A Thirst To Spend My Fire and Restless Force Tracking My True, Original Course

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;

- Matthew Arnold
The Buried Life


#113 Have lunch with Joel Stein

So, I have a favorite journalist.  His name is Joel Stein.  He is an amazingly witty, sarcastic, writer who I happen to love reading.  His column used to be the last page of Time every week, which is actually kind of a special place; however, he was recently ousted by some strange 10 questions thing that usually contains painfully boring obvious questions asked of famous people. Anyhow... now he is the second to last page, which is really, well, odd, but I love his column. Except that one time he totally bashed the Common Core standards, which resulted in me sending him a strongly worded
Facebook message, which he surprisingly responded to. Anyhow...

My point is -- I would love to have lunch with this guy.  First of all, because he reminds me of the type of person I enjoy being friends with: people who tell it like it is. Those with whom you always know where you stand. Second of all, I would love to ask him about his thoughts on writing. I'd love to know his process. It would just delight me.

For now, I will watch his funny videos.


Dancing... funk class - take 2

Today I went back to the funk class.  At first, I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is just as hard as before..."

     There were four brand new people tonight. When the teacher asked, "Who is new?" I said, "Well, it is my second time," She waved me away and said, "Aww, second time, you are going to be fine." I did not believe her. Her advice to new people is to come back at least once more, as it gets easier the second time. 

     Three of the four new people left after only a short time in the class.  This made me really proud of myself for sticking it out for the entire class and for coming back. 

     About halfway through the class, I started to realize that there were occasionally moments where my feet were doing what they were supposed to do in a sort of muscle memory kind of way. Like... I wasn't having to think through every single move, some of it was just happening. I still missed quite a few steps, but I also tried to focus on relaxing and just moving a little too and feeling more confident in myself to just allow myself to realize that its okay if I look like an idiot. 

    So, this is growth. Now the difficult part: Jazz is moving to Tuesday nights at 7:15 (it was on Thursdays).  Note that this would have been great had it happened in February.  Sigh...  Funk is from 6:20-7:20 (but it really is like 6:25-7:25).  Boo.  They are about 15-20 minutes apart in driving distance and parking is a bit of a pain in both locations.  I clearly am going to have to choose.  I might split my time 50/50.  Not sure.

     The thing is... I definitely grow more from the jazz class because it is right at my zone of proximal development as a learner (non-educators will probably need to look that up). I am not sure which one is a better workout.  Jazz hurts... but in a good way.  The warm up is I - N - T - E - N - S - E!  The class and the choreography moves much more slowly though, so I rarely break a heavy sweat. The funk class is a bit above my level and moves really fast, so I am pretty much in a constant sweat in that class, but it doesn't really hurt. Is it true, no pain no gain?  Funk, however, is free with my gym membership. Jazz is $15 a week.  Hmmm....   decisions decisions.

     On the plus side, this does open up my Thursday nights to try Laughter Yoga. 


#6 Learn to Dance - A few epiphanies today

Today I pushed forward in my "learn to dance" quest by going to the Zumba class at my gym.  Now, I recognize that Zumba is only 1/2 dance class, because it is really like 1/2 workout, but I clearly just need practice trying to copy choreography, so I figured... dance is dance, and I went.

This morning, my friend Tina had asked me what I thought of Zumba.  I told her that I hated it because I can only follow dance moves if someone breaks it down step by step, slowly and does the same sequence multiple times. Zumba is like: ready, set, GO! You are just supposed to copy the teacher and try to follow along and hope you can figure out what the heck is going on.  I really hate feeling that lost, but I thought, "Well, maybe I've improved since last time I tried."  It was like a year and a half ago, maybe two years.

I guess I have improved a little, because it wasn't quite as hard to follow along tonight. It might also be that the instructor was better. I had a few revelations tonight at this class though.

I realized that, while I have been focusing so much on just watching and figuring out what's going on, I have neglected to count in my head.  I think I was thinking I would figure that out later, but once tonight, towards the end of class, I just figured, "Maybe this would be easier if I tried to count as I do this."  Ya know what... it was easier. Haha. The patterns really became that much clearer and I had a much better sense of when something was about to change.  I think that, instead of trying to remember the actual steps so well, I need to just try counting and remembering the counts of things.

It's a thought.

I also realized that I am more out of shape than I realized I was. Keeping up with that class for a full hour was nearly impossible.  I did, sort of, manage to keep up, but just enough to get the steps and follow along. Forget all the hip shaking and bouncing and stuff that makes dancing look somewhat decent.

