Friday, February 28, 2014

Kids, The Best Audience

My friend Lori asked me if I would visit the school where she teaches and tell the kids about what I do. They had several visitors throughout the month and each person did something to help the community. Lori wanted to include someone who wasn't exactly a policeman or fireman or doctor, but who still helped the community. I thought it was a great idea and I was free during the times that they wanted visitors, so I made my way to Ridge View Elementary School one Tuesday morning.

First things first: I am not a morning person. Add to that the fact that, on Tuesdays, I don't have anywhere to be until 2:00. So it was kind of a big deal that I was getting up early enough to be somewhere 45 minutes away at 9:30 am. It's good for me to get out in the community and spread the joy of music, so it was worth it. Also, the kids were super adorable so that helped make it worthwhile, too.

The drive was a pleasant one, and I found the school easily. I was buzzed in. I checked in on the computer, stuck my badge (sticker) on my shirt, and then followed Lori to the classroom. I would be talking to mostly kindergartners but also a 4th grade music class.

I told them that I teach college, perform around the community, and teach privately. I played lots of tunes for them. It was so cute because, when it was time for questions, most kids who raised their hands didn't have a question--they wanted to request a song. Also, some of them just wanted to tell me random facts about their lives.  A couple of the kids told me that they played guitar. I just kind of went "...all right...that's great! Any other questions?"

Some of the requested tunes: the Alphabet Song, Twinkle Twinkle, Baa Baa Black Sheep (and yes, all three of those use the same tune), several songs I didn't know including What Does the Fox Say (*groan*), Wagner's Bridal Chorus (since I play weddings), Mary Had a Little Lamb, Jingle Bells, and the Twelve Days of Christmas. I agreed to play Jingle Bells but I put my foot down when the Twelve Days came up. It's freakin' February, people!

The kids were well-behaved at the beginning but I think they got a little restless toward the end. Still, they were pretty much as attentive as I would expect kindergartners to be. And they sang along with several of the songs I played, including Rocky Top (you know I had to play that one).

After several requests for things I'd already played, Lori intervened and said "Okay, only raise your hand if you have a question to ask Miss Robyn." Some of the questions were good, like why was I wearing all black (I wore my concert black), when did I start playing, and why was the viola bigger than the violin. The cutest part is that some of them would raise their hand, wait patiently to be called on, and then just stare at me in silence when I actually called on them. Oh, and I got a good chuckle when I called on a boy by saying "Yes, in the purple shirt" and he looked down to see if he was indeed wearing a purple shirt.

All in all it was a fun time. They clapped enthusiastically after every tune I played (I wish all my audiences were like that) and one kid even shouted out "Bravo! Bravo!" a few times. It was great when the kids sang along, and I'm hoping that some of them go home and ask their parents/guardians if they can start violin or viola lessons.

Do you remember any of the visitors that came to your school when you were little? Who was your favorite?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dream: Aliens take over, but at least they like Eminem.

I was typing up this dream recollection as a status update on Facebook. But I kept remembering more and more details, and it was getting way too long. So here you go.

I dreamt that the world was taken over by an oppressive alien force. We were herded like cattle into a large meeting hall. On the floor, I found a couple of large coins. I thought they were silver dollars, but there were actually too big. There was the image of some alien ruler on one side, and some worshipful sayings were engraved on both side. I noticed that part of the coin was hollow and transparent. The large hall was decorated with sayings and more images of (what I guess were) alien leaders. I held up the transparent part of the coin and looked through it at an empty space on one of the walls inbetween some sayings and leaders' images. That's when I discovered that there were hidden messages on the walls. I found two separate ones, and I guessed that they were messages from a previously oppressed people on how to survive and/or overthrow the new government.

I'm not sure how we got the message but we were all instructed to wear tall boots to the meeting hall. A lot of people either didn't get the message or couldn't/wouldn't comply. I followed the instructions and put some knee-high leather boots on. Everyone was lined up and we stood and waited to go through some kind of processing center. While we waited, a bunch of ducks came into the room and starting nipping at our heels and biting people. That's when I realized why we were instructed to wear the boots. While other people were attacked and mangled, I was simply annoyed.

When my turn came up to enter the processing center, I was a little confused as to which window to go to. Someone was calling the name "Annabelle" and I wasn't sure if that was my name or not--I had found some credentials at some point and was carrying the papers with me. Either I was instructed to take on this new identity or I had decided to on my own. So I scrambled to find the papers as the alien (who, if I remember correctly, was humanoid and didn't look too other-worldly) continued to call out for Annabelle and looked at me questioningly. The name on the papers was something like "Abbe Abhe." I decided that perhaps "Abbe" was short for Annabelle and I walked up to the window. I explained to the alien that I was used to being called "Abbe" and was confused when I heard "Annabelle." Next I was at an empty window, looking at some large, paper-towel-roll-looking things at an alien desk. I picked up one of the rolls and there was some cool sound effect as a coffee pot was revealed to me. I suddenly realized that I shouldn't be messing with the aliens' stuff so I quickly put the roll back. Next we were informed about our new lives: clothing, curfew, and whatnot. Then we were taken to our new homes (men were to live on one side of town, women on the other) in large vans.

