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Friday, July 02, 2010
It is official
I am moving.

I am leaving this blog, so long Blogger.

I am sad to go, but sick of being on lockdown and tired of feeling censored.

My new blog is here: http://eightk.wordpress.com/

Those of you on the list that's allowed to view this blog will be allowed to view password protected entries.

See you there!

ETA: Now that things have ended with the Scotsman, it seems silly to keep this one locked up. But I'm still blogging at WP.


Thursday, July 01, 2010
Changes afoot
You guys, I don't know what to do. I am so sick of this lockdown nonsense, and also, I realize I'm not being particularly interesting or funny in this space anymore. It's all dance right now, and I honestly don't know how many of you are interested in that. All 16 of you that are registered to read this thing.

But I feel the compulsion to continue having a blog. Call it a habit after 7 years.

So. I just signed up for this.

Fair warning, this may happen. I'm figuring out the logistics of transferring everything here to there and then making any Scotsman-related entries private so his ex-wife can't see, if she even still cares at this point.

I don't know. Do any of you even care anymore? Thoughts? Concerns? Questions?

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010
At Crossroads
Things my new dance teacher (Joanne) shouted at me tonight:

  • Take your time!
  • Hop back two three!
  • Knee, knee, knee!!
  • Straight legs!
  • Pull UP! UP!
  • Cross your feet!
  • And turn your toes out.
  • Think about where your weight is. Which leg are you on?
  • Slow down!

I need to:

  • Stop babying my right ankle and bending my knee when I come down from jumps.
  • Have some more confidence in my dancing.
  • But also get over myself and stop thinking I'm hot shit and should grasp steps instantly from divination.
  • Get used to dancing with distractions.
  • Practice like a mofo this week.

I am:

  • Seriously out of shape.
  • Lazy with my pointing my toes.
  • Sore.
  • Minging.
  • Exhausted.
  • Frustrated.
  • Overly critical of myself.
  • Inspired.
  • Happy.

My new dance teacher is tough. I like that about her. Last week she threw me in the mix super quick and had me learn their second slip jig step. And tonight she had me learning the first step and continuing on the second step. Slip jigs are hard (but my favorite) and these steps are especially tricky because she has a different dance style than Colleen and the Coyle school. The hardest thing is her cuts. She hates, and I mean HATES that I open my hip up during cuts. Which is what I thought I was supposed to be doing and so I practiced it wrong all week. It's also how I learned it with Coyle. This is one of the biggest style differences between the two schools and seeing my hip open is tantamount to fingernails on a chalkboard for Joanne. It's going to take a lot of practice and patience to get this right.

Joanne doesn't lead the class like a normal class. Instead we're all broken into groups around the room, each doing our own thing. This is both good (everyone moving and working at their own pace) and bad (very distracting, especially with different music and hard shoe dancing). Joanne meanwhile moves about the room watching dancers and working with them bit by bit. She has eyes on the back of her head though, and half the stuff she yelled at me, she yelled from across the room. I am very encouraged by the other dancers in the class, who all seem very talented and proficient. Some of the girls getting ready for the feis in two weeks were amazing at their treble jigs tonight, and I'm excited for when I get to their level. I also learned that two of Joanne's students are going for their TCRGs, a rigorous process to say the least, and this I also find very inspiring and encouraging about the school.

I got to class early tonight and Joanne and I worked together briefly to go over the first slip jig step. When I didn't do it perfectly after the first time and got frustrated, Joanne berated me slightly, "Well you only learned it 35 seconds ago! Give yourself a break!." It is so much harder this time around, but I can only imagine it will be that much more rewarding.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

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What helps
Mike of Renal Failure commented on my last whiny entry, telling me that Indian Buffet Lunch would help with all my problems. He's not wrong. I am overdue for some Indian Buffet healing.

You know what also helps? This:


Matt Smith and Karen Gillan dorky dancing. I ship them in real life for shit like this.


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Currently craving and desperately seeking:

  • Money. I am so across-the-board tired of being poor.

  • A new laptop. So much more of my creative work would actually get done if I had a laptop. I had planned on buying one with my tax return, but a good chunk of my tax return went towards car insurance. See above about sick of being poor.

  • Stamina and grace for dancing. I know I need to adjust and my body needs to adapt again, but I am quickly learning that dancing at nearly 30 is considerably harder than dancing at 17. So much so that my new dance teacher told me to "throttle back" lest I hurt myself.

  • A teleportation machine. How have we not figured this out yet? It would greatly benefit me in getting to dance class and the Scotsman in a timely fashion, not to mention be environmentally conscience. Also: swift jaunts to London and Dublin.

  • The ability to correctly predict World Cup winners. I've bollocked myself in my pool. There's $10 I'll never see again.

  • Someone to do the Table of Cases indexing for my law book. It's annual law book time so that means it's time for endless case indexing. I'm only on chapter 4 and I want to EAT my FACE.

  • An endless supply of Cobb Salads from Salad Stop. They're my new addiction.

  • The latest episodes of Doctor Who already torrented for me to watch. See above about not having a laptop, and thus having to sneak episodes on other computers. I'm two episodes behind and it's making me antsy.

  • Not to be spoiled on True Blood. I just finished season 1 via Netflix and I'm trying to avoid season 2 spoilers which is hard when season 3 just started and everyone is talking about "where things left off."

  • Amanda Palmer's Radiohead Ukulele cover album to hurry up and be released already. The first single has me very excited about the entire album.

  • This week to be over already.

  • Inspiration for writing, both in this blog and other places, on topics other than Irish dance.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Weekend Recap
Just to keep this from being an all dance all the time blog, here's a quick run down of my weekend.

I was feeling itchy and claustrophobic in my apartment on Friday so at the advice of the Scotsman I headed over to his place, making a pit stop at Trader Joe's and the liquor store along the way. Since I got to his house kind of late, we spent Friday night noshing on chips and queso and watching cheesy action flicks.