Which is another realization I had... I look awful. I mean, seriously, I could not look more awkward dancing if I tried.  I spend most of my time watching the instructor and other good dancers, so I seldom look in the mirrors, but when I do, it is not a pretty sight.  I envy the young, cute, skinny instructor who can do all of it and bounce and swing and twist, all while keeping a smile on her face. I don't think I could keep up with the bouncing and hip shaking, even if I wanted to. Which I realized that... I don't want to.

Which is my final comment... I think I have some sort of awkward block against wanting to shake my hips or bounce or whatnot.  I think I have subconscious body image issues. It's like I feel like am too fat or old for this and like any shaking of any of my body parts is just going to be disgusting.

I don't consciously believe this. In fact, I consciously truly believe that girls with some curves are beautiful and that you can't really "shake your groove thing" if you haven't got any groove thing to shake.  But shaking IT all just reminds me that IT is all there, and I think this is subconsciously why part of me is not willing to give in to trying to dance with rhythm, with a groove. It makes me feel fat. Bleh....

The only solution to this is to lose the weight and get in better shape so I can keep up and try to add some pizzazz to my jazz....


#6 Learn to dance hip hop / #24 Be in a flash dance mob

So, as I was mentioning earlier, I want to dance.  When I wrote the list, I wrote that I wanted to dance hip hop, but I am now realizing that really, I just want to learn to dance... period. Not so much ballet, that doesn't really appeal to me, but everything else, anything else, would be great.

I want to be able to learn choreography in a decent amount of time and try it and remember it and get it.  I want to be able to move my hands and feet together at the same time. Learning this impacts #24, because I have found a flash mob organization, but I have to be able to learn the dance quickly from a video and do it after just a morning of practice.  It also affects #103, because I stand a much better chance of being able to get back on stage if I have the advantage of knowing some dance.

I set out about achieving this goal in January. I think that somewhere in me, I believed that perhaps, because I am musically inclined and have an ear for rhythm, I might have a natural ability and if someone would just show me the steps and stuff, I would be able to get it.  Wow, was that SO not the case.  I started out with a beginners' jazz class at a small studio. This was the perfect class for me -- really small, just a few people, with teachers who were really willing to work with my utter inability to dance and my painful lack of technique.  It was a true beginners class, which was awesome.

Unfortunately, it was also on the same night of the week that my graduate school classes were on, so come February, I had to quit.  I went to about 4 classes before I quit though, and I think I must have learned something. As frustrated as I felt then, I think a few things stuck.

I went to a funk class at my gym tonight and a few of the steps were similar.  In January, simple kick-ball-change steps and padabures were throwing me off horribly. I saw with my eyes what my feet were supposed to do, and conceptualized it in my mind, but somewhere between my head and my feet, there was a lapse in communication, because my feet refused to behave.  How dancers control all of their limbs all at once and make everything do what they want it to do, altogether, is beyond me.

Tonight, however, at the funk class, I nailed the kick-ball-change multiple times (it helped that it was the first step in the sequence) and mostly managed the padabure. The class was really, really hard.  It is a weekly class that had about 30 people in it, many of whom come regularly every week and work on the same routine for several weeks. I was one of the only newbies and it moved really, really fast. We worked on a "warm up" routine that was almost harder than the actual routine, which I think I only got about half of.

Right now, I look terribly ungraceful and miss many steps.  I don't have that natural hip swing or attitude thing going on and it feels very forced to me.  But even in just one hour, I got better. Some of what I learned in January was really helpful, like when the teacher told me over and over again to just focus on the feet before worrying about the hands. Although I felt kind of stupid not trying the hand stuff at some points, when it confused me at all, I tried not to worry about it so I could just work on getting my feet to do what I wanted them to.

I want to go back to the Thursday class. I think if I went regularly, I would learn a lot. It is a little bit pricey and money is tight right now, so I feel kind of guilty spending the money, but I just want this so badly.  The class at my gym is free (well, it is included in what we already pay, which is practically nothing), so at least that is something.  There is also a belly dancing class on Fridays and well... dancing is dancing, so I might check it out.

Maybe all this dancing could help with #67 too. I want terribly to NOT be overweight.

I've gone through moments this year where I have thought to myself, "You are too old for this.  People learn to dance as children, not at 30..." but the woman who teaches the jazz class started when she was much older and at the gym tonight, there were some women who were at least in their fifties, maybe in their sixties, and they appeared to be beginners. There was even a guy who looked like he was probably 70 something. If they can dance... so can I. At least I'm off to a start.


#103 Get Back on Stage

If you asked me a year ago, I would have said (and wholeheartedly believed) that 2013 would be the year I would get back on stage, but alas, it looks as if it is not to be. Not for any lack of effort, that's for certain. As soon as I finished graduate school (okay, before even, I went to an audition the week before I graduated), I started hitting the auditions.

