Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Brain research and creativity

 It seems lately that everything can be explained through brain research. Why am I focused? Why do I drink coffee? Why is my sister so witty? Why can’t my son sit still? Why can he make such beautiful music? Scientists are studying the answers to all of these questions by watching how our brains react to every circumstance we find ourselves in.
 Just yesterday in the car, we listened to a podcast that explained how the brain functions when people are being highly creative. It explained that certain parts of your brain actually turn off in order for your creativity to flow. For example, the lobe of your brain that normally warns you to do things the right way, or to worry about the end results, actually takes a nap in a way. This allows the other part of your brain, the creative part, to be uninhibited.
 I found this interesting. I liked knowing that there could be a way that I could be more creative. It backed up some things that I already knew about creativity. In order to be creative people take risks with their thinking. They stop worrying about what others will think. They let go of judgment. And, people who are creative, do. They make things, tinker, play around, without purpose. And in the act of doing, time after time, they become more adept. I like the idea that creativity is not a gift or talent, but a practice. It is something that we can all do.
 However, I also hate knowing. I despise the thought that creativity can be explained with data, with proof, with figures, numbers, chemical equations and a colorful brain scan. I hope and wish that it could be more elusive than that. That it could exist in a world that is more mysterious, ethereal. I worry that if we can name it we can market it, create drugs that help us to obtain it, make apps that trigger one half of our brain to shut off and the other half to exercise. That we will create standards of creativity that will be measured in school. That we will publish books and the next wave of parents will compete to see whose method of parenting leads to more creativity. That we will lose the awe that surrounds creativity.

 I’d rather look at a piece of artwork, read a poem, listen to an amazing song, watch someone do ballet and be astonished. I’d rather appreciate their uniqueness and their ability to think beyond, then to think to myself: Oh yah, I could do that. I just need to train my brain.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

No Milk

“Let’s have a better morning this morning!”

 My son hops onto the stool and shimmies close to the counter. His eyes are wide, like an anime character, big clear and blue. If you need an image of bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning, he is it. He pops out of bed with the greatest of intentions. I love that about him.
 I am packing lunches and am glad to have some company at the counter. I admit to the kids that there is no milk. The mood changes. This means my son won’t be having his favorite ginger granola for breakfast. He glances at me from over the top of his hard bound annual comic book. His eyes narrow.

“Mom! Mom! Which one of these guys would I be?”

 He hands the comic book over to me and I see a series of boxes. Each box has a boy in a tub. The tubs are filled with different crazy things. One is a mud bath, one is full of whip cream, one has bunch of floating and bobbing people with balls to shoot and goals everywhere. There’s about 10 different versions.

 “This one,” I say pretty confidently.

 “Yup!” he confirms. “How do you do that?”

 “I know you bud.”

 He smiles.

 I remind him about breakfast and give him the options, minus granola. He grumbles. Finally, deciding on an English Muffin. I feel like I let him down. But, it’s only milk.

“Mom, we CAN bring Tech Decks to school,” he starts.

 “I thought we were starting our morning out right, bud? This sounds like the same thing we got into yesterday morning.”

 “Yah, yah. But, it’s true. We can. I swear. Ms. P says we can play with them at snack but they have to stay put away and we can’t be fiddling with them all day.”

 “I guess I’ll email Ms. P then. If that’s true then she’ll agree, right?”

 “No! No! Don’t email her!”

 I smirk. He sees it. Not even the tiniest detail can get by this kid. And, I admire him for that. He is so perceptive. Maybe a little bit conniving. But, I guess that will serve him well in some aspect of life.

 He crunches down into his English Muffin. The Tech Deck bangs up and down, over, sliding on the counter, slamming on the book. He is doing it on purpose. But, I don’t care. We are both trying to have a good morning. And, we both know that sometimes that takes a little bit of give.

Always On My Mind

Parents are not cool. There comes a point in every child’s life where they realize this. Some of us learn it early on. I swear my eight-year-old son is already questioning my dance moves. I can see it in his eyes. That look, “Mom please, don’t. “ But, he’s only seven. Underneath it all there’s still a flash of a smile. Some grain of love. My daughter on the other hand, she’s six, I can do no wrong. I can pull out all the worst moves- shopping cart, running man, a bad attempt at the caterpillar. She doesn’t judge. In her eyes, I do no wrong; she’ll be right beside me mimicking every move.

When I was younger (six, seven, eight, it doesn’t really matter) my mom loved to sing. We had a singing machine in the kitchen. It was technology’s first attempt to create an at home karaoke unit. And it actually played 8 tracks. Using a combination of The Singing Machine, and her record player with microphones, my mom would belt out country ballads all afternoon, well into dinner preparation. She was a country music fan- Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson.

Willie. Oh Willie, You Are Always On My Mind.

My mother would belt out country ballads in the kitchen. My sisters and I recall one day when she actually roller skated around the butcher block island in the center of the kitchen. The room filled with the smell of cooking yellow onions, ground beef, tomato sauce- the makings of one of our regular meals- and she whizzed up and down the wooden floors boomeranging off the island and cruising back toward the Singing Machine. Now that I’m a mom I can look back and understand this better. She would not be defeated by the boring monotony of cooking dinner for a family of five. The hours between 3:30 and 5:30 can be grueling. But not in our house. My mom was fun.

Dolly Parton, Working Nine to Five.

One September day, as I was entering sixth grade we went to buy a new pair of sneakers. The local shoe store was called Feet First. My mom was best friends with the owner. Actually, it seemed like wherever we went she was best friends with everyone. Scanning through the selection I was drawn to a pair. Not my usual pick. Normally, I would go for Tretorns. They were safe, basic white tennis shoes. Your only dilemma was what color the tiny wave would be. But, on this day, something caught my eye.

John Denver, Take Me Home Country Roads.

They were maroon. Ugly maroon. They were Nikes. A bigger, chunkier sneaker than I usually wore.

The swish was silver. Maroon and silver. Not a combination that you see very often. But, that wasn’t why I was drawn. They were Willie’s shoes. Willie Nelson’s shoes.