Saturday we spent the day checking out various tattoo places in The Scotsman's area. The Scotsman has a hankering for two new tattoos (he currently has one of a dragon on his left calf); one of the Celtic Tree of Life [similar to this image, only without the outside border], the other of another dragon, with more detail. The Celtic Tree of Life he'd like to get on his right shoulder and the dragon on his inner left forearm. So we went to about three different places, checking out the portfolios of different artists and getting price quotes. In the end, he decided to go back to the place he got his first tattoo, and so today at 4:00, he's getting the Tree of Life done on his shoulder. I am bummed that I can't be with him, but he's wanted this Celtic Tree of Life tattoo for close to 15 years, so he's antsy for it.

After our tattoo excursions, we headed to Temple of Gaia (the Scotsman's coven) for a full moon ritual. The ritual was supposed to be closed and I was content to just stay at the Scotsman's house and wait for him to come back, but I think he felt bad about leaving me for 4+ hours. So he asked his High Priestess if she minded me coming, and since they were only doing the ritual and no lessons and only expecting one other coven member to attend, she said it was fine.

Sunday we headed to New Hope and spent the entire glorious day in the sunshine shopping. Remarkably, I had never been to New Hope before. We had a great time, and I spent my money a little too easily, but managed to buy things I really needed. I finally found a chalice for my altar and got a second emergency back-up chalice (for travel mostly, since my main chalice is ceramic and easily breakable). The chalice was the main thing I've been missing and despite all my searching had been unable to find one that "felt" right to me.

After coming back from New Hope, we spent Sunday evening in the Scotsman's back yard, just hanging out and talking. He lit a fire in his fire pit, lit all his tiki torches and we sat in the garden with drinks and a few clove cigarettes. It was a lovely night, not too hot, with lots of stars in the sky.

Monday morning The Scotsman's Tae Kwon Do club was marching in a local parade, so I went along and walked the parade with them, handing out fliers. It was hot out there, and every time the parade stopped, the students would do their forms and demonstrate self-defense moves. The Scotsman was leading them (he is quite handsome doing Tae Kwon Do, I must say) and sweat was just pouring off of them all. The parade went for over 2 hours and we were beat by the time it was done. We spent afternoon in the air conditioning, napping on the couch and watching episodes of True Blood. We had a cook out that evening with yummy summer foods.

Hope you all had a lovely Memorial Day!

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Changing Teams
On Friday I discovered that Rosemarie Timoney does not have a TCRG. Well, I say "discovered" but it was more of a realization. It's not like Rosemarie is hiding the fact that she doesn't have one, nor does she pretend to have one. It's something I may have already known about, actually, and either forgotten or blocked it out. A TCRG, by the way, is an Irish dancing teaching certification. Now, Rosemarie has been dancing since the age of 4, won the South Derry Championship at 17, and started teaching in 1966. Clearly the woman knows her stuff and has no need of a piece of paper telling her she's qualified to teach.

But. Without an instructor with a TCRG, I can't compete. So on Friday I had a long, long think. Do I need to compete? Or can I just be happy learning to dance again? Ultimately I sided with competition. This has very little to do with a love of competition. I mean, I hate to lose more than I like to win, and I will admit to having a competitive streak. And certainly there's a level of thrill in competition. But it has more to do with goals. There are certain steps and techniques you learn when you reach different levels of dancing and ultimately I want to have goal posts for marking those levels. And the best way to do that is by competing. For example, until I place first in a competition at a beginner level, I will only learn and work on beginner steps. It forces me to prefect them and work hard. And when I place first in all my dances in beginner, I move up to novice and learn novice steps. It puts all the weight of advancement on me. When I was with Coyle, I never blamed Colleen for not moving me up to prizewinner, nor could I had I wanted to. I never took first place in my slip jig, only second place. And even though I won first place in all my other dances (and even though the same girl kept beating me in the slip jig again and again), Colleen wouldn't teach me any new steps until I had perfected them all. So I just worked at it over and over and over. Competitions are a benchmark of your skill, not just an excuse for trophies and accolades.

Whereas if I was with Rosemarie, not having that benchmark or standard to guide me, I would be constantly itching to move onto the next big thing and wondering why she wasn't moving me forward, teaching me new steps yet or whatever. I'd be getting frustrated and impatient. I want to learn toe stands. Teach me how to do those big front clicks and little turn outs. Show me how to do a switch leap. Me me me me, show me, now now now now.

Ultimately, if I'm going to spend all this money for lessons and work at making dance part of my life again, I'm doing it properly. I want to master it. I want to be good at this, not just fanny around and arse about learning cool dance tricks.

And so, I will not be going with Timoney Irish Dancers.

Now what?

Well, I've been backed into a corner and now I have no other choice. I'll be dancing with Crossroads Irish Dancers. I've "avoided" Crossroads for one reason and one reason only: the distance. It will take me an hour to get to class. But, hell. Give me an A for effort, because I've researched all other dance school options and this is the closest one, TCRG certified, that is teaching adults year-round. And you know what's sort of comforting? They teach ONLY adults. I won't be shoved aside for younger students or forced to do endless ceilis because teachers don't know what to do with us. Crossroad dancers compete; they've placed regionally and nationally for figure dancing (figure dancing is similar to ceili dancing, but much more precise and feels more like a team sport). They're serious about dancing. Also classes are significantly cheaper with Crossroads, so much so that for the same monthly price with Timoney or what I'm currently paying with McDade, I can take two classes back-to-back (so driving an hour won't feel pointless). And now that I have a new car and have no qualms or worries about driving long distances at night, there's no excuse.

I've already contacted the instructor. I start June 9.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Catching air
When one door closes, another one certainly opens. Last night was to be my last night at the McDade workshop, but Sheila announced that she's extending the program for another 4 weeks after Memorial Day. Which is, frankly, awesome. I get another month of step dancing before going into ceili for the rest of the summer with Timoney.