There were several things I didn't expect:

  • I didn't expect that I would be so rusty. 
  • I didn't expect the theatre world to be SO musical theatre based.  (Do people not enjoy just plays any more?)
  • I didn't expect my nerves to so incredibly get the best of me. 
  • I didn't realize how much competition I was up against, even locally. 

Sigh.  I certainly was rusty.  At my first audition in May, I made a TON of beginner's mistakes. Things I even tell my students NOT to do, I slipped and did myself. Nerves really had a lot to do with it. I don't know what was wrong with me, but at the first couple of auditions I went to, I was a nervous wreck.  The second one was better than the first, and the third audition was actually really good, but I don't know where this anxiety came from.  I do not usually get nervous about performing.

I also didn't realize that the local theatre scene has blown up.  Years ago, when I was a teenager, a lot of these little tiny theatre groups didn't even exist and the ones that did certainly did not have hundreds of people showing up to auditions. That is literally what is happening now. Hundreds of people are showing up to the auditions I am going to. (Yet they still seem to have trouble nailing the parts for young men... what an unjust world we live in. Oh that I were a man...)  It is no wonder I cannot compete.  If it were straight acting, just cold reading or monologues, then I think I would stand a better chance, but I have not had voice lessons in almost 15 years, and my resume has little to no musical theatre on it.  I love musical theatre, but I just haven't had the opportunity to be in a lot of it.

And then there is the dancing issue.

I don't know how to dance, which is so funny to me, because I want to SO badly.  I don't know when this changed in me, because as a kid, I really wanted nothing to do with dance. I quit dancing when I was like 8.  I think it really was a coverup because I so very much hated the dancers I danced with.  And I'm not speaking about any specific girls at any specific studio or dance group, because I tried a few different things as a kid, but I really just disliked dance girls.

Anyhow.... this is kind of another post, so I will continue this in that post.

But, my point it, yes it is only July, but the nearby theatre circuit doesn't seem to have anything else I would be able to do between now and when my students will have their show, so I will need to wait until after that is over in November and then get back to the auditions.


#45 Speak at an educators' conference

In the fall, a colleague of mine submitted a proposal to present at a statewide conference for charter school teachers and administrators.  He had mentioned it to me to see if I wanted to submit a proposal too, but drowning in graduate school work, I ended up missing the deadline.

Well... he didn't miss the deadline and his presentation was about something that I have a LOT of experience with -- using non-profit organizations as a resource for authentic instruction.  Knowing that this is an area I have some expertise in, he asked me to partner with him in his presentation. I was thrilled. 

The week before, I went through all of my resources and came up with some good stuff, including photos, and then the night before he and I stayed up until about 1am preparing our Powerpoint and getting prepared, but it really paid off. 

The presentation went really well and we got a lot of good feedback.  I went to a lot of other sessions at the conference, and I really feel that ours was high quality and of great use to teachers.  This was sort of a watermark moment for me. Even though I have always viewed myself as a "teacher leader," I really had only thought of myself as being a leader at the school level, but this really made me believe that I could be a leader at a higher level too.  Not like I want to become an administrator -- I don't.  I just think that perhaps I could become someone like the greats I read about and brag about, people like Kelly Gallagher or Cris Tovani or Penny Kittle. 

Maybe someday. 


#62 Throw Colors at Holi Festival

Watching a spontaneous throw happen from afar
This year Los Angeles had its first ever Holi festival.  I was really excited to hear about this, as this is something I have wanted to do for a really, really long time.  What fun it was! The bands were incredibly fun and the big color throw was awesome. They did one every two hours, but we were only able to stay for ~3 hours, so we only got to see one big throw.

At the bhangra stage
Marc and I had a great time doing rhythmic yoga and dancing group bhangra. I saw this one BuzzFeed list of signs you are turning 30, and one of them was something along the lines of "You think about going to a music festival but decide you are too old for that stuff."  That made me laugh because it is half true.  I think about going to something like Warped Tour and it just sounds like a nightmare. As much as I loved moshing in my teens and early 20s, the idea of trying to avoid getting elbowed in the face does not sound like anything I would pay to do.  But stuff like the reggae festival and this, right up my alley.  You stand a better chance of getting hugged by a stranger than knocked down by one here.

The video at the bottom is an excellent snapshot of what is was truly like. 


62. Participate in a holli festival and throw colors.

I first saw this on the tv show The Amazing Race when they were in India, and it looked like SO much fun, it was added to my list instantly (well, in my head anyway).

This year, there is a festival of colors happening here in Southern California, and I really want to go.  I think I am going to.  I kind of want to bring my kids, since I think it looks like fun, but Vinny is OCD, so I can't tell if he will think it is fun or frightening.  I might show him the video and see what he thinks.

Everything about this looks like it could be the best time of my life: