Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Concerts

I attended two concerts in the past week. This is a rare occurrence because I'm usually too cheap to pay the scandalous "convenience" fees that always seem to come along with concert tickets. On Wednesday night, I went to see the English Beat in concert. The concert venue is over two hours away and I had to be at work the next morning, but I really wanted to go. My friend Karen agreed to go with me and even agreed to drive. This was pretty heroic of her because although she is aware of the band, she was not what you'd call a rabid fan. I appreciated her willingness to drive (and to explore some music that wasn't super familiar to her). The last time she and I went to a concert (Gossip), I drove and got a tickie on the way home.

The concert was great. A local ska band opened for them. They were a lot of fun, too, and I'd definitely enjoy seeing them live again. Shortly after their set was done, Dave Wakeling and company took the stage. The current incarnation of the Beat is basically Dave Wakeling and some other musicians that were not part of the original band. That's okay with me, though. As long as they know the songs and do them justice, I have no complaints.

The concert venue was not a large one. There were a few chairs upstairs but the main level was a standing-room only situation. I'd been there to see Fountains of Wayne a few years ago so I knew what to expect. I didn't mind standing one bit because I was too excited to sit down anyway. I had a couple of vodka cranberries on board so I even *gasp* danced a little. Being just yards away from Dave Wakeling . . . for a minute there, I felt like I was 15 again. I found myself with a huge grin on my face and I am not a naturally smiley person. I listened to the English Beat and General Public relentlessly when I was a teenager. In short, seeing him live was just what I needed in the middle of a very rough, very hard week.

A few days later, I took my daughter to see Daya live. I was only vaguely aware of Daya myself, but the concert was happening in our town and the tickets were reasonable ($25 each). On our way to the concert, I was given some pretty specific instructions about not dancing and not doing anything deemed to be embarrassing in general.

I did as I was told, and dutifully sat in my seat. This was the kid's first "real" concert so I was eager to see her reaction.  The crowd was at least three decades younger than the crowd at Wednesday's concert. There was an opening act - a singer who appeared to be about 14. That's how you know you are getting old - everyone looks 14. Daya took the stage at around 8:30. Her whole band is comprised of young women which, I think, is inspiring for a theater full of teen and pre-teen girls. In fact, her whole message is a good one for young women like my daughter.

For the encore, Daya sang "Sit Still Look Pretty," which is one of her biggest hits to date.

Oh, I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No, I don't wanna sit still, look pretty


I bought my own empowered kid a $25 tee shirt that she can't wait to wear to school tomorrow. Oh, and I didn't do anything embarrassing.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Life with the Tween

As my reader may have noticed, I'm writing fewer blog entries these days. I think the main reason that I'm less productive and prolific these days is that my daughter is getting older now. I owe it to her to respect her privacy - at least somewhat. Here's hoping she never finds all those old posts about the times she pooped herself back in the potty training days.

These days, I assume that she poops but it is not a regular topic of conversation. Instead, we mostly talk about missing assignments for school.  When questioned about missing assignments, she typically bursts into tears and blames: her teachers, the concept of time, the bus driver, and her locker.  I have to say that I won't be too sad when the school year is over.  The first year of middle school is rough, yo. In many ways, she's done great. She has made lots of friends (though they seem to vary by the day of the week - it'll be interesting to see who she invites to her birthday party next month) and has participated in a lot of activities.  She had show choir in the fall, the musical in the winter, and now the talent show in the spring. I am very proud of her. She was one of the few vocal soloists to get into the talent show when auditions were held a couple weeks ago.

Her grades are pretty good, but she struggles in science, math, and reading. The reading grade, in particular, causes me pain right down to my soul. I started teaching that kid to read before she was walking. Her teachers all assure me that she is very bright and is fully capable of handling the material. It's the homework. She was missing one particular worksheet for reading. She assured me that she did not have it and could not remember to ask for a new one. I finally emptied her entire backpack (which weighs about as much as she does) and found the worksheet at the bottom. It looked like it had been run over by the school bus (which, incidentally, she missed last week because that villainous bus driver refused to let her on, dontcha know). The kid is in an accelerated math class but again, unfinished assignments are causing problems. I need to send her to one of those new age-y schools that doesn't assign homework.

We've also fought an unrelated battle regarding the availability of vegetarian food in the cafeteria.  80 emails later, I think we have that one settled. It's a challenge, because she doesn't want to stick out or be different in any way (which is typical behavior in middle school, I think). So, she doesn't want to say, "I NEED THE VEGGIE BURGER THAT IS LISTED ON THE MENU BUT IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND."  I had to get all mama bear and wage that battle on her behalf.

Middle school romance is another interesting topic. Needless to say, my daughter is not allowed to have a boyfriend and is not allowed to "date." Her dad and I haven't set an exact age for that, but 11 is definitely not the age.  I think mid-30s would be a good time for her to interact with boys. However, that doesn't stop her from having crushes on various lads at school, which is fine.  Back in the fall, there was a boy who was head over heels for my daughter. She seemed to like him, too - at first.  I check her phone regularly and saw the texts he sent her. "Good night, my star" he wrote. There were lots of mushy gushy emojis, too. Eventually, she felt uncomfortable with the intensity of his affection. "He's just not chill about ANYthing," she told me.  She broke it off with him. More recently, she's had her eye on a different boy. This boy does seem to like her. However, his best friend also likes her and was laying it on pretty thick. She told him she didn't like him "that way." He sent back a broken-heart emoji.  My kid is breaking hearts all over the sixth grade, man.