Sheila worked us hard, too. She made us go over our jig steps and ran us through the ceili's we've done (High Caul Cap and Siege of Ennis) and then quickly taught us the beginnings of the Fairy Reel. After we ran through the Fairy Reel twice, she stared us learning reel steps (they have a very easy but very pretty beginner reel step that I quite enjoyed) and then taught us Jump-2-3s.

Jump-2-3s are one of my favorite things to do in Irish dance. It's those big leaps you see Irish dancers doing, and they are a staple of reels and slip jigs. 10 years ago my dad bought me ankle weights to help with the lift of these jumps. It's important to get high and have your front leg at a 90° angle and your back leg tucked under you, before switching out and landing on what was your back leg. Diddly Magazine has a nice little post on that moment in the air where dancers seemingly float before landing, complete with a video to demonstrate.

Jump-2-3s are kind of hard to learn, though, because in order figure it out at first you need to go slow to grasp the mechanics. But Jump-2-3s are best done with momentum; it's truly easier to do them faster than slower. The poor students in class last night who had never done a Jump-2-3 were really struggling. For awhile they looked like they were goose-stepping with little gallops in between and I remembered vaguely how hard it was when I first learned these in the basement of a Baptist church in Hershey. It's not something that happens overnight. Your body truly needs time to suss out the mechanics of it.

Eventually, Sheila had us line up and Jump-2-3 around the room to music (which, again, if you don't know how to fit it to the music, can be very frustrating). Imagine my surprise on my third Jump-2-3 when I started catching some serious air. I mean, I used to do these all the time, and I could get pretty high. But now I am 50 pounds heavier and out of shape. But muscles must really remember, because I could feel the air pushing against my face and felt the floaty moment happening. I caught sight of myself in the mirror for my next Jump-2-3 and even with jiggly belly, I was high. I mean, not as high as I could go if I was in shape, obviously, but certainly higher than I thought I would be able to go.

It was a nice moment, especially after last week's frustrating class. Reaffirmed for me that I am glad I am doing this and should have sucked it up and done it sooner.

However, I still suck at the treble reel.

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Monday, May 24, 2010
Dance Setback
Major bummer.

I just found out that the regular step dancing classes I was going to take with Timoney have been postponed until the fall. Mainly because of lack of summer students.

Having spoken to Rosemarie Timoney, she advised that I come to the Monday night ceili classes all summer and hinted that she might show me some steps on the side. I am also hoping that once she sees me ceili dance she will scoot me into the intermediate classes instead of the beginner.

I was worried about this because this is similar to what Colye did every summer. Regular classes closed down and only ceili and championship level lessons were held. This is mainly because everyone's schedules go crazy in the summer and between holidays and vacations it's hard to teach new things.

I will be attending the ceili classes, for sure, because at least it's dancing of some kind. But as you can see from previous posts, I am itchy about learning and performing steps again. Perhaps I should make up a summer practice schedule for myself and just work on everything I learned from Coyle and most recently from McDade and concentrate on perfecting it all to make up for the 10 years out of dance.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Reel Bad
I realize that this is becoming an all-dance blog, but forgive me. It's one of the most interesting things I'm doing lately and I'm excited about it. It's either this, or talk about how mushy and lovey (i.e., gross) things have become with the Scotsman.* So you're going to have to deal with some dancing talk.

Last night we learned the treble reel. I was not good at it.

I'm not being falsely modest either. The entire night was rough for me, actually. It became abundantly clear that I had spent too little time (or uh, no time at all) practicing between last week's class and this week's class. I fucked up both jig steps, twice. Ouch.

I could make excuses about not having space to practice (which I don't) or being seriously tired going into class last night (which I was), but the fact is, I barely spent any time thinking about those jig steps in the past week. No, I was too busy obsessing over treble jigs, wondering if I could teach myself toe stands, daydreaming about fiesanna, and being antsy about learning slip jigs and hornpipes. I forgot the fundamentals. Which, if you recall, is the whole reason I was doing this McDade workshop. The fact is, I can't be good at treble jigs or slip jigs if I'm not good at single jigs. I can't be good at hard shoe unless I'm proficient in soft shoe.

It's times like this that I wish I had a hard-ass teacher. Sheila is good and all, but how hard-ass is she going to get with us during a 4-week workshop? Had I messed up those jig steps back in the day with Coyle, I have no doubt that Colleen would have made me done them over and over and over until I made it through at least three times in a row with no mistakes. And then she'd make me do it once more "for luck." I once joked and called Colleen a "slave driver," but I meant it in a good way. Her slave driving made me into a solid dancer. I'm hoping for some of that at Timoney.

In the meantime, I need to try to find some space to practice and spend time thinking about the steps. Something I used to do a lot of and I think Irish dancers do – or who knows, maybe all dancers do – is to sing their steps. Singing steps works well for Irish dancing because you have 8 bars of music that goes along with it. In singing steps, you not only memorize the actions, but it also helps you find the rhythm of dance and how it fits to music. Sometimes just listening to Irish music I have trouble recognizing if a song is a jig or reel...until I start singing my steps to it. 10 years later I still know all of my Coyle steps because I spent so much time singing them. It helps with the concentration, which I seriously lacked last night.

Learning the treble reel was tricky. The motions my feet make are actually quite easy. It's the speed and rhythm I'm having issues with. Namely that I can't hear how it fits with the music. This is problematic. I got a quick taste of how those in the class who've never danced must feel when we put regular jig steps to music because I was lost. It's wickedly fast and eventually I stopped trying to dance it and just tried watching others so I could figure out how it breaks down with the music.

In the meantime, it was probably good for me to get knocked down a peg with this class. I was feeling a little cocky and getting ahead of myself. Deep breath. Let's try it again, concentrating on fundamentals.

*Seriously you guys, head over heels.

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Friday, May 14, 2010
Confidence on building confidence

I linked to this video two posts ago and now I've become obsessed with it. I love all of these treble jig steps.

Returning to dancing after 10 years is both rewarding and frustrating. I've talked before about how I'm currently rebuilding my stamina and working on little things: new single soft jig steps, ceili dances, pointing my toes, lifting my legs, trying to remember grace. But I’m itching to be back where I was when I left off. I wish I had never stopped dancing. Stupid college, getting in the way.

