writer, one is a musician and artist.  They both have had struggles in this world because they are the kids yelling "look at this, the patterns are emerging when you hold things at this angle!"  They are the ones being told to be quiet, this isn't the time.

The one who was listening the hardest, hanging on her every word was the one I have the deepest concerns about: my Pi guy.

Yesterday was a day where time, which has the job to keep everything from happening at once, failed to do that.

Pi and I have taken the Boston Marathon bombings hard in our own ways.

Last week I had my cathartic moment at the Dropkick Murphy concert.  For me, two weeks of holding back tears and pushing down the fear of everything came to a head when the Boston Police Gaelic Column took to the stage.  I felt the tears streaming down my face and, for the first time in two long weeks, I didn't try to stop them.  When the Murphys took to the stage and sang "For Boston" with them, I screamed the words while I jumped up and down and cried.  I cried through the next three numbers, particularly when the Irish step dancers took to the stage and I thought of a 6 year old girl who had just started step dancing lessons facing the challenge of life without her leg now.  The tears and the screaming were my release valve and I could finally breathe.

I know Pi was still struggling when I looked at the artwork he created this week.  I will say this, when I got home from school Friday and saw the image of a skater carrying his board that had "Keep Calm" written on the deck, it blew me away and I knew he was close to breathing again.

Yesterday was the first time I felt like Pi was breathing again.  We started by making cookies for our friends on the Roxy's Grill Cheese truck and the Mei Mei Street Kitchen truck and delivered them to them during the food truck throw down.  We stood in lines, we ate food and we voted for our friends before deciding to walk through Faneuil Hall to see if there were any free comic books at Newbury Comics.  Stopping in at Build a Bear, we mad bears, almost got thrown out of the store for putting pleather chaps on Rainbow Hug bear (seriously... who the hell thought pleather chaps were appropriate clothing item for your build a bear bear AND thought it was a good item when there was a Rainbow Hug bear in stock and people who act like 10 year olds?)

It was a day of laughing and breathing, so having it end with Amanda Palmer was fabulous.  It was the first time in almost 3 weeks that the day felt normal.

When the Q&A session started, he hesitated.  He looked and whispered, "I have a million questions, how do I pick one?"  He did ask her about what do you do to be heard.  She gave him great advice.  It wasn't the question he thought or meant to ask, but he felt great.

After we dropped his brother off at his apartment and were heading home it struck him and he asked, "What do I do if Amanda Palmer actually shows up at my spot outside the Fenway T stop after a game to listen to me?"

I thought for a second and replied, "Ask her to join you."

He nodded.

I could see him connecting dots in his head in that moment.  Amanda's words from earlier in the night struck me: "The impulse to connect the dots and share it makes you an artist."  I taught my kids that lesson through out their lives.  It's the lesson I give my students.  I know people tell me that I should be grown up about working with kids in school but I really do believe my job is not to teach them to conform so they pass the tests.  My job is to warp their little minds the same way guys like Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury and so many others warp minds.  It's a lot easier to see the dots if your thinking is reformed from a linear view to an organic view.

Last week when the kids at school asked why I was wearing red sparkly sneakers I replied, "They make me smile and that makes me happy."

Most of them could understand that sentiment.  I'd like to think it gave some of them, particularly my 5th graders who do worry about fitting in, permission to take that chance and wear sparkly shoes, draw a lion, play the ukelele or whatever makes them smile and be happy, in spite of knowing the rest of the world expects of you.

Last night Amanda Palmer spoke to me and I am a richer person for it.