As for me, I'm an anxiety-ridden mess as usual, but maybe I'll write about that some other time.

In the meantime, here is my songbird. This is not the song she is singing in the talent show, but I never get tired of hearing her voice. And no, I don't know why I didn't turn the phone the other way. Me not smart.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Those People

The circus came to town this weekend. There was a peaceful protest scheduled for all performances. I joined the protest Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. I got a lot savvier with my sign this year - I invested in a nice foam core poster board (my sign was too flimsy last year and did not hold up against winter weather).

My daughter decided to join me for the protest on Friday. I gave her a rundown of what the protest would be like so that she knew what to expect. Initially, I was a bit torn about bringing my daughter. When I was a student at George Mason University in the early 90s, I remember seeing a man dragging a large wooden cross around the quad. I think maybe he handed out leaflets - I don't specifically recall. What I do remember is spotting his young children with him once or twice. I recall thinking that maybe young children shouldn't be indoctrinated into anything. So, I've always been careful with my daughter and what I say to her. I take her to church with me, but I tell her that she'll be free to choose her own religion when she grows up. I have raised her on a vegetarian diet, but I've told her she'll be free to choose her diet, too. She's almost 12, though, so I felt like she's old enough to decide how she feels about the circus.  So, we bundled up (it was around 19 degrees) and headed over to the arena. We parked in the same lot as the circus-goers, grabbed our sign, and walked to the intersection we'd need to cross to get to the arena. Surrounded by families headed for the circus, we waited patiently for the light to change. We could see the protestors starting to assemble on the sidewalk across the street.

"Those protestors are so stupid," said the woman in front of me. I looked down and noticed that her daughter was wearing sandals. In 19-degree weather.

"I'll be the judge of who's stupid in this scenario," I thought to myself.

My daughter and I crossed the street and joined the other protestors.  There is a specific area where we are allowed to stand, and we have to be careful that we are not blocking the flow of foot traffic into the arena.  The circus is hosted by the Shriners and they will find any excuse to call the police on the protestors. (Side note: money from ticket sales does not benefit Shriners' Hospitals for children.) We do not shout at the circus attendees. We simply stand there with our signs.

A family streamed by me and I saw that one of the children, a girl of about nine, was wearing a crop top. Her bare stomach was turning pink against the cold wind. "Maybe they should go sit with the sandal family," I thought. Again, to myself.

Families continued to flow through us and around us. I saw fathers enveloped in clouds of cigarette smoke, dropping f-bombs in front of their kids (not aimed at us, just as a part of normal conversation). One woman looked at our group's "pro animal" posters and said flatly, "Well, it's a good thing I don't care about animals." Her male companion laughed loudly.

Since this is the Midwest, the vast majority of the circus-goers were polite. They walked by without speaking.  The adults looked down or away, but many of the kids read our signs. Once the 6:30 p.m. show had started, we packed up and headed home. I couldn't feel my toes anymore at that point. I made a mental note to wear thicker socks the next day.

On Saturday morning, I watched a documentary on Netflix as I was getting my act together. It's called Accidental Courtesy in case you want to check it out.  The program follows the travels of a man named Daryl Davis. Daryl Davis is a black man (and fairly well-known musician) who believes that there is value in meeting with KKK members one by one. If they can sit down together and find some common ground, maybe they can build a friendship. Sure enough, many Klan members have had a change of heart and have actually given their hoods and robes to Mr. Davis. He has around 25 of them so far, in addition to other KKK trinkets like pins.  His work has put him at odds with the Black Lives Matter movement, but I do think there is merit in his overall theory: don't be so quick to condemn your adversaries. Look a little deeper.

I thought about that documentary a lot on Saturday as I took my post in front of the arena for the 1:30 show. While I do think that we (the protestors) are on the right side of history, I knew I needed to be less judgemental of the circus attendees. After all, there was a time when I routinely ate a quarter pounder with cheese without thinking twice about it. Granted, that was almost 30 years ago, but still . . . an awakening of conscience causes one to see everything in a new light.

So, I held my sign and chatted with my friend who organizes the protests each year. My daughter opted not to join me this time - partly because she had just slept 12 hours straight and hadn't even gotten dressed when it was time for me to leave.

At the Saturday show, not too many people shouted at us, fortunately. One person did yell, "Don't you have pets?!"

Heidi responded, "Yes, I do, but I don't train them with bull hooks."

Another guy said, "You aren't doing anybody any good." I wasn't sure what his main beef was: was he simply annoyed that we weren't using our time wisely, in his opinion?

Another circus-goer confessed, "I'm totally with you guys - I am just doing this for my kids."  I have some hope for that guy!

I invest most of my hope in the kids. The ones who are old enough to read do read the signs as their parents are whisking them past us. Maybe in a few years they will look into how baby elephants are actually trained and will tell their parents, "Nah, I don't want to go." I'm counting on my daughter's generation to end this crap once and for all.