I’ve missed so much of this. These girls are good (I estimate most of them are prizewinner level-dancers) but most of them are lacking definition in their trebles. It’s like a certain confidence – the girl in the pink is the best at being authoritative with her step – you have to want to pound those steps out. I never tired of making noise. I loved how loud I could be.

In almost everything, I am unconfident. My self-esteem rises and falls; I lack assurance. In the back of my head I question I am doing this right? Is this OK? I am awkward and wavering in all I do. Dance was never like that for me. Competitions rarely made me nervous. I performed with ease. My dad called it “owning the floor,” the way I would carry myself so the adjudicator would watch me instead of the other girls. Even when I didn’t win, or scored poorly I would not become insecure. Disappointed, yes. But never doubtful.

Returning to dance I am doubtful. I’m nearly 30. I am much fatter. My jumps are low. But then I watch that girl in the pink and I remind myself that I can do this. I have done this. My body just needs to remember.

(Cross posted from Tumblr)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Photography Class
The delightful, generous, and always hilarious duo of Jim and Stephanie gifted me with a two-hour private photography lesson for my birthday. IKNOWRIGHT? I am stoked, to say the least.

I need to take a portfolio of images with me for assessment so I'd like some recommendations. What say you? Do you have a favorite photo that I've taken? Let me know!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Don Dorcha
Week two of Irish dancing went pretty well. I arrived slightly earlier than the previous week (last time I barely had enough time to put my shoes on before we started the warm-up and I wanted to get some extra ankle exercises in before class this week) and the waiting area was packed with young dancers practicing steps, doing each other's hair and generally mucking about. The majority of the dancers were high-school age (I overheard much discussion about prom) and it gave me a twinge of nostalgia for when I was in my senior year and really taking off in dance.

Initially I thought all the kids hanging around were from the previous class, but then I discovered they were there for a special camp as they gear up for Nationals. I saw two guys running around with the kids, making them do laps around the building and ushering them in herds from the waiting area into the second studio. So McDade has male teachers! I thought. Cool.

My teacher (Sheila) got my hopes up for the lesson right away: After reviewing the work from last week we would learn a second jig step and then she would teach us a treble reel step. True confession time: I've never learned a treble reel. I was too busy struggling with my treble jig (which, maddingly, I never placed in competition). Treble reel is a hard shoe dance that you'll see a lot of times in dancing shows like Lord of the Dance and Riverdance, and I was surprised that she was going to teach us a step – it's pretty advanced. I don't know if she just humoring adults who want to be clacky or if she was trying to keep those of us who've previously danced engaged or what. Either way, I was stoked. Just knowing how to properly count out a treble reel would be a big help to me.

Already I can see marked differences in my body: The warm-up no longer did me in the way it did last week (the McDade warm-up is heavy on the cardio and lighter on the stretching), and I had much more stamina throughout the class.

The second jig step threw me a bit. You know what they teach you about muscle memory? It's all true. Last week's jig step* was different enough from Coyle jig steps that I could pick it up quickly and just add it in my jig repertoire. This second step, however, shares some common elements from my old steps so my body gets confused. Instead of hop-one, hop-two, hop-one-two-three-four it's now hop-one, hop-two, hop-three and UP!-two-three-four-five, and yet, my legs forget this at the last second and suddenly I'm doing a McDade/Coyle hybrid jig step.

We completed learning the body of the High Caul Cap, which was interesting because we had a couple people in the class who were not there for the previous lesson. It consisted a lot of "No, no, go here now" and lots of dragging of partners about. When Sheila announced that we would learn the first figure next week I had to chuckle when one of the ladies in my group whispered, "You mean there's more?!?" Yes. There's at least three figures, and between each one is the body we just learned. So, yeah. Stamina. I forgot how exhausting ceili's can be.

By the time we were done with the High Caul Cap, I knew we didn't have enough time to begin the treble reel. Boo-urns. Hopefully next week. I'm finding myself anxious to begin my lessons with Timoney so I can learn more proper steps and work on other dances: reel, hornpipe, and my beloved slip jig.

Since we still had time before class was over, the teacher invited the kids who were going to Nationals to come put on a bit of a show for us. And that's when I learned the guys who were there teaching them weren't McDade instructors. Not at all. Nope. They were two former principle dancers from Lord of the Dance. Both had played the Main Evil Bad Dude in the show for a number of years. They were there for a special workshop with the camp. I was both thrilled and embarrassed. Thrilled because whatever my feelings about Michael Flatley (bit of a ponce), that's just damn cool. Embarrassed because my spudly body and clunky knees currently make me a wreck of a dancer. Both of them however (and here's where I also feel bad because I didn't quite catch either of their names) were lovely and brilliant dancers. I don't know how long they've been working with the kids, but they were great with them and as the students began to show us their steps, they would hoot and holler for them. Can you imagine? Having a professional dancer not only teach you and help you prep for Nationals, but then cheer you on as you performed! Lucky kids. The two professionals were very humble as well and when Sheila tried to get them to dance for us, they got all red in the face and demurred. But with enough encouragement they both did a step for us. Like I said, brilliant dancers, the both of them.

Last night when I talked to the Scotsman, I teased him. "They wanted me to run away with them and be their dancing colleen," I told him. "They wanted me to go back to Belfast and live in their flat. But I said 'No. Gentlemen, I thank you for your kind offer but alas, my heart belongs to a handsome New Jersey man in a kilt. Also, my jump-two-threes are pitifully low. I could never be the colleen you want me to be.'"

"Oh, is that how it happened?" he asked.

In truth, I skittered out of class too embarrassed to talk to either of them. But we'll keep that just between us.

*This would be a good time to explain, in case I never have, that a "step" in Irish dancing is 8 bars of music, leading once with each foot. So if you look at those videos I've linked, when each girl steps forward she performs one complete step, leading first with the right foot and then doing it again leading with the left. So there's lots of components that can go into making a steps.



Monday, May 03, 2010
I just had my first dancing class and all I can say is: OW.

I am so ridiculously out of shape, the warm up alone took a lot out of me. Making matters worse, there are large mirrors along one side of the studio. When I was dancing before we were dancing in church basements and fire halls, not fancy studios, so I find mirrors a bit distracting at first. But after a few minutes, I can usually focus enough to ignore the mirror completely.


What I could not ignore was the reflection of every part of me jiggling: tummy, thighs, etc. Ugh. I can't believe that I've let myself get this overweight.

No matter. Dance classes are a part of trying to control and reduce that weight, so already I feel better about it. But for vanity's sake next week I will wear a looser t-shirt and longer shorts/pants. Good grief.

The class is large, and a nice mix of people who've never danced before and people who have. We didn't go around saying our names, backgrounds, or anything so I have no idea who anyone is. As we were leaving class, I thought I detected some Irish accents among three of the ladies, so it seems we have some authentics in this class. We also have a boy!

Having a guy in the class is sort of exciting for me because they're so rare – at least in my old school. I think at Coyle we had maybe two boys. And one of them was my cousin, Sean. Any guy who gets into Irish dancing is smart because the ratio is so awesome (in my class tonight, it was 26-1), so he can have his pick of the ladies.

This guy is somewhere around my age or younger, and you can tell he's previously danced or still currently dances. He seemed chummy with several of he girls already and they all seemed to know the instructor. So maybe he does/did dance with McDade? In any event, boy has jumps to die for – excellent height, fantastic control. Also: Calves of rock. It made me long for my calves in high school, which used to be so muscular and slender.

Since I'm looking at this class as a primer for beginning with Timoney in June, I tried really hard to focus on small things throughout the class: pointing my toes, my posture, turning my toes out, kicking up high in the back. Which is, admittedly, hard when you're just starting up again after 10 years (oy).

The class moved quickly: warm up, jump-2-3's, simple soft jig step, beginnings of a ceili dance (High Caul Cap, which I know I learned with Coyle, but for the life of me could not remember). The class just whizzed by, and even with my out-of-shape, dumpy self, I couldn't believe it when the instructor said the class was over. Further proof that I need a class environment and fun movement to trick myself into exercising. Because for me an hour at the gym is an eternity, but I was begging for more after this class.

I came home and had so much pent-up energy from the class, I pulled out my Jean Butler Masterclass DVD. Jean Butler* is the former principle dancer from Riverdance, and while the DVD can be used by anyone, it's really beneficial to dancers because she breaks down a lot of the fundamental components of Irish dance steps. She has whole workouts devoted to toe points and arches or leg lifts and balance. It's really something I should have been doing all along, but I rarely pull this out because I lack proper space to truly dance. Finding space in my apartment to practice is really tough and truly frustrating. Still I did the best I could in my bedroom.

Already I can feel my legs stiffening up, and I know tomorrow I will be hobbling about the office. The other thing that happened in class tonight is that during some routine 7's in the ceili, I landed wrong on my weak ankle – the right ankle, the one I badly sprained in my final year of dancing. I was able to recover quickly, but this serves as a lesson that I should probably start doing ankle exercised daily and maybe think about wrapping it for the next class.

So to recap: Dancing fun but my body needs to slim down. I feel clunky and sore, but happy and exhilarated. Siamsa!

*My fun Jean Butler story: My first feis (competition) ever, the authenticator was Jean Butler's teacher. Needless to say, I was geeked and intimidated, and add onto that, a bundle of nerves about my first ever competition. I ended up taking three first places (jig, reel, hornpipe) and one second place (slip jig) in the competition, which still makes me proud to this day. I don't know if this is a reflection of me or the other dancers, but I still can crow that Jean Butler's teacher liked me the best in three dances!

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Sunday, May 02, 2010
Beltane reflections
Last year at Beltane I was feeling a bit lost and most lonely. Things with Brisket had just fizzled out and I was left contemplating why. I have a habit of turning things around on myself and it wasn't because he was emotionally immature or using me (both things which are very true), rather it was because I am wretched, fat, dorky, and not worth his time.

Going into Beltane I was trying to change that perception of myself – repeating mantras that I may be flawed, but I am also beautiful, like a Persian rug with a mislaid thread. Telling myself that I am kind, clever, giving and fun, having much to offer in friendship and love. For whatever reason, the nice things are harder to believe about yourself, especially when you've just been spectacularly rebuffed by a 28-year old knob who lives in his mother's basement and works at a movie theater. Still, I practiced saying these things to myself, over and over.

When I arrived at Beltane, I sat for awhile in a corner, weaving myself a crown of flowers and repeating my mantras. And then he walked in.

I noticed him immediately and as cliché as it sounds, my heart palpitated a bit. I had never seen him at an Open before. He was dressed in all black, with a simple pentacle hanging around his neck. He looked muscular and fit, and he had deep dimples when he smiled. I was smitten.

Trouble was, I had no idea who he was and I was seriously lacking confidence to just go over and talk to some stunningly hot guy who randomly shows up to Sabbats. And yet, a little voice in my head argued with me, remember your mantras. Remember that you are worth his time and consideration. So I compromised. I would flirt with him from afar and make him come talk to me.

All through the ritual I gave him come-hither eyes. As we danced around the maypole, I would smile and wink at him when we came face to face while weaving our ribbons. When the drumming and dancing began, I made sure to wiggle my hips a bit more when I was near him. During the feasting I sat close-ish to him and hoped that he would overhear parts of my group's conversations and join in.

It didn't work. Even though we locked eyes several times and even though he always returned my smiles, he never spoke to me. I left Beltane feeling rejected again. I tried to comfort myself, acknowledging that I knew nothing about this person – he could be married, or have a non-pagan girlfriend, or be gay, or turn out to be a jerk. It was cold comfort, to say the least, and if you read my entry from last year, you can sort of tell how sad I was feeling.

