Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Doing things that scare you

Everyone has something that scares them, or at least makes their palms sweat a little bit as they face the task at hand. For me, it isn't heights, cats, dogs, snakes, public speaking. Spiders give me the shivers, but I will take them down if they make the mistake of being in my house.

Lately it has been singing in public that has had me nervous down to my core. I have been singing with a jazz group on campus for two years now, but in that setting I am one of a couple of singers with a four or so member band backing us. I have become more comfortable in that scenario. But every so often Harvey, the "leader" of our little jazz group, and someone I have come to call friend, will invite me to spread my wings a bit more and I have sung with him at Ryles Jazz Cafe in Cambridge a few times. Recently he suggested that he and I along with our bass player Matt, could form a trio and work up a repertoire of music and try to get a regular gig. I feel RIDICULOUS even writing the word "gig" but that is what it is. We have not worked very hard at getting one, so it hasn't happened yet, but we did perform for an hour at the retirement community attached to campus here at the college two weeks ago. One whole hour. Of just ME singing in front of what turned out to be Harvey on a beautiful Steinway, Matt on his upright bass, and one of our students, Brett who is a genius on saxophone. 10 songs.

I have never been so terrified, and that includes when someone was about to cut my abdomen open and pull a baby out. OK, I was on some pretty good drugs for that, so maybe these are not comparable experiences. But seriously, I have never, even in my college days of doing theater, been so nauseatingly petrified. I did not try to go it without some lyrics handy. I have discovered that in this setting my brain freezes up and if asked to sing a song, it is as if I have never ever ever learned any song ever in my life. No Happy Birthday, no national anthem, nothing will come to my brain. My voice works, my brain doesn't. So I created a small cheat sheet of lyrics, and really didn't need it most of the time, but the fact it was there made it better.

I decided not to record it, but to just let it happen and leave it to the universe and those present to remember it. It went really well. I flubbed a bit on Fly Me to the Moon, which I can sing in my sleep, but for some reason had a hard time hearing and finding the tune at the beginning. I seem to do really well, oddly enough, with tunes that fall into the Latin category. Two of them I had never heard before Harvey introduced me to them, Beautiful Love and Black Orpheus, aka A Day in the Life of a Fool. They seem to be in my wheelhouse range wise, and suit the quality of my voice.

What I learned is that I can do things that scare me and not only survive it, but conquer it, maybe even kick a little ass in the process. It will make the next time that much easier, and maybe by the time I am 60 it will be old news. By then I will have something new that will be scary to worry about - Cooper will be about college age by then. That is if I survive him being 4. But that is another blog post for another time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's been said, but it is worth saying it again, and again, and again until there is change

Over the past weeks we have been hearing in the media about a series of suicides by teenagers who were bullied, or harrassed by classmates, roommates and others in their lives for either being gay or being perceived as gay.

Many blogs have commented on this, and have said it more eloquently or with more passion than I probably can, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't say something or pay homage to these lives cut short so soon and so sadly. They are:

Justin Aaberg, 15, MN
Asher Brown, 13, TX
Tyler Clementi, 18, NJ
Billy Lucas, 15, IN
Seth Walsh, 13, CA and
Tyler Wilson, 11, OH

And it isn't just gays who face this sort of terrorism. Here in MA we had the case of Phoebe Price a teen who moved to the US from Ireland, who had the audacity to be different, and to date, however briefly, a boy from the popular group in her school. That made her the target of unrelenting harrassment from classmates that became so unbearable she hung herself.

This isn't new, being ostrasized for being different. People of color have been fighting this battle for equality and respect for centuries in this country. People who dress differently, talk differently, have earrings and tattooes, you name it if it makes you different it probably makes you a target for some level of unwanted attention.

As a mother of a young boy, I am more than a little terrified of something or someone hurting Cooper, and cannot make room in my conscious mind for the idea of him being dead for any reason, much less by his own hand. I can only hope that he never finds himself in a place of such despair, loneliness and torment that he feels that ending his life is a better option than seeking help. From me, from his father, ANYONE.

The world needs to change for the better. WE NEED TO CHANGE. I don't care what your religious belief system says about being gay. This isn't about that. I don't care what you were told growing up by your parents. This is about common decency, about treating people with basic respect for their humanity.

I went to a college which is a very conservative Christian college. Being gay was not okay there. My first roommate there had experienced a great deal of negative attention because she dated a guy who was a different race. It just wasn't done. I remember hearing that AIDS was God's way of punishing people for being gay. This is all unacceptable. I would like to think that in 25 years a more progressive, accepting attitude has been adopted, but I don't know.

You do not have to agree with someone in order to respect them, to treat them as you would like to be treated yourself. We need to rise above the hatred, and embrace that which makes us interesting, makes us beautiful. I want my child to be able to laugh, love and experience joy in his life no matter who he loves, what color his skin, eyes, or sports team he cheers for. It is our differences that make life such a blessed and beautiful experience.

I am quite sure no adolencent, teenagers are reading this blog, but if someone out there needs resources to deal with harrassment and bullying, they are out there.

The Trevor Project is there for gay teens who are in trouble, considering suicide as an option. The It Gets Better youtube channel has hours of videos from people talking about their own experiences with bullying and harrassment and how they stuck it out to find out it truly DOES get better.

No one should feel so lost and alone and harrassed that death seems a better option than living. We need to stop the hatred, and start the loving.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Time flies and then he is at the dentist

We have achieved yet another milestone in Casa de Cooper: the first trip to the dentist.

Don't look now but he might have a crush on Shannon, the dental hygenist.

Look Ma, no cavities! He has however, inherited my propensity for tartar and plaque, so I was glad he would sit still and let her scrape his little teeth. And then polish them. The lure of a new tooth brush is strong.

In other news, we went to the aquarium this weekend, Cooper and I. The Bob had to work, so off on the train and into Boston we went. Cooper was all about seeing the sharks, which led to serious disappointment, as it turned out the sharks were on a vacation at a different location while the main tank was being treated for some parasite or bacterial infection. Once he discovered that, he was all done being at the aquarium. Glad we spent that $40.

This is the face of No Sharks.