Friday, July 29, 2016

Go Pokémon Go

I see them everywhere now. Young people roaming the streets like zombies trying to catch a Pokémon. I had this long conversation with my hair stylist about how you play. She explained PokéStops/Gyms to me and why so many people are wandering around aimlessly waving their phones in the air. Why they stand on street corners turning in circles looking for paw prints. 

I've never played the game, haven't downloaded the app. I like the idea of kids getting outside -- that's almost revolutionary thinking for gaming company Niantic. It feels like an old-school scavenger hunt with virtual creatures overlaid on the real outdoors. 

I know there have already been some stupid and tragic events that resulted from playing Pokémon Go. On the stupid front, two adults broke into the Toledo Zoo in the middle of the night and were later arrested. On the tragic front, Pokémon Go players are being robbed or worse of their expensive phones while out at night playing the game. 

A group of my son's friends have been going out at night in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport to play Pokémon Go. I've been in Mountain Grove on my own during the day, and while beautiful, it's also a bit scary. Like "no one can hear your screams" scary. 

In two weeks, our son leaves for college at Loyola New Orleans. I told him, "Listen Will you need to be careful in New Orleans if you're playing that game. You can get in trouble quickly in a place like New Orleans."

He nodded his head as if in agreement. Then he said, referring to himself and another friend headed to Tulane as a freshman, "Me and George are going to Pokémon the shit out of New Orleans."

Great.  Another relaxing thought for me as Will heads to Loyola NOLA in the fall. Pikachu that!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Sucking Up Is Not A Skill Set

Dear Will,

I know it's been a tough week and you're under a lot of pressure between school work, choir commitments and college applications. I thought your audition of Marc Broussard's It's Almost Christmas song was amazing, especially when you sang it with your original partner Sarah Rexford (It's Almost Christmas - the prequel with Will in his PJs). I thought it was worthy of a featured spot in Warde's Carillon program, but it was not meant to be.

Will, you have an amazing voice. You would've killed it in my opinion. But your choir teacher chose the ensemble of the usuals -- her favorites that you can't seem to infiltrate. Let them sing their song, because they've earned a spot in her inner circle. Just make no mistake, you should've earned a spot too.

As I said to you today, sucking up is a skill set that can get you somewhere -- in work for example or in high school choirs. But it's not a real skill set. Because it's founded on copying the behavior that someone else dictates to you, not following your own heart and thinking for yourself. 

Looking back at what happened this week, I would have given you better advice. First, your teacher made you change your partner because she wasn't in a school sanctioned choir. Second, she partnered you with a substitute not nearly as well suited as your original partner. Third, she pitted you against her choir favorites -- and then chose them.

Knowing what I know now, I would have told you to stick to your guns, stand by your original partner, and know that you probably had no shot because of the politics involved. But also know that high school is high school, and once you leave, merit and talent will be rewarded.  

Not always. Sometimes, the guys who sucks up wins. But the older I get, the less room I have in my life for people with that skill set, and the more room I have for people with actual talent. People like you.


Everything Just Flows

Our son won a music scholarship through a town scholarship committee. It was sort of surreal because our long-time neighbor gave him the award. But she had to act all casual and didn't tell us before hand. So it was a complete surprise. 

As a researcher, I am naturally curious. I looked into the memorial scholarship. It’s a memorial for a young guy who sadly died at age 20 back in 1989. I can’t really figure out what happened — I think because newspapers were not online yet. His name was
David John Nogan.
I did find that he died here in Connecticut, but he was born in Louisiana where Will is going to college. And on his headstone are two carvings, one of a guitar and the other a peace sign -- two symbols I associate with Will. We’ve pledged to go and leave something at his grave site here in Fairfield -- maybe Mardi Gras beads and flowers for
David John Nogan. We want to say thank you for the generous scholarship before Will leaves for Loyola. But how weird is that? From one young man at the end of his life, to another young man just beginning his. From Louisiana to Connecticut and back.

Maybe everything just flows.

This is amazing! In the days after, Will received an email re: the scholarship as follows:

Hi Will,

I am the Vice President of Scholarships for the High School Scholarship Foundation of Fairfield.  My husband and I were having dinner tonight at the Old Post Tavern and we struck up a conversation with a lady dining alone who, it turns out, is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Loyola University New Orleans College of Music and Fine Arts.  She grew up in New England and was visiting her mother who lives in Fairfield.   I mentioned that we had given a scholarship to a Fairfield Warde graduating senior who was going to major in music at Loyola, gave her your name and suggested she look at your performance of Hey, Stranger on YouTube. 

She said you should contact her if you have any questions before you leave for New Orleans and offered to help you adjust when you get there by introducing you to other students in your situation so that you can begin to build your network.  It’s a great city to be a music major!

Just tell her that you are from Fairfield and that you were given her contact information by the lady who ate dinner next to her at Old Post Tavern.  That should jog her memory.  She was very sincere in wanting to help you.

Her contact information is:

Dr Serena Weren
Phone: 508-865-2027
6363 St. Charles Avenue
Campus Box 8
New Orleans, LA 70118

Best of luck in the coming year.

MaryKay Frost 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Time to Put Away Childish Things

For Will's 18th birthday, all he wanted was clothes, or money for clothes so he could be a new man going to college in the fall. I tried to explain to him that the best clothes for New Orleans in August are probably gauze bandages or a bathing suit, but he isn't listening to me anymore. 

Typically frugal, I made him divest himself of old clothes that no longer worked, either to donate or trash based on condition. There was a third pile for clothes he might want to wear when he comes home for break -- if he comes home for break -- and needs something warm or different to bide his time.  He went through all diligently piling up clothes or putting away spares. And then from the depths of his closet, he brought out a wooden chest he'd had forever.

One of our neighbors makes jewelry and collects stones. Vic was at some point many years ago trying to dislodge a large couch stuck in his doorway. My husband happened to be walking by and helped him move it. Since then, Vic has been a friend but also like a tooth fairy. He drops off baked goods and he gives me tomatoes from his garden. Vic gave Will some rocks immediately after the couch incident. One was a showy crystal and the other a flat piece that sort of shimmered like shale. 

An interesting coincidence these gifts of rocks because as a kid I shared a love of rocks with my Grandpa Fred. I would walk around telling everyone, "I'm going to be a paleontologist."

Will put the rocks away and then some time later he bought a wooden box at a tag sale that became a kind of treasure chest. In it he stashed the crystal and the flat rock. He put marbles he got with my mom. Feathers, coins, a $2 bill my Uncle David gave him.  All his little treasures.

He hid this wooden chest away in the back of his closet, which of course I found immediately while doing laundry. But it stayed there for years. Until this year. This year, he decided he didn't need it anymore. The box was just taking up space in his closet. 

Now the box is sitting in our guestroom. I emptied its contents including the rocks and other treasures. Now an empty box, it's still a treasure to me. It's a reminder of Will's childhood.

It's a reminder to me of believing wholeheartedly in a world of magical rocks and found feathers and coins from a distant land. Yes, it is time for Will to put away childish things. But I'm keeping the box for that day when he wants to remember rocks and feathers and magic. Or maybe I'm just not ready to put it away. 
1 Corinthians 13:11
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

In a World Without Earbuds

Eighteen years ago today, I was in labor with our son Will. It was a tough labor. It went on for over 30 hours, even after I was induced with pitocin. Pitocin is pure crap by the way. Don't believe the lies.

I saw one shift of nurses, and then another, and then the first ones came back again. I went through three OBs and regrettably ended up in delivery with the one I referred to as "Dr. Hair Plugs." That guy was the worst. He said at the bitter end, "Maybe we should've done a C-section after all." I would like to just go on record here and say you should never tell a woman that after hours and hours of labor.

It was not a shining moment for me. It was not a moment bathed in pure light as I saw my little boy for the first time. The doctors were worried about Will and the trauma of such a long delivery so they whisked him away from me. They sent a lung team in to check him. The nurses scrubbed him down and put him under warm lights. I could see him from a distance. He had a beautiful head of black hair. He was okay.  He was healthy.

I saw my husband Rod put his hand on Will's chest and it covered his entire torso. I remember thinking when we brought him home -- a nearly 10 pound baby is actually pretty tiny. Please God don't let me break him.

They did finally hand Will to me, just the way you see in movies. Swaddled in a little baby bun. Our beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy. We immediately nicknamed him "Tiny Elvis" for his amazing head of hair.

Tomorrow, Will turns 18. I'm trying so hard to keep it together and to remember the little boy who is now a junior man. I want to be happy for him and accepting of him and start to let him go. 

This morning he was complaining about his lost earbuds again. I believe this is two pairs of earbuds in one week, a world record here at the Risher-Morton house. I've come up with an idea for a new reality show where young adults are dropped on a desert island without earbuds. "In a World Without Earbuds" teens will be forced to talk to one another or make earbuds out of coconut shells like on Gilligan's Island. This is what I think about so that I can pretend this isn't happening. But it's all happening. And off he will go. I'm gonna predict he'll lose 17 sets of earbuds as a freshman at Loyola New Orleans. 