I'm not going to draw the suspense out any longer: That hot guy turned out to be the Scotsman. I didn't see him again for another 5 months. In the interim, I learned that he had "asked" about me, but that he was going through a divorce -- making him off limits in my book. I promised myself I wouldn't flirt with him because he was emotionally scarred and probably not ready for a relationship. I would be nothing more than a rebound girl. I would behave and be only a friend to him. But when we met for the second time, it was like we were magnets. We couldn't keep away from each other.

I just woke up in his arms this morning, and I couldn't be happier.


This year the Scotsman and I were asked to be the May King and Queen for Beltane. I was ecstatic, to say the least. But the Scotsman was unsure – his personal coven had their Beltane the same day. "We can do both," I told him. "We can fit both in, the times don't overlap that much." I encouraged him to tell his high priestess that he had been asked to do this, sure that she would be pleased and proud and insist that he be the May King. His coven is so tiny (only 4 people) and they never start on time. If he just asked, maybe they would push their Beltane back an hour.

But the Scotsman was unsure and wanted to be loyal to his coven. As someone who is well-versed at scheduling lots of things into her life, this was frustrating to me. I so wanted to do this with him – it felt like a perfect circle to last year's Beltane.

But I held my tongue. I let him decide where he wanted to be for Beltane and make the call. We declined to be May King and Queen. And he planned on being with his coven and I planned on being with both the IP and his coven. I swallowed my disappointment.

Then yesterday, two hours before the IP Beltane began, the Scotsman called me and asked if he could come with me. I was simultaneously thrilled and frustrated. See, I thought. We will have time to do both.

Since we declined on being May King and Queen, the IP hadn't found another couple to take on the roles. So the May King and Queen would be decided by fate. During the ritual the single ladies lined up and drew stones from a pouch.

I drew the odd-colored stone.

Some things are meant to be. I obviously chose the Scotsman as my May King (how could I not?) and led him on a merry chase for my crown.

Happy Beltane, everyone.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Super Excited
Things are happening and I like it:

  • UBER SEKRET THINGS, that I don't want to jinx. Keep your fingers crossed.

  • One word: BELTANE.

  • Come Sunday it looks like Brian and I are headed to the Fairy Festival in Glenn Rock.

  • You know who else will be there? Tree, Lilly, Dave, Justina, and Amy.


  • Irish dance classes start Monday!

  • Oh, then there's THIS, which, now that I figured out SQL and a bit of PHP, I am having a blast making. Looking to launch in a week!

That's it, really. Love you guys.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010
Less than two weeks 'til I get my heels up
I bit the bullet and signed up for Irish step dancing lessons again.

As it will come as no surprise to you all, I've been itching to do this for AGES. In February I discovered the Timoney School in Glenside takes adults and that was it. It was all a matter of getting together with some money to make it happen.

And then, an inquiry I sent out over a year ago came back to me from the McDade School – which happens to be one of the most respected dance schools in the area – saying they were offering a month-long workshop for adults. I can remember dancing against McDade in feiseanna and what tough competitors they were. So I thought I would take this workshop with them to get myself back in fighting condition before starting full time with Timoney.

One thing I am super-excited about with Timoney is that they offer both step dancing and ceili dancing instruction. A lot of places that teach adults only teach ceili dances, which are fun and all, but doesn't include all the dances I love – slip jig, treble jig, hornpipe, etc.

I just plunked down $50 for a new set of soft shoes, as my old shoes have cracked soles and holes beginning in the leather. Let me just tell you, the price of shoes hasn't gone down at all. It was hard to resist the siren call of the fancy $65 soft shoes, which look like they're so supportive and give you amazing arches, but I just can't reason spending that much money on what is, essentially, a slipper. I will probably need a new set of hard shoes as well, but I think that $140 investment can wait a bit.

You guys, I am unbelievably stoked about this. I am considerably more dumpling-shaped than I was when I was dancing (...oh Christ...) 10 years ago, but I am hopeful that getting back into dancing will help slim and trim and make me want to work out more (as well as fool me into working out since I hate going to the gym).

I also have some other creative juices flowing with this whole dance thing, I'll keep you posted if I can get it together to do this/get what I want.


In other Irish-like news, Inis Nua's latest show, Bedbound is getting some seriously good press.

The play itself is sort of depressing, but in typical Inis Nua fashion, it's also funny, hopeful and weirdly beautiful. It's also ambitious, having the most expensive set in Inis Nua's history, complete with a wowwee special effect.


Toby Zinman of the Philadelphia Inquirer said that it was a "thrilling, searing production" and then went on to say this:
Inis Nua ("New Island" in Gaelic) keeps providing us with startling new theatrical voices from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Tom Reing has tapped into a deep wellspring, giving us playwright after playwright we might never have otherwise seen or heard. Bedbound is one not to miss.

I KNOW. Isn't that just one of the most flattering paragraphs to read? I am so proud of my brother!

Bedbound has three more shows left. You should go see it.

I feel like Inis Nua is on the verge of some pivotal awesomeness. They keep getting better and better, and next year's season is going to be amazing. I feel privileged to be apart of it, even in my small web maintenance/photography way. They're planning to mount Dublin by Lamplight, which is a play my brother has been itching to do even before Inis Nua had been developed. Speaking of which, Inis Nua has found a donor willing to DOUBLE any donations made to the theatre in the coming year, and if they want to do Dublin by Lamplight, they are going to need it. Won't you consider helping out a bit?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Softly Softly catchy monkey
Oh hell.

It's nearly April, and I already feel so much slipping away from me. Back in January, I vowed to take a photography class and have photo essays/submissions ready for May and...I have done none of that.

I've been stuck in a photography rut for a long, long time. Not just the "I don't want to touch my camera" burnout, but also a technique rut. In which I do the same things over and over again. My camera is perpetually in automatic mode, I use my 55mm lens constantly, and I never use my flash. It's not a "style," it's a habit, and a bad one. I recently went through the photos I took for The Scotsman during his black belt test and the photos I took for my brother of Gagarin Way and was totally disappointed with how they all came out.