Before we got into the vans, we were standing outside, enjoying what we thought might be our last moments of freedom. I walked up some steps, barefoot in the snow (they took my boots for some reason, and I think some of my clothes, too). The snow wasn't as cold as I was expecting it to be. There was music playing, though I'm not sure where it was coming from. It was Eminem, and the musical sample that was played over and over was taken from a video game I play called My Singing Monsters. I was bouncing up and down and dancing with this guy as we ascended the stairs to the street. "At least we still have music," I noted.

In the vans there were cartoon instructional videos playing on small TV screens. The first scene was about how to treat a paper cut. It showed the scenario and then asked how we should handle it. The narrator asked "What would you do if, after a few days, the cut was worse?" and "What would you do if, after one day, the cut was the same?" The dark-haired cartoon woman was shown peeling off her bandaid to reveal a worse cut, and then a cut that was the same. One of the choices for how to treat the cut was "Bite it and die." The woman was seated in a bathroom. She removed the bandage from her knee (who gets a paper cut on their knee?), bent over, and began to feast on the wound.

The next thing I remember is being in a dormitory which also had classrooms. I knew there had been exams going on earlier that day. I was poking my head in the classrooms, seeing what they looked like post-exams. There were mannequins in the seats (or perhaps they were eerie, petrified students?) and they each had sheets of paper in front of them with problems scribbled from the board. I looked at one student's sheet and was deciding if their answer was correct or not.

Next I was in my dorm room. It was a small, square room with plain white walls and no decorations. I don't think there was any furniture either. For some reason all of the clothes I'd been wearing had been taken. It was early in the morning (I knew this because it was still dark outside, but I'd apparently been asleep for a while). I wondered if the classroom across the hall from me was empty. I don't know why I wanted to get in it, but for some reason I did. I guessed that, because of the hour, the room would be abandoned and no one would see me in my birthday suit. Also of note: I didn't have my glasses on and I'm very nearsighted. So I tiptoed across the hall. I gently opened the door and squinted as I looked around, trying to see what was in there. Then I noticed light coming from a lamp to my right and a blurry figure that might have been a person. I gasped softly and made my way back out as quickly but quietly as I could.

Later on in my dorm room, which was suddenly the size of a decent apartment, I was with my friend Kady and we were talking about something. We were both clothed, thankfully! Kady tried to open the blinds by turning some kind of knob on the wall near the top of the window. I went "Are you trying to do this?" and grabbed the stick you use to open and close blinds. As I turned it, the vertical blinds in the middle opened (there were also some horizontal blinds on the sides) and she went "Yes!"

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I couldn't make this stuff up, y'all. I'm a decent writer but I'm not that creative! What's the weirdest dream you've ever had?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Perfect Timing

So, I've had a standing date with Wil Wheaton every Wednesday for a couple of months. No, not the real Wil Wheaton (I wish!). But his voice. I have a 90-minute commute on Wednesday nights for work (90 minutes there and 90 minutes back, 4 hours later) and although I have plenty of CDs I could listen to, I figured music would get old after a while. So I decided I'd listen to audiobooks. Now, which ones to listen to? I went through my iTunes folders and found a couple of Wil Wheaton audiobooks. I purchased them a while ago but then my iPod bit the dust and I kind of forgot about them. Anyway, I absolutely adore Wil (he was my first celeb crush EVAR), so it made perfect sense to start my weekly treks (har har) with his books before moving on to other items on my to-read list (the Harry Potter series is next).

I started with the audiobook for Just A Geek, which is the first of Wil's books I ever owned (thanks to my beloved brother for buying it for me all those years ago!). It took several weeks to get through the whole thing, as I expected. I had to stop and start it many times, and backtrack in some places. Like the time I had Winamp on shuffle for some reason and it jumped from like, chapter 3 to chapter 9.

I'd been worried that I'd finish the book mid-trip and not be able to switch to something else. I was listening via my tablet, which I'd plugged into the AUX port in my Jetta, so changing to another book while driving wasn't as easy as grabbing a new CD and switching it out for the current one. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about this at all. After listening to the FAQs and the interviews and the bloopers, the last track ended just as I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex. It was the perfect end to a wonderful journey (Journey's End, BAM! Didn't even plan that one!). Sometimes it's the little things in life, like an audiobook synching up perfectly with my trip home, that make me smile. :)

What's made you smile this week?