Yesterday I spoke to my good friend Leslie and we caught up on all the college news. I told her Will is going to New Orleans and that I was worried, because I know the dangers of New Orleans as a former Tulane grad. She said something so sensible to me, something like, "If he's a good student now and a good kid, wouldn't he continue to be that in New Orleans?

I said, "Leslie that's crazy talk!" And then I laughed. Because she's right. Or as my mom often says, "Honey, he's cooked." Or baked. Basically, he's done. He's made. He's Will. 

NB: This is Will with Lars Ulrich from Metallica at Berklee last summer. I'm not Facebook friends with Lars or else I would totally tag him in this post. Rock on!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Slippery Fish Won't Get Whacked

I went into the City on Thursday to meet up with a friend who was in town from Portland. It's been ages and I'm so glad we had the chance to catch up. Her 9 year-old son was with her and I was telling them one of my favorite New York stories about my son. 

Will has always been a dreamy kid as my mom puts it, just happy to be wherever he is at the moment. I remember that we were standing outside of Serendipity. It's the famous ice cream place where all the tourists go and have huge sundaes or whatever ice cream creation you want. Will was staring up at the sky or wandering or something and he got in this older lady's way. So she whacked him with her cane. And kept going. Not a hard whack, but it was odd. It was a first, even for New York.

So I asked Will if he was okay, and then I said, "Will, you've got to be a slippery fish in the City. You've got to weave in and out of the crowds of people looking for gaps where you can slide through and keep moving ahead. You have to pay attention to where you're going, watch for bike messengers. You can't just wander around."

You can always spot a City kid. They're still. They stand serenely on street corners holding their nanny's hand waiting for the light to change. They know the dangers of city streets unlike suburban kids who wander around looking up at the tall buildings touching every single filthy surface possible. City kids glide, kids from suburbia flail.

I met my friend and her son at Grand Central and by that time he was tired from walking -- there's so much walking in the City. I told him the story of the slippery fish. "You've got to be a slippery fish," I said. And my friend and I were laughing about that old lady whacking Will with her cane. And then this happened.

I was walking back to Grand Central to catch my train home. The sidewalk on 44th was a mess with scaffolding dividing the passage into two sides. On the right side, pedestrians were walking east and the left west. Well there were a lot of people walking east, so I decided to jump sides and walk in the opposite direction. There were a few people I had to dodge, but mostly I made it through well ahead of all those other poor people on the right. Until the very end.

At the very end of the block sat an older homeless woman who seemed to be directing traffic in that section of sidewalk. When she saw me walking on the left, she whacked me on the butt with her hand and said, "Get on over to the right side." Not a hard whack -- like the way your grandma might whack you to get in the house because it's getting late.  

I must be slowing down, because I never saw that whack coming. I used to be a slippery fish. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Here's to You Millenials

Over the holidays I interviewed for a job in the City. I haven't interviewed for a job in a long time, but this one really interested me because it was an educational start-up teaching kids through news and current events. Some day, I will get back into news. I don't know how yet, but I will. News is a profession you can grow old in. I often tell my younger friends, think about what you're doing. Because time flies and some professions don't want you when you're older.

For the interview, I went into the City to meet the marketing VP at their offices on 8th Avenue. He is a very nice man, even though he didn't offer me a job. Probably in his early 40's I would guess. Not so far off from where I am. 

He introduced me to his team, all very young people. And I could swear one of them let out an audible gasp when I was introduced, as in I didn't know people could BE as old as you are now. That's part of what led me to this blog about millennials. Hey, my son is one of them. Or maybe even younger. 

Here's what I thought when I heard the audible gasp, though of course I didn't think of it until later. "Good luck with that neck tattoo," I said in my own head much later. "It will serve you well when you're in your 50's." Because nothing looks better in your 50's than a sagging neck tattoo. Good luck with those earring things that are creating giant holes in your ears for what purpose I don't know. Good luck with your impending hearing loss caused by never removing ear buds from your ears. Ever. Good luck with your gigantic thumb pads earned from swiping and texting. 

And then I had this terrible thought. Make it an awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. Could it be that I'm the Grinch in this scenario? That soon every HR manager I ever meet will have a neck tattoo and something sticking through their ear. That I'm the one who looks strange without earbuds? That my thumb is lacking because it's regular-sized?

"And THEN They'd do something He liked least of all! 
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, 
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. 
They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing! 
They'd sing! And they'd sing! And they'd SING! SING! SING! SING! 
And the more the Grinch thought of this Who ChristmasSing, 
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!" 
"Why, for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!" 
"I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! But HOW?" 
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!