Gagarin Way

Above: Two examples of my incompetence and amateur habits coming back to haunt me.


I had plans to take a spring photography class with Chester County night school, which cost roughly $140, but that plan disintegrated when my finances took a nose dive.

I am feeling so frustrated with my life lately. Since we're on lockdown, I can openly bitch that a large portion of this is my job. I can't tell you how miserable I am right now. I don't mean to sound churlish, because ultimately this place has taught me a lot and I'm grateful to have a job at all in this economy, but seriously: I have had enough. I'm tired of the yo-yo-ing between having nothing to do to OHMYGODDOITALLRIGHTNOW, seriously sick of the crappy treatment my department gets, I am not getting paid nearly enough, and I am completely over the lack of competent communication here.

About two weeks ago one of my editors pulled me into a meeting because I was "on the [blog name] team." To which, I said, "Um." Because, literally, for the first ten minutes of this meeting I had no earthly idea what he was talking about. Seems my company decided to launch a new blog and I was supposed to work on the photos and images for it except no one decided to tell me. Or my manager, for that matter. The editor kept saying [blog name] over and over again and I kept giving him confused looks because to me he was just stringing three random nouns together. This would have been bad enough, but added onto that, they needed photos right away and after my initial scramble to find images I realized that I (1) had not been given the proper URL for the
site, and (2) I didn't have a login or password for the site to upload photos anyway.

Can you imagine how embarrassing all of that was for me? Can you imagine how frustrated my manager felt when I explained what was going on? When she complained about it, she was told that the reason we weren't notified about the new site or my duties, was because "so much changes with these sites and they don't want to bother [us] until things are settled." Which I called out to be the lamest fucking excuse ever. That blog has a team of, like, 6 people, all of whom were consistently kept in the loop while the site was developed. How fucking hard is it to add me or my manager to the email list? Or if not through the whole development of the site, than shooting an initial email of "Hey heads up we're launching a new blog. Site name and launch date TBD." It took me less than a minute to type that all out, and yet, they can't be buggered.

While I realize that communication problems occur at every office, shit like this has been happening nonstop for over 2 years now. It's gone from annoying to obnoxious to frustrating and now it feels blatantly disrespectful. The communication issue has been really getting my goat, because we voice our concerns and complain about it, we're assured that things will get better...and we continue to get the shaft. This is especially galling as my company publishes a couple publications dedicated to better communication with employees. Hello, irony! Nice to see you again.

Worst of all, I have the creepy feeling that I am on a sinking ship. I think we jumped on the internet bandwagon way too late (well, duh), and I am confident we are marketing a lot of our products incorrectly. The fact that we are still, in this day and age, selling our publications via telemarketing and there is no way to purchase subscriptions online, is beyond retarded.

So needless to say, I've been looking for a new job. I had thought with my master's degree I would sail into a new position, however, given the state of the economy, I might as well have gotten a master's degree in etching stone tablets. The publishing jobs are few and far between, and so many of them are beyond what I feel is my experience, either in terms of design or web requirements. If you know of a job working for either a book or magazine publisher* (university, textbook, medical, whatever) doing production, proofreading, design, layout and light web work, PLEASE, let me know about it. I am desperate. Also, anyone want to hold a résumé party? Mine needs work.

Despite all of these frustrations, I am trying to be patient. Both with myself and the universe at large. "Different frogs, different times," as Gareth Keenan would say.

I finally gave up and renegotiated my student loans, which has been the main source of my financial troubles. I had been dragging my feet about doing it because I was worried that doing so would add more interest/take me longer to pay them off, but finally I had no choice. I'm glad I did it, and it's already working out much better for me. Plus, although my payments will go up in 2 years, it will still take me the same amount of time and interest to pay them off. Woo!

Because I now have a tighter reign on finances, I can look into taking a photography class this summer perhaps. I can also start making serious moves towards Irish dancing again. Back in February at the Irish/Scottish festival, I located a school in Bridgeport that's willing to teach adults and my initial reaction was, "I'm there!" But, while the lessons are reasonably priced (for Irish dancing) I discovered that I need new soft shoes which can be anywhere from $40-$65 and need to be shipped from Ireland. So... dancing took a back seat too. Which is a shame because I've been faltering on gym attendance (exercise is so fucking boring, I hate it), and my fat is creeping back to dangerous levels. But now! I think I may be back in business!

As far as photography goes, I'm trying to give myself a break. Like, Rome wasn't built in a day. And occasionally, when I'm not paying attention and relaxing with my camera, I can accidentally take a really nice photo:

Above: Sarah Rose, giggling at our 12th Annual Chinese New Year Lunch

I've just scheduled two new photo jobs with the N Crowd in April, one of which is for their Anniversary show. $ for photos = A very good thing.

This weekend is a special Silver Stars field trip to see Silver RavenWolf at Celtic Myth and Moonlight, with stops at Bey's Rock Shop and possibly Zern's Farmer's market. I've never been to any of these places, and as I was considering the trip this morning I had the urge that I should bring my camera, for fun. FUN and my CAMERA. In the same thought process! I call this progress.

Spring is here, so I'm feeling optimistic about possibilities. I'm working on an über seekrit project with Stephanie and Melissa, which shall be grand fun. Inis Nua has a reading on Monday night, which I'm looking forward to. And then their spring show, Bedbound, opens next month and I suspect it shall be awesome. I'm getting a pedicure tonight to make my toes purty. I get to try on and purchase my bridesmaid dress for Renee's wedding so very soon. We're ditching crap-ass Verizon and getting Comcast and thus, cable again. Gary is back to doing art work so I plan to be inspired by him. Spring is a time of new beginnings, yes? Then let's get started.

*I am also open to suggestions for where to look for a job. I'm currently combing Monster, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, BookJobs.com, HigherEdJobs.com (for University Presses and alumni/PR publications), and GraduateJobs.com Any other suggestions on where I can look?

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Thursday, February 25, 2010
Luke and Leslie: Married!
Things have been relatively quiet around this blog. Because...well, I don't know. I guess because I don't have a whole lot to write about? It's winter, so I'm not doing very much aside from actively trying to stay warm and eating many starchy cheese-filled food items. And...my laptop broke, so I can no longer update at home. And my boyfriend's soon-to-be ex wife is kind of cyber-stalkery. Also, none of you are exactly commenting these days and we're all locked down and shit, so I think there's exactly 4 of you reading this right now. HELLO.

All of those things contribute to the perfect storm of me not posting.

But, in an effort to distract myself from the snowicane* we are apparently not getting, I thought I would finally (FINALLY) post the photos from Luke and Leslie's wedding.

I'm not going to lie to you. I was terrified about this wedding. Of all of the weddings in Wedding Palooza '09, I worried about this one the most. Because while, I adore him and while he can sometimes be a bit hammy, Luke isn't always thrilled by a camera. He can be very shy, especially when it comes to things like "smiling." And posing him or asking him to smile just make it worse. And add on all the romantic mushy stuff? Well Luke turns into a turtle practically, all hiding in his little shell. I knew how important this day was to both of them and I was desperate to do well. Adding on to the pressure was the fact that Luke and Leslie had a completely private ceremony, all by themselves, with the exception of me and if they were kind enough to let me see them get married, I had better not fuck it up so help me god, I'd never forgive myself.

So that's basically what was going through my head the entire time I was prepping for this wedding.

But I need not have worried.

Because the day? Was awesome. And Luke? Was so joyful about getting married to Leslie that he didn't have time to be self-conscious about the camera and the two of them were just so freaking sweet the entire time, I kept Awwwwww-ing behind my camera and tearing up.

Luke and Leslie asked me to come over to photograph their "getting ready" for the big day. When I walked in, Luke was watching episodes of "Married with Children," which I thought was hilarious. They started off with a doughnut breakfast for their last un-married morning:


Luke and Leslie both incorporated mementos of their grandparents into their wedding outfits.


Chucks and rings!



Leslie rocked a corset.




Then it was time to go get married.





Yeah, I totally cried behind my lens. I'M A SAP, SO SUE ME.



I adore this picture of Luke smiling so wide as Leslie slips the ring on his finger. Look how happy! Real Luke smile! With TEETH!


You guys, awwwwwww.


Love them!


Onto the reception!



Their cake was a haunted house!








The Stevenson men, showing their love for the Phightin' Phills! (Who at that time, were well on their way to the World Series.)



Instead of smashing cake into each others' faces, Luke and Leslie smashed it into the best man's and maid of honor's faces. Surprise!




The rain couldn't stop us from getting our dance on.


All of us Cabrini Kids, together. Aww.

Congrats, Luke and Leslie! Thanks for letting me photograph your big day!

*Cecily Tynan literally called it that.

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Monday, February 15, 2010
Happy Valentines, A Day Late
Happy Valentine's Day, you guys. Being minus a computer at home means you get this a day late, but trust that I was thinking of you all. Because as you can read from years previous, it's not about being with some body per se, but it's about appreciating the love you have in your lives, in whatever forms it comes: Friends and family.

As for me, I had contented myself on not seeing the Scotsman, since he had his daughter this weekend. But Saturday morning I got a phone call asking me if I'd like to attend a Scottish and Irish Mid-Winter festival with them on Sunday, and hell yes was my answer. And the Scotsman, making all my dreams come true, WORE A KILT. When I saw him walk in the door of the convention center, I literally froze and was breathless for a moment. KILT. GUH.

"You're wearing a kilt," I said, stating the obvious.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he said.

Of course, since his daughter was there and, you know, we were in public and all, I couldn't really take advantage of the situation properly. Still...s'nice. We had a lovely day together, enjoying the music and dancing. There was a ceili session and the Scotsman and his daughter both Irish danced* with me, which was across the board AWESOME. And also possibly the way to my heart.

Evidence of the kilt (and believe me, I was kicking myself for not bringing my actual camera):


What can I say? Kilts give me a lady-boner.

So my Valentine's day was cozy, perfect, filled with kilt-wearing men, dancing, happiness and some roses. I hope yours was equally as satisfactory.

*He was pretty good at the ceili dancing, actually. He also Scottish Highland danced a bit for me. ALSO AWESOME. Swoons, people. Swoons.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
As I am sure you all well know, there's a major snow storm happening right now. It's the biggest storm we've had since 1996.

The entire world feels like it's stopped. Or more accurately, frozen. My office is closed, which is seriously saying something, since we never close. Everything is covered in thick blankets of wet snow. Branches are heavy and sagging with lengths of white. Everything is silent as fat flakes swirl in the wind. Most streets haven't even been plowed, everyone is inside.

I ventured out to try to dig out my car some, which I soon realized was pointless as the street I'm parked on hasn't even been plowed. I gave up and decided to go on a snowventure and walk to Kelly's house. The walk was like hiking through the arctic – the wind is brash and after half a block I could barely see. But it was beautiful, lovely, white, freezing. I trudged on and surprised Kelly. She rewarded me with fresh brownies and half of an episode of the Jersey Shore. (...I don't know. It was like watching a car wreck.)

During the Blizzard of '96 my Mom-Mom had just passed. All of my family members had come to town for the funeral when the storm hit. 13 people and 1 dog all got trapped in my parents' tiny row home (with 1, count it, ONE bathroom) for something crazy like 4 days.

This blizzard couldn't be more different. I'm alone in my apartment with the cats. Kate and Gary are stuck at Deb's and I nearly got trapped at my uncle's last night (poor guy is nursing a broken fibula, which he fractured falling on ice from the last snow storm), but made it home just in time before the serious snow came. I have plenty of food and lots of booze (although, no one to drink it with), cats to snuggle with and movies galore.

Snow is still falling thick and heavy. It's expected to continue throughout the evening. It makes me wonder if everything will still be closed up tomorrow, too.

Happy snowpocolypse to you and yours!

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